6 fundamental truths about SEO
Brands and SEO professionals must take responsibility for the performance of the websites that they run and manage.
Applying these six SEO truths will help you achieve next-level website performance, according to Bruce Clay, the founder and president of digital marketing optimization firm Bruce Clay Inc., who spoke at SMX Advanced.
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. One person can’t randomly do SEO. It isn’t going to work if you aren’t working on SEO every day.
The organization must think about SEO every time there’s a meeting to discuss changing the website. Somebody in that room has to ask, “How does this impact SEO?”
“How can we improve the overall quality and operation of our website so that it actually generates traffic or meets a KPI of the business? … If the commitment is to do SEO, and if you buy into it being long-term, then SEO is a winning operation within your business,” Clay said.
2. SEO should beat the competition, not the algorithm
We must understand how ranking algorithms work. But our job isn’t to beat the algorithm. Beating the algorithm is an insurmountable battle.
Google makes thousands of changes to search 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’re doing. Are there any common characteristics? Are there any common words and can we use them better?
“The story I always tell is of two friends who go camping. They set up their tents. They start a fire. They’re cooking a meal and along comes a bear. They take off running down the path. The bear is chasing them. The guy in front doesn’t need to be an Olympic runner. He just needs to be faster than his friend,” Clay said.
Well, SEO is much the same thing. 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 so that search engines see you as a subject matter expert. Publishing authoritative and trustworthy information takes a concentrated effort.
Google prefers content that is presented in a clear hierarchical structure. In other words, a drill down (e.g., a website about electronics has cameras > digital cameras; a website about automobiles has Ford > Mustang). This is called siloing.
“It actually performs better in search because you’ve concentrated, in one location, all of the information about that particular keyword, instead of spreading it all over the website,” Clay said. “In order to get SEO to perform correctly, you have to be the subject matter expert. You cannot randomly throw a bunch of things onto 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 has to be built into your SEO program.
You can’t just push an “easy” button and say you want to 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 the job of SEO to take that pig and work with you to genetically engineer it into an eagle. Then you may have something that works. Way too many people come to us with old technology. They haven’t updated their site in five years. They haven’t updated content. And they’re expecting that the search engine is going to give them a reward in the face of people that have been maintaining their sites all along,” Clay said.
Organic search competition is intense. Your competition may have a whole team working on their SEO. Sometimes it can be like trying to compete against websites 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 is it going to take you to discover what went wrong after it goes 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 often can be wrong.
“Get it done right and get it done properly, the first time. You can’t afford to do it over,” 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 is what your competition is doing. (Oh, and also search behavior.)
Google’s goal is to please users, so they have leaned heavily into things like user experience and rewarding truly expert, accurate, trustworthy content.
“When you are in an environment like that, where the search engine is going to be constantly changing and experimenting and trying to make itself better – those are changes that are going to seriously impact how you perform in search results,” Clay said. “You cannot ever be done with SEO. The search engines have seen to it.”
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