It seems to be getting more and more difficult to define what exactly SEO is. Is it on-page optimization? Link building? Conversion optimization? Or is just about rankings, and leave the rest of that stuff to someone else?

I think it's some of both and a little of all. SEO has to focus on more than just "getting rankings" and must use the knowledge of the search engines to bring together all the various online marketing elements into a singular web marketing campaign. People seem to be using the term "inbound marketing" more and more to describe this integrated approach.

Businesses today need much more than an SEO agency. They need a web marketing firm that looks beyond rankings to help clients set online growth goals, develop strategies to achieve those goals and measure the success of those strategies along the way. Those goals are achieved through a variety of online marketing channels.

SEOs must use the skills they have to provide needed recommendations to get clients the results they want, regardless of the avenue it takes to get those results. SEOs are there to help you build the most optimized, search- and searcher-friendly site possible; this attracts visitors, builds engagement and, ultimately, converts those visitors into customers.

Why Collaboration is Essential

Successful SEO is not the responsibility of any one person, but is a collaboration between the marketers, the developers and the business managers. If any one group fails to fulfill their part in the process, the success of the online marketing campaign also fails. After all, we don't rank websites, Google does.

Over the past five years search engines have added an increasing number of signals that factor into the ranking performance of a website. Google boasts there are more than 200 ranking signals being used, and at any time there are anywhere from 50-200 different versions of the algorithm in effect. The weight of each of the search signals vary by industry, website and even the individual as locality, personalization, social networks, relevance, comprehensiveness, freshness and speed all factor in and even change on a daily basis.

It takes much more than an "optimized" website to get good rankings. It takes a great website! That means great design, great usability, great content, great customer service, great architecture, great optimization and time. You can have all the right pieces for a great website but time is still a crucial factor.

For search engines, ranking a website is about trust. The more the site is trusted in all the areas mentioned above, the better it will rank. But as with any relationship, trust takes time to build, and, unfortunately, there are no shortcuts.

Building a Great Website

Much of what Google or other search engines consider a "quality website" deemed worthy of a top ranking falls outside the scope of traditional SEO (i.e. adding keywords to the page). The SEO and web marketing team must help you set the strategy (or work with you to do so), make recommendations, and seek out ways to improve your site based on known algorithm criteria, personal experience and historical testing. These recommendations must then be implemented if you want results.

It's not about temporarily achieving top rankings because you've outsmarted the algorithm, but rather to build a site that deserves top rankings because your website is better than the competition and you've established the trust signals to prove it. SEO firms today must be web marketing firms that do SEO (and social media, analytics, link building, etc.). The goal is to help you build a better website. No, not just a better website, a great website!

Call that SEO if you want. Some are now calling it "Inbound Marketing." I just call it good Web marketing!

Follow at @StoneyD, and @PolePositionMkg.

March 20, 2012

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.


Great points. I would like to take a slightly different perspective on one of them though.

"It takes a great website! That means great design, great usability, great content, great customer service, great architecture, great optimization and time. "

Great customer service would be more a function of the corporate values than the website design. If it is in the corporate value system to provide great customer service it should be there, if not, it would not matter to the success of the site (walmart?).



Alan, Customer service is built into many aspects of the website. Yes, it does stem from the corporate culture, but many times that does not translate to the web. So you have to work that into the website as well.

In my opinion, good SEO is going to incorporate good social media marketing, good content marketing, good online PR and more into the mix. Everything you do online can be leveraged for SEO, so a great SEO campaign is going to take advantage of every opportunity that comes by. Call it what you want as long as you get it done!

'Businesses today need much more than an SEO agency' - this line is cropping up more and more when I'm meeting clients. The problem is SEO is the word they know, so the task isn't just getting across the SEO improvements you can perform on their website, but also that they need to look at these broader fields.

Building a great website, well this video on YouTube:

'5 common mistakes in SEO (and 6 good ideas!)', by Google's Maile Ohye, is a great starting point for any SEO practitioner.

Many Thanks

Stoney-Great insights.

Managing the analytical SEO team, creative design team and thoughtful copywriters is no easy task. I think the element that many firms are missing is that marketing is STILL a multi-pronged approach.

I think we as marketers need to consider both efficiency and effectiveness. Yes, inbound marketing can "efficiently" generate leads and new business. However, the power of a consultative salesperson to lead customers to what they need, not just want, will always drive the most "effective" results. So constant analysis and adjustments to inbound and outbound marketing efforts will always be vital.


Dave Gee

Search engine Optimization I believe is still one of the most effective way to do business today. World wide web offers global market place and with the help of creative websites, they can be on top of its kind.

Sweet Thanks,
Jonas T.
central heating

I think it will be important to lift our heads and focus on creating and reap synergies across the marketing mix, not look at SEO as a solution to everything.


Very ineteresting points and I would agree with you on the fact that SEO is really changing, its not only about firstpage rankings, its more of about web marketing and getting traffic from various sources, which in turn willl help sites land a first page ranking for targeted and relevant keywords.

Converting that traffic is key, and I think the best way to test conversions quickly is by driving some instant traffic to a website, be it through social media or ppc or any other quick way to get some quick targeted traffic.

It he site converts, then I think its tie to ramp up on S.E.O.

Awesome information thanks for sharing!

I don't think we need re-branding of SEO or web dev, and certainly not a brand that is being shoved down the throats of an industry by a 3rd party company with a motive. This has not been an open dialog.

Many articles that discuss or mention "inbound marketing" start by inferring that the entire industry was doing all the bad and none of the good. It's insulting. How is inbound marketing suddenly equal to website standards and architecture I've been preaching for years?

Neither SEO nor Inbound marketing represents an entire strategy. They never have and never will. SEO is still relevant because you don't do inbound (insert any on page technical SEO activity).

This is creating division instead of growth, doesn't cover all we good guys do, confuses clients more, and describes things many of us have been doing since the beginning as something that is magically new.

Let's leave specific made for marketing nomenclature to the individual companies.

The SEO service's are very much required for all the businesses. This helps them with the sales and getting more better teams for advertising there products

Kevin, I agree, we really don't need a new name for it. But I've always felt Web Marketing pretty much covers everything. SEO is a sub-set, so is social media, etc. Just curious, who is pushing "inbound" on us?

Stoney, Inbound Marketing, well at least how it is being used, is primarily being championed by Hubspot, it's partners, and a few people trying to distance/differentiate themselves from SEO. Mind you, they could distance themselves by actions and education without nomenclature confusion. The owner of Hubspots even purports to have created the term according to Wikipedia references. Either way, since we don't have an industry group or organization, larger companies who want to force change on the industry, and that have a marketing budget to do so, are likely to create enough stir to get enough people to just accept it. That type of behavior is not in the best interest of the industry as a whole.

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