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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What I learned about SEO on the job

... A Guest Blogging post by Pilot Fish Account Manager, Leanne Wicks

Like many people who work in the search engine optimization industry my first experience with SEO was purely by accident. The company I was working for was closing up shop and Polysort/Pilot Fish needed an admin person. It was a marriage made in… well, necessity.

On my first day, I met with each member of our staff so that I could get a chance to learn about what they do. I vividly remember sitting in our sales director’s office that day and thinking to myself, “What on earth did I get myself into? This is crazy talk!! How can anything we do to a client’s site have any effect on their results on Google??”

Oh, how little I knew!

Five years, dozens of web sites and hours of blood, sweat and maybe even a few tears and I don’t think it’s so crazy anymore. Nowadays I have the privilege of managing many of our clients’ projects but I still remember those first few weeks and the concerns I had.

As you embark on your web site project, I bet you share some of them, too:

1. Google is smart. Why should I do anything special to my web site?

Google may be smart but at the end of the day, it still needs your help. Well written content, well designed navigation, well constructed code all make a huge difference in whether or not Google “gets” what your site is about. Leave out any piece of the puzzle and Google might get confused. A confused Google is a Google that gives up and moves on to some other site instead of giving your site the attention it deserves.

2) All of you SEO firms talk a lot about keyword research… frankly it seems like a waste of money. I already know what my products are called!

It’s true – You are an expert on what your business does but your customers aren’t experts and they are the people you’re trying to reach.

Even though you might call something one thing, they might be using a completely different way to describe it. Since people find web sites through keyword searches and Google uses your keywords to rank your site, you need Google to know that even though your product is called XYZ, when someone else calls it ABC, it’s still the same product.

Keyword research helps you determine how your prospects are searching for you and it lets you know which terms are the best chance for reaching the right people. Leave this part out and you pass up sales. Can you afford to do that?

3) I’ve already written my web site, why would I hire someone to revise the content on it? Isn’t that a waste of money?

The truth is that going back and revising content for a web site is a lot harder and more time consuming than simply allowing an SEO firm with strong copywriters on staff to write your content right from the start. It’s not that we won’t do it – we revise content all the time (almost every site we’ve ever worked with has needed at least some re-writing in order to best capture visitors and search engines) – but you’ll be a lot happier with the results if you let us help right from the start.

If you’re just starting out with a web site or considering re-doing it, consider letting an SEO firm in on the process from Day One. You’ll wind up with properly optimized text that is compelling both to visitors and search engines and you won’t have to spend any amount of time re-doing someone else’s work. It’s a win-win for everyone.

If it’s too late (you’ve already written your site), remember that well-optimized content can be the difference between ranking on the first page of results and the 50th page of results. Since visitors generally don’t go past the first couple of pages, can you afford to be anywhere else?

4) You keep talking to me about links and off-page elements. Why does this matter? I already let you design my site, write it, code it…!! Isn’t that enough?

Five years ago? Yes. Today? Not so much. Sure, there are some sites that seem to do well without paying any attention to this but believe me when I say it is pure accident and it won’t last forever.

Just like you wouldn’t send a product to market without any marketing materials, you shouldn’t send your web site out onto the Internet without working on promoting it. There are a lot of ways to do this but the most effective way is to apply sustained efforts to building links from good sources like press releases, articles and appropriate directories. And depending on your industry there are also huge opportunities available to participate in the social media space (YouTube, Facebook, etc.)

Is it time consuming? Absolutely. Hard? It can be. Boring? Once in awhile. But it’s also necessary. And an SEO firm that doesn’t talk to you about these things is doing your site a disservice.

And even if you do everything else right but leave this part out, your web site and your business will eventually suffer. Just ask the sites that enjoyed prime time placement with no effort right up until one of their competitors got on board with marketing their site. Don’t put yourself in that position. It is much easier to work hard consistently than it is to scramble at the last minute!

Do you have other concerns about search engine optimization? Contact us and let us help put them to rest.

1 comment:

COnnecticut Plastics, Inc said...

Great article, I am going to print it out and refer to it often. I'll tell you what I have learned about SEO. It is a full time job. I perform accounting duties as well as marketing here at my company. And I am spending more and more time on SEO and promoting the website, and less time on accounting. I really enjoy it though, and am always amazed at the results.