When new clients come to us we usually get to see inside the work of their previous web company or SEO (Search Engine Optimization) firm. Almost always one of the most confusing aspects to the work that was done is the monthly charge for SEO. The clients pay for it because they know SEO is a good thing for driving traffic but they almost always have absolutely no idea what they are buying. SEO is often seen as a mysterious art that no one can predict or measure. It is thought that trade secrets on how to get top rankings are passed down to a select few and remain hidden for decades. Today I am going to demystify SEO for you so that you can be in-the-know when someone tries to sell you SEO services.
First let’s define what SEO is not…
SEO is not a quick solution to your ranking and traffic woes
Unless your site has a major configuration problem, you will never hire an SEO company that will take your brand new site from unseen in the rankings to top spots for highly competitive terms quickly. SEO produces gradual traffic increases over time. This has become even more true over the last year with Google’s latest Panda and Penguin updates. Today there are few tricks-for-quick-rankings remaining and we can expect Google to gradually eliminate any that do remain. If you are looking for quick traffic, 97% of Google’s revenue comes from a tool they built just for quick results.
SEO has definitely evolved over the years to become a central component to your Inbound Marketing. So what is SEO?
SEO is engaging and targeted content
Here is the big secret to SEO… A huge part of SEO is creating engaging and targeted content on your site and promoting that content on the web. We have known for years that the number of pages on a site clearly makes a difference in whether your site has strong rankings. And for years SEOs have been filling the web with dry boring content to satisfy search engines but not users. Today that doesn’t work. If your content is not engaging, Google will know about it from social signals, linking signals and traffic signals and they won’t rank you. Quality content drives SEO. There is little you can do in SEO without quality content.
SEO can be measured and optimized
You web developer or SEO company can provide you with detailed reports of what you got in return for that SEO line item on your invoice. Even a plain-Jane Google Analytics installation will quickly show you changes in traffic from organic search. If your web developer or SEO company didn’t install Google Analytics or a similar package on your site, see mistake number 1 and please fire them today. Not sure if they installed Google Analytics or not? Use our tool to find out.
SEO is local
Especially in the case of healthcare websites SEO is definitely local. If you aren’t familiar with local search check out our Medical Marketing Monday video on local search and what goes into showing up in local results. On average across all search phrases with a locality (i.e. plastic surgery new york) we only see that about 6% have local results. However the phrases which do have local results tend to be the phrases with the highest volume of searches. And we can expect that 6% to continue growing as Google recognizes more local results to display.
SEO is outreach
Link building is truly one of the greatest mysteries in SEO. Everyone is looking for the easiest link building solutions but we all know the best links take a lot of effort to acquire. Quality links primarily come from two sources. The first is viral content. Creating an incredible resource for your industry that everyone wants to link to is the fastest method to build links. It is also incredibly difficult and rare when this happens. The primary method of link building is time-consuming outreach. Reaching out to influential people in your industry and finding creative ways to get your content and links on their sites.
SEO is social
You can write the best content for your site but if you don’t promote it, chances are no one will find it. The only way that incredible resource you wrote for your industry will every go viral is if you have a social network to ignite the viral fire. But even ignoring the rare viral piece, social media is a signal search engines will be using more and more in the future to determine quality of content. If Google has to choose between two similar pages to rank in the top spot, they are going to prefer the content which has more social sharing by more influential people or was written (authored) by a person with a history of influence on the topic. It’s time to get strategic about your social media efforts.
SEO is making it easy on Google
This is what most people think of when they think about SEO. Yes SEO is title tags, anchor text, and quality URLs. And SEO is definitely ensuring that your site architecture is always optimized (but not over optimized). But SEO does not stop here despite what many firms selling SEO services will tell you or bill you for.
SEO is always changing
We monitor tens of thousands of search phrases for our clients each week. Every week we see what we call the Google shuffle. Rankings move up and down on a weekly or daily basis depending on Google’s mood. Google changes their algorithm over 500 times per year. Sometimes these changes are major and sometimes they are minor. But the landscape is always changing add into the mix what your competition is doing to overtake your rankings and you end up with an incredibly dynamic landscape. This is why measuring results and collecting data in SEO is so critical.
It’s true there is a lot of confusion out there around what SEO truly is and unfortunately there are people out there selling “mystery SEO” where you are never sure what exactly you are buying. My only goal here was to demystify the primary components to SEO and help you make an informed decision on what you are buying. Did I leave anything out? Let me know in the comments below.