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Secret Diary

SEO: a fairytale

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Author’s note: This is archive content. Many things have changed in the SEO field since 2012. What is said here may not be entirely as accurate as it was back then, but there is still some truth in its basic principles of good content and think of user experience, and I liked the jokes. – xoxo Alessia – TBP {June 2015}

I am not a fan of discussing my job. I just don’t want this post to sound like those articles by self-claimed experts where they just repeat the same things as any other person who wrote on the matter (or more probably scraping the content), trying to get people to read their article. I am writing this as a link between two sessions of the Haute Frugalista‘s Twitter Party, and I am directing it to people who can easily be friends, with no pretension of expertise more than if I were suggesting the new shampoo I tried this week (on a side note, I got a freebie from the Body Shop this week).

The topic is the dreadful SEO, and more specifically myths and reality and how worth it is to try to understand those crazy words if you are a blogger and want to colonise your corner of the cyber space.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, in the same way TARDIS stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space. Both things work in a way that is understandable only to the Doctor, as the algorithm behind SEO is somewhere between ancient Akkadian and Icelanding in Hebrew characters, and reads like Elvish. I am not sure the people who built it up understand it, or just elaborated it during a trance regulated by the use of substances that are legal in Amsterdam and make you think you live in Wonderland.

That said, it’s not all about keywords. Density is bullshit, and picking keywords people look for when you are not keen on that topic is not going to make quality content people want to read. The point is in creating a content that is both easy for a machine to grasp correctly and sophisticated enough to reach a human reader while still being natural and genuine to appeal the latter.

The machine is limited by many problems like the structure of the website, contents protected by passwords, duplicates of pages and also errors in coding. The human side is limited by a bunch of problems that all track back to targeting. People at SEOmoz said that the adage about the tree falling in the snow when no one is around to hear can not exist at all, and I agree with that. There is nothing truer. It is the downside of SEO. To make it effective you have to get your content reach people, who will then make it appealing to the engines, making the whole SEO snowball grow.

In my humble opinion, most people think of SEO as a thing applying to the content each time. I write this with that keyword in that density and I should have people visiting. It works, but the big mistake people do in marketing when trying to do it on their own is seeing the immediate success as the goal, and forgetting about the long term. Marketing is effective the other way round, and if you are lucky to put some immediate success in your strategy too you should definitely consider doing it as a job. Popular searches make up a small amount of the total presence on a website. The data is taken from SEOmoz again, but they forgot to say a small simple and stupid truth: the most popular searches are those too general to make people exactly want you. And you want people to want you, and come back, and create a community of people around you coming back happily every time you get a new post, and telling all the people they know about you, and reading all your older posts in a row because they just love what you do. You don’t want them to think you are just another blogger like the others and move on to the next one they found using a very common and popular keyword you invested on. This is a lesson learnt from sales, the more targeted the research, the higher the possibility of it turning into leads.

People think that what other people read is what is most influential, but in truth I have often more readers than journalists on the online version of the Guardian. Who would you think is more influential, a 20something with no journalistic background paid a misery by an independent magazine or someone who made it up to the Guardian? You’ve got the point.

Some recent articles on Forbes are of an awfully low level but which is the influential one in traditional terms? Same point. Engines know nothing about the Guardian and Forbes online to measure their influence in traditional terms. High quality that is relevant to the search is to them the same whether it’s the Guardian or Surface Earth, whether I wrote it or it was Al Gore. If Al Gore wrote an article on the eco-system only 10 people wanted to read, a search engine couldn’t care less about it being written by Al Gore. If more than 10000 read my article, a search engine couldn’t care less I am not Al Gore. If 9/10 of those people used the back button less than 1 minute into the article, the search engine will care about it whether it’s me or Al Gore. What really matters is that you write something that will make people stay on the page, and read more. SEO is not about keywords search or ranking high on Google, it’s about user experience and user experience is how much you stay on the site and what you do with it, whether it’s reading more or linking back to it. People can easily go down the list of Google results if the first results are not good enough for them.

This was a serious post. Please find comfort in a random picture of Tom Hiddleston.

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