In the last 12 months, I've learned a lot in my career, as I moved from broadcasting into digital media and marketing. From a world where the established media are well-known, almost taking their audiences for granted, digital media (and marketing) are exciting new worlds for creative folk, because the competition for attention and quality is even higher.
Searchability is something that never would come into the minds of broadcasters, but for the digital world, the likelihood of being found in a search engine is crucial.
SEO, however, is a discipline that I'm still slowly learning all about. It's not just about choosing the right keywords - although that certainly helps - but there seems to be lots to keep abreast of, in order to climb to the top of that all-important Google search. For the amateur businessman, or freelancer, how easy is it to do SEO yourself?
"I've seen it time and time again", exclaims Gareth Bull, of UK-based SEO agency, Bulldog Media. "Clients having the best website in their niche, packed with content and thinking it'll rank immediately for their commercial key phrases."
"Wrong", he clarifies. "SEO is a slog, and you need an agency or freelancer onboard that knows what they're doing."
That being said, there are ways in which businesses or sole traders can make things easier for their SEO expert. Even in my own personal experience, I've noticed that if you keep your website standard enough in terms of structure (by using a Wordpress set-up, for example) then you're allowing your brand to be picked up by those who want to see it. The other advantage to Wordpress, of course, is how easy it is to set up, but also easy for SEO improvements to be made at a later point if (or, when) needs be.
It's not just how the site is set up, as Gareth explains. "There are around two hundred ranking factors Google considers, that's a lot of boxes to tick! It's not easy, especially in high value [business] niches, such as life insurance."
Gareth doesn't recommend relying on Google organic traffic alone, however, as he notes that no business or brand is too big to get hit by Google's 'algos', as he calls them. just ask eBay, he adds, referring to when the tech company claimed that Google algorithm changes had adversely affected its growth in the second quarter of 2014.
"Keeping up with the changes is a constant battle", Gareth explains, as he and his team work to keep ahead with developments to ranking factors. "Also, the way Google have factored poor links into their algorithm is now a real problem for businesses. Negative SEO is just going to get bigger by the day." For those on Twitter, Gareth recommends Ontario-based SEO expert, Marie Haynes as someone to keep an eye on when updates are expected or launched.
As a blogger, though, and as a complete SEO novice, I wonder what else can be done by those with low budgets (like myself!) to improve their presence online. In Gareth's opinion, link building is a relatively easy way of building your domain authority (which sounded like a local internet government body to me, when I first heard of it). In a somewhat intuitive way, getting people (or rather, sites) to refer to you is the best way. It's like word of mouth, still the best way of promoting oneself in my native Ireland; if you're trusted, you'll be talked about and recommended by others in your community. SEO works in a very similar way through link-building.
"Acquire as many links as physically possible", Gareth concludes, "[and] speak to every website owner you know for a link [...] then you're at least moving your site in the right direction."
Be right back - off to get to Google's first page.