After working for several years in online marketing, I have come to appreciate that many practitioners in the online space can be less than honest about the true goals of search engine optimization.  Although the practitioners, those of us in the business of creating content to be found by search engines do a great job of publicizing many best practices, the very nature of the beast is evolutionary.  Engines change their algorithms, search trends change based on user behavior, and competition can be fierce.  Regardless of your commitment or involvement in your SEO effort, you need only remember three things to be SEO earnest: stay relevant, stay accessible, and stay focused on outcomes.

Staying relevant can be extremely difficult for many organizations: opinions pertaining to content are a dime a dozen, everyone knows something about SEO, and technology can be limiting.  Perhaps the most difficult challenge for practitioners is where to draw the line when optimizing content, do you optimize for search engines or for people?  An important consideration when optimizing content is also user intent.  User intent can vary widely depending on the level of familiarization a visitor has with your industry, business, or products, and it can be extremely difficult to optimize the same web page for both first time and repeat visitors -- but it can be done.

The second objective to remain SEO earnest is staying accessible. Accessibility really incorporates a lot of the technical jargon you hear on a daily basis, plus link building, sharing, and even a little good 'ole publicity of your content.  Sure, it's extremely important to optimize your images with alt-tags and title tags, meta descriptions won't hurt either, and if you have lots of content and haven't heard about the canonical tag you should probably look into it. Although all of these technical coding details are important to maintain the overall consistency and accessibility of any website content, your optimization work doesn't end there.

Search engines rely quite heavily on links from authoritative sites to determine which content is trustworthy and relevant, and which content is spam. Building relationships with other businesses in your industry (think vendors, suppliers, even customers) is a great way to build authoritative equity in your content.  Another great way to build both relevant and accessible content, plus inherent sharing features is to start a corporate blog.  I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention sending press releases; yet another great way to build links and reach authoritative websites in your industry.

Finally, the third objective in being SEO earnest is to focus on outcomes.  Search engine optimization takes time, and the practice of ranking for keywords and generating traffic from search engines is always an important end goal, but so too are business objectives.  At the end of the day, business objectives have to be met, which may include lead generation, online or offline sales, reducing operating expenses, or even generating advertising revenue.  This is where web analytics comes into play, with numerous free (Google Analytics, Yahoo Web Analytics) and paid solutions (Omniture, Webtrends, Coremetrics) available that can track an increasingly diverse set of visitor segments it's easy to get started right away and scale-up in the future.

When tracking the effectiveness of your SEO campaign using a web analytics solution, you may even realize an entirely different set of core keywords drive better converting visitors to your website.  It can happen, shifts in keyword popularity are not uncommon, and the only way to recognize whether a shift in keywords is hurting business outcomes on your site is to track conversion events and traffic patterns through web analytics.

In conclusion, being "SEO Earnest" goes well beyond the best practices and technical savvy that tends to generate a lot of attention.  Achieving success in search engine results pages boils down to staying relevant, staying accessible and staying focused on business outcomes.

April 27, 2010

Garry is an expert in lead generation, search engine marketing, web analytics, and social media marketing. He has successfully championed creative marketing campaigns and executed on actionable insights in several vertical markets including media, insurance, technology, and telecommunications. As Online Marketing and Lead Generation Manager at Marketwire, Garry is responsible for business development through online advertising, content management, search engine optimization, and social media channels.

Garry also runs a successful online marketing blog, a web analytics blog, and is active on Twitter.

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Search Engine Guide > Garry Przyklenk > Importance of Being "SEO Earnest"