Below is the second set of questions from an interview I had given late last year. If you started this series with the introduction, you already know that the answers here differ from the answers given in the interview. One of the reasons I like written interviews is that it gives you a better opportunity to provide a more thorough and thought-filled answer. While these may not be life-changing questions, I hope they are at least thought provoking for the small business owner who doesn’t know a lot about SEO.
Question 6. Which provides the greatest benefit, on-page SEO or link building?
This is a tough question to answer because both can play a significant role in the success of a site trying to get to the top of the search results.
Here’s the basic rundown. A site that isn’t linked from any other site doesn’t stand a chance in the search results. It doesn’t matter how well-optimized it is, the links matter. At the same time, a site that is well-linked, but not optimized, CAN get good search engine rankings, but performance will always be sub-par.
Links are important to get on the map, but once there, the optimization plays a much more significant role in helping establishing good rankings. But, then there comes a point, again, where a site can only be so optimized, and the links are what is needed to tip the scales.
Got that? Links > SEO > Links!
7. How important is social media in relation to SEO?
Social media marketing is becoming increasingly important to the success of a website. Search engines are now considering many different social signals when determining relevance of a website, or even a particular web page.
The main issue isn’t whether or not to use social media, its how to leverage social media properly. Many businesses are using social media, trying to get that extra advantage. Unfortunately, they are not leveraging the social media channels in a way that maximizes their efforts into an effective marketing strategy.
When utilized properly, social media can be a strong link building strategy. A well-run social strategy can cover multiple aspects of the off-page link building efforts that search engines consider when determining the value of a website.
8. How does usability factor into SEO?
Search engines don’t have access to the usability data of every website. Though, as more people install Google Analytics or Adwords tracking code onto their websites, and surfers install the Google Toolbar into their browser, Google is able to get more and more of this information and can incorporate it into their ranking algorithms (though they claim they don’t and won’t.)
Short of using that data, search engines can see visitor bounce rates pretty well. Every visitor that clicks over to a site, then hits the browsers back button, sends a signal to the search engine that the visitor didn’t find what they were looking for.
Bounce rates can certainly be an important signal to the search engines. Making sure your visitors get the information they searched for, on the first, click is imperative.
Given access to enough data, I think the engines will look more closely at on-site usability issues. If few people make it to the conversion page, the engines may determine that your site isn’t a quality or trusted site, especially if it is compared to another site that does have better conversion rates.
9. My site is perfect and I don’t want to change anything? What can I do to get better rankings?
Well, in this case, the only thing you can do is to build links, employ social media, and build content. All of these are good strategies, but they also might not be enough. Sometimes you just have to come to the conclusion that your site isn’t as perfect as you want to believe it is.
If you want your site to be keyword optimized and have a significant chance of outpacing your competition in the search results, you have to be willing to make changes. I’m not talking about keyword stuffing or anything like that, but you do have to be willing to make tweaks and adjustments in order to ensure your content delivers for the searchers and provides enough signals to the engines for your targeted keywords.
10. I keep hearing about personalized results, local results, and blended results. How does this affect rankings?
In more ways than you probably realize. There is really no such thing as a #1 ranking anymore. Every search is essentially a unique search requiring a unique set of results. This means the search you perform on your computer will produce different results than the search your friend performs on their computer, even if they are in the same room as you.
Localization, personalization, and blended results have really changed the game. Not only do you have to optimize, but you have so many more options for getting your site in front of your search audience. If you’re a local company, then you’ll likely see traffic drop as your site no longer comes up in searches outside of your local area. But, you lose audience if you’re not coming up in their personalized results. This can be good if it weeds out those who are not part of your target audience, but can also help you if it puts you in front of a more targeted group.
Blended results give you more opportunities to get noticed. Video is the big “it” right now. If you create and optimize a video, it can get you additional exposure on the first page of search results. Same with optimized images, and even mentions, from those in your social circle.
Stay tuned for the last group of five answers…