A lot of small business owners have similar questions regarding SEO (Search Engine Optimization). But this term has been overused and abused to the point it has started to lose the purity of its meaning. And some people that refer to themselves as “SEO professionals” can’t genuinely help small businesses market their products and services. Some of these “professionals” are little more than upjumped web junkies who feel that because they spend most of their waking hours on social media, that they have become a guru. But these self proclaimed geniuses give many genuine SEO professionals a bad rap.
Good grief, give me a break. Some of these scam artists take advantage of small businesses, diverting critical marketing dollars that would otherwise be used to grow the business and inject life into a startup. Contrary to what you may have heard, there’s no marketing magic, digital wizardry, or silver bullets that are going to make you skyrocket to the number one Google ranking overnight. The truth is that it takes a fair amount of hard work and elbow grease to experience measurable results.
But how do you know the difference between a putz and a digital marketing and SEO professional that will help your business thrive? Well, first you need to know what the role of and SEO is, what questions you need to be asking, and the general skill set of an SEO. You see, there’s a lot more to SEO these days than including keywords in content and generating legitimate backlinks.
Defining Your Marketing Goals
Beard rant aside, I think Rand has some great points as to the value and purpose of an SEO professional. As he mentioned, your business needs to have clearly definable (and quantifiable) marketing goals. It’s then the SEO’s mission to meet those goals by optimizing your website for search engines, driving traffic to your site, and other related tasks. Start by talking with your SEO professional about your marketing goals.
If you don’t have any, a quality SEO will be able to help stimulate a dialogue that will define clear objectives. Instead of coming to an SEO and saying, “I want to double monthly revenue,” try to set a clear date and quantifiable value. For instance, it would be better to say, “I want to increase my direct marketing followers by 20% within the next three months.” By adding a date to your goal, you’ll know when you have achieved what you set out to accomplish.
Other examples of marketing goals that Rand provided include the following:
- Increase lead generation
- Build up a brand through content
- Establish a reputation
- Get direct customers
- Get the press and influencers interested in your product or service
While I do think that Rand made some great points, realize that he is only talking about general goals. While these may be the ultimate goal, these are far too general. You need to be much more specific when setting goals.
How Can Search Traffic and Rankings Help Achieve Your Goals?
After you have clearly defined your goals, it’s time to put pen to paper and iron out a strategy. Your SEO will be able to help identify marketing techniques that will bring you closer towards your goals. I was amused when Rand mentioned one of the most short-sighted SEO goals of all time, which is simply getting traffic. But not all streams of traffic were created equally. Personally, I’d rather have 1000 targeted users who are interested in my product or service visit my site each month, as opposed to 2000 visitors who don’t have any interest in my product or service.
Traffic, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily the most important thing. Your SEO will also be able to help you build and optimize a sales funnel to contact leads multiple times.
What Inputs Affect the Success of Your SEO?
SEO isn’t as simple as pointing a competent professional towards a domain and telling him/her to get to work. There needs to be a dialogue between you and your marketing professional. And there are plenty of collaboration tools that help makes this a painless process (e.g. Basecamp, Google Docs, etc.).
Lastly, consider that there are a lot of different skills that fall under the SEO umbrella. Anyone who thinks SEO consists solely of keyword research and link building is living in the year 2000.
Furthermore, consider that most SEOs have skill sets in the following areas:
- User interface and user experience design
- Speed and page load optimization
- Accessibility and responsive design
- Content marketing strategies
- Custom branding, and building brand awareness
- Press, PR, and social media
- Classic SEO, which includes on site optimization
- Link building
There’s really a lot more to SEO than making sure you’ve done your homework on keyword research. Today, there are hundreds of different factors that determine how well a website will rank and perform. And it seems that there are new digital marketing channels cropping up every month, from lesser known social media startups to the latest Facebook changes.