SEO: 2011′s Most Underrated Business Solution

It’s true, SEO (search engine optimisation) is the most underrated marketing tool of 2011. Which is a shame because it’s also one of the most valuable and rewarding service for businesses that operate online. After much research, it’s clear that there are a number of reasons why this is the case.

Skepticism

SEO has never had such bad press. With so many people flooding into the business of SEO, the market is filled with a whole lot of unskilled workers who are learning on the job. It’s not something you can just pick up – it’s technical, requires years of expertise and needs a whole lot of creativity. Because SEO requires a substantial investment from the business owner, it’s easy to see why a poor service can give this great opportunity a very bad name.

SEO Guarantees

Guaranteeing SEO results is like guaranteeing the lottery. There is no way to say with 100% conviction that this is where you will be ranking on this date. There are huge external variables that fall outside of the SEO’s control. You should be careful of any SEO company that offers guaranteed rankings (even if includes a money back guarantee!).

Why though? Surely if there’s a money back guarantee it’s risk free? Right?

The above is a common misconception. Some things in SEO require no effort at all. For example, if I say to you here are 5 keywords, if none of them are ranking #1 in 2 months you’ll get your money back! What you would fail to see is that one of these keywords has zero competition – i.e. an obscure keyword that no one has bothered to rank for. And why haven’t they bothered? Because there is no search traffic for that keyword. Great – you’re now #1 for a keyword that has and will have no visible impact on your business; and you can’t get your money back!

If you’re looking for an SEO company then you want to make sure it’s one that is trusted and respected. One that has proven results and doesn’t only care about search traffic but conversions too. When measuring the effectiveness of an SEO campaign, you should be looking at three key metrics:

Keyword Rankings

Organic Search Traffic

Search Traffic Conversion Rate

These three metrics will give you a complete and full understanding of the success of the money you’re paying for SEO.

Where does Social Media fit with SEO?

For a while SEO and Social Media were treated as two distinct strategies. However, with the changes to the Google algorithm over the last couple of years, particularly the resent panda/farmer update, that is notion is a thing of the past.

Social Media and SEO are intrinsically connected and it is actually now quite hard to be successful with one without any kind of input from the other. If I want to have a successful social media campaign and build an active online community online then I need to capture targeted traffic, and where am I going to do that if I have no presence on the search engines?

From the other angle the overlap is even more compelling. Of course everything surround the impact of social media on SEO is ultimately speculative. However, there is widespread consensus (a rare achievement for the SEO community) that social integration and social approval can have a very positive impact on rankings. In particular studies involving Twitter have been carried out that suggested Twitter links have at least as much value as traditional article and blog based links.

LinkedIn Company Profiles are another example of this trend. For example, if I provide in the UK, then I am up against all the other Leicester Search Engine Optimisation Companies. Google of course wants to provide users with the results from the company that is genuinely the best provider of that service in the Leicestershire areas, then two key factors are the social approval amongst the business community, and whether or not each competing business has a real world, offline presence.

LinkedIn Company profiles achieve this and therefore it makes perfect sense that it would be considered as part of the algorithm.

Hiring an SEO for your Business: Inhouse, Agency or Consultant?

When you’re looking to hire an SEO for your small business, you’re probably unsure of the best way to approach it. There are three real solutions for an SEO campaign and each of them are appropriate for different situations.

Inhouse SEO

The most expensive and the most valuable option of the three. An inhouse SEO works full time for your business and leads the way with SEO strategy and implementation. From keyword research to link building and on-page optimisation, an inhouse SEO will know the ropes and can have a pretty rapid impact on search traffic. If the person hired is very capable and requires little management, you can find that they will always be busy making sure that every hour of every day is well spent. If for some reason they manage to find time that is free, then you can use their knowledge of SEO to teach and train other members of your company.
As with all the other search solutions, you can use some simple metrics to measure the SEO success rate.

Agency SEO

Agencies that provide SEO as a service have suffered years of skepticism. Many companies now offer ‘guaranteed seo’ that actually cannot be guaranteed at all. While other companies bind you into long contracts that can be a drain on finances with no real return. However, now that SEO is more popular than ever – ethical link builders have appeared across the world with huge portfolios of experience to prove their efficacy. As long as you pick a good SEO company, you’ll see these benefits:
An SEO agency is almost always the lowest cost option with very little need for management. Monthly reports allow you to measure success of the SEO campaign and discuss potential changes in strategy. Let’s say you wanted to rank for “SEO Leicester”, by handing this job over to an agency you are able to simply get on with the most important aspects of your business and at the same time dramatically increase traffic.

SEO Consultancy

Consultancy is the option for the more technically savvy business who is able to implement a lot of changes themselves. An SEO consultant will have a huge understanding of the field and therefore some website changes can become incredibly technical. Do you have canonical URL issues? What’s your indexation rate like? Use of dynamic URLS? A good internal link structure? All of these questions are ones that would go over the head of 99% of businesses. Take on a consultant if you are able and willing to make changes based on the gobbledegook above.