SEO used to be all about getting top search engine rankings. While that is still a primary function of an SEO provider, that’s not all there is to it anymore. Or, at least… it shouldn’t be.
If you’re in the market for a (quality) SEO, you’re going to find providers that go well beyond services aimed at achieving top search engine rankings. In fact, if your SEO only knows how to throw keywords you want to rank for onto your site pages, I can tell you that you’re NOT getting your money’s worth (even if you are only paying a few hundred dollars a month).
SEO, in today’s world, is much more about online marketing than it is about manipulating a site to achieve top rankings for a few keywords. Here are some key components to a well-rounded optimization campaign:
Keyword research is one of the most important elements of the optimization process. While it’s not as important as the site architecture, you need to perform some initial keyword research in order to build your site architecture properly.
Spend some time to research your core terms, and then figure out how they will apply to your site. Be sure to build your site with your main keywords in mind, creating sections and pages around user search patterns.
Later, you’ll do more research and organization in order to make sure each of your pages is targeting your search audience in the best way possible.
A solid architecture is the foundation for all your online marketing efforts. If your site isn’t built in a search engine friendly way, then you’re going to have trouble optimizing the site for search engines to index your data properly. You’ll also run into trouble with visitor usability.
It’s a good idea to start with some basic keyword research and information architecture (the site flow chart, if you will) to figure out how your site navigation and pages will be structured. Build this around your keyword research, while also keeping your industry and visitor expectations in mind.
Usability & Testing
You can get more sales by bringing more people to your site, or by improving the conversion rate. Bringing more people in before improving your conversion rate is like trying to fill a bucket with holes in it. Sure, if you pour fast enough, you’ll eventually be able to fill the bucket. But, if you plug the holes, you’ll fill it much faster and with a lot less waste.
In this case, instead of wasting water, you’ll be wasting money. Most companies fare far better by plugging the holes in their site to bring in those immediate sales, then worry about delivering more traffic to the site once that issue has been corrected.
Testing is an important part of this process. You can’t just make a change because it feels good. Test every change to see if it actually improves the bottom line or not. If not, change it back. If it does, keep it and move on to the next improvement.
A good Copywriter is essential to being sure that your content performs its conversion duties properly. Far too many people create text for the sake of text, not realizing that it is an extremely important part of convincing and converting searchers to become buyers.
If you lack good copy on a page, you just have a bunch of words and/or pretty pictures. Visitors read copy because it helps them learn about what you offer, the quality of the products or services, and what they can expect. It also tells them what to do next or provides them more ways to find needed information.
On-page optimization is critical for optimization success, but it’s not a stand-alone process. It’s more of an oversight process. The SEO needs to have a balance between keyword targeting, usability, site architecture and more. SEOs have their hands in all of it, hopefully with the goal of creating a perfectly balanced page for both visitors and search engines.
Social Media / Links
I like Social Media over traditional link building because it is far more audience targeted. Link building is about getting a link purely for the “link juice” it provides. Social Media leverages your target audience to get links, name recognition, and branding. So instead of a link for link juice, you get a link for your audience that comes with link juice.
Using Social Media, each link gets passed around and broadcasted, which generates even more links, therefore reaching even more of your potential audience. When it comes to customer acquisition, the value is in Social Media. But, sometimes you just need a link. Either way, links are an important part of the process.
Optimizing without analyzing is like getting all dressed up for a date, but not looking in the mirror before going out. Sure, you see people giving you a double-take as you walk by, but do you really know why?
Analytics provides you with the feedback you need to see why people are reacting they way they are. It allows you to plug more holes and open up other opportunities for success.
SEO isn’t set-it-and-forget-it. It’s an ongoing process of optimizing, reviewing, analyzing, tweaking, and optimizing some more. There is always some new problem that can be uncovered and fixed. There are always more keywords that can be targeted. There is always something that can be improved.
SEO maintenance allows your SEO efforts not to go stale. Competitors are actively engaged in bumping you for those top spots. Inactive SEO makes that all the easier.
PPC isn’t necessary for an SEO campaign, but it can be a valuable asset. Roughly 30% of searchers click into the paid ads. That’s 30% of traffic you can be missing. Not only that, but running PPC ads with SEO efforts helps fill in gaps where the SEO is under-performing (there is always something, somewhere) and increases brand awareness where the SEO is performing strongly. This results in more traffic and higher sales.
As you can imagine, rolling all these into a single optimization campaign can be quite pricey. But, take any one of them out, and you’re missing a crucial component. Cut corners on any of them, and you’ve got half measures that may move you forward, but not necessarily as fast as you want.
This is where you have to balance budget with expectations and results. Lower your budget, and you have to lower your expectations… because you will get lower results. Increase your budget, and you can increase your expectations because that will increase results.
Leave something out, and you may get good results in one area, but it won’t necessarily translate to good results in another.
For example, even if you get rankings, but no one is converting, what’s the point? Or, you can test and make sure your pages convert well, but if you’re not driving traffic to your site, then you’re just all dressed up with nowhere to go. If you build traffic through Social Media, but the site isn’t optimized to target specific types of keyword searchers, you’ll see higher than normal bounce rates. I could go on and on…
Unfortunately, too many people look at all of these as separate entities that can be added or removed ad hoc. And while they can, they are best when working together for a common goal: your business success.