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The whole world of digital marketing is maturing but it’s still hugely dynamic, particularly in the world of search marketing. 

This makes it an exciting time to be involved in the sector but does mean more and more agencies and practitioners are being left behind, clinging to what used to work and sticking with habits even if they aren’t doing anyone any favours. 

But how can you spot one of these search marketing laggards, who have fallen so far behind? 

Only send you ranking reports

Analytics used to be expensive, inaccurate and scary. That used to be a justification for measuring your search performance by merely looking at whether you rankings were increasing.

That excuse doesn’t cut it anymore. This is made even more significant an oversight with the changes in how Google deliver its results. If everyone’s results are personalised what do you gain from knowing a ranking? Does the value of sixth place on a term change if a map or series of videos are triggered above it?

KPIs aren’t around performance

Different websites have different marks of success, however every site should be measuring goals.

Conversions must be a part of how search is reported, and bonus points if there’s an appreciation of branded searches role or an appreciation of multiple touch-points and traffic sources in a conversion.

Aren’t asking to work with you PR team

PR and link building will have different goals but there’s a lot of similarity in the approach and type of people they’ll be trying to contact. Collaboration between your SEO agency and PR people is a pre-requisite for any successful natural search campaign.

They haven’t talked about microformats

They sounds hugely geeky and for a number of years had no real commercial implications but with Rich Snippets and Google pulling data from microformats, like price and review ratings, directly through to search results pages, it can have a huge impact on the click-through rate to website.

It’s not applicable for every type of website or business but they should be exploring the options.

They don’t want to put content on your site

If I’d got a quid for every time I’d heard the phrase “content is king” from a search marketer I’d have enough cash to sort a hostile takeover of Google. Even though everyone says it, not everyone follows through.

A good search campaign will require you to be regularly adding new compelling content to your site. That doesn’t have to be a blog, but that’s normally one of the best methods.

There hasn’t been a discussion about social media

The biggest challenge around social media is it’s truly multi-disciplinary and requires input and commitment from all over a business.

Forward thinking search marketers will have realised they have a part to pay in that collaborative process and therefore be talking to you about how they can use social techniques as part of their search marketing brief.

They talk about keyword density

I’m sure at some point keyword density was a useful metric, one that helped people get their head around the fact you need to appreciate the terms people use, and work them sensibly and frequently into your content. But density of the keywords is a far too simplistic a method to estimate what is a hugely complicated process carried out by all the engines.
How Google understands keywords is far more complex than just density; recently SEOmoz, one of the most respected search websites, has recently been exploring just how sophisticated Google’s systems around keyword presence must be.

They’ve carried out analysis around Latent Dirichlet Allocation (or LDA to it’s friends) which is a brain-achingly complicated model which Google may or not be using, they've barely scratched the surface of the issue and it is already so complicated people with Maths degrees struggle to grasp it. So the simple equation of number of keyword mentions divided by total words on the page is worthless.

Kelvin Newman

Published 23 September, 2010 by Kelvin Newman

Kelvin Newman is SiteVisibility's Creative Director and is the editor of the UK's most listened to Marketing Podcast. He also spends his time at conferences, tweeting too much and working on top secret research and development projects. He's also on Google+

21 more posts from this author

Comments (15)

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Matt Saunders

Quite a concise article but it's not without it's flaws...

"only send ranking reports" - while I agree that SEOs should probably do more for their clients in general, the ranking report is core and should not be talk about with flippancy. this ties directly in with "KPI's not based around performance". there is a distinction between search ranking and conversion rates - there are specialists in these roles respectively, and I think you are wrong to lump them together.

I completely agree that SEOs should be helping out with content. both onsite and offsite content should be created and used as best as possible.

"there hasnt been a discussion of social media". social sharing sites should usually be integrated somewhere but it's absolutely not true that social media is applicable to all business models.

"they talk about keyword density" I am 50/50 on because I rarely care about this, but some search engines (Bing included!) use keyword density as a pretty hefty ranking metric, so it still has it's place.

I roughly agree with other stuff mentioned but I would not consider this article as well-rounded as the title suggests.

about 6 years ago

Artur Jach

Artur Jach, Technical SEO Manager at MPG Media Contacts

I find the “They don’t want to put content on your site” and the “They talk about keyword density” part fairly contradictive. I agree that the keyword density isn't as important as it used to be but when you talk about adding more relevant/optimised content to the site you're effectively improving keyword density. Otherwise, what's the point in adding more content?

about 6 years ago


Kelvin Newman

You're right Matt that issues like conversion rates are bigger than just SEO, but all things being equal if an SEO is bringing more of the right sort of traffic and the conversions will rise. More of the right sort of people arrive on site more of them will convert. You're also right social isn't right for every project but I think that decision needs to be had rather than just assumed 

Artur, it terms of adding the content that's not to just for keyword reasons, it's much easier to achieve links if your involved in creating link worthy content and that's where I was coming from with this suggestion.

about 6 years ago



I tend to agree with you in most points but your point about LDA. It is true that there MIGHT be LDA involved in the ranking algorithms at Googleplex but the word "might" is essential here. Too many wild goose chases has been performed in my 11 years in SEO due to a guess or hunch from an acclaimed SEO agency or person. Keyword Density is still a factor to take in consideration and to monitor. Too many repeated keywords and you are in trouble. Too few and you won't rank. I am sure that LDA in some form is or will be a factor but right now it's only guessing. And I can't and won't charge my clients for working with "maybe". Thumbs up for the article as a whole!

about 6 years ago

Adrian Bold

Adrian Bold, Director at Bold Internet Ltd

Well done for starting the conversation Kelvin. In an industry full of opinions and little regulation, it can be tricky going 'out on a limb' with a topic like this.

I think the comment about having a conversation about social media is valid but needs to be kept in the context of budgets, goals and current site status. We sometimes have those conversations with prospects only to find the budget isn't there and the 'basics of SEO' haven't been touched.

about 6 years ago

Kelvin Newman

Kelvin Newman, Creative Director at SiteVisibility

Exactly right Adrian, I think its a topic that should be discussed. Not every client will have the immediate need or the financial resources, but I think anyone who hasn't at least mentioned the topic at some stage is either making a huge assumption or hasn't really got their head round what SEO is shaping up to be.

about 6 years ago


Vee Sweeney

I think part of the problem is that there are so many different aspects to SEO these days, where SEO'ers used to practice a few main techniques and tactics. Also, SEO and marketing cross paths more often than not. An old school SEO might see social media as more of a marketing thing than they do an SEO thing and confusion can be created. 

about 6 years ago

John Courtney

John Courtney, CEO and Executive Chairman at Pay on Results SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media, Digital PR, PPC & CRO from Strategy Digital

8. Charges you monthly fees, instead of on performance.

about 6 years ago


Social Media Agency

Fabulous Post! As people are getting more information & knowledge companies are more keen what consumers are discussing & saying about it. Social Media had a strong impact about public opinion & what they are expressing about the brand & products.

about 6 years ago


Remco de Vries

nice one...

about 6 years ago


Anthony Sharot

How about doesn't mention link building?

about 6 years ago



Good content = good SEO.  Everything else is snake oil. 

almost 6 years ago

Naval Kumar

Naval Kumar, Founder & CEO - ABSEM Limited at http://www.absem.com/

Very good subject to talk about. Every time we speak with potential clients who are interested in SEO Services they always bring up the pricing issue - which of course most of us would agree we are being beaten at by sub standard labor from South East Asian countries. However, these topics do get existing clients excited. Unfortunately although all of this is an integral part of SEO, it is hard to deliver this when you are being beaten by pricing. 

almost 6 years ago



...They don't talk about site theming ;-)

Nice post, an enjoyable read, lots more can be added though!

over 5 years ago



Your cool story has contributed me fantastic info that I can use much.
I thank you for your endeavors, and I hope you have plans to
continue doing this.

about 4 years ago

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