I had a very interesting, if a little frustrating, conversation with a chap on our website LiveChat today. He wanted to know, not unreasonably, what an SEO company actually does. Although we're an inbound marketing agency we're also well known for being SEO specialists and we do our best to explain SEO to people outside the industry, hence the enquiry. The conversation raised some interesting points so I'll cover them in this blog post.
There are generally two aspects to Search Engine Optimisation. There's the technical stuff which the guys at Moz have pretty much nailed with their beginners guide to SEO and there's the more 'fluffy' stuff. By fluffy, I mean the non-scientific, hard to pin down stuff that forced the guy I was talking to keep saying "Yes, but what do you actually do?".
Technical SEO Is Only Part of the Story
There are things in life whereby simply doing something will give a predictable result. Have driving lessons and you'll learn to drive, take regular exercise and you'll feel better and get fitter. It seems to me many people think technical SEO is like that. Optimise a page and it will rank. If only it were that simple. It isn't.
Think of it more like this. Have driving lessons and you'll learn to drive, but you're unlikely to become the F1 world champion. Take regular exercise and you'll get fitter, but you won't win the Olympic marathon. To become the F1 champion or the Olympic marathon gold medalist requires something beyond doing the obvious. Apart from a massive effort, there's an X factor, something that's hard to pin down. Sure there's an element of luck, we all need our share of that, but there's more. SEO is a bit like that.
We'd strongly advise getting the technical optimisation right, why wouldn't you? But don't expect miracles; it's going to take more than some judicious H elements and a carefully crafted TITLE tag. Sorry about the geek speak.
So What Do SEO Companies Do?
I can't speak for all SEO companies and I know some of them concentrate on the geeky side of the business. However, for our part, we develop an understanding of our client's businesses, developing a strategy to attract the right kind of potential customers. This includes the technical stuff, but most of our work is around developing the right content. Content that helps people, content people find useful (yes that old chestnut) and content people are inclined to share with others.
I short, in our view our Search Engine Optimisation services, which we actually call inbound marketing services, involves helping our clients to help their prospective clients.
The reason we can't say precisely what that means is because it varies from client to client. This is the reason the chap I mentioned earlier went off in a kind of huff. He wanted me to say we do X, Y & Z and hey presto your website will generate a ton of business. It's just not that simple.
Do You Want Rankings or Clients?
If all you want is search engine rankings then most credible SEO firms will be able to help you out. However they may rank you for phrases with no traffic, they may rank you for phrases that attract the wrong kind of traffic. The bottom line here is that search marketing in isolation is all but useless. It's complicated, it's involved, there's no simple answer.
So, if you want your website to generate leads, if you want your website to make a measurable impact on your businesses bottom line be careful, search engine optinisation is only part of the story. Instead of looking for SEO, research inbound marketing. That should clear things up.