Ideas, insights and inspirations.

You’re getting sloppy, SEO people! Let’s talk fundamentals. I’m sick and tired of hearing your excuses, about how the game has changed, and you’re caught standing there flat-footed like a kid who just hit his first tee ball. Shape up!

I’m busting out the playbook.

The following are inexcusable excuses:

1. “Search has changed dramatically and we’re still learning how to cope.”

Search algorithms change all the time, each day in fact. Some changes are minor, and some are massive. You are allowed some leeway to rethink your strategy after a major algorithm change, like the Panda updates or Penguin, when those changes require a dramatic shift in link building techniques, content optimization, social messaging activities, etc. But you must not use this as a crutch, or throw your hands up in the air and blame Google. It’s like blaming the refs, people! Adjust your game plan!

2. “Demonstrable results are hard.”

If you can’t show a client actual, tangible, measurable improvement in performance from your SEO campaign — an increase in rankings, a bump in conversions, a surge in organic traffic — you’re doing it wrong. After a few months of honest effort, there had better be some performance boost, or else you need to rethink your strategy. And trust me, sometimes you have to dump additional resources into a keyword, or even drop a keyword. Don’t ever tell your client that results are happening where they can’t be seen. Find a way to measure those results instead. For example, a strong SEO campaign will improve a brand’s reputation, though it’s not always straightforward how to track such a thing; try measuring the increase in “branded” organic searches over the course of the campaign, which is one good indication of reputation.

3. “Monthly reports are excessive, and phone calls are unnecessary.”

What is the client paying you for? You look amateur out there, folks. It is up to you to walk through the results of your SEO campaign performance, in detail, month by month. At Elliance we have our own custom reports, and we share those reports on a monthly basis with each client, on the phone. The time spent on the phone helps us foster relationships, respond to questions and concerns, shape our game plan for the next month, and show some common courtesy in appreciation of the client’s continued business.

4. “It’s all about social now.”

No, it’s not. Organic web links are still at the fundamental heart of search rankings, even more so than social media links, as Google’s Search Quality Team spokesman Matt Cutts confirmed recently. It’s about a comprehensive strategy, with multiple points of attack. Is baseball only about pitching? Is football only about the forward pass? Don’t tell your clients you’re only investing in Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. True, these links are easier to obtain than good old-fashioned organic links — which is one reason why they are less important from Google’s perspective. You’ve got to be exceptional and go for a more diverse, longer-lasting link building strategy.

5. “Conversion tracking is impossible with your web configuration.”

This is generally an exaggeration. Hustle! Put in the extra effort and make it work, and your clients will thank you. However, as your coach I will tell you that there are exceptional circumstances where conversion tracking is, in fact, really hard: when a conversion form gets submitted to a sever outside of your control, where you can’t work with the client’s web team, etc. But there is a Plan B. Elliance has some tips for tracking “engagement”, even if you can’t track conversions. Frame your conversations with your clients in terms of engagement, and allow this to be a starting point when measuring the success of your SEO campaign.

Well that’s it for now, SEO people. Get back out there and make me proud! (If you work really hard we’ll get ice cream on the way home.)

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