In keeping with my theme from last week (Five Common Website Questions), this week I’m covering some of the questions we get related to SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Search marketing is a huge industry with lots of players, and each of them (me included) might give a slightly different answer to the “big questions” most people have. So, if you’re considering taking a step into SEO for your business or just doing some research, keep this in mind. There is not one single, perfect way to make your site more visible to search engines.
At JoltCMS, we focus on “white hat” SEO tactics…meaning, we aren’t trying to TRICK the search engines through unethical practices. We simply focus on addressing both on- and off-site elements that we know to be important in the eyes of the search engines, which in turn position our clients’ websites in a positive light when people enter a search query that is, in fact, relevant to what our clients offer.
So, here’s a quick list of the top SEO questions we get quite often:
1. Does it really work? I’m not sure what makes people so skeptical of SEO; I’m guessing it’s because there’s a lot of “unknowns” in the process. There is no guarantee. If someone every offers a guaranteed first position on Google, run the other way as fast as you can! In some cases, we can spend months investing time and effort into an SEO campaign with little movement at first; but that doesn’t mean we’re not doing anything or that what we’re doing is wrong. Sometimes, it just takes time. (which is question #2!) But, in the roughly ten years that I’ve been involved with SEO, I have NEVER seen a site not benefit when effective SEO tactics are applied. That doesn’t mean everyone has gotten to #1, but it does mean that visibility has increased, traffic has improved and the bottom line has grown.
2. How long does it take? A close second to “does it work?” the next question we get is, “When will I start to see results?” I’ll say this again…if someone offers you a certain position AND/OR in a certain amount of time, run away! None of us knows for sure how long it will take to get to a certain position on Google. We certainly can give a range, based on past experience; but every site is different, and there are hundreds of elements that come into play in determining how well a site will perform in the search engines. In our experience, three to six months is a reasonable time to expect to start seeing results. In some cases, it takes 30-45 days (see this SEO Success Story) and in other situations, it may take nine to 12 months before real measurable results are seen. We are very clear with our clients up front in order to set realistic expectations of results.
3. How do you know what keywords will work for us? Keywords are the foundation of any strong SEO campaign; if you’re off when it comes to keywords, you might as well be throwing your money into the trash. It’s great to see your website show up in the top spot, but if it’s #1 for some phrase that no one ever uses when searching for your products or services, then that does you no good. Our process is heavily weighted on the front end with regard to keyword research. We want to understand your business, your market, your audience, your strengths and your weaknesses. Once we truly know your business, then we utilize several tools to discover which keywords and/or phrases will provide the best possible results for you, both in the short and long term.
4. How will you measure success? This one is a question that comes in a kind of roundabout way. Most people/businesses don’t really think about measuring success, at least in the specifics. They ask, “will it work?” but don’t really think through how to define the answer…what does success look like? how will we know it’s working? So, we’ll help push them to ultimately ask the question. We have a very specific process for measuring results, and the best situations come when the client is also dedicated to tracking and evaluating on their end, too. Google Analytics is quite possibly the coolest tool out there! And, it’s free! This is the first thing we get implemented for measurement purposes. Google Analytics provides an outstanding view of the site, from general snapshots to granular details you could spend hours mulling over. It goes beyond how many people visited the site and looks at time spent, pages viewed, keywords that drove traffic, flow of visitors from page to page, even a view of your website and where people are clicking on the page. Based on the initial phase of getting to know the business and undergoing the keyword research, we’ll work with our clients to define expectations and establish a baseline to compare to over time. Monthly reporting is a large part of our process, as we evaluate and report, but also provide recommendations to adjust our efforts as needed.
5. Why do I need to invest in SEO every month? There are two distinct elements involved in search engine optimization – 1) on-page elements and 2) off-site elements. On-page elements are all the components you can control within your website itself – content, back-end code, how pages are linked internally, footer navigation, images used, and more. Off-site elements are all the other things that play into the search engine’s algorithm; these include both links from other websites pointing into yours (directories, industry websites, news sites, etc.), as well as social media “signals” (Facebook likes/posts, Twitter mentions, Google+ posts, Pinterest pins, and more). Both on-page and off-site elements are crucial to overall, long-term SEO success. One without the other only provides half of the picture. But, there is a priority. If you’re on-page optimization isn’t up to snuff, all the external linking and social media efforts in the world will only do so much for your website. However, just having a strong on-page SEO foundation is also only fighting half the battle. In some cases, we’ll just work with our clients to optimize their website; but we’re always very clear in pointing out that will only get them so far. It will help, for sure; but dedicating time and money to an ongoing campaign will ensure the site’s long-term success.
There are many, many more questions we get asked; but this definitely hits the top SEO questions that tend to be on people’s minds when considering search engine optimization. What questions do you have?