SEO isn’t the game changer it once was. It, SEO now has a specific function of which we define as:
Making the information within online content (intended for public consumption) accessible, retrievable and comprehensible (context, relvancy and authority) by search engines
Thus it is now the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) specialists job to ensure the content on a website is searchable by search engines, be it for desktop and mobile devices, different languages, different media formats, different locales and so on. They will have to:
1. Strategy: Produce a strategy that will help the business determine their search visibility strategy
2. Site Audit: the site in terms of to what extent the site architecture, web design and development meets the marketing goals.
3. Analyse: what needs to be done to resolve the site challenges identified in the audit in order to meet the marketing goals
4. Solve: the site challenges with bespoke solutions
5. Collaborate: with web designers, developers, content strategists, to get the solutions implemented and test the solutions were implemented to achieve the desired effect
6. SERPs analysis: to determine the activities of top ranking competitors contributing to their top performance and identify potential content and PR opportunities for the client. This analysis could be shared with the PR liaison to help inform the SOPR strategy.
7. Education and answers: to help the client understand what the search engines are doing, how they work, the impact on the website marketing key performance indicators. SEOs, like accountants and lawyers, must keep abreast of search engine algorithm updates and be able to provide an answer as to the main thrust of the algorithm update regardless of whether it had a positive or negative impact.
8. Report: on the whole lot.
More on SEO strategy
Whilst the specialist can be relied upon to validate the number of searches per month and suggest the keyword variants of search phrases suggested by the content strategist. The SEO must always defer to the Content Strategist on what types of keywords the site should be targeting as the Content Strategist will have performed (hopefully) vigorous marketing research that not only details the messages but also the audience demographics, the customer personas and thus the key messages.
SEOs can do their bit by including multi channel PPC campaign data and analytics to inform the organic search visibility strategy.
Once the SEO understands the content strategy, the SEO can start conducting keyword research which will heavily influence the information architecture of the site and the flow of the site. So for those that UX is the new SEO, that’s not really fair to UX designers who have to resolve many more site design challenges other than SEO! The SEO’s remit really is down to getting content or the information within it, indexed and retrievable.
The SEO needs to create a strategy that will help the content meet the SEO challenge as stated in the definition i.e. how the existing content can be made more searchable and how proposed new content could be integrated into the website and made searchable.
Whilst this seminal document may appear static, like any paper worth it’s weight (business plans, risk management plans), it’s needs to be reviewed with regularity in the face of new information and analysis.
Auditing, Analysis and Resolution
The next step is to resolve the site architectural issues such as duplicate content, issues that would impede the user experience for search visitors such slow page loading times, navigation flow, inappropriate iPad button sizes, wrong pages ranking for given search terms, mobile responsive design etc. The SEO is tasked with understanding if the issues really are issues, why the issues are happening, and how they can be resolved before working with the other stakeholders to get these implemented, user acceptance tested and follow up SEO auditing.
Some would call this offsite SEO analysis or competitor link landscaping. The reality is search engines are becoming increasingly better at modelling the authenticity and reputation of the websites they evaluate for ranking for a given search. What that means is there is little the SEO can do to increase the reputation of the client site other than consolidate the measures search engines use to measure online reputation such as PageRank (PR) through best practice site architecture optimisation.
What SEOs can do however is analyse the SERPs for targeted search terms to see what kind of websites that are gaining traction by ranking high against those searches, the content on those ranking web pages and their external inbound links.
SEOs will always be judged by rankings, and there is good reason for doing so. There are also other useful and relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) for SEO:
- Number of SEO visits – brand and non brand
- Number of brand searches per month
- High/Medium/Low performing search queries
- Engagement metrics for SEO traffic analysed by landing page
- Conversion metrics for SEO traffic analysed by landing page
- Number of pages crawled, indexed
- Number of pages with integrated targeted search phrases
- Number of 404s, 301s/302s, 500s, 410s, 200s
- Number of duplicate pages, titles, H1s
- Number of main body images missing ALT tags
- Number of content types not enhanced with Rich Snippets – pages, videos, images, pricing, reviews
- Number of slow loading pages
- Number of pages with low Flesh Kincaid reading ease scores
- Link spread of pages
- Number of internal links per page
- Number of pages with low content/HTML ratios
- Number of pages not catering for target keywords including those identified in site search
- Number of site pages with external inbound links
- Number of referring domains linking in
- Site visits per linking referring domain
- Alexa rank of referring domains
- Flesch Kincaid reading ease of referring domain site pages and web page
- ahrefs domain rank of referring domain and web page
The above list isn’t exhaustive and they cover the main objectives which help determine whether the SEO campaign programme is working or not.
The SEO will collaborate with the marketing manager, the account director, the web designers/developers, and content editors. Re Content Editors, SEOs should be helping content creators to ensure the targeted search terms include an instance of the targeted search phrase and that it is not being targeted because it’s too unfamiliar with the target audience or the search phrases is being integrated elsewhere on the site . The SEO may also suggest alternatives.
Unlike the accountancy or legal sector, the SEO profession is not regulated although that could change as the SEO role becomes more defined in years to come thanks to the unrelenting improvements to search engine algorithms that rely more than the SEO’s ability to accrue traffic from the search engines.
There are organisations for SEOs to become member of, even though they are not any real indicators of performance:
SEOs may in the past have been able to achieve competitive rankings via link building which consisted of articles, social bookmarks, guest blogs, reciprocal links, blog commenting, paid sidebar links and directory submissions. A lot of these techniques when executed en masse and without discretion, simply don’t work anymore. Thus if you’re going to hire an SEO, they need tools and resources. Most credible SEO consultants will have their own tools which are paid for. They will still need a web team to work with and a content editor in order to get changes made and advice implemented.
The game changing side of SEO now lies in the domain of Search Optimised PR (SOPR) where content, SEO and online PR come together. If faced with a choice of SEO or a online PR strategist, choose online PR. Most SEO companies that rely on link building, are actually doing more damage than good with their tactics which means most businesses are better off without SEO. But then are these SEO companies practicing real SEO.
Is SEO relevant?
If you care about getting your content visible in the search engines, then yes it is. Just ensure you know what is SEO and why you need it. That way your expectations on what SEO can do your site(s) are better managed and your model of how SEO works is more informed.
Do you think SEO is still relevant?