My weekly newsletter-writing procrastination ritual this week involved reading the latest LED Digest that had been delivered to my inbox while I slept (yes I do sleep every now and then!). I noticed the heading of one of the posts was "Choosing an SEO," so I scrolled down to see what it was all about.

Like many posts that I read in newsletters and forums, this was one of those where I really felt compelled to respond. I decided I might as well kill two birds with one stone and use it as today's newsletter content. The gist of the post was someone saying that the only job of an SEO was to get high rankings. Nothing more, nothing less.

Oh, how I wish that were actually still true! Believe me, it would certainly make my life a lot easier.

Getting high rankings is what I know, what I'm good at, and something that's easy to measure. Heck, it's my company name, for goodness' sake. So, I'm certainly a champion of high rankings. I loved it when that was all we had to worry about. That said, whether we old-timers like it or not, the industry is growing up. It's fairly clear these days that where your site shows up in the search engines for certain keyword phrases is only marginally important, and even then, it's only a first step.

Sure, it looks great to show the CEO a bunch of ranking reports with his or her site in the top 10 for lots of keyword phrases that appear to be relevant to what they do. And in fact, it may actually be great -- but then again, it may not be so great. What if the targeted keyword phrases were not right for the site? Keywords that are too general may bring traffic, but it will probably be comprised of people who are looking for something totally different than what you offer. On the other hand, keywords that are too specific may never be used by real people at all.

High rankings for too-general or too-specific keywords may look good on paper, but never translate to a positive return on investment.

Aside from choosing the right keyword phrases, your professional SEO company should be well versed in other Web marketing areas. For instance, once you receive targeted traffic, you need those people to take action at your site. This means that there needs to be a certain level of usability and professionalism with your design, copy that speaks to your target audience and all that other good stuff. Smart SEOs know this and have the in-house resources or partnerships with people and other companies that can provide you with everything you need for a successful campaign.

If your site traffic is leaving as soon as they get there, or if people get lost on your site, your SEO company should be able to help you diagnose this. They should also be able to help you measure the effectiveness of your campaign by showing you how to analyze your log files. With the latest Web analytics software packages on the market, you can easily and effectively measure the things that really count.

So, the answer to the original question "Isn't an SEO's job to just get high rankings?" is a big fat no. The high-rankings part is just a start. An SEO's job is to make sure your site is found through keyword phrases that ultimately convert into paying customers, and to help you do everything within your power to make your site the best it can be!

April 8, 2004

CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.

High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.

Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ,, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.

Search Engine Guide > Jill Whalen > The Role of Your SEO/SEM Company