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The more I speak with small business, the more I am discovering just how little is known about Google and the art of Search Engine Optimisation. And that’s not surprising, because we’re all busy working in our businesses, doing what we do well. The problem comes when the same small businesses attempt to save on the costs of advertising by “going digital” or “going social” without actually knowing the complexities involved.
This is not an article outlining what SEO is, or some introduction to how Google works, though. This is something a bit different. It’s about the hard work you have to do BEFORE you can expect your website to show up on Google.

It rarely, if ever happens that a new business opens their new website and the world comes rushing in. But if the world does come rushing in to a new business property, it’s usually because someone has done a lot of pre-work to promote the property. And this is the 80% of SEO that most “experts” like to skip.
Why would SEO experts skip over that stuff? Because the work of most SEO folks is tied up with fiddling around with words in your website. Tidying up H1 and H2 tags. Rewriting metadata. Renaming articles. Recrawling the site in Google using Search Console. All the basic stuff. Teh easy stuff. The stuff that doesn’t take much time to do. But the real work of SEO lies outside your website. In fact, most SEO work feels like it’s about “public relations.” And here’s why.

You need people linking to you. Real people.

Notice that I said people. Not websites. That’s because Google is smart. Like, REALLY smart. That algorithm of their can tear your fake attempts to be popular to shreds. A common technique by
SEO workers is to create lots of instances where your website or addresses on your websites are linked on all kinds of directories, forums and comment threads. Pretty much any places that is easy for a robot script to automatically write some kind of generic comment and then insert a link back your website. This is basically what those Indian SEO spam emails are promising when they say they’ll get you on the first page of Google. They rarely ever get you there. And even if they do, you don’t stay there long. In, you may not even stay there more than a day or two before Google works out what they did and penalises you for trying to cheat the system. Because that’s essentially what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to skip ahead of potentially thousands of other sites that have done the hard work of existing long before you, building their audience and authority. You are trying to cheat. And while you might get away with it for 5 minutes, the penalty for getting away with it is harsh. Google essentially black lists you until you remove all those fake links. It’s a horrific process that I’ve had to walk clients through before, who trusted in someone who said, “Hey, I can get you to page 1 of Google!”

The natural way of achieving a high ranking in Google means creating good content and then promoting this content to other websites in your industry. Journals, news sites, industry magazines… anything that is an authority in your industry. Not forums, comments and dodgy directories. In fact, recent changes at Google have eliminated the impact of these SEO cheats to a point where having a million backlinks from sites that have no authority or link to your industry will have no impact whatsoever to your site’s rank.
So when some email comes from an SEO Expert in Melbourne, Mumbai, Manila or Vancouver, just ignore their email. Nothing good comes from engaging with these people. They’re selling snake oil disguised as a tool for building your business.

You need to build mutual relationships with other people

You’re probably seeing a theme emerge here. Most of your SEO work isn’t technical. It’s about people. And getting to know them. Working with them. And often doing things for them in exchange for doing things for you.
One way of building a relationship with others for SEO purposes is to communicate with them on social media. Be a frequent commenter. Be a liker. Message them about what they’ve written. And after a while, ask them to write an article on your site. And offer to write one for them. Website owners love it when others guest blog with them. Because it benefits them as well. That link from your site back to theirs is valuable to them. And that link on their website back to yours is valuable too.
When you have your first industry cross-linking sorted, get to work on more. Hit up everyone in parallel businesses to yours that have blogs. And if you’re not very forward in real life, then use email or social media to say hi. Trust me, this approach to growing your authority in your space works.

SEO is a marathon, not a sprint

If you’re doing SEO, then you’ve gotta be in it for the long haul. There are no quick wins that last, so choose a method, get advice from multiple places and get your head down and connecting with real people in order to get real online results.