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Unless you rely totally on PPC for your traffic, organic search is a really big deal for the welfare of your online company. Another way of saying this is, if you don’t have an effective SEO campaign, growth will stagnate and profits drop.
Now, you probably already know this, which is why you’re here. You know that optimization is a necessary thing – all the good business blogs are talking about it. You know you need some kind of marketing that focuses on your online business, even if you have a brick-and-mortar counterpart.
– But if you’re like a lot of business owners still digging through the mountains of information on SEO, what you don’t know may be keeping you up at night. What are you missing? What haven’t you read? Have you made mistakes that can cause your site to be penalized? Are you asking the right questions and, if not, how do you know what questions to ask?
I’ve found that the best way to learn short of experiencing for yourself is through someone else’s mistakes. With over ten years’ experience in the optimization trade, I’ve seen quite a few business owners suffer from the same mistakes and misunderstandings about what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is and how it works.
Here are six painful SEO lessons that business owners have learned throughout the years. The outcome of these lessons for the owner was a loss to their business health and profitability. Learn from them and don’t make the same mistakes!
1. SEO works from the ground up.
Optimization isn’t just changing a few words here and there, or updating a few search engine snippets. It’s an all-around, invasive marketing instrument. Onsite optimization alone targets everything from how fast your site is to alternative text for your images to titles you use on a page and everything in between. Although staying within budget is understandable, you need to be aware that a marketing budget should be healthy – especially if it’s the first time your site is being optimized.
You should also be aware that optimization isn’t just for your site. A proper optimization campaign includes every facet of your online endeavors.
Areas you may not think optimization belongs:
- PPC endeavors – In one instance, a client thought PPC and SEO weren’t connected. Although we have a pre-program discovery we have all our clients fill out before we work with them, they failed to tell us about their PPC program. Since we didn’t know about their PPC program, we altered pages that were targeted by said program. In the end, it cost them money that didn’t need to be spent. Keep this important point in mind: everything is connected.
- Branding – Only you know what you want your company to stand for. You know whether you’re a “life coach” or a “weight loss consultant”, for example. Targeted terms matter, to both the search engines and (most importantly) the visitor. A life coach doesn’t necessarily deal with weight loss, and a weight loss consultant doesn’t necessarily deal with life issues. Part of what optimization does is help you develop a steady marketing plan to keep the brand message clear.
- Business Development – A good SEO expert will dig into market analysis and data, as well as competitor analysis and trends. They’ll be able to let you know if you’re moving into very competitive fields. For instance, if you decide you want to target a term that has over 5 billion results, your analyst may warn you against such a move – or suggest other ways to reach your goals.
2. SEO is about integration.
This brings me to my next point. SEO should be integrated into every aspect of your marketing campaign. Otherwise, you could quite literally end up in competition with yourself. We once had a client whose social pages ranked better than the site. That’s fine if it’s your goal, but that usually isn’t the case.
Good optimization connects the dots between all your campaigns, be it social, content marketing and others. It works to move visitors to pages with call to actions (CTAs) and out the door into the sales or leads funnel – no matter where those visitors come from.
3. You can’t replace an SEO expert with a plugin.
We are a big fans of the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin. We even use it on this site. However, it’s not the end-all and be-all of optimization. It’s a tool – a means to an end. We still write the titles and descriptions. We still choose what a page is about. We use Yoast to make it easier to update the page or post.
One of the biggest mistakes that clients make with their websites is assuming that an SEO plugin actually does the optimization. It doesn’t, and you can end up with some really strange search results if you try to automate.
For example, a client’s plugin didn’t work right and pushed a whole bunch of search snippets that said %title% for the title. Not exactly the least time consuming task to change them all – and definitely not what they wanted to rank for. Although we shut the plugin down, we still had the task to change the titles to something more people-friendly.
If they had done things the right way, it would have been a brief transition. Instead, it took a few weeks to get them back up in the SERPs.
4. Having access to data is imperative.
Many clients are a little intimidated about handing access to their data over to an SEO agency. Although privacy concerns are understandable, any agency that will create a campaign without seeing any data is not an agency I’d use. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you have to know where you are to know where you need to go.
Not only are benchmarks crucial for building a credible campaign, but they’re also helpful in keeping track of how well your SEO agency is doing. With data in hand that says, “this is where we were when we started,” you can see if a campaign is performing like you expected. Otherwise it’s just guesswork. -And you don’t want to rest the well-being of your company on a hunch.
5. SEO can’t fix your broken product.
Let me be blunt. If your product sucks, it sucks. If no one wants it, no one wants it.
We have turned potential clients away because they had products we didn’t believe in, or because their practices were shady. We’re not averse to making money, but optimization can’t make somebody buy a useless product; it’s not a “quick-fix” solution.
If there is something wrong with your product (think BBB with a D rating, for example), you’ll simply be dumping money down the drain. Focus on the product first, and then consider optimization.
6. An SEO expert knows the trade.
For some, it’s hard to understand how much goes into SEO. After all, there’s all this information out there on how to do it, right? You’re just hiring the SEO expert because you don’t have the time to do it yourself.
While we do offer advice here on the Article Archive, and while we do provide our share of in-depth how-to posts, SEO is not a simple or quick endeavor. If nothing else, it takes the ability to pull all the pieces together and develop a plan that encompasses all aspects of a campaign.
We sometimes have clients tell us that parts of a campaign aren’t necessary. To me, that’s like saying, “You know that pinky toe of yours? You don’t really need it.” It rarely turns out well – to the point that we’ve talked about incorporating language into our contracts that protects us from failed campaigns in these instances.
There’s a reason why SEO is considered an organic endeavor. Like a plant, it sends out roots and then grows from those roots. Also like a plant, if you cut out those roots, it dies off – and with it, your marketing efforts.
If you go to the effort of vetting an SEO agency and have your expert in hand, at least take the time to listen to why they believe A, B or C is necessary. Be informed before you chop a campaign in half.
SEO Lessons Learned
The above six lessons are pulled from real life experiences, where the client (or potential client) didn’t do so well. Some no longer exists online because of their choices and lack of understanding for how optimization and marketing works. Some were penalized to the point that you can’t even find their home page anymore. Others got the best of the deal – they only lost a little money.
The biggest lesson of all is that optimization shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you have an online business and want to see it grow, SEO – in all its aspects – should be a vital part of your marketing.
If you need to integrate SEO into your marketing efforts, contact us for a free consultation. We’ll get you pointed in the right direction!