Those of us working in SEO for a long time understand that it’s a constantly moving and shifting milieu. We have to keep up with and adapt to changes as they come along. And we have to realize that when we hear the “SEO Is Dead” knoll chiming again that it means “Ignore.”
SEO will always be an important way to communicate with search engines.
For example, for the foreseeable future, it’s still important to have critical on-page factors like titles and Meta descriptions. And keywords, though becoming weaker as the punch factor, are still important. So, it’s a given that most webmasters and e-commerce business owners still need us, if they’re not SEO oriented themselves.
But SEO is definitely shifting. And if all your company does is watch stats, your days are numbered. You have to become more than an SEO to survive.
Content is Queen – Again?
As I discussed in my last article for this blog, content is Queen again. (OK, so I’m a feminista.) We’re not talking about garbage content, we’re talking about killer stuff that actually helps people by teaching them something new, entertaining them or giving them good advice.
And because this content is so important, it can take on many forms: written words, videos, sideshows, images and infographics, social content, and even answers to questions (think Quora) are all important. Here’s where the smart SEO comes in — you need to build your client’s presence on the Web.
Authorship is important. You have to be sure that the content your company creates for your clients is tagged to them and that it is well-written and presented. No more pseudo postings in someone else’s name pointing back to their websites. No more garbage. It should be your goal to make your client’s brand stand out, even when they ARE the brand. It’s important to promote that brand’s reach in every way, shape and form that you can.
It’s all about that “entity-based” search we discussed a few weeks back. Now, rather than worrying about stuffing keywords into page content, link wheels or blog networks, it’s about being a full-service organization.
Of course, in my mind there are two different branches of SEO: natural SEO and SEM. SEO should be concerned with this new thrust of creating a popular entity online, while the SEM branch concerns themselves with pay-per-click and are more marketing oriented. Sure, the main thrust of SEO is to get search traffic, but there’s a huge difference between getting it by building up and around a website and paying for it. Both ways work, of course, but you have to figure out which side you’re on in terms of being an SEO.
You can make that choice even more specifically, as in a specialty in architecture, link building, Facebook Ads or AdWords. It’s impossible to know everything. I, for example, am not the AdWords or Facebook Ads person. I hire people who do that for my clients. I know my limitations, and you should, too.
Personally, I like the “game” of SEO, not meaning “gaming.” I mean, the game of keeping my ear to the ground, of testing to find out what works and what doesn’t, and of watching clients go from a few thousand hits a day to tens of thousands hits a day. SEO is exciting — kind of like gambling or playing a game that you love. It feels really good to win.
Here is what some other SEOs in the wild are saying:
- Mitul Gandhi reminds us that semantic search is important, and says, “While structured data markup on your page is not visible to visitors, the rich snippets that markup provided in the SERPs allows for a much more engaging experience for users.”
Agree. The most specific your markup can be, the more easily your content will be indexed and it will really put your best foot forward in the SERPs listings. You’ll get more traffic when you give potential visitors what they want to know. Plus, check out what an image next to your product looks like:
I mean, how cool is that? It’s like authorship. Having an image beside your listing in the SERPs will be very good for business. More people click on images. They just do.
Not many advertisers are doing this yet, either. Even big corporations are slow to adapt. QVC is smart. Be smart, too. If you’re in e-commerce, getting your rich snippets right can give you an edge next year. (And if you’re quick like a bunny, you might get some Christmas sales this year!)
- Josh McCoy says, “Will keywords help you with the Local Carousel? No, proximity and review generation will.”
Good reviews are super important, especially for e-commerce and local search. Be bold! Ask your clients to rate you on Google Places for Business, if they haven’t already. Don’t worry about bad reviews, unless you really need to improve your business because your clients aren’t coming back or you’re not making as many sales. If it’s customer experience, you need to fix that in a hurry.
Yet, overall, comments are usually positive unless you’ve injured a customer severely. No business has a 100% satisfaction record, I don’t care what it is.
Any testimonial or review you get is social proof. It’s like the lemmings… If the guy in front of you says to do it and rates the experience 5 stars, you’ll be more likely to accept the offer. If 20 people in front of you all had positive experiences and one person has a negative remark. Who do you think potential buyers will believe? The 15 happy customers or the one unhappy customer?
- Drew Hendricks wrote, “As anyone who has ever deployed an SEO campaign will attest, an SEO campaign requires patience. New content can take weeks, even months, to begin appearing in search engine results and as new content comes along, it may be bumped lower until it disappears from the first page of search results.”
Some things don’t change. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. How many times have you heard that? You can’t expect immediate results, unless the client you’re starting with already has some SEO clout. It’s fairly easy to pump that up.
But when you take on a new client with zero SEO clout – a new domain, no on-page optimization, no social presence, no content littering the Web and no backlinks, it’s going to take a while.
I always tell those clients that what I do will take several months to show results. Usually they show sooner than that, but I never raise my clients’ expectations. I don’t want it to come back to haunt me.
I also tell clients that if they expect to see improvement in a specified amount of time not to sign with me. I also warn them about the vicissitudes of Google. There’s no accounting for the things they do, and it’s always possible for Google to make a dramatic change and unravel everything we have done. That’s happened to me, and I lost a client because of it back in the day. But, I do such a good job of talking them OUT of signing with me that they’re usually begging to do just that by the end of our discussion.
What they want is honesty. Too many people out there call themselves SEOs, but have very little skin in the game. They know a trick or two that they use to get sites ranked very quickly. What unsuspecting clients don’t realize is that those “tricks” can get them banned from Google’s index. The days of tricks and quick rankings are virtually over.
The Bottom Line
If you want to be an SEO in 2014, the door is still open. It’s a fun and fascinating way to spend your days, and it pays well. But you have to work hard. You have to stay on top of search, understand the big picture, and how the environment changes on a day-to-day basis. And… get ready… wait for it… the important part?
Be honest with your clients.
NEVER promise them listings overnight.
NEVER lie to them about what’s going wrong. Tell them what it might be and then, find out for sure and fix it.
NEVER be an SEO if you’re just in it for the money.
It’s about helping other people that don’t have the time to learn what we know. Be there for them. THAT is one thing that definitely WILL NOT change in 2014.
Pat Marcello is President and SEO Manager of MagnaSites.com, a full-service digital marketing company based in Bradenton, Fla., which produces well-written content for clients in English-speaking countries all over the world. Pat’s last article for SEMrush was “7 SEO Content Marketing Mistakes to Avoid."