Want to see me cringe? Mention the term SEO. The acronym stands for search engine optimization (but you probably knew that). I have a love hate relationship with SEO. Which is strange considering as an agency, we’re pretty good at it and it pays our bills.
What I love is helping businesses claim their share of the digital market by optimizing their sites for search.
What I hate is the obfuscation of SEO by some digital agencies.
Let me explain.
When talking to clients and prospects, SEO often requires LOTS of explanation and education. Don’t get me wrong, we love to educate clients, but there are a lot of agencies that have more explaining to do then us.
They need to explain how and why they continue to peddle services that include black hat optimization tricks, Google ads that do little to drive quality traffic to a website, and marketing plans without the essential ingredients for search engine optimization – consistent and strategic social media publishing, pr and weekly blogging.
Many times a lead comes to us because they hope to improve their website’s ranking and someone (probably their uncle) told them that SEO is the quick, magical fix. Or they come to us because the company running their existing SEO campaign is yielding little or no results. In a few recent cases, clients have come to us with analytics reports provided from their current SEO companies that they have no clue how to read or use to build strategic campaigns.
These are all signs that the SEO you’ve been sold is a fraud.
Here’s an example from one of our clients. When this organization came to us the website had an over 80 percent bounce rate. In plain English, this means people were drawn to the site by the ads, but then they literally bounced, leaving quickly after realizing it had nothing relevant to offer them. Eighty percent. The client was paying another company for the management of a Google ad campaign and tossing money out the virtual window with no strategy or analysis of data. And they had no idea because the agency never shared the analytics.
How did digital marketing agencies get so off track?
By failing to adapt. You see SEO means something very different today than it did only a few years ago. Previously, search engine optimization companies charged tens of thousands of dollars to rank high on Google by keyword stuffing and setting up fake referral sites. These tactics may have worked years ago, if only for short periods of time, raising a website in search rankings.
That’s changed exponentially.
Each year, Google changes its search algorithm around 500–600 times. While most of these changes are minor, Google occasionally rolls out an algorithmic update (such as Google Panda and Google Penguin) that affects search results in big ways. For search marketers, knowing the dates of these updates can help explain changes in rankings and organic website traffic and ultimately improve search engine optimization.
You’ve probably heard of Google’s April algorithm, nicknamed Mobilegeddon, that detailed how mobile rankings would differ for mobile-friendly sites. In a nut shell, listings rank higher in smartphone search than they do in desktop search simply because a site is mobile friendly. Desktop rankings still appear to rank consistent but changes may be ahead.
The point here is, search engine optimization is constantly changing and your marketing agency should be constantly adapting. Seeing the money-for-nothin’-black-hat tactics of old school agencies still stuffing keywords into pages truly pisses me off, especially when I see those dollars coming out of the pockets of businesses who thought they were getting good work, but were mystified by the techie speak.
SEO isn’t about being tricky. It’s about these four components:
- On-page seo (that’s the description and keywords)
- Off-page seo (that’s authoritative websites linking to it)
- Good, relevant, fresh, long form content (ie, educational blogs, including evergreen how-to articles)
- Quality user experience (especially mobile friendliness)
I’ve challenged my rage into a top five list (naturally) of Ways To Tell If Your SEO is Off Track. See if any of these resonate with you.
1. You Never Receive or Understand Your Analytics Report
Google analytics are free and when set to track the traffic that comes to your website, they yield a ton of helpful information to put you on the strategic path to effective marketing. Bonus: If you’re advertising with Google, then you’ll see the keywords that people who arrive to your site used to search for you.
Analytics include important info like the demographics of your visitors, city where they live, how long they stayed on your site which pages they visited and more. All this information can help you to write content that interests them and show you the pages most visited on the site so you can add more content there.
For example, one of the most visited pages on one of our client sites is the “Rates” page. That information tells us that page is the best location to add an upcoming promotion or event (in addition to a calendar, events or promotion page). Or maybe you are seeing a rise in traffic from a certain region, well that may tell you to write a blog that would specifically resonate with people in that region.
2. Your Site Doesn’t Have a Weekly Blog
Weekly blogging is non-negotiable for our agency clients. Blogging is critical to your SEO. It is the literal food for search engines. Blogging about the needs and pains of your clients and customers gets you found on the web. If you’re not doing it you’re missing your single best opportunity for visibility.
3. Your Social Media Accounts Are Barely Touched
Social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn offer up communities ready to engage with your business. If you’re listening and engaging with your followers daily, social media can be a helpful marketing tool for attracting customers.
A Facebook site or Twitter account barely touched signals a lazy business that does not want to communicate with its customers. Social media plays a HUGE role in customer satisfaction and it’s important that every business figures out the platform(s) that make the most sense to communicate with customers. Figure out where your target market is and jump on in and engage regularly. According to a recent Nielsen report, 33% of users even prefer to contact brands using social media rather than the telephone.
4. The Media Rarely Call On You As a Resource
Press releases and pitches sent by your pr agency are not enough these days to attract the media to a good story. You need to be on social media sharing blogs and posts that offer up quality content to your followers. The more you share, the more people will care and find your knowledge useful. Many of these people are journalists, editors and producers searching on Google, Facebook and Instagram for news (not sales pitches) that resonate with their readers. They also communicate on social using Twitter and even LinkedIn to message prospective sources. It’s fast, easy and a real time source of knowledge and news for them.
5. The Images on Your Website Pages Are Not Optimized
As the cameras on our mobile devices advance and the pixel density of our screens increases, our love of massive images and HD video grows as well. But big images are likely killing the load time of your site. The worst thing you can do to your visitors, says our developer Ali Taylor, is to send them to a slow loading website. Data shows that 30 percent of site visitors expect a page to load in one second or less, while 18% expect a page to load instantaneously.
If your site is taking more than a second to load you could be looking at an 80 percent bounce like the client we mentioned before. It’s a good idea to test your website using Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool or HubSpot’s Website Grader to assess and evaluate what’s slowing down your site.
One way to reduce the size of your page and its load time is to resize and compress your images. If your website is only 1024px wide, there’s no need to upload a 3000px wide image. Once you’ve resized your image, you can reduce its weight even further using a tool like JPEG Mini to compress it without any loss of image quality.
Ali’s pro-tip: Include the primary long-tail keyword (that’s the phrase someone might Google to find what you’re selling) in the filename of the image. Use dashes instead of underscores to separate the words. Also include it in the image ALT tag as well.
If you can’t say for sure that your website is generating business for you, it’s likely one of these points is to blame. Don’t let your site continue to be an asset that doesn’t deliver. Find an agency that can explain its SEO methods and tie them into an overall marketing strategy that includes pr, blogging, email, social and website optimization.