Everything you wanted to know about SEO but were afraid to ask

SEO best practice can feel like a never-ending battle with changing rules and new ways of thinking seeing us having to adapt our approaches and look for new ways to stay ahead of the game. In an attempt to bust some commonly held myths, Charlie Whitworth, SEO director at digital marketing agency Banc answers some of the most frequently asked questions he hears about SEO, including how to measure it, what a successful strategy should look like and what the future holds.

Like any integral commercial function, SEO requires a significant resource investment – in what ways does it contribute value to a business’ overall marketing effort?

A successful SEO campaign will always result in increased levels of organic non-branded traffic. This sort of keyword-focused, targeted traffic always converts a lot better than other visitors so it isn’t hard to correlate the positive impact this should have on a business’ broader marketing mix.

What is the main metric that should be measured to determine the success of SEO activity? Should businesses simply be looking at organic traffic volumes, or are other factors also important?

Return on Investment is, of course, the name of the game for any business, if your SEO efforts aren’t resulting in increased revenue then you should really look at whether this is the best use of your budget. So, converting this traffic into actual leads, and ultimately sales, should also be a KPI – and this can be tracked very effectively using Google Analytics.

In the current search landscape, what key components make up a successful SEO strategy?

The term ‘SEO’ actually feels archaic these days, but it has stuck and will always be how the industry refers to technical practitioners. Any successful SEO strategy will have a vast number of components and there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will suit every site or business type. The key activities, however, should include:

  • Close co-operation and communication with content teams and UX experts
  • Deep manual technical auditing
  • Working closely with developers to get techniques and recommendations implemented
  • Staying abreast of the latest algorithm changes and industry developments, and making changes based on these

Search specialists often talk about Onsite and Offsite Optimisation – what exactly do these terms mean, and are both important?

Offsite optimisation is the control of all the buzz around your website domain in terms of backlinks and social activity. The former is particularly important, as this can land you in hot water with the search engines if not approached appropriately.

Maintaining a strong link profile and increasing authority, while also ensuring you don’t have any undesirable associations, is a key part of SEO activity and the bedrock of offsite optimisation.

Onsite optimisation, as the name suggests, means auditing and analysing the technical shape of your brand website itself to find out where improvements can be made – then implementing these changes appropriately to ensure pages throughout the site are ranking as well as they can be in search engines.

The nature of SEO appears to be very fast changing, and as a result, there is a lot of different information out there. What are some of the biggest misconceptions held, and the most common mistakes that you see businesses make?

There are many, many misconceptions surrounding SEO and many of the articles you see out there written by ‘experts’ throw a lot of red herrings into the mix, which can be dangerous for young SEO

Executives learning their trade.

Perhaps the biggest one at the moment is the myth that links are no longer important. Google has tested ‘linkless’ SERPs (search engine results pages) in the past, and this has never produced good results – as all the brands out there you see ranking well have excellent link profiles and domain authority. Links may well lose their weight in the future as AI and Google’s machine learning technology RankBrain become more sophisticated, but for now they remain extremely valuable.

The most common mistake we see businesses make from an SEO perspective is obsessing over their vanity generic keywords. Often these will come from the board, who have demanded a site ranks for these phrases – but aside from the obvious risks of over-optimisation, it is simply not the best use of time and resource. Longer tail traffic has been proven to convert a lot better than your generic terms and if you are up against more established brands, the likelihood is that you will never shift them anyway!

What do you foresee being some of the biggest SEO trends in the coming year – and how can businesses anticipate and respond to these changes?

Mobile First is the big elephant in the room right now – this is Google’s forthcoming index, which will rank results based on the mobile version of that content (even for Desktop users). We are still waiting to find out when it will roll out in force, whether this process has already begun, and just what impact it will have.

If brands don’t have a responsive, mobile-ready website by now, then this needs to be put firmly at the top of their priority list – not only in terms of marketing, but also usability. If businesses do implement a responsive site, they should have their technical teams working to ensure the best possible experience for users – which should, in turn, guarantee that organic performance isn’t adversely impacted. Your business can even treat this as an opportunity and not simply risk reduction, as it’s something you’re likely to benefit from (especially if your competitors are not doing this).

As Charlie’s responses to these FAQs show, businesses are still learning about SEO and there’s much work to be done to ensure their websites continue to perform well for them. There’s no quick or cheap fix to rank number one in Google, however done correctly, SEO remains the most effective means (and the cost-effective) of bringing new visitors to your website. As a B2B PR agency, we’re increasingly working with our clients to ensure their content works hard for SEO too. Working with an SEO agency and reaping their good advice on the correct strategy will undoubtedly help you improve your website’s organic rankings.

 

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