Stephanie Lund // Aug 22 2013
Do you ever feel like the ideas or the topics you want to focus on fall on deaf ears with your SEO specialist? Do they appear to favor seemingly trivial or invisible items like title or alt tags, navigation, and site speed, over keywords and rankings that feel more directly related to meeting your goals?
Though frustrating, your specialist has good cause for this favoritism, because these technical aspects of your site may make the most dramatic effect on your search engine rankings and relevance.
Does your site rank well and generate your desired traffic? In order for your site to perform well in Google, you need to have a regularly updated and quick-loading site, simple and intuitive navigation, and well-written, unique, relevant content. Take my word for it: your SEO strategist hears you, but ultimately wants to achieve your goals – and often, addressing these “trivial and invisible” items is the best way to accomplish them.
Let’s say for example you own a pet supply store and you say to me “I want to rank number 1 for pet supplies, dog toys, cat carriers, and bird feed.” As an SEO, I’m hearing that these are going to be high revenue pages for you – consequently, my goal should be to drive more traffic to these pages.
Optimizing your on-site keywords may help improve your rankings, but what if the subsequent increase in traffic also comes with an increase in bounce rate due to poor site speed and uptime? What if the amount of steps it takes to make a purchase is confusing or there are too many steps for purchasing and customers bail out half way through?
What is the real intent of your website? Is it simply to rank number 1 or do you have specific goals around sales or lead generation? If the latter, keyword optimization may not be the best tactic for achieving those goals — time may be better spent improving site speed, content, social integration, and your sales funnel (to name a few).
In order to achieve your end goal, an SEO specialist will look at many areas of your site to determine which changes will make the most impact.
He or she will consider:
After looking into all of these areas of your site, your specialist will come back with some recommendations that may seem unrelated to your goals. Keywords and rankings require research and may represent potential opportunities for growth, but are only part of the picture.
Some of the technical issues your specialist will look at may not seem impactful, so let’s look at why some technical issues matter.
Title tags should be appropriate for the page (no keyword stuffing), because the search engine will downgrade your relevance or reliability if your title tag does not seem to match the content.
Using dashes instead of pipes in your title tag tells search engines, that once you hit a pipe, what’s before it or after it should be considered two different things vs one descriptive element.
Using heading tags (H1, H2, etc.) properly will help give confidence to the search engine’s parsing effectiveness.
Images should be included with img tags, and only icons should be included in CSS. If they aren’t, a search engine isn’t able to index them properly.
Meta descriptions don’t directly affect rankings but they should be well-written and relevant.
This list of things your SEO specialist will look at goes on and on – their only goal is to make a better converting site.
Optimizing a site for search engines helps, but always remember to create a site for users not search engines! This can’t be stressed enough. Yes, you do need to have a site that search engines can crawl and understand, but as long as you create a site that users can use, understand, and navigate, search engines will get it too.
At the end of the day, both the client and the SEO specialist may want to have different conversations, but both conversations aim for the same goal. If you have a great site that performs well, it will rank well. Great rankings typically lead to increased leads, sales, or whatever metric you use to define online success. If the conversation takes a different direction than you anticipated, ask your specialist to explain why he or she focused on things you did not expect.
Stephanie has a master's degree in Internet marketing and has worked in project management for companies such as Microsoft and Disney. Read More