Below is the second set of questions from an interview I had given late last year. If you started this series with the introduction, you already know that the answers here differ from the answers given in the interview. One of the reasons I like written interviews is that it gives you a better opportunity to provide a more thorough and thought-filled answer. While these may not be life-changing questions, I hope they are at least thought provoking for the small business owner who doesn't know a lot about SEO.

Question 6. Which provides the greatest benefit, on-page SEO or link building?

This is a tough question to answer because both can play a significant role in the success of a site trying to get to the top of the search results.

Here's the basic rundown. A site that isn't linked from any other site doesn't stand a chance in the search results. It doesn't matter how well-optimized it is, the links matter. At the same time, a site that is well-linked, but not optimized, CAN get good search engine rankings, but performance will always be sub-par.

Links are important to get on the map, but once there, the optimization plays a much more significant role in helping establishing good rankings. But, then there comes a point, again, where a site can only be so optimized, and the links are what is needed to tip the scales.

Got that? Links > SEO > Links!

7. How important is social media in relation to SEO?

Social media marketing is becoming increasingly important to the success of a website. Search engines are now considering many different social signals when determining relevance of a website, or even a particular web page.

The main issue isn't whether or not to use social media, its how to leverage social media properly. Many businesses are using social media, trying to get that extra advantage. Unfortunately, they are not leveraging the social media channels in a way that maximizes their efforts into an effective marketing strategy.

When utilized properly, social media can be a strong link building strategy. A well-run social strategy can cover multiple aspects of the off-page link building efforts that search engines consider when determining the value of a website.

8. How does usability factor into SEO?

Search engines don't have access to the usability data of every website. Though, as more people install Google Analytics or Adwords tracking code onto their websites, and surfers install the Google Toolbar into their browser, Google is able to get more and more of this information and can incorporate it into their ranking algorithms (though they claim they don't and won't.)

Short of using that data, search engines can see visitor bounce rates pretty well. Every visitor that clicks over to a site, then hits the browsers back button, sends a signal to the search engine that the visitor didn't find what they were looking for.

Bounce rates can certainly be an important signal to the search engines. Making sure your visitors get the information they searched for, on the first, click is imperative.

Given access to enough data, I think the engines will look more closely at on-site usability issues. If few people make it to the conversion page, the engines may determine that your site isn't a quality or trusted site, especially if it is compared to another site that does have better conversion rates.

9. My site is perfect and I don't want to change anything? What can I do to get better rankings?

Well, in this case, the only thing you can do is to build links, employ social media, and build content. All of these are good strategies, but they also might not be enough. Sometimes you just have to come to the conclusion that your site isn't as perfect as you want to believe it is.

If you want your site to be keyword optimized and have a significant chance of outpacing your competition in the search results, you have to be willing to make changes. I'm not talking about keyword stuffing or anything like that, but you do have to be willing to make tweaks and adjustments in order to ensure your content delivers for the searchers and provides enough signals to the engines for your targeted keywords.

10. I keep hearing about personalized results, local results, and blended results. How does this affect rankings?

In more ways than you probably realize. There is really no such thing as a #1 ranking anymore. Every search is essentially a unique search requiring a unique set of results. This means the search you perform on your computer will produce different results than the search your friend performs on their computer, even if they are in the same room as you.

Localization, personalization, and blended results have really changed the game. Not only do you have to optimize, but you have so many more options for getting your site in front of your search audience. If you're a local company, then you'll likely see traffic drop as your site no longer comes up in searches outside of your local area. But, you lose audience if you're not coming up in their personalized results. This can be good if it weeds out those who are not part of your target audience, but can also help you if it puts you in front of a more targeted group.

Blended results give you more opportunities to get noticed. Video is the big "it" right now. If you create and optimize a video, it can get you additional exposure on the first page of search results. Same with optimized images, and even mentions, from those in your social circle.

Stay tuned for the last group of five answers...

February 18, 2011

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


Hi Stoney,
I'm afraid you confused me with your response to question 8.

"Every visitor that clicks over to a site, then hits the browsers back button, sends a signal to the search engine that the visitor didn't find what they were looking for."

Isn't the opposite also true? If I land on a page and it gives me exactly what I need, I am equally likely to hit the back button.

Donna (As you can see, you got me thinking.)

Donna - for the most part, most people don't find what they are looking for in a few seconds and then go back to the search to look for it again. If they find what they wanted they stick around on the site for a while. While this may not be 100% true in all cases, I think the search engines are able to extrapolate user behavior and use it accordingly.

Nice articles Stoney

Interesting how this list of questions have changed over the last few years..... as Google and other entities have become well known or changed their processes (ie Social Media, Personalised Results)

In response to question 6: I think it's important to optimize your site before you begin any link building strategies. They are both important but you have to have a quality, informative and user-friendly site before you try to push traffic to it. A great link building strategy won't help keep visitors on a poorly optimized/designed site.

Great series, Stoney!

Often I am so entrenched in the tasks associated with SEO, that I forget how to break it down for current or potential clients or even those I am trying to train into something that they can really understand all of the factors that are involved.

You really nailed - and now I have something I am sure I will be sharing (instead of having to craft it myself).

Keep the tips coming!

"A site that isn't linked from any other site doesn't stand a chance in the search results. It doesn't matter how well-optimized it is, the links matter"

Sorry, I disagree with your point above.

I have built many sites for clients with pages optimized with specific keyword phrases and no backlinks to their sites because they didn't want to spend the time or money on creating links.

Their sites are at the top of the results for their various specific keyword phrases every day, no matter where I seach from.


Good stuff!

I don't think I wanna know how or who took your profile pic on a pool table at that angle, however. :-)


Links > SEO > Links

Quite simply the best explanation I've seen on that whole scenario. And yet, so fantastically simple. I guess you simply keep reaching the tipping point and move back to the other discipline.

Cheryl - I guarantee that those site that you see at the top of the search results have at least ONE link pointed to them from another site. You may not have spent time on link building, but that doesn't mean the site doesn't have links pointed to it.

I think the answer to question 6 depends to some extent on how competitive the niche is. For uncompetitive keywords, number 1 rankings can be attained with good on site SEO and without link building. Conversely, for competitive terms, number 1 rankings can sometimes be achieved almost solely by back links. More weight needs to be given to link building in the case of more competitive keyword targets. But I agree with the basic premise that one has to go round and round the loop to get the best performance.

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Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > 15 Questions That Will Change The Way You Think About SEO Forever (Q's 6-10)