Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Many Focus Areas
Can You Find the SEO Gold?
Understanding what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is can be confusing. There is quite a bit to it and it is practiced in many different ways. The scope of SEO services can also vary significantly as one SEO company will have a certain SEO philosophy and tools and focus on what they do best and another SEO company may have a very different philosophy and a different tool set and the two approaches may be very different.
There are basic components but the best performance results are when a tool set combines multiple aspects of SEO.
If you are a business seeking a better position in the search results then it is best to conduct some research so that you can select the best SEO company for you and your objectives.
The biggest mistake any business can make is to presume that SEO is a generic service, available as the same SEO service from different and competing SEO companies with the only difference being one of price points.
SEO is a generic term that covers a range of different disciplines, all involved with helping making a site work better with search engines.
Here is how I break up SEO into specific components:
On Page Search Engine Optimization
On-page SEO is probably the most common service, and the most common perception of what SEO as a service generally covers.
On-Page SEO is effectively an extension of web accessibility. On-page SEO uses appropriate keywords in page titles, headings, subheadings and in the copy to emphasis the page content.
Additionally, placing relevant descriptive keywords in image alt attributes, plus writing meta-description and meta-keyword tags in an appropriate manner, all fall under this heading. Because a lot of this is easy to learn and achieve by anyone with the time and patience to apply it, some people get the impression that “SEO is easy”. It is fair to say that on-page SEO can be successfully practiced by most anyone with only a very basic understanding of how search engines work.
You may need to install some on-site tools which can help you with the set up of each page and once this is done then this basic aspect of SEO can be covered without too much difficulty (only time).
However, There Is a Pitfall!
What if all of your competitors have a search engine friendly website? If this is the case then those applying additional techniques for a competitive edge will lead the field in ranking results.
And if you want to rank for high traffic competitive keywords, simply doing the above will never be enough. You need to do more on the SEO end of the business to gain strong search position for competitive keyword phrases (the SEO positional Gold).
SEO Copy Writing
You need to have website copy which is great and delightful for readers but that also emphasizes keywords and keyword relationships. This often requires a keen understating of delivering a marketing presentation that leads to a call to action (CTA), while also understanding the linguistic relationships between keywords on the page, other pages on the website, and how Google and the other major search engines interpret these phrases and their relationships.
Many SEO professionals presume SEO copy writing is nothing more complicated than writing text with keywords, and completely overlook the various subtle nuances involved. This is a surprisingly difficult, subtle, and challenging area for a professional to engage in.
SEO copy writing will often be categorized under “On Page SEO”, but it really deserves to be recognized as a far more complicated field than is usually acknowledged.
If you work with an SEO Professional that understands your market and your business and knows how to ensure that your website copy is search engine optimized then consider yourself very lucky.
This is another of those specialties that are usually regarded as on-page SEO, but again this is a specialty in its own right and the complexity of what can be involved is often easily overlooked.
This is especially the case with larger websites, where simply applying the same navigation links to every page makes no sense – being able to apply unique navigation elements according to the content of the page can be a serious advantage.
Additionally, sculpting PageRank and the internal link profile and blocking sections of a site to force search engines and link equity into specific targeted areas is something that requires a very carefully considered overall approach. Anyone can work on site architecture, but doing so skillfully and as part of a very carefully considered SEO plan is a very different matter.
It is easy to make mistakes in this area and I have seen big mistakes and significant missed opportunities just because very little attention is paid to this aspect of SEO by most website designers.
Google is a links driven search engine so taking careful consideration of a site’s link profile and being able to manage the link profile of a site is a skill in itself.
Unfortunately, too many SEO companies believe that link building involves nothing more than sending mass emails to engage in link exchanges or even to buy links (and not knowing the content of the page creating the link), or just being listed on hundreds of junk Indian SEO directories.
Link development is a far more complicated. To do this properly one has to have a full understanding of the link profile (both internal and external) of a client’s website. One has to have an understanding of the link profile of the top competitors.
There are many link weighting factors. Google has described much of this in patents. You can gain great insights into how to sculpt a link profile to mesh with the Google link profile algorithm. You can be certain that any website that is positioned well in search for competitive keyword phrases has spent time sculpting their link profile. You want to engage in link building with a proper search engine pleasing approach.
Some SEO companies will claim to offer some degree of generic link development service, but usually these are sub-par and can easily be beaten by a competitor using a link development specialist. Additionally, some SEO companies have such clumsy and ill-thought out link building campaigns that they can actually have clients banned in Google for their actions.
Social Media Optimization
SMO is an extension of viral marketing, in terms of trying to locate relevant discussions on the Internet and trying to present client products and services as the focus of the conversation.
The result is the potential for massive traffic spikes and powerful links covering the discussion. This can result in a serious boost to a website’s presence on Google and the other major search engines.
However, SMO is a very labor intensive process that results from social relationships being built and maintained, and a very keen understanding of a social media site’s visitor profile – and how to write for that target visitor. This is a complex undertaking.
Usually a person involved in SMO directly will have little time for other SEO/marketing work, so companies offering SMO usually either have one or more dedicated staff in this area, or outsource it to a SMO specialist with a proven track record.
Keyword Research and Analysis
There are also SEO companies that have specialized in providing keyword research services.
While some keyword research can be provided via existing free tools, such as Wordtracker, Overture, and the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, these tend to provide approximations that may be quite skewed from current realities.
Therefore SEOs who have developed unique ways of determining commercially useful keywords and how these should be targeted – from generic to longtail phrases – can provide a much more valuable service to a business.
What’s more, while a lot of people think of keyword research as something to simply implement at the beginning of a campaign, the reality is that in a marketplace as dynamic as the Internet, and with seasonal sale cycles to boot, keyword research is often an ongoing process.
Using feedback processes that observe visitor traffic flows and engagement will help a company to decide what is working and what is not in terms of both the keywords used to attract your traffic and how your traffic engages with your content.
A proper marketing campaign will need to be flexible in terms of what is being targeted, and that means the keyword determination process cannot remain static.
URLs and Dynamic Solutions
For small and simple sites, re-writing URLs and applying search-friendly on page SEO issues can be a reasonably easy and simple affair.
However, once you start addressing large eCommerce and corporate sites, which can have hundreds or thousands of pages, to apply on-page SEO good programming skills are required for the relevant coding language used to generate the pages.
Also, any SEO changes made to the site cannot interfere with the existing sales process and website functionality. Companies providing such SEO services have to be able to maintain a status quo in the face of software updates and upgrades. This can be tricky.
In this regard, this specialty within SEO is much more IT-focused, with a particular-savvy marketing approach.
Search Engine Optimization Summary
SEO is diverse. You need to know what you need
As this blog post should hopefully illustrate, SEO is not a “one size fits all” service – it is an umbrella term for a range of usually very specialized approaches – all designed to gain a better position in search than the competition.
It is therefore all the more important that companies looking to engage in search engine optimization services take time to determine what actual services they need, and ensure that the SEO company they finally engage with can actually deliver not simply knowledge but specialist experience in delivering solutions in the manner required.