Posted October 30, 2006 10:30 am by with 2 comments

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By Laura Lane

Three weeks ago, the most popular article in the running for the SEM Scholarship was Nick Urbani’s “The SEO Article You Shouldn’t Read.� While I agree with many of the points he makes, we differ in several areas. I agree that a “coherent, forward looking strategy� is important in SEO. Furthermore, I like to win as much as everyone else – but what does it mean to “win�? 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 Urbani’s Theory Focused Planning is lacking – 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 you’ve worked for months to obtain. My challenge is this – a client asking for predictions solely regarding rankings isn’t asking the right question. More importantly, if you answer in terms of rankings, you’re not being accountable to the work you’re doing for your client.

Ranking number one doesn’t matter if it’s a term that no one queries. Rankings matter in terms of their impact on your client’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 you’ll improve your client’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 “little utility in an ongoing SEO strategy.� I understand that ROI won’t help you get terms ranked, but rankings won’t matter if they do not increase the client’s site traffic, leads or sales.

Moreover, what does a client really care about your SEO theory? If you can’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) – then you’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, it’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 it’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, “The goal is to adapt as quickly as possible.� However, you can run into problems if you implement new ideas too quickly.

What happens when an engine’s algorithm change starts returning spammy results while your client’s keywords drop? I would hope you aren’t immediately compromising the integrity of your client’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 doesn’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 don’t always acknowledge. You have to remember that you are accountable to:

The rest of your SEO team. You always have to bring your “A� 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 “blue widget parts,� is there relevant content there? Or will the searcher leave immediately for another site?

As Urbani points out at the end of his article, “to some, theory does not equal practicality.� Maybe I’m a person who thinks analytically, but I’ll take practicality over theory. I want to be accountable for my work product and able to prove value to my clients – 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 Pilgrim’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 you’d like to submit an entry, please view the contest entry-requirements and guidelines.]

  • Content + Context = Contest?

    Hoo boy, I thought SEO was complicated before. You mean now it has to be not just measureable, but worth something? In business terms?
    The clients really need to be in on that one, deep.

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