In all the years I've been doing SEO, this has been one of my favorite conversations from a "Yeah, Butter." A company came to us about our SEO services before they started designing their new site. We told them about the advantages of getting us on board right away to consult with the designers, but ultimately, they thought it would be better to bring us in after the site was completed.
Several months later they came back and were ready for us to optimize.
As we started exploring our various service options to develop a strategy that was best for their site, we realized that their new, perfectly manicured site was almost entirely image based. Content and all. When we told them they would have to move the content out of images in order for the site to be optimized their response was, "Yeah, but ..."
In the end, they wanted top search engine rankings but were not willing to let us optimize (read: change) their site in any way. That's what we like to call a deal breaker!
While there are a significant number of off-page optimization factors that lend to the success of your total web and search engine marketing campaign, the on-page (and on-site) factors carry a significant amount of weight. There are three main areas of optimization: 1) Site Architecture, 2) On-Page Optimization, 3) Off-Page Optimization. While SEOs may argue the weight each of these has in the total algorithm, my guess is they are all about roughly equal.
For the most part, much of the architectural changes on a site can be made with little or no effect on the visuals. But that isn't always the case, and anyone who wants a search engine friendly site needs to understand that something might have to be tweaked visually.
The off-page factors, such as link building, social strategy, etc. are done almost entirely off the page. However, there may need to be some minor on-page changes in order to accomplish these off-page tasks, or at least ensure they are more successful.
However, no site can truly be optimized without on-page optimization, which does, by and large, affect the site visually. On-page optimization includes some "hidden" elements, such as title tags and meta description tags, image ALT tags and the like, but the bulk of on-page optimization is involves developing optimized content.
Yeah, but ... can't this content be invisible?
No, sorry, it can't. Well, it CAN, but not if you want it to have a positive, rather than a negative, impact on your search rankings. The job of your SEO is to optimize the content of your site so that search engines find it valuable for ranking for key phrases. This has to be done out in the open. It also means that your text has to be readable by the search engines, and it will need to be edited.
The biggest concern these "Yeah, Butters" have is that they figure their site is perfect and don't want it ruined by optimization. I agree. Good SEOs are not in the business of ruining websites. In fact, we are in the business of making websites better. They are made better for search engines and better for the visitors those search engines bring.
Of course, the optimization may not be as visually "perfect," but there really is no reason good SEO has to ruin your site visually. A site that looks slightly different then how you imagined isn't necessarily bad, especially if it's the difference between getting zero visitors or getting thousands of visitors that convert into customers. You can choose to have a few sales with all kinds of visual ooohs and aaahs, or get a lot of sales with people and ahhing about how well your site met their needs and provided exactly what they were looking for!
It's really about what your ultimate goals are. A few years ago I remember reading Ogilvy on Advertising, and one thing David Ogilvy said really stuck with me. He said, in effect, advertising that wins awards is good for only one thing--winning awards. Advertising that works, doesn't win awards, but it gets results.
You "Yeah, Butters" who don't want anyone messing with your site might win awards on how beautiful your site is, but most businesses build websites to complete a goal. SEO might not win web design awards, but a web design award isn't going to bring you new customers!
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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