What Google wants
Think search engine optimization is tough? You’re right.
Walking into Glen Edith Coffee Roasters to meet search engine optimization (SEO) expert Craig Tuttle, I expected one of two people: an ironed-suit-clad businessman holding a briefcase or perhaps a socially awkward techie, nose in a laptop. Instead, I shook hands with a mild-mannered man sporting a baseball cap, cultivated facial hair, jeans, and a messenger bag. It didn’t take long for me to realize that, in addition to the results they get, his clients must love the merry, polite, and personable man standing in front of me. We take a seat and I admit to him that I’ve never grasped exactly what search engine optimization means. He’s used to this and knows exactly where to start: his own SEO origin.
With a degree in sports studies, Tuttle worked promoting products for Beachbody and P90X before a car accident veered him away from his career in fitness. “I had to have neck surgery,” he says, “so I was laid up, couldn’t talk to people, couldn’t go out. And I kept hearing one name [in the list of] who’s doing best each week for Beachbody.” Intrigued by that success, Tuttle did some research. “He was doing SEO. And I said to myself, ‘Huh, I’m laid up anyway, I think I might learn how to do this.’”
Seven years later, his company is one of the leading SEO agencies in Rochester. He explains that search engine optimization is the process of working with a website to make it appear higher on Google’s results. “In order to do SEO, you need to know what Google wants,” he explains. “You have to understand that Google isn’t a person. It’s a robot. It’s a machine.” SEO experts know what makes Google tick and how to make it prioritize certain websites.
Tuttle says that SEO isn’t the only way to rank your website; you can also use Google AdWords. SEO requires understanding how Google reads websites and working within those parameters to optimize the results. Google AdWords is pay-per-click (PPC), meaning that you pay Google each time anybody clicks on your website. That said, you are guaranteed to be in the top results—for a price. “Basically you bid on it,” says Tuttle. “But the Google ads get ridiculously expensive. You’re talking twenty-something dollars a click.” Even your competitors can sit and click your ad all day long, forcing you to pay Google exorbitant amounts. Tuttle’s opinion? “No thank you!” he laughs. “I’d rather do it organically, with SEO.” He elaborates that “with PPC, once you stop paying, that’s it. The water’s shut off. Whereas with SEO, if I rank you in six to eight months, you’re going to stay there.”
If you don’t have the resources to hire an SEO, you can learn to do it yourself. “There are so many videos on SEO on YouTube,” explains Tuttle, “that you really could do it for free. But if you’re gonna compete and be number one, it does cost money. Even if you’re doing it yourself.” It’s a huge advantage to have your website be the first one prospective customers see, but unfortunately not every SEO expert will rank you number one. Some SEOs’ practices actually inhibit you from appearing on the first page. “If you’re paying ‘until’ with an SEO,” Tuttle tells me, “the goal of that agency is to keep you as long as they can. They’re really just doing the bare minimum to keep you satisfied until the next month.” Rochester SEO, Tuttle’s company, guarantees to rank your website number one on Google within six to eight months. “If I don’t get you there, I’ll keep working but you’re not going to pay me,” he says. “I’ll keep working until your site is number one.”
When looking for an SEO, be careful about your cheapest options. “If you’re paying 500 dollars to an agency, that agency has to pay their employees,” explains Tuttle. “Let alone the fact that most agencies have salespeople who work on recurring commission for every sale. Then they’re going to want to make a profit off you. So how much do they have left over to work on your site?” Tuttle says they might only do the free things you can learn on YouTube. So, in essence, you’ve wasted your money. “That’s not going to move the needle if you’re going up against somebody that knows what they’re doing,” he says.
Another mistake businesses can make is hiring someone who works with numerous companies in the same field. “In a particular niche in Rochester,” says Tuttle, “I know of six different websites that are being marketed by the same SEO, and none of them [is] on the first page.” Tuttle says that if he’s already working with a construction business and one of its competitors reaches out to him, he won’t work with them. “To me, that’s completely unethical,” he says. “Because there’s only one number one spot, you know? And I’ve already promised it to someone else.” The good news is that it’s easy to find out if your SEO is working with others in the same niche. “If you look at the bottom of a website, it will say who worked on it,” explains Tuttle. “A lot of agencies also link their client sites to theirs to help boost their company website in the rankings.”
Tuttle loves the competitive aspect of SEO. “Things are changing all the time, and with Google transforming every day, you really have to stay on top of it,” he says. “The groups I’m involved with and talk to every day, some of them are ranked really high. I know the number one SEOs in New York City, LA, St. Louis, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Orlando, and the list goes on.” Because he’s not in direct competition with SEOs from those cities, they trade advice on the newest SEO techniques to use in their hometowns. Tuttle has a real passion for SEO. “You need something to stay competitive,” he tells me. With a guy like him on your team, how could you lose?
John Ernst is a passionate writer, hiker, and gamer born and raised in Rochester. He is currently developing his website, nerdofearth.com.