The Mint Blog
The Click #19
I have always shied away from writing about Search Engine Optimisation. (Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, is work done to make your site come higher up in the results of Google or other search engines.)
It takes a long time for SEO work to have an effect and you can not predict how beneficial it will be. Combine these two, and it makes for a murky world full of dodgy "First p1ace on GOOGLE!!" promises.
However, recently a couple of clients boosted their businesses dramatically through improving their visibility on Google. This made me think I should share what little I know.
Then I thought, better to get the opinion of a real expert. Richard Day came first in an SEO competition organised by .Net magazine. He is a true professional. Here is how he answered my questions:
1. What is the easiest way to improve your search engine ranking?
Get some links of the right type. That is links from pages on other sites that are both highly regarded by Google and on a similar subject to your own site.
2. How long does it take to see any beneficial effect from SEO?
Sometimes just a few days in Yahoo and MSN, but often many months in Google.
3. There is lots of chat about link swaps. Some people say Google will see through it if you link to a site in return for that site linking back to you. What do you think?
Link swaps can be good, if the sites have related content, and will not be bad unless your site links to a "bad" site (that is a site that Google suspects of trying to manipulate search engine rankings unfairly). Link swaps between wholly unrelated sites are probably worth little. If a link provides benefit to your visitors, then it is a good link.
4. With SEO work, I have always worried that you are at the mercy of Google changing the way it values sites. Is this a concern?
If you have content good enough for other sites to want to link to you without reciprocation, then no. Otherwise, you are always at the mercy of changing algorithms to some extent. But Google will always need to look inside your site to see what it is about - so "optimising" your site so that its subject area is clear to Google will always be good. And if sites which are "authorities" in your field link to your site - that will always be good.
5. What do you eat while doing SEO work?
6. Hypothetically, if you were hiring a company to help you with SEO what would you look for?
There are a whole bunch of things to watch out for [check this for the full list http://www.beaufortweb.co.uk/article-3.htm] but in short an SEO should not try to "cheat" the search engines. For example they should not create deceptive or misleading content and they should not create hidden links. Both of these were once effective but now may well get a site blacklisted.
7. By how much should a SEO be able to improve your rankings?
It depends how competitive the chosen keywords are. In some cases it may be more cost-effective to spend money on sponsored links (like Google AdWords).
8. How do you discover what SEO techniques work? Is it trial and error?
There are some good forums (especially http://searchenginewatch.com/webmasters/) and some good books. Also, we have learned through experimentation.
My conclusion: ride to victory with the good guys
There has always been a crooked side and a honest side to SEO. The crooked side - trying to manipulate search engines with fakery - does not really work anymore. The virtuous side is winning hands down. This is great news for everyone except the SEO Cowboys.
Honest activities include making your site clear for search engines and trying to persuade authoritative sites in your field to link to you (this is what worked for our clients mentioned at the start). However, paramount - as search engines get cannier - is to make your site worth visiting. Now, apologies for the extraordinarily blatant plug, but who better to help you with this than Mint Digital?
We are looking for a hugely passionate web designer with 1-3 years experience. Must be inventive, humorous and mad keen on using the web to communicate. Will be expected to do all sorts of jobs brilliantly. Experience with Photoshop and HTML essential. PHP, MySQL, Wordpress or similar would be a plus.
Great creative environment. We always stop for lunch.
Salary: £20-27k depending on experience.
Location: based in Vauxhall (we are moving there next week)
Please send a CV and a covering letter to email@example.com
The Click #18
Warning: this Click is entirely self promotional. Feel free to delete it immediately.
Last Click I was prattling on about the importance of prices on a website. Half way through I realised our site totally ignored all the advice I was giving. A bit further on I was hit by an idea so momentous that I was worried it was a brain spasm. I checked with my partners. They said it wasn't. So here goes:
Mint - take it or leave it
For £450 we'll mock you up a new home page.
What's the big idea?
Many people we meet know their website isn't up to scratch. A major stumbling block to improving the situation is the fear that a new one won't be any better. Or, more precisely, that it won't be sufficiently better to justify the expense.
This frustrates us. Every single client we've had agrees that their site has been, at the very least, a very worthwhile investment.
So we want to remove the fear from commissioning a website. The plan is we have a chat on the phone and then create you one home page redesign. This allows us to you show how much better your site could be, without you having to make a big commitment.
As part of the deal, we ask for an hour of your time to pop in and discuss what we have created. (A mock-up inevitably has loose ends that are best discussed round a table.)
Well, the choice is yours. We can discuss how we'd take the design and make a site based round it. Or you can take our ideas and use them yourself.
Or, if you don't like it all, you can walk away (well, we'll walk away). It is called 'Mint - Take it or Leave it' because if you (really, truly) don't value it, you don't have to pay us a penny.
What could be less risky than that?
Sign up now! Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7193 7312.