What’s Involved In SEO?
As the second part of our How much should SEO cost? series I’ll follow up on something that was touched on in the last post. And that is, answering the most common question What’s actually involved in SEO?
Some of you reading this without reading the first part of the series should definitely give it a go before scrolling down; because you might be wondering how the hell there is a full post about what’s involved in SEO?. But in truth, there’s enough content in this answer to fill tens of posts.
However, I’ve tried to cover it all briefly in one post just to give you an idea of all of the moving parts that are involved in an effective SEO campaign so that you can understand what SEO agencies get up to. (Hint: It’s more than just clicking buttons)
What Do SEO Agencies/Freelancers Actually Do?
Note: I’ve covered each task/activity very briefly below. There is of course a deeper explanation as to what goes on and why it does for each activity.
Research (And not just Keyword Research)
The common misconception about SEO and SEO agencies especially is that they’re charging you to do a bunch of technical ‘things’ that get you to the top of Google. This idea is probably supported by a lot of the SEO packages that some companies supply, which make it look easy.
However real, long-term, effective SEO is just like any other marketing activity. It requires a lot of research.
After you’ve read the rest of this post you’ll understand that to do things like write content on your behalf, reach out to influencers in your industry, and create a full-proof strategy to beat out your competitors; your SEO agency needs to know a lot about your business. Which means a lot of research into your industry, your competitors SEO efforts, and your business culture.
Before any SEO campaign can begin you need to have researched the best keywords to focus on. You can spend a lot of money optimising your website to appear for keywords that might bring you a lot of traffic but not one new customer.
Therefore, who ever does your keyword research needs to be an expert in analysing data and identifying keywords that not only have enough searches per month, but also show a good intent to take action.
This usually involves hours of trawling through data from multiple sources like Google, your competitors, and specialist SEO tools; all to find the right keywords that you should be ranking for.
Earlier I mentioned it’s not all technical button bashing that gets you to the top of Google, but there is someform of technical work involved in modern day SEO.
Google and other search engines have their preferred ways of crawling through your site and discovering your business. Therefore your site needs to help Google as much as possible in order to rank higher and get more traffic.
Any technical glitches like 404 errors (missing pages) or important pages blocked from indexing can have a negative effect on where your site sits in the search results. So as part of any SEO campaign, you need to be aware of any issues and fix them right away.
Technical On-Site Optimisation
Once the site has been analysed for technical issues and those issues fixed, it’s time to optimise the technical side of your website to once again, make it easier for not only Google to crawl through but also for your users.
This usually involves re-designing the structure of your website including it’s menu’s, the order of content, and how the different pages are connected to each other. Other on-site optimisation tasks include:
- Internal linking
- Optimising H tags effectively
- Schema Markup
- Alt tagging
- Meta information
- URL slug structures
- Web-page hierachy
- Keyword density
Not only your homepage will appear in the search results and some pages will need to solely target a specific keyword, and it’s the job of your technical optimisation to make sure that the right pages are appearing and ranking high in the search results.
Content Creation & Optimisation
Another misconception is that SEO agencies and freelancers alike do all of their work behind the scenes, to the point where some business owners have been told by other agencies that they have a contact in Google who helps them get to the top.
But the truth is, a lot of the heavy lifting is done by the content that actually appears on your website. The words, images and videos.
If you’re looking to work with an SEO agency the creation of this content will usually be left down to them.
Which includes re-writing website content and re-designing pages to suit the new content, possibly creating graphics and videos, and managing your blog – and a good agency will do all this whilst keeping the end user experience in mind.
As mentioned in part 1 of this series, it’s not just your website that needs work in order to rank higher and land that coveted spot on page 1 of Google. What we call your off-site presence, also needs just as much, if not more, attention.
You may already be aware that Google robots also look at who is linking to your website to govern how trustworth and important your site is, because simple logic would suggest that the more high quality websites that link to yours – the higher the quality of your website!
But link building is where most business owners come unstuck. Getting other websites to link back to yours is not easy, unless your willing to pay. However, if you’re directly paying for a link to be placed on a website then more times than not, that site isn’t going to help you rank in the long-run.
Agencies and freelancers will be building these backlinks on a consistent basis to show Google that your website represent a real business, that is trustworthy, and active online. These links will usually come from the following types of sites:
- Industry relevant associations
- Local business directories
- Industry relevant directories (e.g. directories of the best event management agencies in London)
- Features & articles on relevant blog websites and publications
- Resource websites
Digital PR (sort of optional)
Digital PR is like a premium SEO activity that only businesses who are serious about their overall online presence and search engine rankings will usually invest in.
Just like traditional PR, the aim is to gain exposure for your business through either story-telling or some other sort of feature on relevant press publications. Digital PR is this but online.
Digital PR and Link Building go hand-in-hand as when you do get featured in online press you will get a link back to your website 99% of the time.
The reason Digital PR is a premium type of SEO is because of the time, skills and creativity required to get in the press. In order to get the attention of journalists and writers you first need a story or piece of research worth telling people about, simply writing an article about your business is not going to cut it.
A few ways to create a buzz around your business with the aim of gaining PR exposure online are:
- Conducting interesting research on your industry and publishing it
- Covering a company event or fundraiser
- Creating a story around a recent project, maybe with a major client or possibly supplying the special paper for Brexit Documents!
- Publishing your comments on industry news or developments
Similar to Digital PR is content marketing. Content marketing is like digital PR, but you keep hold of your content, usually hosting it on your own website and distributing it online with the following aims:
- Gaining exposure to new audiences by educating them on a topic
- Gaining new backlinks from high quality websites who share your content or point people to it
- Ranking in Google and educating users who were searching for a solution to their problem that your product or service can solve.
In the past Content Marketing was seen as an added bonus, but as things get more competitive in the online space, it’s becoming a must-have activity in any SEO campaign.
Tracking & Ongoing Analysis
You should know it by now, but SEO is not a one-button click solution. It’s also not a one-off activity.
Your position in Google relies above all else on consistency.
Writing 5 interesting blog articles over 6 weeks and then never writing again isn’t going to keep you at the top of Google. Neither is creating 100 relevant links in a month then quitting your efforts once you reach page 1 of Google.
SEO is an ongoing activity in a landscape that’s always changing which is why outsourcing SEO to agencies and freelancers is the best option for small & medium sized businesses.
Constantly analysing your position in Google, any errors that appear, or any attacks on your website is a necessity for the long-term health of your online presence, and ultimately the amount of new business that you generate online.
Is Investing SEO Worth It?
Just like Part 1, here are a few more facts and reasons that highlight why SEO is worth the investment.
- In 2017, Google accounted for over 79% of all global desktop search traffic, followed by Bing at 7.27%, Baidu at 6.55% and Yahoo at 5.06%. – Source NetMarketShare
- SEO Impacts the Buying Cycle – Customers do their research. That’s one of the biggest advantages of the internet from a buyer perspective. – Source Search Engine Journal
- 150% growth has been recorded for searches that include “near me”. – Source Think with Google, 2017