Search Marketing Director at http://www.marketappeal.co.uk/
05 August 2008 00:46am
Having had several discussions as to how SEO professionals add value, I thought that I'd share some of my views as to what gives full time SEO specialists the edge over the competition.
Time - this is central to many of the points in this article. Even if you are already an expert in SEO, unless it's currently your full time occupation your day will be filled by plenty of other issues requiring your immediate attention. True SEO specialists eat, breath and sleep SEO to the near exclusion of everything else.
Knowledge - Google, like many of the today's leading internet companies innovates rapidly, so unless you take at least an hour a day to keep track of the latest tips and techniques there's a fair chance that half of the knowledge that you currently take for granted is rapidly becoming old news.
I have seen several clients' sites held back by hidden text, keyword stuffing, ongoing 'search engine submissions' and other dubious techniques that might have worked in the past, but today are more likely to get them banned than placed a the top of the first page of Google.
Minimise risk - Whenever possible, I try out new ideas on one of my own sites before recommending them to others. That way I can be confident that they work as intended without causing any unwelcome side effects for my clients.
Mindset - Very few company owners and senior executives directors enjoy cross referencing reams of SEO, PPC and analytics data in order to spot trends, hot spots and weaknesses that can be addressed resulting in significant improvements to their website.
This may be because the skills and mindset that makes a great analyst aren't necessarily the same as those that make a great Managing Director or CEO.
SEO contacts - One advantage of running a search marketing company is having a business partner, with a complementary background (Journalism, PR & Project Management) also focused full time on SEO. This enables us to play to our respective strengths on each project while deploying a wider range of skills to a high standard than either could alone.
Additionally, we have built up a network of seasoned SEO professionals that we speak to regularly to swap tips and tricks with to make us more effective.
Freelancer network - In addition to SEO consultancy we have also built up a tried and tested network of freelancers, grouped according to their respective skills. For example, we have separate lists for web design, copywriting, blogging and different types of link building, such as article posting, webmaster emailing and directory listings, as few are great at everything.
To build up our database we commissioned work from dozens of different freelancers (at our own expense) in order to find out which could reliably complete top quality work to a tight brief in a reasonable time frame. Having screened out 90% of the original applicants, we now have a fantastic team of professional freelancers with skills spanning several disciplines allowing us to manage even larger SEO projects with relative ease.
Split testing - In order to come up with the optimal solution for each client take the time to consider creative solutions that will make better use of their resources.
For example, when recently asked to come up with a new homepage design for a key client we gave the same assignment to two different designers (paying both of them for their time, of course) to see which design the client would prefer.
Having established which designer's initial concept was preferred by our client they were then commissioned to produce several variations on the original theme, resulting in the choosing of a fresh new look that our client might never otherwise have considered.
SEO tools - We employ over twenty specialist SEO tools on a regular basis. Some of these tools cost money and almost all take time to run and configure correctly. Additionally, we've often tried out every (or at least most) of the available software for the tasks listed below, selecting the one that's best for us to use.
Sometimes, we find several different pieces of software each good at a different part of a larger task and so employ them in conjunction, cross referencing their reports for great clarity.
Areas covered include:
Keyword suggestion, competition and traffic estimators
Web Analytics, tag checkers and cursor tracking and heatmap software
Missing, weak or duplicate meta data assessors
Rank tracking software
DNS and http header evaluators
Broken link and page download speed indicators
HTML and CSS validators
Conversion optimisation and content split-testing testing
PPC editing and management software
Keyword, reputation and brand name monitoring alerts
Practical experience - By white-labelling our SEO for leading digital agencies, in addition to tending to a number of our own clients, we have gained much wider SEO exposure than the average in-house consultant. For example, many industries including finance, law, insurance, retail, recruitment, property, travel, music and, of course, SEO each have their own authority sites, highly and poorly converting keywords (irrespective of traffic), user behaviour and other quirks that make optimising for each one almost an art its own right.
We know this because we have worked on clients' projects, generally more than one, in each of the aforementioned sectors and so have first hand experience of the challenges involved and how to tackle them.
Accountability - when all a consultant is hired to do is assist with SEO then there's nothing else for them to hide behind, as their contract is entirely dependent on their ability to improve your search results. This cannot be said for your web designers, marketing managers, product managers or board of directors.
Often the first step to great SEO results is ensuring that it's a specific person's responsibility.
Director at LiaiseOnline Limited
10 August 2008 11:50am
Nice one Antony... anything worthwhile requires specialism... essentially my dog can do PPC! The long tail needs thinking about but really, this should be achieved by the website organically anyway.
Where we can help is in creating micro sites that shine!
My reason for adding content to this post is to be part of the organic ranking that e-consultancy achieves with this artice and also to say hello to Antony, we should talk about how we can help you help your clients.
E-consultancy.com commands the respect of the search engines and so all of us should add comment, with contextual links to our own worlds. This helps all of us.
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