Brands and SEO professionals must take responsibility for the performance of the websites they operate and manage.
Applying these six SEO truths will help you achieve next-level website performance, according to Bruce Clay, founder and president of digital marketing optimization firm 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 management level – everyone needs to understand that SEO is important, commit to it and make it a priority.
You can’t just do your SEO on Monday. One person cannot randomly do SEO. It’s not going to work if you don’t work on SEO every day.
The organization must think about SEO every time there is a meeting to discuss changes to the website. Someone in that room has to 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 KPI for the company? … If the commitment is to do SEO, and if you buy into it being long-term, then SEO is a winning operation in your business,” Clay said.
2. SEO should beat the competition, not the algorithm
We need to understand how ranking algorithms work. But our task is not to beat the algorithm. Beating the algorithm is an insurmountable battle.
Google makes thousands of changes to search every year. And every keyword you try to optimize for is essentially a new algorithm.
Your job is to beat the competition.
The best we can do is determine who is ranking and determine what they are doing. Are there any common characteristics? Are there any common words and can we use them better?
“The story I always tell is about two friends who go camping. They pitched their tents. They start a fire. They are cooking and a bear comes. They start running down the path. The bear chases them. The guy in front doesn’t have to be an Olympic runner. He just has to be faster than his friend,” Clay said.
Well, SEO is much the same. You have competitors. You have to be better than them.
3. SEO done right cares about content architecture
Websites must be built in a way that search engines see you as a subject expert. Publishing authoritative and credible information requires a concentrated effort.
Google prefers content that is presented in a clear hierarchical structure. In other words, a drill down (eg an electronics site has cameras > digital cameras; a car site has Ford > Mustang). This is called silo driving.
“It actually performs better in searches because you’ve concentrated all the information about that keyword in one place, rather than spreading it all over the site,” Clay said. “To make SEO work correctly, you need to be a subject matter expert. You can’t just randomly throw a bunch of stuff into a site 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. Therefore, website maintenance must be built into your SEO program.
You can’t just push an “easy” button and say you’ll rank tomorrow if your website looks like it’s 20 years old, hasn’t been updated in years, or isn’t mobile friendly.
“It’s SEO’s job to take that pig and work with you to reengineer it into an eagle. Then you might have something that works. Too many people come to us with old technology. They haven’t updated their site in five years. They don’t have updated content. And they expect the search engine to reward them over people who have maintained their sites all along,” Clay said.
The organic search competition is intense. Your competitors may have an entire team working on their SEO. Sometimes it can be like trying to compete against sites armed with machine guns when you only have a bow and arrow.
5. Cheap SEO is a near-death experience
Cheap SEO has consequences. It can hurt you. No business should expect cheap SEO to work well.
Do you want bad advice at half the price, or do you want good advice? How long will it take you to discover what went wrong after it went wrong? And how much will it cost you to fix it later?
What you end up with with cheap SEO is inexperienced people experimenting at your expense. And they can often be wrong.
“Get it right and get it right, the first time. You can’t afford to do it 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. So do your competitors. (Oh, and also search behavior.)
Google’s goal is to please users, so they’ve leaned heavily on things like user experience and rewarding truly expert, accurate, and credible content.
“When you’re in an environment like that where the search engine is constantly going to change and experiment and try to make itself better — those are changes that are going to have a serious impact on how you perform in search results,” Clay said. “You can never be done with SEO. The search engines have taken care of that.”
Danny Goodwin is the managing editor 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 list of subject matter experts. He also helps program our conference series, SMX – Search Marketing Expo.