Q&A – Has SEO Changed?

by chicagohh

As part of my new effort to answer readers questions regarding Internet marketing – here is my first Q&A posting.

From a visitor:

I wanted to ask how Google’s latest updates have affected your job.

Have you seen a decrease in the effectiveness of your optimization efforts?  How have you been forced to adapt?

Hi Marc,

I think SEO has never been easier. Sure, we are losing the ability to see all the keywords with Google’s SSL search implementation or track keyword rankings effectively because of personalized search, but for me – it’s always been about two thing; Traffic and conversion rates.

It used to be that many business owners would follow the rankings of their favorite/pet keywords. When these specific terms did not move up in the search engines they would think the process was failing. Even though overall traffic was up by 80%, it was well targeted and conversion rates had tripled.  Today, so many SEO’s can’t perform – for reasons that are hard to understand. What works today is the same thing that worked 8 years ago – it’s just more refined.

Site architecture, proper keyword use, in bound links and content – It’s the same recipe as pre-Florida (2004), but now the ingredients are of a better quality.

Regarding site architecture and keywords… you would think everyone would have this figured out by now, but the problems are as widespread as ever.  A large part of this is due to the popularity of using content management systems. A system built upon a template rarely has the flexibility in its architecture to  drive organic traffic in competitive industries.

Keyword problems abound as more and more company employees become involved in the website process.  Very often I see product managers that insist on using certain keywords because, “they know the market”.  More often than not – these product mangers do not know the market. What they know is their company and how *they* speak about the product.  In reality, the market (their customers) may use widely differing terminology such that they may sound like they are speaking about two different products. So, these product or marketing managers force the website down a path that actually leads away from where their customers are gathering. Traffic and conversion rates suffer.

Links. This is probably the most elusive aspect of SEO for Internet marketing people. It has also never been easier.  A few easy, risk free options – Forum posting, blog posting, niche directories, press releases, hosted content, guest posting, 2.0 blogs, buy links from non-traditional sources, trackbacks, paid reviews and re-purposing old domains/websites. Of course, all of these strategies require work and a tactical plan – two things many people shy away from.

Content. Specifically, text based content (for now) that is easily consumed by the search engines. Not too many years ago spun content – content that was rewritten using a computer program and a thesaurus – worked very well. Today? Not so well. Fortunately, it’s easy and cheap to hire out writing.  With the U.S. and global economy in the dumps there are a lot of creative and educated people looking for quick cash. If you know where to look it’s easy to get quality articles written for less than $10. The best content, written to elicit a response from the reader is harder to come by. Talented copywriters that understand and write to the psychology of the sale are worth their weight in gold. This kind of writing is costly, so I usually either write it myself or hire it out only for targeted pages.

I didn’t mention social proof yet for a reason…. It’s always been a requirement, but the proof has changed from what was one time a purely link based indicator to what we have today – social proof that is made up of links, Tweets, FB likes, Youtube views etc… It is ridiculously, laughably easy to fake social proof. I don’t know how much longer the big social sites will be used as social proof, but the longer the better I think.

Lastly, and most important, is conversion analysis. While it’s the most important aspect of your website – it’s also the least touched upon by the vast majority of websites.  This almost always means that any website I work on can see big conversion improvements – making me look brilliant – when all I did was apply sales psychology to the site.

So, what have I changed? Nothing, really.  I am just more selective in how I bake.

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