Do-It-Yourself SEO: Cost Saver or False Economy?

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With the current economic climate, most business owners are looking for opportunities to trim costs. Doing work in-house is a traditional cost-cutting tactic, and some business owners have told me they would like to do their own search engine optimization (SEO).

I understand the motivation, yet I can’t help but wonder if the do-it-yourself approach is in their best interests. Lately I have seen several attempts at ‘do-it-yourself SEO’ that didn’t work out so well for the business owner.

High-volume submissions

For example, I had a client who decided they would handle all search engine and directory submissions themselves. They found a company online that promised to ‘zap’ their website to 200 different search engines and directories for only $100.

On the surface this must have sounded good. However, the client didn’t ask for a list of the search engines and directories included. It turned out that the company’s website had been zapped to search engines in India, Cambodia, Indonesia… you get the picture. The client operated a brick-and-mortar store with no online selling, so it turned out the high-volume submission approach was not a good fit for their needs. A strategy based on local directories would have served them better.

No search engine placement

In another example, I spoke with a business owner who assured me he didn’t need help with SEO because he had done the work himself. Out of curiosity I checked out his website. The news was not good.

I searched on keyword combinations relating to his business services and his geographical location. The website did not appear in the first four pages of search engine results. Next I tried searching on his company name and his geographical location. — If anything should have produced a hit in the search results, this was it. — However, once again the website did not appear in the first four pages of search engine results. From an SEO perspective these results were dismal.

Why did the website perform so poorly?

  • The website consisted almost entirely of photographs and other graphics.
  • SEO relies on text, not graphics. Search engines cannot ‘read’ graphics or photos. Search engines work by analyzing the text on the pages of your website, to figure out what topics the web page covers. Generally if a website does not include much text, the search engines assume that the website does not offer much content. Based on this search engines are likely to relegate the website to a lower position in the search results.
  • The meta tags in the website were improperly set. The meta tags were ‘stuffed’ with keywords that did not appear anywhere on the web pages. One meta tag was 1,000 characters long!
  • Meta tags are a special type of tag that may be included in the HTML coding of a web page. Meta tags provide search engines with descriptions of web page content. In previous times people tried to manipulate search engines into favouring their site by stuffing their meta tags with lots of extra words.
  • The programmers who develop search engines are not stupid, however, and quickly caught on to this tactic. These days search engines generally do not ‘believe’ meta tags. Instead, they cross-validate meta tags, looking for consistency between the meta tags and the remaining content on the page. Stuffing meta tags no longer works and may even cause the search engine to penalize your site.

Link schemes

I had yet another customer who was approached to add a page of links to their website. Generally, having inbound links to a website is known to improve positioning in search engine results. However, the search engine programmers are well aware that some people and companies attempt to manipulate search engine results by arranging link swaps. Consequently, the better quality search engines stopped giving credit for reciprocal links. Link swapping may also cause the search engine to penalize your site.

So is it good to try to do your own SEO?

Certainly, it is a good idea to learn about the topic. If nothing else, you will become a better-informed consumer. However, keep in mind too that a little bit of information can be a dangerous thing.

Learning SEO techniques requires a significant investment of time. SEO involves a range of skills covering website development, search engine know-how and marketing. And, the technology constantly changes, so you must continuously update your knowledge.

If you try to go it alone, be careful about companies promising too much. If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. And be sure to test how well your site performs in search engines using various keyword combinations. If the performance is not good, then it is time to engage a professional.

For more information contact User Element.

4Join the conversation.
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