SEO is About Traffic not Rankings, Teamwork not Checklists

SEO is About Traffic not Rankings, Teamwork not Checklists

I think I can speak for most SEO consultants when I say that amongst the most common requests we hear are to “Fix my SEO”, “Do my SEO for me” and, my favourite, “Get me to the top spot on Google”. These requests vastly underestimate the complexity of SEO in 2019, specifically demonstrating:

  • A misunderstanding of what’s involved in SEO
  • A misunderstanding of who’s involved in SEO

This post is my attempt to clarify these common misunderstandings…

“Get Me To The Top Spot On Google”

The truth is I can’t guarantee this… and any SEO guru, ninja or plain old consultant who guarantees you the top spot on Google is not to be trusted. Google’s Webmaster Guidelines state very clearly that you should be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.

First of all, top spot on Google for what query? The first step in a SEO strategy is determining what topics you want to rank for.. and you can’t rank for everything – optimising a key page for one topic may negatively effect your rankings for another.

Here’s a completely fictitious example – a local car park wants to rank higher for “Galway City Car Park” related searches. They change their homepage meta information and content around to optimise towards this, and climb up the rankings for “Galway City Car Park” for which there are 55 searches per week. Great news, right? No… because before the “optimisations” they had been ranking higher for “Galway City Parking” for which there are 75 searches per week, and they have now dropped down to page 2 for these queries.

wiley coyote SEO

Secondly, and more importantly, “top spot” depends on a host of factors outside of your control like:

  • Where geographically the search is from
  • The previous search history of the user searching
  • The device from which the search is made
  • Competition for that particular search query

SEO is about driving relevant traffic to your site for all of the services / products / content you offer. It’s not about ranking #1 for a specific term or set of terms at all times at all costs. Of course, it’s nice to see your site in top spot for what you see as a relevant search term, but what do you think is a better KPI for my site?

A. Rank #1 for “Google Analytics Consultant” related searches in October 2018 

or

B. Attract 10 new leads via organic search in October

If we evaluate both against the SMART Objectives framework, option B is Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time Based. Option A however is not really Specific given the ambiguity of “Rank #1”, nor is it Measurable or Realistic for the same reason.

My overall point is – look at the bigger picture. SEO is about a long term, sustained flow of relevant organic traffic, not about being #1 for a specific search term at all costs. Your ranking for different topics will fluctuate depending on perceived user intent, location, recent algorithm updates, user search history, etc. Ranking is not a SMART KPI.

“Do My SEO” / “Fix My SEO”

The next common misconception that persists (largely perpetuated by so-called SEO “gurus”) is that an SEO consultant can single-handedly “do” or “fix” your SEO all by themselves.
As an SEO consultant, my value lies in my ability to review/audit your site and identify what can be optimised in order to improve your visibility in SERPs for queries relevant to your offering. These may fall under any of the 3 key pillars of SEO (these are the 3 broad categories of SEO factors):

  • Technical SEO (e.g. site crawl-ability, site structure, etc.)
  • Content (e.g. meta titles, meta descriptions, content topics, etc.)
  • Site Authority (e.g. inbound link profile, site mentions, spammy links)

Technical optimisations must be implemented by your web developer / development team and hosting team. As an SEO consultant, I understand technical requirements from an SEO perspective but I’m not a web developer or a hosting expert.

Content optimisations, primarily, will be the responsibility of your content team or outsourced to a content expert. As an SEO consultant, I will provide guidance on what topics need to be covered and the best way to structure that content for SEO, but I am not a content creator. More importantly, I’m unlikely to have the adequate knowledge or expertise of your brand / product / service / market to do your content justice.

Authority optimisations involve marketing, PR and outreach from your team to distribute content efficiently and build up trusted inbound links to your website. As an SEO consultant, I can provide you with examples of the link profiles of your competitors and offer guidance on how to build links in your market but I am not best placed to manage your PR and marketing strategy for you.

From the diagram above, you can see an example of the types of parties involved in a successful SEO strategy. As you can see, the SEO consultant is just one part of this. Much like a conductor without an orchestra, an SEO consultant without a team of experts to follow her/his guidelines is not going to be very effective.

SEO bugs bunny

As Google themselves state: “Making the changes recommended by an SEO takes time and effort; if you aren’t going to take the time to make these changes, it’s not worthwhile hiring a professional.”

Real Collaboration

Even when all the individuals and teams mentioned above are involved in an SEO strategy, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee success.
Very often, I’ve seen cases where an SEO guru, wizard, ninja, black-belt, king, queen, god, goddess or oracle has handed over an “SEO Audit” to a client which is in fact just a checklist of actions, usually the output of an automated SEO tool. The only instructions are to implement the “fixes” outlined in the checklist.
The problem with this approach is that it does not take into account the fact that every organisation and every website are different and in doing so ignores the context of:

  1. The clients website e.g. the proposal of SEO “fixes” that conflict with user experience or site performance depending on how the site has been developed.
  2. The clients business goals e.g. I might recommend that an client develop content similar to that which has worked well for a competitor without taking into account that this topic may not align with the client’s brand tone or even their organisational values.

My point here is perfectly captured by Aleyda Solis (one of the leading genuine SEO experts in the world) in her tweet below:

To summarise, real SEO is not a short term quick fix tactic by an SEO guru to “get you to #1 on Google”. It’s a long term strategic process that involves your SEO consultant and a host of other subject matter experts and stakeholders who are willing to collaborate, compromise and work out the best approach in the context of your technical requirements & limitations and your organisational goals & resources.

In a sentence: SEO is about long term, sustained, relevant website traffic through search engines, achieved through collaboration between a wide range of stakeholders.

If you’d like to discuss how to improve organic traffic to your website, get in touch!

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