SEO, short for search engine optimization is the act of optimizing web pages so that they position well in the organic search results for related keyword phrases. Hopefully the effort drives traffic and increases conversions in the process. Part art, part science, part common sense, SEO has become a necessary ingredient for web sites if they are going to capitalize on the 70 – 80 percent of searchers who click on organic search listings. Is SEO a one time fix – something that can applied to web pages once and then leave them be or is it more of an ongoing practice?
Dave Pasternack of Did-it.com seems to think SEO is simply a “fix-it-once” task, not an ongoing service and stated such in an article release last week on DMNews entitled “Troubled Times for SEO Firms.” The article created a flurry of criticism from the SEO/SEM community not only because many are passionate about SEO but mostly because Mr. Pasternack is dead wrong. That is not the only statement he made that drew criticism. He also wrote that, “marketers are discovering that SEO isn’t rocket science,” and “are wary of pushing the SEO envelope.”
First I’d like to respond to the last two statements about SEO not being rocket science and pushing the SEO envelope. I preface this by pointing out that Mr. Pasternack is not an SEO nor does his company offer SEO services. They are a PPC management firm working in the area of paid search. Therefore Mr. Pasternack is hardly qualified in my book to speak on behalf of SEO.
Mr. Pasternack wrote:
“SEO practitioners like to view themselves as Jedi Knights who are magically endowed with powers which can magically decrypt the occult secrets of search engines’ algorithms. This glamorous self-image is reinforced each time the mainstream business press reports on their edgy antics.”
Does he really believe that all SEOs view themselves as some kind of fictitious fantasy character out of a Star Wars movie? What an absolutely ridiculous statement. I have never thought of myself as anything more than a guy who takes a web site and helps it to accurately reflect keyword phrases that are relative to the site and that will draw traffic from people searching for those phrases. What has that got to do with Jedi Knights and saving the Universe from the dark side? Nothing! In fact I have never run across an SEO (I know many) who viewed themselves as someone who is endowed with magic or special powers to make sites rank better in the search engines.
Mr. Pasternack puts his foot in his mouth again when he writes:
“In the last year, we’ve seen several notable cases in which marketers have been severely punished by their association with “edgy” SEO firms whose tactics have resulted in them being blacklisted by search engines. It’s impossible to quantify the loss in revenue (or, in the case of BMW and Ricoh, the damage to brand) caused by these incidents, but it’s obvious that these incidents have caused many marketers to think about how risky a poorly-implemented or over-aggressive SEO strategy can be.”
Actually most of our clients are completely unaware of these “notable” cases. They are not engulfed in the industry as we are so they are not current with all the “drama” f the SEO industry. The majority of them have come to realize how powerful search as an advertising channel has become and want to leverage it for their own businesses. They visit search engines, conduct searches for products and services they offer and do not find their own web sites. They want to change that. They are not concerned about “pushing an SEO envelope” because most are unaware that such a thing even exists. To imply that marketers are staying away from SEO because of this reason does also not line up with the fact that SEO firms are growing by leaps and bounds, ours included.
Now to explore whether SEO is a “one-time-fix” or a continuous task. There are sites in which an SEO can optimize them once and they experience great search visibility without any additional effort. However these are very few in number and are typically comprised of businesses operating in extreme niches who face very little if any competition. For the vast majority of web sites, this is not their world. They are engaged in extremely saturated industries and face a number of competitors. A “fix-it-once” strategy would not work for them for many reasons which we will explore.
Most companies with a web presence are constantly adding new content, tweaking old content to make it better, etc. Along with that comes the need to ensure these new pages or improved old ones are properly optimized so they have the best chance of positioning well in the SERPs (search engine results pages). This can also include the addition of new products and/or services with database driven sites. So long as sites are adding or modifying content, there remains the need to optimize for those changes.
The problem with competition is that they are actually competing against you. Do you really think that a competitor or even series of competitors who are also fighting for those top positions in the SERPs are just going to sit back and let you hold your prime positioning once you obtain them? Certainly not! Another reason why SEO is becoming more of an ongoing task than a one time fix – to keep an edge on the competition.
Changing Search Behavior
What about the changes in the way people search for things? Searchers are constantly evolving in the way they interface with search engines. Keyword strategies that were effective last year might not be this year. Therefore a crucial part of the SEO process – keyword research, can and should be ongoing. Not only does keyword strategy have to stay current with what people are searching for, it should be closely monitored to ensure it is converting and bringing about the right kind of conversions.
SEO Is Evolving
If SEO was all about changing a few title tags and adding some meta description tags then yes, it would probably require a one time fix. However it has become much more than that. There is link building which includes not only actively seeking links from other sites but creating ways to attract link bait naturally. Many corporate sites are implementing blogs. There is the whole social media aspect that has come into play. Then there are web analytics. A good SEO strategy will include ongoing, in-depth analysis to ensure the effort is bringing about the desired goals of the business whether that be to increase sales, drive traffic, a branding effort, build a member base, etc.
Another thing to consider is that many traditional SEO firms have evolved into full fledged search marketing firms. SearchRank started off as an SEO firm, largely because in 1997 there was no such thing as PPC, link building was not the big deal it was today and online social marketing probably went no further than activity in a forum or two. Now we offer many other services in addition to SEO – link popularity building, directory submissions, paid search management, paid inclusion, online press release services, site usability improvement, copy writing services, etc. We are even venturing into the new frontier of social media optimization. There are just so many facets to search marketing beyond SEO. We are not alone in our evolution as many traditional SEO firms that once did search engine optimization alone now offer a full spectrum of services related to improving visibility in the search arena.
Therefore I conclude that SEO is much more a continuing strategy and should even be combined with the many other services I have mentioned in this post. Search engines are not stagnate, nor are people. In light of this, should an SEO effort be stagnant? I think not.
Want to discuss? Head on over to Search Engine Watch Forums where a discussion is currently taking place.