Managing SEO Expectations
By Peter Prestipino, Editor-In-Chief
The practice of search engine optimization (SEO) is, for many, shrouded in mystery.
While the benefits are clear and quite obvious, how enterprises achieve top listings on popular search engines, and for a variety of keywords mind you, can seem difficult if not downright impossible to the vast digital majority. One possible reason is that enterprises tend to think in the present - how to get results immediately, how to increase visibility right now, drive activity each and every hour and day and achieve greater revenue sooner rather than later.
The faster immediate goals are achieved, the sooner longer-term goals will be achieved. For the most part, this is a productive mentality; in fact, it is likely what separates the successful from the unsuccessful entrepreneurs and professionals. There are, however, a few digital practices that don't respond well to that overwhelming sense of urgency.
As any seasoned SEO professional can attest, eagerness coupled with impatience rarely results in a characteristic that is in demand from clients. If an enterprise is new to the practice of search engine optimization, has had a poor experience in the past or is simply looking to do more with the resources it currently has, the secret is to be informed about the current market forces, employ the best practices and be patient. SEO is a long-term initiative and as such should be rooted in long-term goals.
Trying to achieve its benefits over night is simply impossible so brands must think of the practice as less of a task and more as a habit. There are certainly elements that are task based, but optimization is active, meaning that it requires constant attention and effort to maintain its effectiveness. What is so appealing about the practice, however, is that it can reap significant rewards over the long term...but again, only if teams approach it with patience and commitment.
THE POTENTIAL OF SEO
The problem is that most form their expectations on the potential of the channel, a potential few ever really achieve. Sure, there are amazing stories and case studies about the benefits, but much like everything else, one gets out of it what they put in. Every company and every website is unique with its own competitors and set of circumstances and challenges, couple that with the rate of change in the digital world, and forming expectations can end up being a truly fruitless behavior. The secret, and hopefully the takeaway from this article, is that it is more important to focus on setting progress goals rather than setting results-specific goals. The difference might seem somewhat arbitrary, but once structures and practices are in place that lead to high positions on search engines, brands won't have to worry about the specific metrics (which can, at times, vary wildly). Essentially, all good things come with time (and patience).
THE SEO EFFORT
The practice of search engine optimization relies on how informed the supporting strategy is as well as how much effort is given to it. It is difficult, if not downright impossible, for smaller brands to compete against massive, multi-national companies when so many different and varied tasks are required - from creating content and building links to making technical modifications to the back-end and studying analytics reports.
It's just not as easy to achieve the same level of results, but that's OK - a small team can be as effective with SEO when the expectations are in line with reality.
Learn more about how to organize an enterprise-wide SEO initiative at wsm.co/seoroles.
RESET SEO EXPECTATIONS
Search engine optimization is far different than it was many years ago when a few page changes or metatag adjustments and some basic link building were all that was required to get rankings.
Today's SEO professionals engage in holistic SEO audits of the digital experience, which includes analysis of strategy and tactics related to content, user experience, branding, accessibility and speed, as well as keyword targeting, competitive benchmarking and a whole host of other practices.
It doesn't stop there; today's SEOs are far savvier. They must also determine which tactics are most likely to result in a return on investment (focusing their attention accordingly), help enterprises align workforces to get projects off the ground (providing training) and continuously monitor the digital signals produced to help brands capitalize on the potential opportunity. The problem, however, remains; even following months of work, it's often impossible to track the value of SEO directly. As a result, investment in SEO is waning as more measurable channels take center stage.
Only those whose expectations are set properly will be able to continue chasing the SEO dream.
What are the right expectations for an SEO campaign? Unfortunately, there is no single, overarching, totally accurate answer. Again, that's OK. We're focusing exclusively not on the results, but rather the processes because we as an industry believe in those processes and the principles they represent so deeply.
SEO TO KNOW
Search engine optimization remains one of the most powerful digital ways to increase visibility and drive new visitors to a Web property, but it pays to keep on top of the trends and best practices. Below is a sample of what the Website Magazine community discovered in the Mastering Search column online at wsm.co/mastersearch.
+ Unbend Your Mind to Overcome an SEO Plateau: Regularly updated search algorithms and the ever-growing dominance of digital marketing have led to the unending refinement of SEO tactics.
+ Measuring SEO Success in 2016: Today's SEO company can no longer work in a silo, detached from the overall goals and initiatives of a company, in order to provide the greatest value.
+ Naming Conventions & URL Structure: In the digital practice of SEO, few things have remained as consistently important as that of page naming conventions and URL structures.
+ Subdomain Spam & Primary Website SEO: Many websites use subdomains as part of their website but could a manual action on a subdomain negatively impact a site's good standing?