SEO: A Few Cardinal Mistakes and Misconceptions


To understand the fundamental concepts behind SEO, you need not begin with search engines. The search engines’ perception of your website becomes a matter of interest only after a certain type of relationship is established: the relationship between users and the search engine.

Why do people land on a search engine like Google in the first place? What are their needs and expectations?

There is a very simple answer and that is: search engine users either want to fill a knowledge gap or they want to fulfill certain kinds of needs. Their expectations will be met once they find out that the information, product, or services they have found through the engine is exactly what they were looking for. 

From the standpoint of a search engine’s business model, that is their USP — Unique Selling Proposition. And that is exactly what drives the economic engine of a search engine.

According to most SEO experts, Google alone changes its search algorithm about 500 to 600 times every year. Why would they even bother about rolling out these many algorithm updates in just a year’s time? Why should they be so motivated as to ensure no webmaster is able to exploit the system and all users find solutions that best match their search intent on Google? They bother and are motivated because if they fail to deliver on users’ expectations, they will lose both their relevance and their lion’s share of the web traffic.

“80% of Alphabet’s revenue comes from Google Ads, which generated $147 billion in revenue last year (2020)”, according to CNBC. What is the core asset of Google that helps them drive revenue of that scale? You guessed it right, it’s their users. And what will happen to Google’s business if users — normal people like you and me — start to abandon the platform? They will go bust.

That’s the primary motivation — or fear of extinction — why Google would exercise every power at their disposal to motivate, persuade, or force website owners to abide by the optimization practices that are aligned with Google’s business interest. And, luckily, this interest isn’t misaligned with the interests of users and businesses in the ecosystem.

Google wants users to keep coming back, users want to find what they are looking for, and businesses benefit from providing users with exactly what they are looking for. Everyone is happy because everyone benefits.

When you go about optimizing your website for SEO, you may be indirectly serving Google’s interest but you’re also right on point in serving your own business interest. What’s important here is a shift in perspective. When you start looking at SEO as an essential part of the overall solution you are delivering — and not just an extra — you’ll approach the process the right way. In other words, you’ll not pay attention to it because Google requires you to, but because it’s in the best interest of your customers.

How is SEO in the best interest of your customers?

Let’s say you managed to get a prospective customer to find your business on Google and click the link pointing to your website’s homepage. He landed on your page but the first thing he noticed is that it’s taking too long to load. Next, he scrolled a bit but couldn’t navigate to the information he was looking for. Spending some more time on the website, he realized that this business website is not only bland (visually) but also barren (of information). He thought it a mistake to visit it in the first place and so he flew away.

Whose interest was served and who got hurt the most? That business lost a potential customer. The user felt bad because it was a waste of time. Google became a pointless bridge between a customer and a wrong business. Everyone lost.

Assuming this business is highly selfish and only cares about “what’s in it for me”. Still, who lost a customer? Who wants traffic bad?

Search engine optimization isn’t something you should care about because Google wants you to. It’s all the more valuable even if you take Google out of the equation — it helps you create an amazing experience for your users. When your website is optimized for SEO, it can lead to amazing business results in the form of leads, sales, and conversions.

Better SEO → More engaged users → Higher ROI → More returning clients

The business need for optimization around better user experiences would still have been in place even if there were no Google, Bing, Baidu, Yahoo!, Yandex, or any other search engine for that matter. The existence of search engines as a primary source of traffic makes SEO all the more appealing and sensible. Yet, not very many website owners seem to care enough.

The important thing, as I mentioned earlier, is a change in perspective. SEO should be looked at as an opportunity instead of an obligation imposed by an outsider. There are many things you do for your business, not because there’s external pressure but because they are in the best interest of your business. You work on the interior design of your office, streamline your business processes, refine your sales strategies, apply branding principles at customer touchpoints, and try to make your products or services stand out in all other ways.

Why? Because you brand these things positively in your mind. You believe that those efforts won’t go to waste and will ultimately cultivate better business results.

Why should your website be an exception? Is it not a worthy cause just yet? Is it just an experiment? Is the online world still hype in your business judgment?  What were the goals behind setting up a website for your business in the first place? What did you do to achieve those goals besides buying a domain name and hiring a developer to set it up?

The way you approach these questions will shed light on why your website receives no attention when it comes to improving it, optimizing it, and exploring the potential it may have for your business. Once you realize that your website could make a huge difference in the longer-term success of your business and that organic exposure is not a fad anymore, investing in SEO will become a necessity — one the future success of your business will depend on.

So what is the ROI of SEO?

“Theoretically SEO makes all the more sense for me now, but can its effectiveness be gauged in qualitative terms?” The short answer is “YES”. But instead of giving you isolated examples of how certain businesses achieved 5x, 10x growth in revenue through SEO, it’s a good idea to know how businesses across different industries have benefited from their investments in this channel. First Page Sage, a Thought Leadership SEO firm, has recently analyzed its 12 years of proprietary data from SEO campaigns across many industries and the stats they are sharing with us are compelling to say the least.

As we can see from the above table, SEO campaigns require time to perform at their peak. White-hat SEO won’t give you results you’re dying to see in a few weeks or even a few months. And because decision-makers within companies are humans and their brains are wired to embrace actions with immediate results (and hold back from those with the promise of large but delayed rewards), SEO seems to be a vain pursuit.

You might be willing to spend a fortune on SEO if someone would promise to 10x your investment in a week’s time but you won’t spend a few hundred dollars if the same ROI is to be gained eight months from now. The sheer long-term nature of SEO is what holds the majority of businesses from making investments into this channel. It’s hard to put things in perspective and say “good things come to those who wait” when the temptation to achieve your ends overnight is rife. We want immediate results and, when you’re in business, now becomes even better. 

Well, we can either complain about how the SEO process sucks in all fairness, or we can dial into our rational brains and try to understand how the process works, why SEO takes long, and how it’s in the best interest of any business over the long haul. This comprehensive SEO guide I have written for individuals like you should help you get a better feel for what SEO is, how it’s done (in three stages), and why it’s the best marketing investment you can make today to help your business thrive tomorrow. Give it a read and good luck!

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