search engine ranking

Okay, Seriously ... Does SEO Actually Work?

Does SEO Actually Work?

I’ve continually had to defend Search Engine Optimization (AKA SEO) as of late. Before I get into exactly what you should expect from SEO, I thought it would be wise to look at what the end game is.

As a whole, the entire practice of SEO is meant to get your brand ranking high on search engines. I say “your brand” because there is misunderstanding amongst many business owners, that SEO is meant to make your website rank higher exclusively. In either low search or highly competitive markets, that singular focus can crush an SEO campaign.

SEO Explained

So, in point form, here’s what you should expect from those providing you with SEO services:

  • After accepting terms of contract, your SEO should learn as much about your industry as possible, dive into the data about your brand, and be able to make recommendations regarding the next 12 - 18 months worth of work. The person you’re working with should also be well versed in the changes to algorithms taking place at Google, Bing, and other big search.
  • Your SEO company should work with you to optimize your website. This can be a long process, but is crucial. Now, you’ll likely never hit 100% on-site SEO optimization because various platforms have different rules and languages, but all of the essentials should be covered.
    • Those essentials include: content optimization, proper tagging, proper headers, ensuring your site has no penalties or error codes, ideal meta descriptions, keyword/phrase consideration, optimized image handling, site speed, no AJAX issues, and connectivity to external services that help track your site.
  • After your site is optimized, it’s time to pick the low hanging fruit. Your SEO company should be listing you on as many relevant directories and sites as possible. This goes for general directories, such as Yellow Pages to niche industry directories.
  • If you’re a local business, then local optimization is key. Having a location properly optimized can mean a huge difference on mobile, when someone looks up “XYZ near me”. 
  • Then, it’s time for back linking power. You should be looking at who currently links to you, and more importantly, who’s hurting your positioning. Spammy ad networks, sites with penalties, and other low quality websites may link to you, bringing you down. At that point you need a cleanse.
  • Once you’re clean as a whistle, it’s time to build backlinks. Old school guys will tell you this is all about quantity. However, GOOGLE (they kinda know some stuff) has openly said that back links are about quality. Essentially, the link should make practical sense. If it doesn’t, then Google may look at that link as unfavourable. For example: if your run a car dealership, your link should not appear on a magicians resource site.
  • Social media is important as well. Make sure you have optimized profiles, that are posting, and that your fans/followers are continually engaged. The more people are willing to share your content, the more likely it is to be seen as credible.
  • Another often overlooked piece to the puzzle is media. You need to expose your brand to media sites such as the local TV station, or credible blogs. In 100% of cases, I’ve seen a properly handled media release boost rankings nearly overnight.
  • Blogging and guest blogging are aspects of SEO that only stable campaigns with highly engaged staff should be getting involved in. This requires a great deal of time, but will make a difference.
  • After that, there are certain tricks that SEOs have picked up along the way. Those tricks will be deployed on your behalf, but it’s unlikely that they’ll ever be shared with you. Consider these trade secrets.

Long-Game SEO Strategy

It’s important to remember that this is all ongoing work, and that you won’t rank overnight. You must also be realistic. If there’s giant brands in your industry, without some serious dollars, you’re unlikely to beat them site vs site. That’s where the directories and real world involvement proves valuable.

Your brand should rank, and eventually, so too should your website. That should turn into more clicks, and if you are good at what you do, more sales.

Now, for the frustrating news. This is all long-game, and setting expectations to see results and changes in your rankings in the first year is unrealistic. So, how do you gauge success? The best way, is to get confirmation that work is being done your behalf. If your SEO company can show that the above points are being worked on, then they are worth your time. However, if your SEO company is engaging in black hat SEO techniques it is truly time to move on. 

It all come down to this—you should be able to see the work being done through reporting.

Comparing Google Results

I know long-term marketing work with little, to no, ROI can be frustrating for businesses; especially when you see companies that haven’t had any SEO work done and they’re ranking. You must take a few items into consideration when comparing search engine results:

  1. Have they actually spent any money on SEO? Are you sure you know the answer? There’s apps to determine how much work has been done on a brand’s behalf.
  2. Did they enjoy fantastic critical acclaim?
  3. When were they established? Timeline matters, as SEO has become quite strict in the last couple of years.
  4. Did the media run stories on this business?
  5. How’s their social media campaigning?
  6. Is the owner well known, and has he/she enjoyed media coverage in the past?

Summing up SEO

So there you have it. You know what your SEO company should be doing for you. You also know how to track ROI. You even know how to critically look at your competitors online. That’s a great start.

We hope that clears up some of the ongoing confusion. If you need help with your SEO,  let’s talk.

Written by:
Jay Hall - Chief Strategist


"But I Saw An Article on Facebook ..."

But I Saw An Article on Facebook

The Opinion

We live in the information age, so naturally there is a ton of data coming at us on a daily basis. Some of that info is interesting, and helpful. Then there’s trolling articles, aimed at getting as many shares and hits as possible to bolster their ad revenue through sensational headlines.

Case in point: This article.

I’ll say this out of the gate. We provide SEO services to clients, so at first glance, this blog could be perceived as me scrambling to keep business. However, dig deeper. The above linked article is dangerous for many reasons.

1) Some of Us “Hang” With Google

Just last week, I was on a call with Google. They outlined that 30,000,000 sites would take a ranking hit in the next few months. They’re cleaning up, and are kicking sites with grossly misleading content to the curb. While it is true that no search marketer has access to Google’s code, we do have access to their people. Through years of communications and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent, we have built relationships with those people. You have a business to run, and don’t have time to build relationships with the right people at Google.

2) His 6 Points are Valid

Jayson talks about 6 important points of SEO, and he’s right. These elements of SEO are important. However, they’re 6 of 205 points identified as an SEO priority by us at Sync. Simply put, there’s steak sandwiches, and then there’s prime rib. Steak sandwiches are fine, but for that top tier experience, you want prime rib. SEO functions the same way. There are shortcuts, but ultimately if you’re taking SEO seriously, you need to cover all of your bases. Eventually, one day SEO might boil down to 6 core principals, but that day is not today. You have a business to run, and don’t have time to figure out what’s happening in SEO on a daily basis.

3) No Technical Expertise Needed

How interesting that Jayson wrote this article, when his company itself, offers technical SEO services. Google has stated in their official SEO guide that technical aspects are important. While content plays a huge role in this, you have a business to run, and don’t have time to deal with sitemaps, canonical data, W3C errors, titles, URL optimization, staying on top of the latest website trends (*cough frames anyone?), and the perfect text to graphics ratio.

4) What’s in a Strategy?

We can’t speak to other companies, but our overall SEO strategy includes on-site optimization, off-site optimization, back linking, content, and directories. We have a full-time department dedicated to these strategies. If, it was at all possible to stay ahead of the SEO game with a more simplistic process, thus saving us time, money, and further streamlining our workflows, we would be all over it. Think from the stand point of a business owner. If something came along to make your life easier, wouldn’t you institute the policy? Of course you would. I’m a business owner and I think the same way. What Jayson is talking about is not an industry killer, but rather an industry optimization shift. His article doesn’t take a client’s industry into consideration, or any other factor. He’s just highlighting what we already know. After all, you have a business to run, and you don’t have time for his core principals (never mind the over 199 points to SEO).

5) What about “The Other Guys”?

Lest we forget, Bing, Yahoo, and the other search engines. While Bing swallowed up Yahoo, there’s still factors for those search engines that don’t resinate across to Google. While Google is the most popular search engine, it’s not the only provider. Concentrating solely on Google is like a social media strategy that ignores Twitter and Instagram. Only in select cases is this not a mis-step. You have a business to run, and don’t have time to worry about all these search engines.

I could go on, but I don’t come off as a bully picking on Jayson. Ultimately, what you want out of SEO will be in direct proportion to the effort. Sound familiar? It should, because that principal is relevant to everything we do in life. Think about it this way; you have a business to run, and barely had time to read this blog.

Looking to expand your brand online? Learn more about how SYNC can help get you on track online. 

Written by:
Jay Hall - Chief Strategist