Tag Archives: SEO

The Difference Between SEO And SEM

Unless you’ve been off the grid, you’ve seen the acronym SEO a lot in the past five years or so. It stands for Search Engine Optimization and by definition, it means “making your website as friendly as possible to search engines.” You see, search engines – and by search engines I mean Google, the only search engine that matters – have very specific, very dynamic sets of criteria by which they judge the worthiness of each site they come across (through a process called “indexing”). It’s a full-time job to keep up with these criteria, and so an entire industry grew up to address it: SEO.

More recently, we’ve seen a focus on a slightly different acronym, SEM.

That one stands for Search Engine Marketing. It shares a lot of characteristics with SEO, but also blends in the paid aspects of search, such as advertising, marketing and branding.

Think of it this way: Imagine you are alone on a deserted island. You have two choices. You can prepare wood to build a fire so that rescuers can find you (that’s SEO). Or, you can use that wood to build a boat so that you can go out and find the rescuers (that’s SEM).

Here at {code} Roadies, we’ve never been fans of waiting around. Maybe it’s our video game-shortened attention spans. Maybe it’s old-fashioned impatience. Either way, if there’s an opportunity to do something (rather than wish for something), we usually take it. That puts us squarely in the SEM camp, obviously.

Here are some of the actions that we take when we help clients with SEM:

  • Website development and management  First things first. Your website needs to check all of the boxes that search engines look for. Then, when those fussy search engines change their mind like an eighth grader getting ready for the big dance, we make changes to your site so that it keeps up.
  • Content creation – You’ve heard me say it a million times: search engines love new content. It’s one of the easiest ways for them to tell if you’ve taken the old “set it and forget it” approach that results in a news page that never gets updated or constructed a living, breathing website that treats users with respect.
  • Online marketing – Google will tell you that using AdWords doesn’t impact organic search. However, it doesn’t take a genius to understand that traffic is one of the biggest metrics that any search engine uses to determine popularity. So buying ads that send people to your website must impact search position, right Google? (Google smiles and winks silently.)
  • Social media management – There’s a reason that Zuckerberg wears hoodies made from unicorn hair and bought all the mansions near his mansion because his mansion was feeling a little claustrophobic. They make money by the truckload from advertisers who use Facebook and Instagram to send people to their websites. And directed traffic (like that from social media ads or Google AdWords) usually means qualified customers, which means longer site visits, which also helps search engines to decide how effective your page is.

In other words:

SEM is a long-term strategy that takes effort and expertise.

It pays to be be diligent, and it pays to get help. Give us a call here at {code} Roadies, and let’s start building that boat together.


SEO, Science And Snake Oil

One of our clients recently contacted me with a series of questions about her website that were prompted by the visit of a gentleman from a national “all things to everyone” web management company. The client was confused because the salesman had made some fantastic claims about his company’s ability to improve her website and how visible it was on search engines and in social media. She even told me that his company could make her good reviews more prominent and her bad reviews less obvious. That’s when I got suspicious.

You see, I’ve been working with search engines and social media for almost as long as they’ve existed, and saying that you can control them is like rolling into town with a wagon full of snake oil and vitamin elixirs: nobody can tell if they work or don’t work, so those purveying these wonder drugs can play fast and loose with the facts. When things improve, it’s thanks to the medicine – when they don’t, other factors were to blame. In the meantime, you’ve spent a lot of money burping up fizzy soda pop that tastes like dishwater.

Why can’t anyone really control search results and reviews? Because if they could, search results and reviews would be meaningless. That would be bad for business for the companies that run the world (not the Internet world, the world world) like Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, etc. All of these companies sell trust, after all, and who would trust anything on the Internet if we would simply remove something we don’t like? 

Google’s #1 product is an accurate, helpful search result (which they use to glean your vital information and sell to everybody and their mother – nobody said it was pretty). Do you think they’re going to let you – or anybody else – screw up their #1 product? They modify the algorithm – the software behind their search engine – dozens of time each week in order to overcome those who try to do just that. 

Think about that. You can either work to live in harmony with Google, Facebook etc., doing what you can to make their systems work for your company – or you can take your chances by poking them in the eye and messing with their business model. I’ve seen what can happen when you go all in trying to game Google’s algorithm, and it isn’t pretty. I had an associate who hired a hot company out of Chicago to take his online business to the top of the search results no matter what. He called me one day and told me that Google had adapted the algorithm to negate the tricks that his friends in Chicago were using and pow! He was out of the search results – entirely. He was also out of business in just a few months.

Those who seek to manipulate online reviews are running into similar problems. Regulators in the state of New York got the ball rolling by investigating – and fining – companies who were posting fake reviews online (including some of the nation’s largest “reputation-building” companies) and many other states have since joined the crusade.

Does this mean that all search engine optimization (SEO) is worthless? Nope. Let me take the vitamin elixir analogy one step further. Just like in real life, healthy lifestyle choices are smarter than magic potions. Eat nutritious foods, stay active and maybe take a few vitamins, and you can look and feel great. Keep your website up to date with new content (search engines love that), include all of the things that your customers want to see (keywords, etc.) and spend the resources needed to keep your technology fresh (for example, Google is now looking very harshly on sites that are not friendly toward mobile devices), and you will have a healthy web presence. It’s not as easy as chugging that bottle of snake oil, but it’s a lot more likely to work (and not send you sprinting to the bathroom).

And since when has the right answer been the same as the easy answer, anyway? Here’s the good news – Code Roadies and other companies like us can do a lot of that work for you. We can build you a WordPress website that allows for easy content updates, agile SEO additions and optimum viewing on everything from smartphones to laptops. We can even help you to fill your site with everything your customers – and search engines – want to see.

Work with search engines, social media and review sites rather than against them, and you’ll discover quickly that effort pays off more than a quick fix every time.

The Truth About SEO

For years, SEO has been an interesting industry filled with “black hats” who attempt to trick or fool search engines, experts who claim to know how to move your website to the top of an organic search, hard-working and honest professionals who truly have your best interests at heart and, of course, the search engine folks themselves who’ve battled to maintain the integrity of their product.

The Road Less More Traveled

That’s where SEO has been, but where’s SEO headed?

Adam Torkildson wrote the following in a recent article for Forbes magazine: “Google is in the process of making the SEO industry obsolete. SEO will be dead in two years.” Further proof that things are changing shows up in this quote from an article on LearnToDuck.com: “If you do SEO for a living, you will be out of business or irrelevant in three years.”

Here at {code} Roadies, we aren’t ready to write the SEO eulogy quite yet, but what we do know for sure is that clean code and focused content don’t go out of style. If you call that SEO, then so be it. Let’s explore the coming changes to SEO and how they will affect development, as well as some recent trends and how to give your website a “checkup.” We hope to clear up some misconceptions and give you some valuable insights!


Playing By The Rules vs. Playing With Fire

Google’s latest changes to how it does business definitely have some folks scratching their heads. Let’s see if we can shed a bit of light on how to make sure the right users find your site. First, perhaps it is time to formally define SEO for the uninitiated. According to Wikipedia, SEO is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural,” or unpaid (“organic” or “algorithmic”), search results.

Check out the difference between this definition and the following line from Google’s own Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide:

Even though this guide’s title contains the words “search engine,” we’d like to say that you should base your optimization decisions first and foremost on what’s best for the visitors of your site (emphasis is ours).

In other words, while popular opinion (and Wikipedia) puts the focus on the search engine, Google itself encourages you to focus on your visitors instead! It makes sense. After all, creating and maintaining compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any other factor.

Users know good content when they see it and will likely want to direct other users to it. This could be through blog posts, social media, email, forums or other means. Organic (word-of-mouth) buzz is what helps build your site’s reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content.

While it is important to do the basics right when it comes to programming your web site, it is equally important to create a site with high-quality, focused content that delivers an interactive, informative, memorable experience to end users. If you do that, your site is optimized.

Search engines like Google and Bing treat SEO with suspicion. After all, many “SEO gurus” are doing their best to circumvent their search algorithms, taking advantage of features to give their clients a leg up. You should know that as search engines identify these vulnerabilities, they fix them. Then they often go on to punish the abusers by using the algorithm itself against them (we’ve seen it happen to a competitor). It can be ugly.

Instead, follow Google’s rules and wear the “white hat.” If you give visitors what they want, they’ll come back, and they’ll tell their friends. In short, once your site is built properly, SEO shouldn’t be viewed as a separate function, but rather as an integrated, ongoing process.

{code} Roadies can help by providing solid, clean code and the compelling customer-focused content that’s preferred by today’s search engines.