The Secret of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The Secret of SEO

One of the first questions many lawyers ask me when I tell them I create websites is, “do you do SEO?” No matter how many times I’m asked that question, I always have to pause and decide whether I should give them the short answer or the complete answer. The short answer is, of course, “yes”. But there’s so much more to say about SEO. At the heart of their question lies a myriad of other questions they don’t even realize they’re asking.

What I really want to say is, “Yes, we do SEO, and so do you.”

Let me explain.

The Man Behind the Google Curtain

You may have heard about Google’s “200 factors”. It’s the list of metrics used to rank websites in Google results. The fact that Google uses a mind-bendingly complex algorithm to determine your website’s ranking on specific search phrases isn’t news to anyone. What would be news is an unveiling of a complete, comprehensive and accurate list of exactly what the 200 factors are. But nobody actually knows. Google has only given us hints and clues, but no complete details. Somewhere in the depths of Google’s Silicon Valley palace is a team of wizards pulling chords and twisting levers that we’ll never, ever get to see.

What We Actually Know

Despite Google’s insistence on keeping the nitty gritty close to the chest, there’s a lot we do know about SEO, at least in broad strokes. Some of it has been provided by Google itself. The rest has been mined from lots and lots of independent research.

The things we know about SEO can be broken down into two big categories: technical factors and content-driven factors

Technical Factors

This is the part your web designer does. This is the “yes” in my answer. There’s a laundry list of programming tricks that every developer worth his or her salt will, by default, incorporate into every single site they build: HTML meta tags for the page description, proper HTML document structure, accurate title tags, descriptive alt tags on every content image, relevant and concise URLs, and lots of other stuff. The exact importance Google places on these technical elements in uncertain, but website creators know not to exclude them.

HTML Screenshot
Here’s an example of a description meta tag.

Content-Driven Factors

And here’s the rest of the answer, the hard truth, the part that sends chills down the spines of those looking for a quick and easy solution to SEO: content is king. Think about it. Every web developer knows all the technical tricks, yet there are still sites that rank better than others. Why is that? Because what Google cares about more than anything else is your site content. It wants to see that your site contains unique content that’s highly relevant to what the user searched for. In other words: good content.

While there are numerous technical factors that aren’t directly controlled by the web developer, they all stem directly from the quality of the content. For example, Google uses a metric for “click-through rate”. It’s essentially a ratio of how many times your site appears in results to how often it’s clicked. The more relevant your site seems to users, the more people will click it. The users are voting with their clicks, and Google knows this.

Another technical aspect you may have heard about is “back links”, or links from other sites pointing to yours. How do you get back links? Well, you could spend hours emailing blog authors asking them to link to your site. Or you could just make awesome content and share it with people. When someone sees or reads something helpful, informative or entertaining on your site, they’ll probably link to it from Facebook, Twitter or even their own blog. The viral nature of the web is a real thing. But the key to spreading the virus is to begin with great content.

What About “SEO Companies”?

Yes, there’s a booming SEO industry out there. Just search around and you’ll see dozens of companies promising they can improve your Google ranking overnight. In my estimation there are two types of SEO companies: those who perform legitimate content strategy that provides true SEO, and those who are ripping you off. If your SEO company isn’t actually creating content for you (i.e. they’re just doing technical stuff), then they’re charging you for something they shouldn’t be. This is why Caiman Web Design does not charge for SEO. We firmly believe that technical SEO is an intrinsic part of good website development, not an additional service to charge extra for. Strategic content creation, on the other hand, is a legitimate marketing service that will yield real improvements to your site’s search ranking. Make sure that any SEO company you hire is actually doing that.

What You Need to Do

Earlier I mentioned how I’d like to tell people, “Yes we do SEO, and so do you”. Here’s what I mean: the person who sits down and writes the content for your website, whether that’s you or someone you’ve hired, is ultimately the person performing the brunt of your site’s search engine optimization. While Caiman Web Design doesn’t currently offer content creation services, we’re more than happy to refer you to good content creators. But if you have time in your schedule, don’t be scared to do it yourself. Blogging is an excellent way to create fresh, relevant content. Your clients, both new and existing, will love to read your thoughts on subjects that pertain to them. As long as your blog posts are helpful, informative or entertaining, you’ve done your job.

Remember, if your website is filled with great content, users will end up there. It’s not a quick and easy solution; it requires focusing your time (or money) on generating valuable content. It may take weeks, months or even years before your website lands on that coveted first page, but it will happen. There’s no hidden recipe, no quick fix. The secret of SEO is that there isn’t one.

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