If you are in the process of planning your digital marketing wish list, I’m guessing that SEO is a likely line item. But like many, you may find it difficult to pin-point exactly what to ask for. With around 51% of all site traffic coming from organic search, an SEO program going into the New Year is a rather practical gift for your brand’s website (what would the kid versions of ourselves have to say about that). But don’t let the practicality of this ask keep you from finding a solution that delights, too.
This year, challenge “Website Santa” to deliver an SEO program that is realistic, built-to-last and apt to keep you on your toes (in a good way). So what exactly does this mean for your list? Avoiding the allure of shiny, pre-made SEO packages (even if a bow is placed on top), and asking instead for a customized organic search strategy.
In most cases, a package sparks fun, joy and merriment! When it comes to SEO, this is not always the case. While they may not always be neatly wrapped from the very beginning, here’s why organic search strategies are the real gifts that keep on giving:
Many pre-selected programs are limited in the scope of work that’s offered on a monthly basis. While not always the case, areas of focus are usually centered around keyword rankings and page optimizations; sometimes backlinks are included, too. It’s not uncommon to see a pre-set scope that follows this general format:
By contrast, a true strategy is not grounded in pre-set numbers of keywords, pages or anything else, really. Rather, it should offer a flexible way to consider all aspects of technical, content and off-site SEO that are pertinent to your website’s health and performance. Questions like “What aspects of SEO are needed” and “How should tasks be prioritized” should be asked and answered early on by way of a deep dive into your site before a game plan is developed.
While it’s common digital marketing knowledge that keywords and backlinks are important elements of SEO, they can also lead to unrealistic expectations. White hat (aka ethical) pursuit of better organic visibility is not an exact science; rather, it’s an initiative that requires ample research, hypothesizing, planning, testing and often refinement to drive real results.
Packages that guarantee “rankings on the first page of search results for # new keywords” or “accrual of # new backlinks” each month should be looked at with a skeptical eye. Instead, look for SEO strategists who are realistic and honest about what it takes to move the organic search needle. SEO tasks require time to set in and effect change; moreover, it’s a process that often includes a bit of trial and error. With ever changing SERP landscapes, algorithm updates, competitors to dodge and content codes to crack, there is no magical or instantaneous fix that can be applied to your website (even by Santa).
It’s also important to remember that viewing keyword rankings as SEO KPIs is not the best way to vet a program, either. One that uses rankings as a component to help drive your organic strategy is more likely to be fruitful.
We’ve all experienced it. Excitement ensues after opening a new toy, clothing item or gadget; fast forward a few months, and that same item is likely shoved deep in a closet – out of sight, out of mind. Similarly, after a few months of optimizations it is possible to see results surface – cue excitement. At this point, it may be tempting (and easy) to cut a standalone SEO package out of your digital marketing plan and budget. However, organic optimization can and does go stale.
A valuable SEO strategy does not offer constant opportunities to abruptly start and stop each month. It should be largely ongoing, fueled by a cycle of assessment, implementation, reporting and refinement that you don’t want to break. Additionally, if other solutions (i.e. paid search) or projects (i.e. a modular redesign) currently exist, it should be made flexible enough to fit logically into an overarching strategy rather than sit in a silo that can be more easily disregarded.
If you’re still thinking through optimization options, remember that a solid understanding of SEO can be a big help in determining the best strategy-based program for your website. It can also reinforce why pre-set cookie cutter packages will not top “digital marketing gift lists” this year.
A strategy-based retainer program may not come completely assembled right out of the box but should come with all the pieces necessary for a program based on prioritized needs, reality, honesty, continuity, and even some surprises along the way.
HO, HO, HO, Merry SEO!
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