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When SEO Can't Help You

When SEO Can't Help You


I received a call from a potential new search engine optimization (SEO) client. After taking down the important information from him about his site and what he hoped to accomplish from being optimized, I ended the call with a promise to call back within a few hours.

It took me only a few moments to find the problem but I had to tell him that if I agreed to help him, I’d only be taking his money because there was no guarantee that the search engines would accept his site for indexing further.

Why? I’m glad you asked!

First, let me say that SEO is not the end all, be all solution to your website problems. If you think that SEO will cure all that ails your website, you may be in for a big surprise.

SEO cannot help you if you are not driving traffic to your site in some way

The old belief of built it and they will come‘ is little more than a myth.  In the beginning of the Internet when there weren’t a million plus websites available this may have been somewhat true.  However, even back then, we drove traffic to the new Internet through direct mail and email messages pointing visitors to our site.

As the Internet grew, we started driving traffic in other ways.  Now, there are multiple methods of driving traffic used together to form a full marketing campaign that can drive visitors to a website and increase your search engine visibility.  But being online and doing nothing to promote yourself is not a part of the mix.

SEO cannot help you if your website is not a standardized website

The potential new client did not have a standardized website for starters.  I recommended he consider getting a new site. (And no, I didn’t pitch him to have me do it!)

The problem is that the underlying code was partially in Microsoft FrontPage – the last published version was 2003 – and the other portion of the code was in Microsoft Office – a bunch of class=”mso” stuff in the code.

Teaching point: Anytime you see ‘mso’ in a document, it stands for Microsoft (ms) Office (o).

The reason I believe Microsoft FrontPage didn’t make it was because it was too proprietary and did not conform to W3C (The World Wide Web Consortium) standards for web design.  The way it hid files and folder, and created links was a living nightmare for any web developer. But that’s a different subject altogether.

The point is, search engine spiders or bots are programmed just like a computer software is programmed to look for certain things that makes up a web page. When those elements are missing, the spider or bot just skips over the site. It doesn’t know that you designed it using Microsoft Office yourself. It doesn’t care. It’s looking for what it has been told to look for that constitutes a web page.

Therefore, if the elements of a standard website do not exist, no amount of search engine optimization is going to help you, or at best, it will help you temporarily.

SEO cannot help you if you are not using the proper keywords

Now if this potential client had a standardized website, I might have been able to help him with his keywords.  The problem is that what he was offering as a product was a good thing but I would never have known how to find him based on his keyword selection.

It’s one thing to know how you would search for your product or service, but are your potential customers savvy in what your product or service is called?

I have used the term web developer repeatedly on my website but is it one of my keywords? No.

Why? Because my visitors and potential clients don’t know that’s what I’m called. When finding me, they want a web site, or a web designer – very few know the difference between a web developer and a web designer.

Teaching point: A web designer is someone who makes your site look pretty with the layout and the graphics and all the stuff you see. A web developer designs (makes it look pretty) but also handles all the back end stuff behind the scenes. That means I create the hidden content and structure for what the search engines need to see, to enable shopping carts and payments, and a whole host of other things that most designers cannot do.

There are steps I take with my clients to ensure they are using the right keywords by doing some basic research – and no, it’s not all done through the Google keyword tool.

If you are selling a new product that is totally unknown, how is someone going to find in a search when they don’t realize they need to search for it? If you invent a new “thingamabob” and no one knows that the “thingamabob” exists and what it does, how do they know to find it?

By connecting the common terms associated with the “thingamabob” in how it’s used or what it’s used for, you might be able to get people find you!

So if your thingamabob is capable of washing dishes unlike any normal hand washing or conventional dishwasher can, you use keywords associated with dish washing that attracts the type of visitor you think could gain value from what your thingamabob can do.  Once they find you and visit your site, then you educate them on the technicalities of what the thingamabob is and what it does.

But by the same token, you cannot expect to load up your keywords with “dish washer” and expect a windfall of traffic either. You have to understand the competition you’re up against for that! All the major dish washer manufacturers have optimized for that set of keywords a long, long time ago!

SEO is a delicate mix of optimizing for all of the points in the algorithms of each search engine but FIRST you have to have a website that the search engines can see! If not, no amount of SEO can help you.