SEO: a questionable experiment

SEO: a questionable experiment

Search Engine Optimization (or Optimisation if you prefer your English to be, well, English) is the obsession of many a marketing organisation. Without SEO, we’re told, your online presence isn’t worth the paper it would be written on if it were written on paper rather than just floating around in the lower reaches of search results with the flotsam, jetsam and unloved cat videos. That’s unloved videos of cats, not videos of unloved cats.

Purely in the interests of research, we Googled “enhance SEO” (other search engines are available but we’re not sure if anybody’s using them) to find out how to improve visibility. The top result, and therefore the one that we assume has nailed its optimisation, is an article from entitled 7 Advanced Ways to Improve Your Site’s SEO. If you want to read it in its entirety, click here.

The most striking thing about the piece is just how many times it uses the term SEO. Obviously this seems fair enough as it’s about SEO but presumably it’s also a big help with the SEO itself. Now we’re doing it too. Maybe if we just type SEO over and over, we’ll fly to the top of the rankings.


No, that almost certainly won’t work. After all, if we understood SEO fully, we wouldn’t be conducting an SEO experiment in the first place.

If you Google “phpi”, the top five results are ours (which came as a blessed relief, to be honest). Sneaking in at number six is To save you the bother, it stands for Premiere Health and Performance International Racing, a multisport team based around Annapolis, Maryland. We might be something of an annoyance to them but they’re more than 3,500 miles away so we’re not too worried.

The trouble is, though, that “phpi” isn’t exactly a common term. So we tried “plumbing magazine”, heating magazine” and “heating and plumbing magazine”. We made the top five on each occasion. Add the word “professional” to those and we’re back at the top of the charts.

So far, so inconclusive, really. And then we made a grave error by Googling “professional installer”. We came in fourth, which is a pretty decent return for two fairly generic words. It was the result directly above us that really hurt. Our colleagues at Professional Electrician & Installer took the bronze medal. We haven’t told them, no good can come from perpetuating the myth that electricians are better than plumbers and heating engineers.

The real point here seems to be that you’re beholden to the person doing the searching. One misstep in search terms and you’ll be up and down the results like a yo-yo. You can minimise the risk of getting bumped by being diligent but that’s about all. Or, of course, you could chuck in a few of the most searched terms in the vain hope that they’ll help you to gain some traction. In this instance, we’re not above that sort of thing so…

Star Wars; Adele; The Walking Dead; Kanye; 1D; Zayn; Kim Kardashian; Justin Bieber.

Actually, we have no idea what the most searched terms are. Google Trends does, but we forgot to look. We also forgot about Dre. Is he still popular? Oh, and we didn’t hashtag anything.

Ultimately, if your website isn’t being used to break global news to millions and you don’t have a sidebar of shame, the devil’s in the detail. If you’re running a small plumbing and/or heating business, the focus needs to be on ensuring you’re returned as far up the results as possible when considerations such as your location are added to the search mix.

If, on the other hand, you’re reading this and you’re not running a small plumbing and/or heating business, we may have broken through the SEO glass ceiling. Sorry for wasting your time.

Bieber and out.

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