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What Makes A Good SEO Program “Good”?
Search engine optimization (SEO) professionals can be quite critical of one another's techniques, but columnist Casie Gillette suggests that perhaps they just aren't seeing the larger picture.
A couple of weeks ago, PayScale released a “Most & Least Meaningful Jobs” report. Search Engine Land founding editor Danny Sullivan covered the report here on Search Engine Land, focusing on the fact that search marketers feel as if their jobs make the world worse. Yikes!
In addition to that, I came across a Facebook thread a few days ago, between some fellow industry friends, discussing another SEO’s recommendations and why they were terrible.
While I didn’t get too deep into the thread, one thing that caught my attention was a point around whether SEOs ever feel another person’s SEO is good.
If you go to Twitter, the answer is seemingly “no”:
What’s with all the negativity and bad news?
It’s no secret there are some bad SEO eggs out there using spammy tactics. In fact, I get an unsolicited email every few days to remind me of this.
The thing is, when it comes to SEO, we all have our own methods. This isn’t just across SEO companies or consultants, but across internal staff as well. For me, it’s even apparent from project to project.
A good SEO program varies from client to client and even month to month. That’s what makes the SEO program good — the ability to be agile and evolve.
I know it’s easy to look at a site and pick out the bad. But before making a judgment on whether an SEO program is good, I recommend the following:
Get The Facts
Before starting any new client program, we get the history of the site and specifically the history of the client’s SEO program(s). We make sure to ask the following:
- Have you ever engaged in an SEO program?
- What did you like about your previous SEO vendor?
- What did you dislike about your previous SEO vendor?
- What tactics were involved in the SEO program?
These questions help give us an idea of what we need to be looking for (ex: any shady tactics), but what’s really important here is what’s not being said.
Take, for example, the question, “What did you dislike about your previous SEO vendor?”
The answer is often something as simple as, “The company didn’t drive the results we wanted.” For us, that response provides the in we need to find out exactly what it is the company is looking for before we even get started.
If I go into analytics and see that the site’s organic traffic and revenue is generally up, there is likely more to the story. I need to figure out what else is really important to the business so that I can be focusing on that metric throughout the program (and specifically in reporting). I also need to set the right expectations.
When it comes down to it, a good SEO program has to focus on the true business objectives.
Don’t Jump To Conclusions
It’s so easy to do a site audit, see hundreds of directory links, and assume the company or previous SEO firm was using bad SEO tactics.
In reality, however, that’s not always the case. For example, it’s possible that the site is just very old — and 10 years ago, that’s how we built links!
Take a look at a few back links I found to a big-name web-hosting provider:
While these are just a few, there are a lot of old, terrible directory links in that profile!
While I can’t speak to the company’s current SEO program, I do know the site has been around since at least 2006. I can tell you what I was doing as an SEO in 2006, and that was submitting my clients to the link directories you see above.
As the search engines evolve, so do SEO strategies. Don’t assume that a company is engaging in bad SEO before — drum roll, please! — going back to step one and getting the facts.
Dig Into The Data
When a prospect comes in, we spend some time analyzing the site, the competitive landscape, the client goals, and of course any data available to us.
The problem here is that the data don’t always tell the correct story.
Take, for example, “Prospect A.” Prospect A came in with organic traffic and revenue issues. While it appeared their organic traffic was pretty steady, leads were down substantially.
None of the main pages had changed; and based on the competitive landscape and current SERPs, it seemed as if maybe they just needed to fix a few technical issues, optimize some of the existing pages, and create a solid content marketing strategy. It seemed that a standard SEO program should have been able to get their traffic growing and their leads to where they needed to be.
However, as we got access to their secondary analytics and dug in a bit more, we discovered that they had removed some lower trafficked pages in a recent site update — and that these pages were actually huge drivers of leads.
In this case, the existing SEO program wasn’t bad, but the team did miss some key changes made to the site.
Creating and executing a good SEO plan means going beyond what we see on the surface. A good SEO plan must use the available data and must also problem-solve.
The term “good” is obviously subjective. There’s a restaurant most of my friends think is “good” that I very much dislike. I think 10-minute miles are good; my much faster friend would be extremely disappointed if she ever ran a 10-minute mile. I get that.
When it comes to evaluating a site’s SEO, we must go beyond the surface and get the full picture. Because maybe the team thought what they were doing was good at the time. Or maybe it’s not even that what’s there is bad — it’s just not as “good” as you’d like it to be.
What do you look for when deciding whether a site’s SEO is good?
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.