Brands and SEO professionals must take responsibility for the performance of the websites they administer and manage.
Applying these six SEO truths will help you achieve top-notch website performance, according to Bruce Clay, founder and president of digital marketing optimization company Bruce Clay Inc., who spoke at SMX Advanced.
- 1 1. SEO needs to be a strategic initiative across the company
- 2 2. SEO should beat the competition, not the algorithm
- 3 3. SEO done right cares about content architecture
- 4 4. It’s not the job of SEO to make a pig fly
- 5 5. Cheap SEO is a near-death experience
- 6 6. SEO is done when Google stops changing things and all your competition dies
1. SEO needs to be a strategic initiative across the company
The entire organization participates in SEO. It starts at the leadership level – everyone must understand that SEO is important, commit to it, and make it a priority.
You can’t just do your SEO on Monday. A person cannot do SEO randomly. It won’t work if you’re not working on SEO every day.
The organization should think about SEO every time there is a meeting to discuss the site change. Someone in that room might ask, “How does this affect SEO?”
“How can we improve the overall quality and operation of our website so that it actually generates traffic or meets a business KPI? … If the commitment is to do SEO, and if you believe in it for the long term, then SEO is a winning operation within your business,” said Clay.
2. SEO should beat the competition, not the algorithm
We must understand how ranking algorithms work. But our job is not to beat the algorithm. Winning the algorithm is an insurmountable battle.
Google makes thousands of changes to searches every year. And every keyword you’re trying to optimize for is essentially a new algorithm.
Your job is to beat the competition.
The best we can do is determine who ranks and determine what they are doing. Are there common features? Are there common words and can we use them better?
“The story I always tell is about two friends going camping. They pitched their tents. They start a fire. They are cooking a meal and a bear comes. They run out of the way. The bear is chasing them. The guy in front doesn’t have to be an Olympic runner. He just needs to be faster than his friend,” Clay said.
Well, SEO is the same thing. You have competitors. You have to be better than them.
3. SEO done right cares about content architecture
Websites should be built in such a way that search engines see you as a subject matter expert. Publishing authoritative and authoritative information requires a concerted effort.
Google prefers content presented in a clear hierarchical structure. In other words, a breakdown (eg, a website about electronics has cameras > digital cameras; a website about automobiles has a Ford > Mustang). This is called a silo.
“It actually works better in search because you’ve concentrated all the information about that particular keyword in one place rather than scattering it all over the site,” Clay said. “For SEO to work properly, you need to be the subject matter expert. You can’t just randomly throw a bunch of stuff on a website and expect it to work.”
4. It’s not the job of SEO to make a pig fly
Sometimes no amount of SEO can save a poorly maintained website. That’s why website maintenance should be built into your SEO program.
You can’t just hit an “easy” button and say you want to rank tomorrow if your site looks 20 years old, hasn’t been updated in years, or isn’t mobile-friendly.
“It’s the SEO’s job to take that pig and work with you to genetically turn it into an eagle. So you can have something that works. Many people come to us with old technology. They haven’t updated their site in five years. They didn’t update the content. And they expect the search engine to reward them with people who maintain their sites all the time,” Clay said.
Organic search competition is intense. Your competition might have an entire team working on their SEO. Sometimes it can be like trying to compete against sites armed with machine guns while you only have bows and arrows.
5. Cheap SEO is a near-death experience
Cheap SEO has consequences. It can harm you. No business should expect cheap SEO to work well.
Do you want bad advice for half the price or do you want good advice? How long will it take you to figure out what went wrong after it went wrong? And how much will it cost you to fix it later?
What you end up with cheap SEO is inexperienced people experimenting at your expense. And they can often be wrong.
“Do it right and do it right, the first time. You can’t afford to do that again,” Clay said.
6. SEO is done when Google stops changing things and all your competition dies
SEO is a perpetual project because search is constantly changing. That’s what your competition is doing. (Oh, and also search behavior.)
Google’s goal is to please users, so they relied heavily on things like user experience and rewarding truly expert, accurate, and trustworthy content.
“When you’re in an environment like this, where the search engine is constantly changing, experimenting and trying to improve – these are changes that will seriously affect performance in search results,” Clay said. “You can never finish with SEO. The search engines took care of that.”
Danny Goodwin is Editor-in-Chief of Search Engine Land & SMX. In addition to writing daily about SEO, PPC and more for Search Engine Land, Goodwin also manages Search Engine Land’s roster of subject matter experts. He also helps to program our conference series, SMX – Search Marketing Expo.