What is your SEO company offering you?

Just read a great post by Holistic Search about SEO and how it is being sold and some would say mis-sold by a plethora of agencies and companies.  It raises some interesting points about how SEO should be defined, and the limitation on merely performing good on page practices, such as Meta structure optimisation.  I would argue that along with the general consensus that SEO is being sold in different ways, part of the problem stems from their being no consensus over what SEO is – even from those professionals who practice is.

Here is what Wikipedia define it as..

“Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via “natural” (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results. Typically, the earlier a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, and industry-specific vertical search engines.”

A pretty good all round description of what SEO does, with some mention of blended search.  But this doesn’t answer the question of what people really want to know, what a specific SEO campaign is meant to achieve.  Delivering ROI is the main aim for most clients, bit that can be problematic to define from an SEO campaign.  What if the SEO (traffic and rankings) are amazing but the site usability is poor?  The ROI will be adversely effected.

It is for this reason that a strong SEO campaign will take into account all elements that effect the chances of success – not just the simple on page stuff.  This should include but is not limited to some or all of the following…

  • Links – Press Releases, Articles, Relevant Links, Directory links
  • Content – New pages, Linkbaiting, Blogs, Newsfeeds
  • Social Networking / Web 2.0 – Profile creation, promotion and management

There are other elements that could be added, such as trying to get clients into Google news which could be part of an overall strategy, but would not constitute part of an orthodox SEO campaign.  And of course, the list is almost endless of what services / counsel you could offer a client.  However going back to the original point, selling SEO as simple on page optimisation is insufficient and will become an increasingly redundant technique as user behaviour changes. Of course for big brands, the need to embrace these emerging channels is even more urgent. The story of Topshop getting more traffic from their Myspace page than MSN and Yahoo at one point, highlights this perfectly.

But it must be remembered that for some uncompetitive phrases for smaller companies, simple on page SEO could be sufficient to increase rankings, traffic and ROI.  Take for example “Limosine Hire Dundee”, probably not mega competitive (havn’t actually checked!) and so some simple on page work could be enough to send a site to the top three on Google.  Would a company like these need a Twitter profile, press releases, articles, a facebook page, a news feed?  Well it certainly wouldn’t do any harm – but would it be necessary?

I think we need to draw a distinction between basic technical aspects of SEO – H1 tags, Robots.txt, yadda yadda and the other afforementioned elements that make up a holistic SEO campaign.

Simon Rattray - PPC Consultant