We often come to the SEO table thinking that it's going to be relatively easy. While SEO isn't inordinately difficult (neither is changing the car oil, building a fence or painting a house) it is often time consuming and rarely ever "simple." What appears to be a small task on the surface can often become a much larger task once properly researched and considered. Like an iceberg, the bulk of SEO is behind the scenes and requires hours upon hours of labor.
I only need a little bit of text!
Not long ago I was performing a cursory site audit for an e-commerce site. On the surface, the site looked pretty minimalistic. There were only four main product areas, each having anywhere from 5-20 categorical divisions. Each of those divisions contained only a handful of products, many that fit into multiple categories. By all measures, this is rather small for an ecommerce site.
But as I began to analyze the site more carefully, paying attention to it's optimization needs, a whole new world opened up before me.
The site totaled around 50 category pages, and close to 100 individual products. Each of these pages needed optimized content, titles and description meta information written. We are talking anywhere from 40 hours (10 minutes per page, making superficial edits) to 150 hours (60 minutes per page with full content rewrites) of writing needed on this "small" site alone.
Before you can start writing keyword research needs to be performed. The research for each page wouldn't be that difficult but good research is time consuming to ensure you find all potentially relevant terms. Then it's a matter of determining which keywords have the most value and will generate the most sales-driven traffic. Such determinations are an ongoing process, that is confirmed and re-confirmed only when properly analyzed by tracking performance.
On the surface, what appeared to be a quick and easy site to optimize became much more involved and time consuming upon closer inspection.
I don't see a problem with the navigation!
Another site I recently reviewed was even smaller. Only a couple dozen pages, all outlining the various benefits of a single product. And again, on the surface, all appeared pretty simple. But once I got investigating, a nice and clean navigation was revealed to be anything but.
This site requires a significant architectural overhaul to create a more search friendly site architecture and eliminate what amounts to at least a dozen and a half pages of duplicate content.
Once that is fixed then the keywords will need to be carefully researched and implemented. The site has great content, just needs to be keyword focused and targeted. This site is a case-in-point to why SEOs should be consulted with throughout the site development process. Instead of paying to have the site re-developed to be search engine friendly, the company could have saved money having it done right the first time.
These keywords are gonna be easy!
A few years back I took on a client in a very niche, yet extremely competitive, industry. There wasn't a lot of other businesses competing for the same keywords, but those that were invested heavily in the SEO making getting good search results much more difficult that initially thought. This can happen if you do not adequately investigate the competition, which I admit I was guilty of. It looked easy and I made some assumptions.
While we were able to achieve results for a decent number of keywords, the cost and time involved didn't quite bring about a strong ROI for the client. Over the long-term the ROI will improve. Less work will be needed to maintain their places in the rankings, but the initial year was a near break-even for the client. The client then moved on to other forms of advertising and marketing and received similar low-ROI results.
The allure of SEO is a double-edged sword. There are promises of better ROI than other advertising, but that ROI is never instantly achieved, especially in competitive markets. SEO takes time to work and, as it is commonly said, time is money. Some company's have enough to invest, but not quite what it takes to succeed. This is to no fault of the business owner, other than ensuring expectations are in line with reality. The SEO must do his part to keep expectations in check as well.
Optimizing most sites is generally never as easy as it appears on the surface. There are almost always delays by either the client or SEO, or more issues get uncovered than was found in the original analysis. But when it's all said and done, SEO is about time. Time to write compelling copy, time to build a good site architecture, time to research keywords, and time to keep pushing rankings up in the results while pushing the competition down.
The next time you think you've got an easy optimization project, take a second and even a third look. It may not really be as simple as you think.
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.
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