SEO used to be all about getting top search engine rankings. While that is still a primary function of an SEO provider, that's not all there is to it anymore. Or, at least... it shouldn't be.

If you're in the market for a (quality) SEO, you're going to find providers that go well beyond services aimed at achieving top search engine rankings. In fact, if your SEO only knows how to throw keywords you want to rank for onto your site pages, I can tell you that you're NOT getting your money's worth (even if you are only paying a few hundred dollars a month).

SEO, in today's world, is much more about online marketing than it is about manipulating a site to achieve top rankings for a few keywords.

Here are some key components to a well-rounded optimization campaign:

Keyword Research

Keyword research is one of the most important elements of the optimization process. While it's not as important as the site architecture, you need to perform some initial keyword research in order to build your site architecture properly.

Spend some time to research your core terms, and then figure out how they will apply to your site. Be sure to build your site with your main keywords in mind, creating sections and pages around user search patterns.

Later, you'll do more research and organization in order to make sure each of your pages is targeting your search audience in the best way possible.

Website Architecture

A solid architecture is the foundation for all your online marketing efforts. If your site isn't built in a search engine friendly way, then you're going to have trouble optimizing the site for search engines to index your data properly. You'll also run into trouble with visitor usability.

It's a good idea to start with some basic keyword research and information architecture (the site flow chart, if you will) to figure out how your site navigation and pages will be structured. Build this around your keyword research, while also keeping your industry and visitor expectations in mind.

Usability & Testing

You can get more sales by bringing more people to your site, or by improving the conversion rate. Bringing more people in before improving your conversion rate is like trying to fill a bucket with holes in it. Sure, if you pour fast enough, you'll eventually be able to fill the bucket. But, if you plug the holes, you'll fill it much faster and with a lot less waste.

In this case, instead of wasting water, you'll be wasting money. Most companies fare far better by plugging the holes in their site to bring in those immediate sales, then worry about delivering more traffic to the site once that issue has been corrected.

Testing is an important part of this process. You can't just make a change because it feels good. Test every change to see if it actually improves the bottom line or not. If not, change it back. If it does, keep it and move on to the next improvement.


A good Copywriter is essential to being sure that your content performs its conversion duties properly. Far too many people create text for the sake of text, not realizing that it is an extremely important part of convincing and converting searchers to become buyers.

If you lack good copy on a page, you just have a bunch of words and/or pretty pictures. Visitors read copy because it helps them learn about what you offer, the quality of the products or services, and what they can expect. It also tells them what to do next or provides them more ways to find needed information.

On-Page Optimization

On-page optimization is critical for optimization success, but it's not a stand-alone process. It's more of an oversight process. The SEO needs to have a balance between keyword targeting, usability, site architecture and more. SEOs have their hands in all of it, hopefully with the goal of creating a perfectly balanced page for both visitors and search engines.

Social Media / Links

I like Social Media over traditional link building because it is far more audience targeted. Link building is about getting a link purely for the "link juice" it provides. Social Media leverages your target audience to get links, name recognition, and branding. So instead of a link for link juice, you get a link for your audience that comes with link juice.

Using Social Media, each link gets passed around and broadcasted, which generates even more links, therefore reaching even more of your potential audience. When it comes to customer acquisition, the value is in Social Media. But, sometimes you just need a link. Either way, links are an important part of the process.


Optimizing without analyzing is like getting all dressed up for a date, but not looking in the mirror before going out. Sure, you see people giving you a double-take as you walk by, but do you really know why?

Analytics provides you with the feedback you need to see why people are reacting they way they are. It allows you to plug more holes and open up other opportunities for success.

SEO Maintenance

SEO isn't set-it-and-forget-it. It's an ongoing process of optimizing, reviewing, analyzing, tweaking, and optimizing some more. There is always some new problem that can be uncovered and fixed. There are always more keywords that can be targeted. There is always something that can be improved.

SEO maintenance allows your SEO efforts not to go stale. Competitors are actively engaged in bumping you for those top spots. Inactive SEO makes that all the easier.


PPC isn't necessary for an SEO campaign, but it can be a valuable asset. Roughly 30% of searchers click into the paid ads. That's 30% of traffic you can be missing. Not only that, but running PPC ads with SEO efforts helps fill in gaps where the SEO is under-performing (there is always something, somewhere) and increases brand awareness where the SEO is performing strongly. This results in more traffic and higher sales.

As you can imagine, rolling all these into a single optimization campaign can be quite pricey. But, take any one of them out, and you're missing a crucial component. Cut corners on any of them, and you've got half measures that may move you forward, but not necessarily as fast as you want.

This is where you have to balance budget with expectations and results. Lower your budget, and you have to lower your expectations... because you will get lower results. Increase your budget, and you can increase your expectations because that will increase results.

Leave something out, and you may get good results in one area, but it won't necessarily translate to good results in another.

For example, even if you get rankings, but no one is converting, what's the point? Or, you can test and make sure your pages convert well, but if you're not driving traffic to your site, then you're just all dressed up with nowhere to go. If you build traffic through Social Media, but the site isn't optimized to target specific types of keyword searchers, you'll see higher than normal bounce rates. I could go on and on...

Unfortunately, too many people look at all of these as separate entities that can be added or removed ad hoc. And while they can, they are best when working together for a common goal: your business success.

October 19, 2010

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.


All true - I find people have misconceived ideas about SEO - rankings does not equal traffic + increased sales. The site needs to convert well, you need to have good brand exposure through online PR etc. Learn to manage clients expectations early on in your relationship and everything will (usually) go smoothly!

Maybe you could add Facebook page "LIKE" building to your list. I am not sure why, but it looks like webmasters will be forced to create for every site a facebook page. I don't know why? Is that nofollow link from facebook metters so much? (that's the info what I am searching for right now..). But the fact is that more and more clients wants their facebook page too.

I didn't realize 30% of searchers clicked on the PPC. That is a weighty argument to attempt a PPC campaign. However, I find myself consistently spinning around with knowing I have to spend money to make money, but the ROI so far doesn't seem to be equaling expenses. I'm not looking for a magic bullet, but I am wondering is it just the economy, after all?

Very thorough and informative post. Thanks for sharing all of this information. I agree with the last sentence. All of things work best when utilized together. Now all I have to do is learn how to smoothly incorporate all of these things into my new endeavors.

Great post. I think you can easily get sucked into the "perfect set of keywords" game without recognizing the points of the other items you mentioned. I will definitely take your advice as I push forward with SEO work. Thanks again for writing.

I just want a site that stays up without Google disqualifying it some reason.

Errrr what....

You do realise that SEO stands for "Search engine optimisation" right?
That means optimising the site to be found and rank better in search engines. If you hire a SEO for SEO services, you get SEO....

The rest of that falls under various other topics but its NOT a basic part of SEO.

I'm am in total agreement that ALL these things need to be done on a website but website design is NOT part of an SEO's job, thats a website designer's job.

Saying an SEO should do all these things is like saying a racing driver should also design and build his car from scratch or a window washer should paint the frames as well. They may need doing and they may be important but that doesn't mean they are combined under the same job particularly as parts of them may require a very different skill-set.

Steven, obviously I disagree. I wouldn't hire an SEO if they can't improve my sales. Those SEOs have the "ranking at all cost" mentality and often cause sales of a site to suffer, despite the ability to achieve good rankings.

You're right, SEO means "search engine optimization" but in practice, it needs to be so much more than that. It really needs to be "website optimization". That's the job of the "SEO".

Then what is the web designer's job? Its his job to make the site usable, not the SEO's job.

If you where running a racing car team, you wouldn't sack the driver because he didn't know how to fix the broken suspension would you? Car is still useless without the suspension been fixed but its still not the driver's job to fix it.

An SEO's job is to do the Search engine optimisation, thats it. He should be working with the web designer to achieve this but the website design at the end of the day isn't his responsibility. Otherwise what you are basically saying is that the SEO is responsible for the website as a whole.

Totally agree that some SEOs are too focused on ranking to the exclusion of everything else and this is bad, a good website will have good usability and good SEO.

SEO is an essential part of the website package, to do what you are suggesting every SEO would need to be trained in SEO, Website design, (x)HTML/CSS coding, copy writing e.t.c.
I'm fortunate enough to have a good grounding in all of them but if what you where saying was true of SEO then you wouldn't really have a 'team' for a website, you'd just have the SEO and maybe a graphical designer doing all the work.

Lets also not forget the functionality parts of the website for it to convert such as the server setup, redirects that are needed for SEO which aren't an SEO's job. It's his job to know it needs to be done and to get it done not to do it himself.

Steven, you're missing the point. I never said it was the SEO's job to develop or design the website. Heck, it's not even their job to code the site, or do all the copywriting. But when an SEO is hired, they ARE responsible for getting conversions. In most cases the SEO just needs to work with the business owners and web developers to ensure the SEO work compliments the strategic sales goals of the site. However, I've seen plenty of situations where the coders and designers don't know a thing about building search engine or user-friendly websites. If that's the case, the SEO has to take on that responsibility as much as possible to ensure the SEO is successful, not only in getting rankings but improving business.

Hi Stoney,

I am following your articles and have read almost all articles you have written. Your articles helped me a lot to understand how things work and how to run a successful search engine optimization campaign. But I am facing problems in one thing that is "Link Building", it is very difficult to get one way links from directories, blogs, forums and even from social media because of nofollow tag. Can you tell me how to use social media for a link building campaign ?

Nope mate, its not that, its just that its the Team's job to get the conversions not just the SEO's job. That was kinda my point, all the elements of the team join together to make a great site and that is what gets you the conversions not any one element.

SEO doesn't have anything to do at all with on-site conversion, thats purely a web designer issue. They have to co-operate on page content for the normal reasons but again its a team effort. SEO gets them on-to the site, the web designer (and product pricing e.t.c.) gets them to convert.

Either alone will increase conversions but its the combination of the all the factors that works. Piling all the responsibility for conversions on the SEO goes against teamwork.

"It really needs to be "website optimization". That's the job of the "SEO"."

I would argue the website optimization is the team's job. One of the parts of that is SEO but its not the whole of the job.

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