This is what they won’t tell you about SEO

You might not need SEO

In order to understand whether or not you really need SEO (Search Engine Optimization), you need to fully understand the purpose of your website and who the website is really for. Bear in mind, the SEO industry is incredibly unstable and unfortunately, what was a sound field to get into years ago, has turned into a field riddled with lies and cheap tricks.

Before you get your hopes up thinking that I’m going to give you a top 10 list of dirty secrets about the SEO industry, let me just say that I’m not here to bash anyone because there are a good few honest players out there and I wouldn’t want their reputation to be tarnished. Instead, I’m here to simply help you understand whether or not you need to reach out to an SEO agency at all.

We’ll look at some aspects of SEO and work our way to the key question that you need to ask yourself as the owner of a website.

First, the following are the 2 principle types of websites one could have:


A website about you.

Type A is a website that people only know about because you told them. For instance, if you only want your site to be seen by people you meet in person; if you only want people to see it because you invite them, consider it a Type A. Although meeting in person is not the only way to meet people now a days, the general idea is, the only way a person can know about your website is by finding out about it on your social profiles or perhaps a business card. These site might not even be indexed.

Do you need SEO?

Nope. No need to focus on keywords or anything regarding search engines. Type A is a website that shows us who you are with very little compromise in design, structure or content. However, you should always take the user’s experience into consideration. In the end, if a user isn’t happy…what do you think that says about you? Often enough, these types of sites are made for artists or pilot projects.


A website for them.

Type B is a website that needs to be found. It’s more than likely attempting to make a profit. The way we find these websites is by searching for something on a search engine, and then clicking on a website that seems to answer our question. Let’s keep it short and simple here:

The user has a need –> the user states his/her need on Google –> Google recommends a number of websites that will probably satisfy that need –> the user visits one or more of the recommended websites until that need is satisfied.

In the meantime, your end goal is to probably sell the user something by or while satisfying their needs. In certain cases, the user is the product itself, but we’ll touch on that later.

Do you need SEO?

Yes, and a lot of it. Let’s exclude SEM/pay per click advertising for now and just look at organic traffic. A scary statistic shows that most people don’t look at page 2 of Google search results (SERP – search engine result page). So, clients ask how on earth they can get on the first page. They want to know what criteria Google uses when recommending one website compared to another one. Without going into detail, the answer is quite simple enough…reputation. The details muddy up the waters a bit, but fundamentally, you need to understand that the digital world works very much like the real world in this case. Social sharing and backlinks (another site that recommends your site) is like word of mouth. Bad statistics in this area makes a third party, like Google for instance, assume that your website is misleading people. Like I said, I won’t go in to detail but technical SEO plays an important role too. Here’s a simple example:

Users find your site on Google when searching for American travel destinations, but your site actually promotes European destinations. People will not spend much time on the site, much less share it with friends. Apparently the SEO process was done carelessly and in a panic, one will simply try to increase the amount of keywords the site can rank for.

Here’s where good SEO comes in:

The problem is not the amount of words, rather the choice of words. The problem is that pieces of your content, that are perhaps unclear, cause Google to associate your site with American destinations. That, is what needs to be fixed. You need Google to start associating your site with European destinations. Think of it this way, if you create a page dedicated to European destinations, try to avoid stating the word “American” in the copy. Make sure that “American” isn’t in the title of your images on that page and it shouldn’t be in any meta data at all.

In a few words, SEO is all about making sure Google recommends your site to the right people. If Google recommends your site to the wrong people, it blames you.

The rabbit hole

Keep in mind that we haven’t looked at SEM (Search Engine Marketing) yet. The first organic search result usually comes right after the paid ads. So if you were worried about being the first out of 10 results, in reality you need to be the first out of 5. This begs the question as to why Google chooses to use pages as apposed to simply loading an infinite number of results, allowing users to simply scroll…but that’s a whole other story about Google’s strategy.

Type A gets updated, Type B is maintained, because with good SEO, the rabbit hole goes deeper and deeper. Keyword trends change more often than fashion seasons.


The big question, and in my opinion the most effective question you need to ask yourself as a website owner is whether you need SEO or SEM.

Business sense tells us that we have to spend money to make money. Now, I wouldn’t say that it’s a definitive law, but in most cases it holds up. Business models can sometimes get complex, but for the sake of brevity, if you’re an online shop, you should put a greater emphasis on SEM. Why? Well, because if it cost you $1 to bring a customer to your shop, assuming your website is accessible, has a strategy behind the experience and is effective, you should easily make the dollar back when that customer makes a purchase. It’s pretty direct.

On the other hand, if you have a blog site with a thousand articles, you should focus more (and almost entirely) on SEO. In this case you’re probably implementing some form of third-party advertising such as Google Adsense or even selling block ads to local businesses and thus, the traffic/exposure on your site becomes the benefit you use when making your sales pitch to businesses. Though today most blog sites are free with optional subscriptions, the game hasn’t changed compared to the print era. 20 years ago we had magazines with weekly publications that cost for example $5. It’s no real secret that though the magazines made a good profit off their sales, the great profit was being made behind the curtains with their advertising space. They capitalized on their “traffic”, or if you will, this is how they made you the user, the actual product:

Business: Hi, I’m Gucci and I want a full page ad for a week. Why should I go with you rather than your competitor?
Magazine: Because we have 1 million readers and the competitor only has 1 hundred thousand.

Now you start to see why most things you use on the internet are free. In a few words, one of the popular models is to create a free platform that attracts users, and use that platform as advertising space. A radio uses music to attract you and TV uses a show.

Just remember:

More SEM when you’re selling a shoe to the user.

More SEO when you’re selling the user’s attention to a sponsor.