Three weeks ago, the most popular article in the running for the SEM Scholarship was Nick Urbaniâ€™s â€œThe SEO Article You Shouldnâ€™t Read.â€? While I agree with many of the points he makes, we differ in several areas. I agree that a â€œcoherent, forward looking strategyâ€? is important in SEO. Furthermore, I like to win as much as everyone else â€“ but what does it mean to â€œwinâ€?? Is it just about getting a number one ranking?
What I love about SEO is not just the thrill of getting a number one ranking, but the accountability that we have to our clients. This is the biggest thing that Urbaniâ€™s Theory Focused Planning is lacking â€“ accountability. He mentions holding yourself accountable for learning in his last point, but is that all accountability is or should be?
1) Predictions + Accountability = Rankings, Leads, Sales
Predicting trends is not just about rankings, whether in the short or long term. Yes, we are at the mercy of the search engines and algorithm changes might drop rankings youâ€™ve worked for months to obtain. My challenge is this â€“ a client asking for predictions solely regarding rankings isnâ€™t asking the right question. More importantly, if you answer in terms of rankings, youâ€™re not being accountable to the work youâ€™re doing for your client.
Ranking number one doesnâ€™t matter if itâ€™s a term that no one queries. Rankings matter in terms of their impact on your clientâ€™s bottom line. Over the long term (accounting for monthly ebbs and flows and giving you time to adapt to algorithm changes), you can look at how youâ€™ll improve your clientâ€™s rankings, but the more important factors that you should hold yourself accountable for are the increase in amount and quality of traffic those rankings drive for your client, as well as increases in leads and sales.
2) Focus on Measurable Results
I agree with Urbani that a keyword ranking report is not the determining factor of a successful SEO campaign. However, he dismisses ROI as having â€œlittle utility in an ongoing SEO strategy.â€? I understand that ROI wonâ€™t help you get terms ranked, but rankings wonâ€™t matter if they do not increase the clientâ€™s site traffic, leads or sales.
Moreover, what does a client really care about your SEO theory? If you canâ€™t return a positive ROI for your client, rankings will not matter. In the end, analytics and measurable results will keep you accountable to your SEO theories and rankings (and your clients) â€“ then youâ€™ll know whether you have a winning or losing strategy.
3) Patience is a Virtue
As SEOs, we belong to a community of learners. However, itâ€™s not enough just to read and learn. You have to know how to implement, and more importantly, when to implement changes and strategies. Reviewing the status of a campaign monthly is a good thing. You want your clients to do well; your clients want to see results. However, constantly re-evaluating and changing your strategies may not be a good idea.
You cannot force the search engines to pick up your keywords or changes. Being accountable to your clients means knowing when to tell them itâ€™s going to take more time to obtain rankings and how long is long enough to wait before making another round of changes.
4) Be Accountable for Learning and Results
Search engine optimization is a dynamic process. Those of us who have been doing this for 6 months and those who have been doing this for a decade can improve upon current strategies. Clients have to understand this is not a perfect process. When Urbani addresses accountability, he talks about being accountable for learning, not results. He states, â€œThe goal is to adapt as quickly as possible.â€? However, you can run into problems if you implement new ideas too quickly.
What happens when an engineâ€™s algorithm change starts returning spammy results while your clientâ€™s keywords drop? I would hope you arenâ€™t immediately compromising the integrity of your clientâ€™s site to obtain a higher ranking. Accountability means sometimes taking a hit in the rankings for a little while, explaining it to the client, and continuing to research the issue and a solution. This shows the importance of focusing on your long term ability to return a positive ROI for your client in terms of rankings, leads, and sales.
5) Accountability to Everyone Involved
I love the competition in SEO. Who doesnâ€™t love beating someone else for a top ranking? At the same time, there is a lot of responsibility that comes with being involved in SEO, which we donâ€™t always acknowledge. You have to remember that you are accountable to:
- The rest of your SEO team. You always have to bring your â€œAâ€? game. Your colleagues rely on your ideas and learnings as much as your clients do. There is only one number one spot on Google, and for a competitive keyword, you probably are not the only SEOs trying to target it.
- Your clients. Clients need your help choosing keywords that they can not only rank well for, but that will also drive meaningful site traffic as well as produce leads and sales. Hold yourself accountable (and prove your value) to your clients with measurable analytics.
- The searchers. The keywords that your clients are ranking for are terms that actual people are looking for. Are you helping them complete their search? If your client ranks well for â€œblue widget parts,â€? is there relevant content there? Or will the searcher leave immediately for another site?
As Urbani points out at the end of his article, â€œto some, theory does not equal practicality.â€? Maybe Iâ€™m a person who thinks analytically, but Iâ€™ll take practicality over theory. I want to be accountable for my work product and able to prove value to my clients â€“ and to me a winning SEO strategy means going beyond theory and rankings to measurable metrics like ROI, leads and sales.
[The above article is a submission for Marketing Pilgrimâ€™s Search Engine Marketing Scholarship Contest. Each Monday in October, entries will be published and the most popular article of the week will qualify for the $5,000 grand prize. If youâ€™d like to submit an entry, please view the contest entry-requirements and guidelines.]