Executives overseeing large projects with multiple moving parts have to plenty to juggle without having to parse every single suggestion that comes from the Marketing department. Many managers roll their eyes when the tech people start talking about “SEO,” and “back end dev.” But managing all those parts means knowing every part of the team is doing what they are supposed to be doing. Understanding Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can help executives make better decisions about the team, their roles and how to invest time. Consider this our SEO primer for executives.
What is SEO and Why Does It Matter?
Plenty of executives rest in the knowledge that SEO has something to do with choosing the right words to insert on a website. It seems a sort of perfunctory exercise that the team has built into the project and so, they sign off on selecting the magic words. In reality, there is a lot more to true SEO, and a lot less magic. In the end, well-executed SEO allows search engines to index a website as expert in its field and deliver qualified traffic to the website, and it happens through a strategic and consistent plan.
True optimization happens both on and off website pages. On the page, certainly it can mean deploying keyword rich content so that search engines can show it at the top of the first page of search results. But SEO also has “invisible” components. Code that supports the page will be recognized by search engines, whether that’s in meta data, images, or links to external pages.
A vast portion of SEO happens away from that main website. This off-page SEO also helps to establish a website’s expertise in other places on the internet. At Marketing RELEVANCE, that means building citations, ensuring that the web address is verified, that syndicated images and videos are available and posted. We look for other places to post content and link back to our page. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube are just a few of the places where content can point someone looking for a marketing firm to us. We work hard to optimize our pages so that we can be found, even before someone knows they’re looking for us.
Off-site SEO doesn’t exist on a business’s webpage, and the goal is not necessarily on total traffic from the referring site (like traditional advertising would be.) Remember, the goal of SEO is to get the search engines to consider your site the expert in the industry and on the topic searched that it appears high on the list, and visitors click from the list to the website (tracked in analytics as an organic traffic visitor.) We know our SEO works because our data from organic visitors, in addition to the conversion of those organic visitors to leads, proves that it works.
How Do We Know if Our SEO is Effective?
Everything you need to know is in your analytics. Look at organic traffic from the search engines every month. Ensure that traffic is growing (relative to market cycles) month over month and year over year. Track and monitor events and goals in your analytics to reveal where traffic comes from. Monitor and report on the data in order to make recommendations and decisions from that information every month. What you need to know is in your analytic traffic data.
How Do We Hire an SEO Firm?
This is probably the most difficult part of the SEO process. Every company that we start work with has had a bad experience with an SEO company. Because SEO is so complex, and because it is part science and part art, a lot of companies sell smoke and mirrors. Be wary of companies that do not produce monthly reports and do not focus on traffic and leads. If the company does not discuss a content plan every month, if the company is only looking at ranking reports, if the company does not speak or write in the language of your website as their native language, you may find yourself wasting money and time on old tactics that might just get you penalized in the search engines. SEO is also not a ‘one and done’ situation. The search engines change the rules every day, and sometimes multiple times a day. Google has been known to release a major update (most recently they released an update called ‘Fred’ that focuses on low quality content late Feb-early March 2017) and then update that algorithm change multiple times over the next several years. Make sure the SEO firm monitors the changes and can identify updates before they are announced. If they do not start making updates to their practice until an update is announced, then your site will be behind all of the other sites that have updated their tactics when they see changes immediately…and the search engines need a constant flow of information (food) for you to be considered the expert and for your site to be effectively indexed.
How Has SEO Changed Over the Years?
Search engines change the rules every day. From Penguin to Panda, from Hummingbird to ‘Possum’ to Mobilegeddon…and now to Fred; it seems like every month there are changes that require our SEO team to review the tactics we deploy and change something. What worked 5 years ago will now get you penalized…and our clients cannot afford to lose organic traffic for even one day. Effective SEO must be considered a weekly/monthly tactic that is core to every marketing program, and will require regular review and modification to stay at the leading edge in order to maintain expert status in the search engines. Don’t take a break if you do not want to fall behind.