If I’m interested in something, I generally try to develop a certain amount of expertise in it. Some of this is natural (enough exposure to various of the arts, for instance, creates a natural, if possibly informal, familiarity), and some of it is intentional (e.g., reading a programming book or web development documentation of some kind). And generally I try to identify trusted authorities. In search (where Google remains particularly dominant) and search engine optimization (SEO), the trusted authority is Matt Cutts. Matt is a sort of oracle when it comes to Google-related search information. He doles out bits of information about the algorithm, and he offers advice to webmasters and SEOs. Anyone who has followed Matt for some time will recognize that his descriptions of search results hinge on relevance.
Now, SEO is only one part of the SearchViz approach to getting found through inbound marketing, but it’s an important one. In a recent video in the excellent Google Webmaster Central YouTube Channel, Matt answers the question of how he would run his own online marketing company. While he doesn’t give the million dollar secret to SEO success, he suggests that reputation and transparency are reasonable hypothetical foundations for good services. And that’s something we generally strive for at SearchViz. We’re not in the habit of doing things we’re uncomfortable telling our customers about, just as we’re not in the habit of doing things where we have to explain to the customer, “Look, we did this special for you, but it’s… unconventional. So we wanted to let you know this is how we did it, but don’t tell anyone, okay?” In short, when it comes to SEO, we’re not trying to game the system; we’re trying to ensure demonstration of relevance.
If some SEOs seem to wear black hats or practice dark arts, it’s likely because search is a black box. The proprietary algorithms used by the major search engines are one of the primary domains of market competition. If Google itself were a truly open system, it would be possible to tailor sites exactly to the algorithm, regardless of actual relevance. Viagra spammers could likely adapt to an open algorithm to ensure that they did well in queries for [art museum]. An interesting question is whether an open search algorithm would increase or decrease relevance in search results. To my knowledge, no one has attempted to create an open search algorithm that has achieved any sort of liquidity. So because search is currently proprietary, SEO research and development frequently yields short-term tactical advantages for those quickest to market with reverse engineered discoveries about the algorithms employed by the search engines. As these tactics become disseminated, their value decreases. With standard search engine results pages (SERPs) containing 10 results for most search engines, each keyword or search phrase has a supply/demand problem based on relevance.
We’re not really interested in the black box churn. To us, SEO is akin to an ideology, but it’s one that is evidence-based while still taking a long view. Here at SearchViz, our strategy is relevance, and our tactics include mostly widely known best practices designed to highlight relevance for the search engines. We’re not going to charge you to stuff a bunch of useless paid directories with your site, and we’re not going to promote articles about your site to sites you’ve never heard of unless they’re high-quality sources of information relevant to your site. What we will do is ensure that you have quality semantic structure that matches your content and markup that matches the recommendations of the search engines. We will make sure that you’re in quality directories and have quality inbound links that reflect the best relationships you already enjoy but might not be fully leveraging. We will keep up with the practices recommended by search engines and leveraged by SEOs to ensure that you are exposing your relevance.
The simple truth is that there remain a number of sites on the Web that, largely because of an unfortunate legacy of Web standards existing prior to standard tools for creating documents, are non-optimal for the search experience. Imagine if copywriters could create Word documents without using Microsoft Word akin to the way web designers hand-rolled their own HTML with no validity checking built in. Basic documents would have been nearly impossible to read or to transfer between computers. Try asking a web designer sometime, for instance, about designing for IE6. With Word, there are very few compatibility issues between versions or across platforms. With the Web, there are countless rendering issues across browsers and platforms. In some ways, our role is to improve the Web by returning to standards and exposing relevance.
“But wait,” you might be thinking, “Shouldn’t I be partnering with someone willing to put on the black hat at least occasionally?” You can if you want, but that’s one of many reasons why SEO isn’t the only part of our strategy. Remember: We’re an inbound marketing agency. This means we use a variety of tactics to help you get found. As long as you’re creating quality original content, you will be relevant to search, in social media, in email, and wherever else you’re likely to engage your audience. In the long run, we think this strategy yields more value to our customers than Googlebombing ever could.
If you’re concerned that your site might not be letting search engines know just how relevant it is, please contact us.