Before reading Matthew Capala’s SEO Like I’m 5: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization, my idea of SEO was that it clearly was something beyond my reach. Search engine optimization as a phrase sounds a bit imposing and anything with an acronym must be complicated, so anything past the basics must be out of my scope of understanding. After finishing it, I learned SEO is can be summed up as getting your content out to the right people.
As Capala explains in the introduction, part of the reason why SEO gets a bad or mysterious reputation is that there was a “wild west era” of the web: when somebody could be putting out poor quality content but use the right keywords and buy links in order to make to the first page of Google results. It gave rise to the idea of their being a secret formula when it came to SEO. But the ‘game’ has changed with new algorithms introduced by Google. The first step is now to create quality content that people want. The second part is making sure people know that you are writing this quality content and have easy access to it.
The book is not going to tell you what the right content to create or to curate is. Your content should be born out your passion or out of the product or service that your business is providing. From there it will give you the tools: helping you get an idea of which platforms to use to distribute your content, how often you share new content, how to know who your audience is and how to interact with them and how to measure the results of your actions. Capala makes it clear that you have to put in the work to make it successful because real SEO is not instant money. You have to be in it for the long haul, bringing it daily and ready to learn from your mistakes.
Doing this work means next to nothing if no one in your field knows you are doing it, especially the influential voices in the community. Making connections and establishing credibility goes hand in hand. You become a more credible voice when more people know you’re an expert and voice to be heard. While this book will give you strategies to establish your authority on subjects and how to measure it, it also reminds you that you have to exist and make connections both online and offline. That means being at, speaking at and/or sponsoring events like talks and conferences.
One major insight in this book will make you take a second look at your Google search results. Not only has Google worked to make results less cluttered with spammy, low quality links, but Google is also now interested in providing information as quickly as possible. The search bar can be used as a calculator. The search results page will give you the weather, news stories, a map and more before even getting to links to websites. When you search for person, place or company it will bring up pictures, videos and a Google Plus profile or contact information. Not only does it make sense for you to be multichannel to maximize your outreach, it’s how people searching will experience you. It will pay to think beyond websites and the usual social media platforms.
You can’t do all this with a steamroller like focus; you have to do it like a human being. It’s easy to look at networking as trying to get something from someone, but really you’re interacting with people with a direction in mind. You also have to think about you might be able to offer them and how you can keep working with them in the future. The same goes for your marketing, especially on social media. Your campaign can’t be a one-way force of content. You have to be reacting to your audience by listening to them and responding to them.
The book is authentic in the sense that, Matthew practices what he preaches. Matthew has a website and is on all the major social media platforms. In addition, he also produced this book and often speaks at conferences (like Open Source Fashion’s latest Freestyle Fashion Conference) on this topic. In the book, he often points readers to other people in the SEO community, and includes their contributions in the book. Capala also created the Twitter hashtag #SEOLike5 for people to ask questions and develop an online community of people figuring out SEO.
If these ideas from SEO Like I’m 5 sounds like good marketing and good customer service, that’s because Capala believes all of the outward facing things you do are connected. It’s also because the market is rewarding and encouraging it. Finally, it’s a message that more marketing departments need to hear. Way too many campaigns focus on pushing their messages. If you’re already on board with Capala’s SEO philosophy, the book serves as an excellent handbook with websites, apps and other tools that he and his contemporaries use. Since good SEO is an on-going process, it’s a great book to have on hand for reference.
All in all, SEO Like I’m 5 taught me more in one reading than any marketing course I’ve taken.