It’s Easy to Fail at SEO
You can improve search engine marketing performance by understanding what SEO can and can’t do for you.
So, your team has worked hard to scrub your vision and create the perfect business plan. Even though you have created a flashy new website the traffic is not where you want it to be. You’ve dabbled with some keyword, but you’re still not getting the numbers you think you should. The solution – call in a SEO guru, right? Not necessarily.
This is not a post about the mechanics of SEO page markup and how it can help you improve your rankings. Rather, it is an overview of where SEO fits into your total website eco-system. SEO is just one tool available to you for improving website performance.
There is no substitute for hard work – this means understanding your customers and developing high-quality content that they find compelling. The best way to think about SEO is as a set of best business practices within the context of quality website development, solid information architecture and a well thought out content strategy.
SEO Best Practices
Preparing website content so that it can be searched and found by customers requires an awareness and understanding of the interactions between many moving parts that include:
- A Search Engine Optimization strategy (SEO page markup).
- A robust content development strategy.
- Understanding your customers search behavior.
- Understanding how search engine technologies work.
- High-quality coding practices.
- Sound information and navigational architecture.
- Websites are often specified, designed and developed without SEO or search strategy requirements. The SEO experts are brought in after the site is deployed to optimize the best that they can.
- Content is often developed without the understanding of how customers search for information, and where that content should be positioned within a website.
- Website developers often don’t understand how their coding and application choices negatively impact search engine results.
- SEO and content experts know about search, but frequently don’t grasp the technical details of how search relevancy (TF/IDF) and crawler technology work, or how it impacts their content in search results. Further, search engine companies do not discuss their algorithms, which leads to excessive speculation in the SEO community about how Google’s search technology works. This generates an enormous amount of practices that are based on half-truths.
- There is often little appreciation for the customer’s research skills, or how they actually go about finding information Search Behavior Model. The lack of insight into customer search behavior impacts keyword and advertising strategies.
SEO is not a stand-alone discipline and you will get the most value from it if SEO is integrated into the entire website development experience from day one.
SEO is Not a Magic Bullet
The above describes the moving parts that need to be considered when trying to improve website performance. The following is what SEO can’t do for you.
- SEO is not a substitute for hard work (such as developing a channel and understanding your customer needs and search behavior).
- SEO will not improve poorly conceived and written content.
- SEO is not a magic bullet – knowledge of your customers and a superior content strategy will make a positive difference.
- SEO will not improve CTR (click-through rate to your site) – compelling product offers and content will.
- Poor coding practices will trump your SEO efforts every time. Google applies quality metrics when deciding to index your website or not. The crawler will move on to other websites if it has trouble parsing your code.
- SEO will not ensure first page ranking in Google – validation by your peers and customers will (page rank).
- Applying state-of-the-art SEO techniques to poorly conceived websites and content is like putting lipstick on a pig.
- People often confuse the act of marking up a website as a content strategy. SEO page markup is not a substitute for content.
- Buying access to the first page search results (PPC Ads) does not ensure customer conversions if user behavior is not understood.
- SEO does not guarantee success – great content, great products, great website and understanding your customers will.
- SEO is not a substitute for usability. Good information architecture and world-class UI design are more important.
- Poor technology platform choices will stifle your SEO efforts. CMS (content management system) platforms for example that generate nonsense URLs.
Prepare for SEO
Before you call in your SEO expert, make sure that you have done your part. Do you have:
- A sound technical website development strategy? This includes a SEO friendly development platform, high-quality coding standards and an information architecture that supports the consumer’s ability to easily navigate, and find high-quality content.
- A content creation and deployment strategy that adds new content to your website on a predictable basis? Content-poor websites rarely do well when it comes to search relevancy.
- A search behavior model that reflects how consumers search for your products and services?
- A working understanding of the basics of search engine technology? This helps to improve content.
- A working understanding of SEO techniques that put you in command of on-page and off-page tactics? For example, if your company does business locally a different set of SEO rules apply.
So, remember that SEO does not stand on its own, and that it should be integrated into your strategic product planning from day one. If you do this, you will do a better job of developing a website with the appropriate content that mirrors what consumers are searching for.
World Class Websites
Finally, I’ll leave you with the following observations about what top-performing websites have in common.
- They understand human search behavior in detail.
- They have strategically invested in information architecture.
- They have a commitment to develop and deploy high-quality content on a scheduled basis.
- They understand the role quality visual design (UI) plays in successful user experiences.
- They believe in human factors and conduct usability tests.
- They don’t let technology impact products and services in a negative way (gratuitous use of web 2.0 gimmicks).
- They have high engineering standards and validate their code before shipping.
- They understand that SEO page markup has to be based upon well written high-quality content, not gimmicks.
- They understand technically how crawlers and search technologies impact content find-ability.
- They understand that a first-page search engine ranking has more to do with high-quality content and a superior user experience.
If you would like find out more about improving your websites performance call me now at: 781-862-3126, or send me a note: Mark@MSprague.com
About Lexington eBusiness Consulting
Providing comprehensive Google SEO services to the Boston community…
Mark Sprague’s 25 years of product development experience, which includes expertise in Search Engines, Information Products, SEO platforms and Social Networking applications provide in-depth expertise to help you refine products and services, and improve your search engine marketing and websites performance by:
- Developing a superior data-driven SEO strategy for your website.
- Understanding your customers’ search behavior and normalizing it to your content strategy.
- Understanding how search engine technology practically impacts SEO and content strategies.
- Understanding how search technology impacts content in a social networking environment.
- Developing a superior user experience based on sound information architecture, usability and coding standards.
Lexington eBusiness Consulting
Mark Sprague, CEO
580 Lowell Street
Lexington, MA 02420