SEO Office Hours | Feb 2021

Foundational Steps are Critical for Improving Site Ranking

Recently, an acupuncturist in Portland, Oregon, approached Ichor with questions about his website redesign and search engine results. He’d received some bad advice from other SEO and web design professionals and needed an honest opinion on what it would take to get the results he wanted.  

Portland Acupuncturist:

I’ve had problems with my website lately. My hosting company tells me there’s an issue with my SSL certification. My website company says I should update to a mobile-friendly theme and switch hosting companies. Will this solve my SSL problem?

Jennifer Qian: The short answer is no. Think of your website as a house that has both foundation and cosmetic issues. Your website company is essentially recommending that you don’t address the foundation issue but put on a new coat of paint instead. This approach only works if you’re going to sell your business, but I assume you want to keep yours going for years and potentially sell it when you’re ready to retire.

My honest opinion is not to waste money on cosmetic issues if you care more about long-term search engine rankings. I guarantee that just making the site mobile-friendly won’t improve your ranking.

Portland Acupuncturist:

When I built the website, it ranked on the first search results page. But another SEO consultant used keyword stuffing and hidden text to achieve my ranking, and Google eventually punished my site. I haven’t been able to recover my first-page ranking since.

Jennifer Qian: Those types of “black hat” SEO techniques were pretty common a few years ago. Some SEO specialists still try to cheat the system, but I think it’s naive to think you can outsmart Google and its ranking algorithm. Eventually, they will catch on, and you’ll pay the price. 

You can succeed by following the rules. Someone who understands Google ranking factors can help you send Google the right signals, so it ranks your site high whenever a user searches for relevant keywords. 

Portland Acupuncturist:

A physical therapist I know recommended another SEO company to me. They built links every month for a year but never improved my ranking. Do you think Google is still punishing my site?   

Jennifer Qian: Those types of “black hat” SEO techniques were pretty common a few years ago. Some SEO specialists still try to cheat the system, but I think it’s naive to think you can outsmart Google and its ranking algorithm. Eventually, they will catch on, and you’ll pay the price. 

You can succeed by following the rules. Someone who understands Google ranking factors can help you send Google the right signals, so it ranks your site high whenever a user searches for relevant keywords. 

Portland Acupuncturist:

A physical therapist I know recommended another SEO company to me. They built links every month for a year but never improved my ranking. Do you think Google is still punishing my site?   

Jennifer Qian: That’s hard to say. Link building is no longer the only factor that Google uses to rank sites. If that company was only building links and not doing anything else (like fixing the foundational issues I mentioned), I’m not surprised that it didn’t help you much. 

I’m going to use another example here. Building links is kind of like taking steroids when you have a herniated disk. You might feel fantastic while you’re on steroids, but if you don’t address the root cause of your pain, the benefits are very short-lived. Steroids can be helpful when paired with other things like physical therapy, acupuncture, and surgery. It sounds like you need someone who can bring a holistic approach to solving your problems and improving your site’s ranking.

Portland Acupuncturist:

Do you think you can make a difference?

Jennifer Qian: Yes, I know I can. It would be unethical for me to guarantee results. That’s the first sign you need to watch out for when hiring SEOs. If they promise you results, you need to run away. Here’s why:

  • It takes time for Google to crawl, index, and rank your site when it first launches. 
  • Second, you might have competitors in Portland who are trying to rank as well. Every business is different, and the keyword landscape could look different too.
  • Third, we can study Google and follow best practices as much as possible, but we can’t always predict how it will react. 

I can say that all my clients see really great results with six months of working with me. 

Portland Acupuncturist:

What approach would you take with me? What difference can you make?

Jennifer Qian: First, I would fix the foundation issues. I’d do keyword research along with a market and competitor analysis. I’d figure out what keywords to rank based on your industry’s current SEO landscape. Then, I’d optimize your website content with our established keywords in mind and collect more content to help your ranking. For example, I would conduct frequently asked questions (FAQ) research to discover what acupuncture questions people ask on the internet and then create content that targets those searches.

Second, I would tackle cosmetic issues by updating your website with a new design that is user-friendly and device responsive. 

Third, I would optimize your Google Maps listing, so your business shows up more often on map searches.

Finally, if the budget allows, I would spend time each month making tweaks and adding content to help you rank higher based on the data we collect.

Portland Acupuncturist:

Will changing my hosting company help my site ranking?

Jennifer Qian: Well, that depends. If you switched to a hosting company that offered faster server speed, it might help a bit. But it’s not the kind of change that will make a significant ranking difference. 

Moving to a better hosting company is like replacing a rotten wood post in a house. It will make the house a little sturdier but won’t fix the foundation issues. 

Portland Acupuncturist:

Will you change the new site’s domain name or keep it the same?

Jennifer Qian: Most of the time, we recommend keeping your domain name the same unless you’re changing your business name. New domains are even harder to rank in the beginning. 

In your case, my team will assess your domain’s overall health at the beginning of your project. Since you said Google punished your site in the past, I want to make sure we do that before designing a new site.

SEO office Hours with Jennifer

What and Why?

I have been a passionate SEO specialist since I started Ichor for a few reasons. I believe that a website should not only do a great job building trust between your business and online visitors, it should also drive traffic to your business. Optimizing your SEO does that. Additionally, the SEO world is constantly changing, making it challenging and attractive to me as a life-long learner.

Through my years of being an SEO specialist, I’ve found educational resources and learning platforms that have helped me keep up to date with Google’s constantly changing SEO algorithm.

Inspired by Google’s Office Hours

My favorite education platform to keep myself in the loop is the YouTube series, SEO Office Hours, hosted by John Muller. John is a Google Search Advocate and one of the most knowledgeable people in the field of SEO.

Once a month, he hosts Office Hours hangouts with SEO specialists from all over the world. They share their challenges and ask John for advice. I’ve loved those sessions because sometimes, I hear questions from other specialists that I didn’t even realize I had until they ask them.

Our Own Version

Google’s monthly SEO Office Hours are quite technical, which is excellent for seasoned SEO specialists. However, I feel there isn’t a similar outlet for small business owners to ask their SEO questions about their businesses, especially industry-specific ones. I want to fill that gap and provide a platform for them to share their questions and struggles with their SEO journeys. 

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