What Your Executive Team Needs to Know About Your SEO Project

What Your Executive Team Needs to Know About Your SEO Project

Being the only marketer in your company puts a lot on your plate. Your executive team has given you the go for your new SEO project and you may be asking a lot of questions.

You know SEO is important and you know it’s a critical component to your online success. However, it can be extremely difficult to truncate the information for your executives in a way that makes sense. They are going to expect you to have a handle on major aspects of this project at any point in time. Here are some ideas to keep in mind when getting started with your new SEO initiative.

SEO Projects Are Not Short Term Solutions for Long Term Problems

Your boss might be wondering how your SEO project is going to directly impact leads or sales in the short term. The answer is that SEO is not a short term solution. SEO needs a lot of time and attention in order to be effective in the long run. It takes time to research keywords, write content, and optimize all your on page components [title tags, header tags, body copy, etc.]. However, if done properly your SEO work will pay you back in spades down the road. This is especially true if you back up your on page efforts with off page efforts – like paid content marketing and pay-per-click advertising.

Out-sourcing Costs Less than In-sourcing

Unless you have a quarter millions dollars to solely devote to SEO – you’re going to want to hire a firm to take care of the SEO work for you. If you were to choose to keep everything in house then you’re talking about hiring a team full time to take it on. There are many components of your digital marketing initiatives that will tie directly into your SEO project including pay-per-click and social. Relying on a less experienced marketer to produced desirable results in all these facets of digital marketing is a risky move. If you’re going with the option to out-source then there are ways to make sure you select a firm that’s best for you.

Each Business’ Website Strategy Is Going to Be Different

A website that sells car parts online is going to have a different marketing strategy than a project management firm looking for clients. Different types of organizations have different goals for their marketing teams. Showing ROI for an e-commerce site’s performance is different than a company that is investing their marketing dollars in quality, paid content and investing in other digital strategies. How do you assign monetary value to a view of a blog page or product page? It depends on how much these actions are worth to your business and assigning attribution value to each touch point there is with a visitor. Some businesses may want their website’s primary purpose to be for lead generation while other organizations in the same industry may be focused on producing content for that industry. Both strategies work, but they yield results in different ways.

Depending on where you’re trying to make an impact will determine what needs to be measured, why you need to track it, and how you’re going to use that data to make beneficial changes to your content and campaigns.

Think Long Tail for Keyword Solutions

Broad match terms with high search volumes are going to be much harder to rank for than long tail searches with lower search volume and less competition. Here’s an example:

“patio furniture” is a term with over 201,000 searches a month on Google. It’s a monster term. A term with that much search volume is likely to be competitive. However, that particular term doesn’t show nearly as much intent as “buy used patio furniture”, or “purchase used blue patio chairs” which are terms that demonstrate more intent. The searcher is most likely in the purchasing phase of the buying cycle and has already done their research about which patio furniture to buy. The searcher knows they want to “buy used” and therefore Google wants to serve up the best result to fit your query. The way to go about your long tail strategy is to think creatively and find terms that you can utilize in your content and PPC strategy.

Just because a search query may have a lower search volume doesn’t mean the term is weak. In fact, they should be considered the opposite – an opportunity.

Ask the Right Questions

Keeping all of these things in mind will help you ask the right questions when you begin your SEO project. What’s most important is having all the vital components of your website working properly so you have a foundation to build on. This means making sure all your analytics platforms are set up correctly and that Google Webmaster tools is installed properly. Without solid SEO you’re going to run into problems with inbound marketing programs and wonder where you’re falling behind. Make sure you’re collecting all the data you can and start writing quality content. The more content you produce the more likely your site is to get crawled, and in turn, deliver qualified traffic with directed intent to research or purchase.

The SEO Evolution

Search engine optimization has evolved…and quickly

Search engine optimization used to be a pretty easy process. Write killer content, ensure website use-ability, check your meta data, build links and the rest should come naturally. This of course is the very simple version of old school SEO. Times have changed and they have changed forever.

I’ve long said that search engine optimization is NOT about attaining top position for desired keywords but how well your website does it’s job. Top ranking and higher keyword rank will come as a result. From a client perspective this idea helped to manage expectation and from the Searchology perspective this helped to downplay the importance of ‘first place always wins’.

Roughly 70% of all visitors click on natural search results and 25% click on paid search adverts. The remainder click on other opportunities. However, search engines are no longer the only place to find what you are looking for.

Facebook now has over 800 million users…Twitter recently hit over 500 million users. Social media is on the tip of every online marketer and every company is attempting to get in the arena.

The SEO Evolution

SEO is no longer about the best practices…it is no longer about on-page efforts alone. The advent of social media has changed everything for better or worse. SEO professionals must know more, track more and understand more than ever before. SEO experts must embrace social media but need to understand some psychology and communication tactics as well.

It is hard to say when social media became important…I would venture to say it would be the first forum, first blog and the ability to communicate with the publisher of such content. SEO is about communication now and how well you listen to what is going on with your visitors, audience and how well you respond.

Social media optimization is now a critical component to all SEO efforts. Social profiles, communication channels and  their translation into loyal visitors and brand advocates. SEO and social media is now SEO-social.

Social media is not about ROI as much as SEO is…but now that the two are inexorably combined at the hip…it is no longer just about the money. It is about relationships and how well you can develop those relationships online. With 203 million Americans online…you have a choice. Evolve your SEO to jive with your social media optimization or perish.

10 Commandments of SEO

Top 10 Commandments of Search Engine Optimization [Part 1]

And the Cheif Searchologist spoke saying, “I search therefore I am. And being of, for, about, and that I do live by the search…I put fourth to you these 10 Search Engine Commandments to pull you from the hands of insanity and perpetual aggrivation.

  1. You shall not trust any SEO firm which guarantees top placement for thy keywords.
  2. Thou shall not create duplicate content.
  3. Thou shall not steal content and spinneth said content for your own site or purpose.
  4. Thou shall not buyest links for the Google gods will surly punish thee.
  5. You shall not Google-Bomb thy neighbor.
  6. Thou shall not write false reviews to improveth thy reputation.
  7. Thou shall not believeth that social media is thy savior nor that social media can be totally controlled or contained from the occasional bad review.
  8. Thou shall holdeth thy search engine optimization firm accountable for deliverables and results.
  9. Thou must takest great efforts to be proactive in all search marketing efforts.
  10. Thou shall not fail to address all Meta Data, internal links, and URL structure.”

SEO is only part of a digital strategy

I was recently asked by a client how to increase web sales.  This in and of itself is not a strange question for a client to ask. It is after all one of the most fundamental questions and concerns for any e-commerce business.  However, I was still shocked by the question as it was born out of a lack of understanding of digital strategy. 

When I started working with this client I was focusing primarily on SEO.  I made sure that they were submitted to the free directory services, I worked on their keywords, I had fresh and unique content created for their site, validated their code,  got their products listed on price comparison sites, posted answers to relevant forums and blogs linking back to their site.  In short I did whatever I could for free or little cost to help them with SEO.  And it worked, their traffic increased by over 100% their sales increased by 600% and things were looking pretty good for them.  So good in fact that they made the decision for me to switch my focus to other areas as they were sure that this trend would continue.   When they came to me with this plan I cautioned them that the work was not done and there was a high possibility that these trends would not continue without full time attention and an evolving digital strategy. No amount of data or anecdotal evidence would sway them, their mind was made up.  But I had said my piece and prepared them for the back slide that their sales would take.  In effect their fate was in their hands. 

Flash forward, and two months after they switched my focus they asked the question that sparked me to write this post.  Their sales had leveled off and had started taking a nose dive.  My answer to them was simple.   You have to be prepared to allocate a budget and spend money on a diversified digital strategy if you hope to increase your sales.  In short you have to spend money to make money.

Now don’t get me wrong there is an awful lot SEO can do with minimal or no monetary investment as illustrated by the dramatic upswing this client initially saw.   However, in the long run you are going to have to do things that cost money.  If you want to sell things you have to advertise what you sell.  Ask any major e-commerce player and they will tell you the same thing.  SEO alone will only take you so far.  You have to incorporate paid search advertising, display advertising, email marketing, listings on PPC price comparison sites, content network advertising, affiliate programs, and social media.   Advertising will not only help you catch buyers at the right time in the buying process it will help build brand awareness, and help increase your site popularity. These strategies will in turn help your ongoing SEO efforts.  The common factor in all these digital strategies is that they are not free to implement.  

What I see quite frequently, particularly from small businesses, is that they budget for creating a website and not much else.  They are operating on what I like to call the Field of Dreams: If you build it they will come principle.  They pay a design firm to develop an “SEO friendly” website, get some server space, and then sit back and expect orders to start rolling in.  When that doesn’t happen they take what little money they have and hire an SEO professional to do some cleanup but don’t budget much beyond the SEO professionals fees. Leaving the SEO professional to do what he/she can with little to no budget.  This can help them out a bit but it will not get them to where they want to be or assumed they would be when the decided to build a website.  The assumption was likely having a website and optimizing it for the various search engines was all they would need to do to start seeing meaningful and profitable traffic.  What they failed to account for was that their site is only a handful of pages of the billions that the search engines index and that they need other strategies to differentiate themselves from the pack and raise their level of popularity.  I think that much of this thinking has to do with the very unrealistic expectation that someone will stumble on their site and be so impressed that they will tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends and so on and so on.  Creating a snow ball effect where their traffic and popularity will increase exponentially, driving more and more sales.  This is a very risky proposition.   There are very few if any e-commerce sites that are so unique and compelling that they will essentially go viral.  And even if this does happen the site will probably be replaced in the public consciousness by the next big site and be forgotten in a matter of weeks or days.  

Regardless of the assumptions that many people make about websites and e-commerce they need to be marketed just like any other business or product.  Money will need to be spent to promote them and any budget for a website has to include marketing dollars. There needs to be a comprehensive digital strategy to maintain brand awareness, drive qualified profitable traffic and support SEO.  Take a global brand like Coke for example. They are one of the most recognizable brands in the world and unless you do not posses any of your 5 senses you are probably aware of them.  Despite this level of awareness they still spend billions of dollars a year on advertising. And they are doing it in ways that are directly comparable to digital marketing.  They use radio and TV commercials to build and maintain brand awareness much like display adverting on the web.  They advertise in magazines which were just content networks before content networks were a real thing.  They pay stores to place their products on end caps and in desirable shelf locations so that they are visible when their consumers are making a buying decision, which is nothing more than paid search.  Oh yeah and they also do web marketing.  Why do they do this if they are so recognizable and popular? They do it because they are not the only game in town and they need to separate themselves from the pack.  They also realize that they have to spend money in order to do it. 

No matter if you are an SEO professional or a business owner looking for SEO services it is important to know that SEO should always be just one piece of a much broader online marketing strategy.   Business owners should be budgeting for additional marketing efforts while SEO professionals should be prepared to explain the importance of including other marketing strategies for the broadest most cost effective reach possible. 

There Is No Guarantee in SEO

I’ve been asked many times over, “Do you offer a guarantee for your SEO services?” The answer is no. I never have and I never will. My automatic response is my lack of ability to control the Google algorithms. Trying to reign in or directly control Google’s magnum opus is like trying to rebuild the pyramids of Egypt in my back yard. It just isn’t going to happen. All a professional SEO consultant or SEO firm can do is provide the best practices and do their best to deliver good content, links, and articles, etc.

In a recent post, SEO Guarantees Should Not Exist , by Nick Stamoulis backs me up on this issue. Not only with his own take on the SEO guarantee but with a post directly from the Google Webmaster Blog. I refer you to a Q&A session in which the following was asked [as linked in Nick’s post];

Question: Should I believe SEO agencies that promise to make my site rank
first in Google in a few months and with a precise number of links?

Google’s Answer: No
one can make that promise; therefore the short answer is no, you should

Now it should be officially settled. No one can guarantee top ranking for any keyword for any website. Google maintains about 70% of the overall search volume in the U.S. and everyone wants to be on top. This is totally understandable. However, not everyone can be on top. Keep this in mind; the number one goal of SEO is to increase your website performance for your visitors. In doing so, you should increase your website ranking for keywords. Your quality of content should be your number one goal and your site will be rewarded for it. Why? Google says so in the Webmaster Guidelines….”Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.”

To Thine Own Self Be True in SEO

In a recent SEO article by Mark Jackson he discussed the importance of learning the baselines for search engine optimization. I took it to mean be true to yourself by learning before buying SEO services. Search engine optimization is an important aspect to any solid online marketing effort and your basic understanding of how and why SEO is key to your success. I think most business owners know what SEO is but may have a very hard time explaining it.

Search engine optimization is gaining higher rank in the search engines by optimizing your website for keywords. As Mark stated in his article, SEO is not about getting to the top page or number one position for keywords you want to rank well for. SEO is about driving higher quality traffic to your site which converts into sales or new customers. I believe there is a major shift in the way professionals envision SEO. The pendulum has swung from the need for top ten positions to quality traffic.

It is important to understand that keywords you want to rank well for may have significant competition and could range in the millions for search results. This is the real shift I am talking about. Consider the word “pizza” which produces 125,000.000 results on Google. Is it realistic to achieve top ranking for this keyword? No, it is not. The competitive nature of online optimization is just that…extremely competitive. To rank well for just one very popular word is very difficult and it is not realistic to think that high raking can be achieved for such words.

Your education about search engine optimization needs to rooted in one simple reality. Your most important keywords may have too many competitors to rank well for in a short term. The longer your website is living on the web the better chance it will have but it is a long term commitment on your part, as a business owner, and on the part of the individual or firm working to optimize your site.

This does not mean that targeting your primary keywords is out of the question…it simply means extending your keyword search beyond the heavy sought after keywords. Find a middle ground and start from there. You search firm or consultant should be aware of this and set the expectations with you regarding keyword popularity. Which brings me to another point in helping you become educated on SEO…if it sounds too good to be true avoid it.

There are some SEO firms who will promise you the world and charge $10,000 per month or more for SEO. I do not believe [any longer] that SEO is a monthly process. Yes, to some extent SEO is a monthly process for link building, article writing, blogs, etc. These items can be done mostly on the client side and should not be paid for [save the link building]. Many of the aspects of SEO can be done by you [the client] if you are willing to participate in your own success [more on this later].

In closing, SEO can be a very long process which can take several months to attain better quality traffic. Lean as much as you can and there is no such thing as a stupid question. The more you know about natural website ranking the more you will work to help the process and understand why you pay what you pay. The more you know about SEO the more you can base your assumptions in reality and not be taken in by false SEO sales pitches. The closer you will come to the truth about SEO and how it can help change your online business.