Organic links – the ones that just happen are typically driven by things like public relations, brand awareness, unique content, existing exposure, and social networking. In competitive markets, some aspects of the evolving SEO field should be baked into the core of the company’s DNA. When you get interviewed, you have to know to ask for links. If you are in competitive markets and are operating at scale, it is unlikely that you will have your SEO be your contact point for all media relationships.
Profitable client projects
Some client projects are a slam dunk; where after a half hour of research, you see opportunities (including site structure, page titles, on page optimization, competitive research, and content ideas) that guarantee a multi-thousand percent ROI. SEO is the most explosive and has the highest returns when there is an already successful company that is in the game, but has not given a second thought to SEO.
All of the footprints (customers, customer interactions, customer lists, word of mouth marketing, organic links, a traffic stream outside of search, etc.) that comes along with having a successful company, works as a foundation which helps the SEO efforts boost the site even higher into the search results. As a bonus, those existing footprints on the web are also the hardest for competitors to clone. Once you have them, you have a lasting competitive advantage.
It is easier to take a website from page 2 or 3 of the search results to the top than it is to start building from scratch. In fact, many of the smartest SEO practitioners are willing to launch a site that is half done just so they can get it a few links and get it aging. Google likes old websites, so that is what we should give them.
Brutally ugly client projects
Conversely, the worst websites to work for (especially as client projects) are those which are not unique, those that are brand new, and those that tend to be thin on content. Why? These sites have no footprint on the web. And if they are to build one, it often requires aggressive push marketing, and is moving counter to the trend in search. Matt Cutts recently went so far as making a video recommending not trying to rank a thin ecommerce site.
Worse yet, many of the thin sites are to remain thin because the owner is a blow hard who is unwilling to change. These are the types of projects that have a less than 1% chance of being profitable and enjoyable. Any SEO who has taken on a dozen or more clients, should be able to spot the toxic client types and turn down those opportunities before they become headaches.
Building your own foundation
New businesses don’t have existing links and customer relationships and business partnerships to build off of. To put it bluntly, for these types of sites, often 100% of the marketing strategy is often driven by the SEO. Worse yet, because these sites have no cashflow and no rankings, they typically have a limited SEO budget. This is why it makes sense to do your own SEO from the start if you are short on capital. SEO can provide a competitive advantage, but if it is the only competitive advantage (and if you are trying to hire an external SEO) then you should be giving the SEO a large stake in the company – as they certainly earned it.
It is not that push marketing or new sites are bad, but in competitive markets, maybe the first $20,000 to $50,000 spent on building a solid SEO foundation has little returns, and real returns are six months to a year away. In those instances where a site is brand new, unremarkable, and built on limited budget, it often makes more sense for an SEO to clone the business model, but make it more unique.
If your site is brand new and does not have any competitive advantages, then you might want to consider letting it age a bit and doing a bit of your own SEO marketing before seeking professional help. If you ask for SEO help too early with too small of a budget, you might just create competition for yourself!
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.