Search Engine Optimization, the Many Definitions
We often hear from clients that they want ‘SEO’ for their website and sometimes it even comes as a complaint in that their original developer promised them SEO and yet the site is not ranking well.
It is clear that the distinction between providing optimization tools within a website, optimizing that site once, and having a true ongoing strategy is not being provided or clearly explained.
I think developers, SEO experts, and web strategists sometimes take for granted that our clients may not understand the difference between an SEO toolset and a true ongoing campaign and strategy.
So what is the difference?
Websites built today are usually SEO ready in that they include the tools needed to optimize the site. Browser titles, meta description fields, alternate image text, etc are all part of the deal or quickly added to CMS systems such as WordPress with a simple plug-in.
A good developer will aid in SEO friendliness by developing page templates and programmatic functions to utilize several text headings, clean site links, etc.
This, by no means, means the site is “optimized”, it is simply prepped well and waiting for someone with expertise to work their magic.
True optimization is an ongoing chore. However, I have heard many times from clients that their site was ‘optimized’ when it was developed. These are usually the folks who are disappointed in their rankings (or lack thereof).
Upon inspection, many of these ‘optimized’ sites are simply SEO-ready and not truly optimized for any particular keyword, phrase, or content strategy. We have seen some sites where it is obvious someone took the time to optimize some or all of the pages for a particular keyword and/or phrase but we have no way of knowing if any true research went into these keywords or if something was simply picked from the page content.
Assuming these pages were once optimized with proper research and strategy, we are still lacking a true ongoing campaign.
This is where you get serious and truly compete to rise in the search engine rankings for a set of targeted, researched keywords, phrases, and concepts.
It is a balance of expected traffic levels for any piece of content, the quality of your content, regular measurement, refinement, and activities such as social media campaigns, link-building campaigns, and much more.
Having a site that is SEO Ready or even SEO Optimized once does not put you in the running for serious page ranking, they only set the stage. An SEO campaign is not something you do only once or your developer does at the time of build, it is an ongoing effort.
What is an SEO Campaign?
An SEO Campaign is what is going to get you long-term results. It’s not a one-time effort or really has much to do with the code. It’s a complete evaluation of the current standings, the marketplace (what people are actually searching for), your competition, the hosting environment, and more.
Now, we don’t do SEO campaigns here but work with many SEO consultants and agencies that work on behalf of our clients. However, we know a good campaign when we see one as it consists of the following steps, actions, and strategies:
- A technical site audit to ensure the site is SEO Ready and what optimizations are currently in place.
- An audit of the hosting infrastructure.
- Research into active keywords, phrases, and concept volumes on major search engines.
- An audit of current rankings for competitive keywords and phrases.
- Content optimization: changes to current content so that it becomes more relevant based on market/search engine research.
- Creation of new optimized content.
- Link building strategy/outreach.
SEO is All About the Long Game
Anyone who promises you quick results is either doing advertising, which is different than SEO, lying to you, or doing something shady. An SEO campaign should never actually stop but if you are hiring an agency or consultant you should plan to work with them for 6 months to a year – MINIMUM. That is because that is how long it takes to do the work and see the results.
If you need faster results then advertising is your answer. Advertising can be made part of an SEO campaign. Some of the smartest campaigns I have seen start with a higher advertising budget and decrease it over time as earned placement is reached.