Saturday, 11 July 2009

SEO. How to say what you're going to do without how you're going to do it!

It's a tricky balance to strike when talking about Search Engine Optimisation, between explaining to customers what you're going to do, without a.) going into too much detail about how you're going to do it (and therefore boring the pants of them or leaving them feeling utterly confused) and b.) giving away all your valuable wisdom, so that the client thinks "I can do that!" or even worse, think that they have a good grasp of what is going on and can get involved!

That's not to dumb down my wonderful clients, not at all... but a little knowledge is often a dangerous thing. Also, involvement is needed, and welcomed...but it's how to manage that constructively that is the tricky thing. I liken it to a skilled motor mechanic working on a car (think F1 if you like, but the metaphor works for your basic run-around motor needing an MOT). The mechanic tinkers with the car for it's optimum performance. We all know that in his (or her) tool box, they have a set of sockets, spanners and various other tools required of them to do the job. Most modern cars have internal computer parts which can be hooked up to diagnostic equipment, enabling the mechanic a speeder insight into the performance information and therefore give a more accurate indication on where to apply their attention. It might be that the mechanic decides that the engine timing is out, and by working on this the engine could be more efficient. So he sets about his task of fixing the timing.

Now, you or I (unless you happen to be a mechanic) would not have the skill to do this, knowing how to set the timing to the correct level, I can safely say that it is something that only a skilled person with experience and training should do. Nor would we attempt to apply our newly found understanding of the situation to any sort of practical application. (It's unlikely we'd don a pair of overalls ..get stuck inand it's likely that if I did; I would blow the engine into a million pieces.) The mechanic has learnt how to apply his knowledge and his ability to do this. Critically, this is the value we apply to the service, and why we pay someone to do it for us.

The problem with SEO, is that trying to explain to the customer that you are going to 'sort the timing out' so the engine runs better - (or, increase the keywords so that the text is optimised) somehow starts some clients thinking that this is something they should get involved in. They start to say things like - "so, we need to put more instances of that word/this word in the homepage then..." like that would simply solve their SEO desires. Oh, if only it were! I can understand why they would thing that, but I guess where I'm at now, is trying to refine the phrases I use to further gently educate or inform my beloved customers that it takes a multitude of different approaches to optimise text, and that just stuffing a page full of thousands of the same word over and over just won't help.

I say things like: Google (other search engines are available_) is very smart at it's job. Its job is to deliver the most relevant page to the searcher. It grades the pages available by many different factors. Some of them are easier to work on than others -but there is no ONE job which we can do which will "get you to the top of Google" as so many of my new customers predictably ask as if it's as simple as a tick box on their website somewhere. It sometimes amazes me that people ask this question in such a flippant way, as if they expect me to say "oh, I hadn't realised that's what you wanted, let me just sort that out for you now. Alacazam! Pif-paf-pof! There you go Mr.Customer - is that better?!!!"

It's very rare that you build a website without the golden top spot of Google in mind. It starts at the very foundations of the site. File names, image text, layout, design and more, much much more goes into making our sites as well optimised as they can be.

So anyway, I'm not writing a blog post to moan about it, I'm just getting some thoughts down about how I'm going to put together a simple document. The aim of this document is to carefully explain to my wonderful and valued clients just how complex Search Engine Optimisation really is. I need to educate them in the whys and wherefores, but reassure them that although involvement is welcome and encouraged, they do not need to know HOW we do this. They do not need to get an overall on (so to speak) and they need to be realistic about the time it takes, the value in the application of the knowledge and experience (how much they can expect to pay) and the way in which we go about it.

So I better get on with it.

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