It seems like everyone claims to be an expert at both.
I am definitely not an expert. I'm lucky enough to be close to some people that can legitimately claim expert SEO status through a combination of formal training/education & accreditation, research, experience and, most importantly, long term results. Their knowledge and commitment to the subject amazes me. SEO is always changing and they are always learning, training and experimenting. It is not a part time endeavour or hobby and every conversation I have with them is a reminder of just how little I know.
I am however an enthusiast. The subject interests me, and also impacts my business and the florist clients I work with. I try and understand the basic principles and be aware of the big trends. Anyone with a business that depends on search should have a healthy interest in the subject.
Because I work with florists and related technology I often get asked about SEO. Here – as a non-expert enthusiast – is the advice I am comfortable giving:
When it comes to driving and your car you know the rules of the road and you can probably zip around without getting into many accidents. You know where the gas goes, how to check the oil, maybe even change a tire. But that doesn’t mean you can drive in Nascar or replace your oil pump.
Some work (pumping gas) is best done by you. You wouldn’t want to pay your mechanic shop rates to do it and, similarly, you probably don’t want to pay for an SEO specialist to do your blog posts for you. You know the subject and, with a little help, can do it better.
On the other hand it makes much more sense to have the mechanic change the oil pump when you don’t have the time, tools or training.
So it is with SEO. Use an expert to create a foundation and a plan for search success, but plan on doing much of the ongoing work yourself.
Almost anyone can claim expert status in this field and if you aren’t familiar with search concepts someone repeating even the most basic (even outdated) maxims may seem like an oracle. Look for examples of real, long term results. Be skeptical - there are a lot of shady operators in the SEO business. Ranking well for “yourshopname” is very different from ranking well for “yourcityname florist” – the latter is much harder. If an SEO consultant shows you a name search as proof of their expertise… ask for more proof.
I’m not talking about legitimate paid directories (eve that is a delicate subject) but quick-fix SEO offers that promise a bunch of new links. Sure you see a bunch of new links and might even get a bump but this approach is like a ticking time bomb. I have seen people that were doing well in search try such offers to perform even better only to end up worse than where they started, and frantically using Google’s disavow tool to try and undo the damage.
Blog. Often. Using the blog one on the website you want to perform, not a separate blog site.
It’s ok to be inspired by the content of others and take it in a new direction but don’t just copy and paste. Imagine you are telling people about your business and what you do. Try and make it something you would find interesting to read. Don’t just keep stuffing the same keywords, think more specifically for long tail search performance - if you are a florist in Chicago you might want to blog about deliveries to specific neighbourhoods and areas, even specific businesses, hospitals, schools, etc. There are almost 2,000,000 result for “Chicago Flower Delivery” but only 50,000 for “Hyde Park Chicago Flower Delivery”. You have a much better chance of ranking well for the latter.
If you are located in a major center like Manhattan and looking to rank well for “Manhattan Flower Delivery" competition is going to be very tough and getting to the top of the rankings will take more time, energy and money. If you are not in Manhattan and want to rank for “Manhattan Flower Delivery” it will be even tougher.
SEO can improve your search results but it can't generate clicks if the searches aren’t there. Getting to the top spot for a small town florist search might indicate good SEO but it won’t generate clicks if nobody is making that search.
There is a lot of competition for very few spots. Doing it properly will take time. If it was easy anyone could do it.
The best diet advice I ever saw was also the simplest: Anything you really like probably isn’t good for you. It applies to the gym too - whatever exercise or equipment you are most drawn to when you are tired is probably the least effective, the one you dread the most is probably the most effective. Blogging is hard. Facebook is fun. If you don’t watch it you will probably find yourself spending far more time “working” on Facebook than you do posting to your blog. Get back to the blog - if something doesn’t hurt a little it probably isn’t helping. Love Facebook and hate blogging? Use it. Make thirty minutes of Facebook time your reward for writing a killer blog post.
Ever try and evaluate your own search performance by searching for the terms that matter to you? Those terms may not be the terms customers use, and even if they are you will almost certainly see different results. Search engines try and filter your results based on your location and past behaviour. If you routinely click through to your own site you are probably getting skewed results where you appear higher than you would normally.
This one bears repeating. What do you think when a bride says she wants to do her own wedding flowers? SEO is important. It’s complicated. It’s worth using a true expert.
I don't sell SEO or claim to be an expert. This is just what I have come to believe to be true over the years, and what I share with people I want to see succeed in search.
PS Did I mention hiring experts?