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SEO: what it’s not and what it should be


One of the most common issues we deal with when it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is client expectation and misunderstandings about what SEO is and what it will do for their website. When someone comes in to talk about SEO you’re never sure about their prior knowledge and so there is that process of finding out their level of understanding and helping them to better grasp the concept of SEO.

Setting the Record Straight

The more I think about SEO and what it is and what it’s not, the more I realise that it’s less about “getting the definition right” and more about doing what’s best for the client. This means we sometimes need to speak up and step outside of the traditional SEO box if that’s not what a client really needs. SEO and the way we explain it to a client is less one dimensional – “I want to rank for this keyword” – and more three dimensional, adaptive and goal oriented. If a client comes in and thinks they want SEO but their site says they need a redesign then we need to let them know. Or, if someone’s goal is to sell more Himalayan Caftans from their site you need to think about the whole process which includes SEO, website optimisation, conversion rate optimisation etc.

Pure SEO is, as the name suggests, is Search Engine Optimisation – optimising your site so that the search engines understand it, like it and in turn rank it. Search engine optimisation is not marketing; it’s not about promoting your site or brand although the effects of good SEO can often give similar results. Therefore the expectations for SEO should be clearly laid out – over time, SEO is going to get your site visible. Don’t get me wrong, getting your site visible will generate business but that’s not all there is to it. Having the mindset “the more traffic I throw at a site the more money/leads I’ll get” is a half truth and, again, a bit one dimensional. The very nature of “natural” or “organic” search is that it is able to be manipulated to a point but can’t be controlled like PPC or other internet marketing. Think of it like you’re growing tomatoes – you can water the plant, feed the soil make sure it’s getting enough sunlight but in the end the plant will grow at its own pace over time. However, getting the tomato plant ..err.. website to bear fruit is where the analogy sort of ends.

Website optimisation is a topic I am passionate about because I see that it is a 101 thing that usually gets left to last or after a site is ranking well but not performing well. Not making your site user friendly and conversion efficient from the start is like buying a red car when what you really wanted was a black car and now you’re going to take it to the body shop to be resprayed. Crazy right? You’re burning money on something you should have worked out from the beginning.

There is a bit of a mentality out there about having a website that goes something like this:


What should SEO be? (Or where “SEO” as a buzz word is headed)

Now as I mentioned earlier, pure SEO is much more narrow in what it does so when people ask for SEO what they are really meaning might be any number of things. They may not have even thought about or know about all the other influencing factors that come into play when you’re doing business on the web and so it’s our job to help them understand. Unfortunately there are companies out there who will happily take the money and give very little or the wrong thing rather than work out what the client needs.

The lines get a little blurred when you start going this extra mile for clients and as an “internet expert” you start to offer up suggestions about their business model and methods and how they translate to the internet. This is a natural and necessary process and that’s why they came to us in first place, right?

Under our Internet Marketing banner we place the following services paradigm:

  • SEO – Technical: both front end and back end as well as some external linking strategy.
  • Content Strategy – Build a site’s content correctly from the start also incorporating internal linking strategies.
  • SEM (Search Engine Marketing) – this includes Pay Per Click Advertising such as Google AdWords and Facebook Advertising which can be a nice tie-in for natural SEO.
  • Website Optimisation – Including conversion rate optimisation and useability optimisation to make sure your website completes the goals you set.

A goal focussed approach to SEO

We’ve been around for a few years now (since 1998) and the internet has changed much more than most industries. What worked 2 years ago may not work at all these days and 5 years ago, well you can forget about it. So too, simply offering SEO in the purest sense isn’t enough these days.

Competition is increasing and people are getting more savvy. You can’t expect your 2001 throw back website that your aunt’s friend’s son built to sell your products or services effectively even if you’ve got some SEO done and people can find your site. You need to get it right, up front and be in it for the long haul – like any good business plan.

So go and take a look at that website and think about these questions:

  • Why do you have a website?
  • What are your goals for it?
  • Is it fulfilling any of those goals?
  • Are they realistic goals?
  • Can people find your website for the right kind of searches?
  • Does your site need a face-lift or a complete reconstruction?
  • If you were a customer would you call or buy from the site?
  • Can you find the products or services you are selling easily?

There’s plenty more questions like these and I’m sure once you start thinking about it you’ll get the idea. You can also read a great two part post “How to make your website make you more money” for some other great ideas for tuning up that website.

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