We all know the trope of the snake oil salesman. A slippery, fast-talking conman whose only goal is making a sale, no matter the cost. He has taken many forms over the years.
A purveyor of suspicious tonics and elixirs. A used car salesman, replete in a cheap suit and pungent cologne. The self-proclaimed search engine optimization (SEO) “expert” who wants you to believe that he has some inside track to the deepest secrets of Google’s algorithms.
Today, we’re here to discuss the latter. As has always been the case, the best way to defeat a snake oil salesman is to be knowledgeable enough that they cannot fool you. With that in mind, let’s discuss a few things SEO can do, and follow up with a few things it cannot do.
What SEO Can Do
Potentially Increase Traffic
At its core, SEO is all about making your website more attractive to Google’s search algorithms. It’s about understanding what your target audience is searching for and serving up that content in a way that both attracts the attention of the search engine and gives your users exactly what they want. Do it right, and you can increase traffic numbers, which can potentially lead to better engagement and more conversions.
Give A Better Understanding of What Constitutes Good Content
At its core, SEO is about knowing your website inside and out, from both a technical and non-technical perspective. To that end, a big part of SEO involves measuring your performance and using those measurements to make tweaks to your website. This means that through the proper application of SEO, you can figure out what works in terms of content, and create more stuff like it.
Help You Identify Problem Areas Of Your Website
As we’ve already mentioned, SEO involves a great deal of performance monitoring and analysis. This means that if there are any sections of your website that are driving visitors away, SEO can help you eliminate them. This could include a bad sitemap, intrusive ads, slow-loading pages, or poorly-written content.
What SEO Cannot Do
The most important thing to remember about SEO is that there are no guarantees. If someone promises you the top spot on Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP), they are lying to you. There is no such thing as a sure deal with SEO.
That’s because SEO isn’t about the results. Its actual purpose is right there in the name: optimization. It’s about making your website and your content better, about improving over multiple iterations.
Repair a Damaged Reputation
We’ve seen a few instances of people trying to leverage SEO tactics to deal with a public relations disaster. The only instance in which this works is if you are publishing a page discussing the controversy and explaining your role in it as transparently as possible. Otherwise, you cannot use SEO to drown out negative press. It does not work that way.
Boost Bad Content (For Long)
Content marketing and SEO are two sides of the same coin. Decent content needs SEO to bring in traffic. SEO needs decent content that it can boost.
You cannot have one without the other. This means that if there are serious issues with your website’s content, the most SEO can do for you is to provide a small, temporary boost to traffic. It cannot create engagement if your content is poorly written or plagiarized.
SEO Is Not A Cure-All
SEO is incredibly important for success on the modern web. But it’s not the holy grail that some people would have you believe it to be. At the end of the day, it’s ultimately a collection of tactics and techniques to help you improve yourself and your website day after day.