What does an SEO actually do?

We had an interesting conversation during our meeting today.

While thinking of making “cool” topics, Redkite Account Executive, Haziel from SEO said that it was getting hard for her to really explain what she does at work to her friends and to people who don’t know much about internet marketing.

Nobody really understood her occupation!

No one understood what Haziel does

 

This was backed up by our Content Generation Specialist for SEO, Phoebe.

 

PB

So, this is a piece we would like to dedicate to those who work for the SEO industry.

 

raj

 

Let’s take a peek into what SEOs do so that Haziel and Phoebe can forward this link to anyone who wants to understand what they do a little better.

Things needed by the SEO:

 

Fact #1

SEO is Search Engine Optimization. It means optimizing webpages and websites to rank well in Google, Yahoo, and Bing (the major search engines).

As you can see, for a particular search query “Top paying jobs in the Philippines,” there are millions of results. It can be quite an achievement to be on the top 10 (first page) and that is why businesses need to rank in search engines – otherwise,  their sites will largely go unnoticed by Search Engine Users.

Google competitive result

So SEOs simply get sites from from the bottom of the pile to the top of the pile.

getting-something-

 

Fact #2

Search engine experts need to be skilled at understanding ranking factors very well. They need to be very technical and creative at the same time and spend most of their time doing On-page SEO and Off-Page SEO.

A. On-Page Factors (these are the items that can be tweaked, enhanced within the site to rank)

Site Performance MeterSite Performance

It is one of the fundamental jobs of the SEO to make sure that the site in question is crawled accurately by Search Engine bots. They want their focused and other content pages for the public to be crawled, indexed, and displayed in Google results. They do that by using tools in Google Search Console such as Sitemaps and Fetch.

The other side to this is that they should also make sure that none of the secured pages are getting indexed. We do not want search engines displaying our admin pages, pages that content information from private database information, etc. This is largely done by tweaking the Robots.Txt of the site and setting certain parameters to such pages such as “no-index, no-follow.”

Site structureSite Structure 

Some websites are just structured very poorly and it is the SEOs job to make recommendations on better navigation and site structure. Google loves to index pages that are grouped beautifully into relevant folders.

Example:

Good Bad site structure

The two have plenty of significance in categorization that can have SEO impact and influence User-navigation experience. Who searches for shoes based on color first and then the style? People will get more accurate results by searching “Boots for Sale” rather than “black shoes for sale”

That way, pages can be correctly categorized. However, this is often done if the site is being made from scratch. If the site has already existed for a while, then SEOs cannot do much here and will have to work with the site in the way that it is – unless the clients are willing to right the wrong information architecture of the site.

Web page optimizationWeb Page Optimization

Now that the pages are being indexed and displayed in Google, it is the work of the SEO to look for better ranking using their webpages. This is done by optimizing the content of the site including meta data.  So they research, research, and research and then write, write and write!

Semantics and ContentSemantics and Content

When writing content for the site, SEOs practice to keep a balance at all times between being creative and technical.

(Creative) They write for the enjoyment of the audience 90% of the time, but they also need to remember that their content needs to be optimized for ranks so they allocate 10% of their writing to make sure that their pages are semantically in order with their SEO goals (Technical).

AuditingAuditing

All SEOs perform monthly or weekly audits per SEO campaign. You can think of audits to be similar to diagnosing a website – kind of like looking at symptoms, testing, and coming up with “treatments” to make a site/page perform its level best.

 

B. Off-Page Factors (these are activities performed outside of the website)

link building chainsLink Building 

When the On-page (section A above) is dealt with and the SEO is satisfied with their sites performance and the sites’ interaction with the Search Engines, it then becomes the task of the SEO to start creating links coming from other websites to the website in question. Links have to be carefully researched and validated to be of quality. They must also contain the correct information. When an SEO tries to “short-cut” this process, they end up making too many lousy links that is more of a hindrance to SEO than anything else.

Once again, they research, research and research and then they build links.

Without these links, Google would never know how to gauge the popularity of the sites. Google would not be able to favor to the sites that the SEO is trying to rank. Instead, Google would rank sites seem to be most relevant to their users. So this one is a huge deal.

Blogging Brain for SEOBlogging 

Although a part of a link building process, blogging serves many purposes. Blogs dynamically make sites more “beefed” up with relevant information for the user and the search engines. Blogs allow for the site to have continuous content updates and finally they are wonderful for sharing in social media.

Content DistributionContent Distribution 

What good is a blog if no one knows about it? This is the part where SEOs and copywriters “re-invent” their blogs into smaller pieces of mini-content (Tumblr, WordPress, and other shorter-formatted blogs) and into micro-content (native social images with micro twitter sized posts). The same content will then be responsible for  generating traffic via other content sharing sites and social sites.

So this is what SEOs do on a daily basis, and since technology and how people consume content keep changing, SEOs have to keep honing their skills forever. They have to get better at mobile, image concepts and a whole lot more.

It is a line of work that has a very bright future, but it is not without its challenges.

At Redkite, we have developed an SEO program that works for local and international clients. We love what we do and we are glad that now, you understand our process and what our staff actually do.

Hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please share. Thanks!

 

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SEO challenges

Overcoming Challenges in SEO Outsourcing

I have had hundreds of conversations over the phone with US, UK, Australian and with local Philippine clients. And, they were all SEO-related.  I made a list of the most common doubts and anxieties of business owners, managers and companies alike prior to outsourcing their SEO.  I hope to be able to share my knowledge on the matter and how anyone can wisely outsource SEO to a company that meets their specifications.

In these last few years, I have noticed some particular challenges that is common to the SEO Outsourcing Industry and I would like to list them down, in hopes that you would be able to understand how SEO outsourcing really works. This way, I can build a road-map for anyone who is interested in outsourcing their SEO about what lies ahead, what curves to watch out for and how to simply enjoy the ride.

Before we start enumerating my Top 10 challenges when outsourcing SEO, I think we need to look at Why businesses outsource their SEO in the first place?, this should clue us all in  understanding all challenges at the end.

Why Businesses and Companies Outsource SEO

  • SEO EXPERTISE

SEO brains

SEO is actually something that almost anyone can actually do, but to aggressively go up in rankings can be an entirely different matter. Competition makes everything slightly complicated. To be aggressive, you will need people who do SEO for a living (no buts about it unfortunately, especially if you desire a long and fruitful flow of business using SEO). Do not use someone in your marketing department who has  a few hours set aside to do some SEO, this is a full time job depending upon the scale of your SEO goals..

Although the desired result in the end sounds simple enough, there are thousands of tiny details that need to be seamlessly joined together. Rank monitoring, content generation and link analysis needs to be done almost weekly and this usually leads to having a new set of SEO goals that need to be worked at the following week. This is probably the biggest reason why people outsource SEO, to make sure they rank and not just spend hours doing SEO. These two things are very different. Expertise brings results, plain and simple.

  • SEO outsourcing is about reducing costs

Costs in Dollars, Yen, Euro Pounds

The cost of doing SEO through outsourcing means that you will not have to hire someone either full time or part time in your organization. This is a big cost-cutting factor; moreover, if you find good matching SEO providers in countries like the Philippines, you will be able to save even more on month-to-month operations.

There are plenty of SEOs who advise clients to outsource SEO to a local company. This remains entirely upto the decision makers of the company but Internet Marketing is about being free from physical and geographical restrictions, talent and also local costs for such. My take on this is , try outsourcing. Just even a trial period!

I know many are against the idea but one must remember that it all boils down to the content generation capabilities of the SEO company. Evaluate how they build links, how detailed they can be in content generation, how they apply social media, how they prioritize the end customer etc.. It would be unwise to shun the entire idea without doing a little digging first. This digging may actually save you thousands of dollars per month for a long time. You may also find a deeper answer in an article, where I try and explain that SEO takes time to grow, so keeping quality SEO overhead costs as low as possible makes perfect sense because it makes ROI meters look even more amazing. Read Why Outsourcing SEO Actually Works

  • Having some competitive leverage

Competitive Leverage SEO

Every business wants to work with the best that they can afford. Through outsourcing, there is a lot of leverage that you will be able to have above the competition. The competition may spend much more but if your SEO person or company is more skilled, you will have the leverage with the competition because that same amount will get more SEO work done. So hunting for a good SEO outsourcing company ,will not just help to save up, but it also helps in squeezing the maximum out of your expenditure into the campaigns.

  • SEO and Time

Co-relation of time and seo

Time equals money. Hiring experts and skilled professionals who can get you the competition leverage at a cost you can afford means that you can “Withstand the tests of time” in the Search Engines. SEO takes time and you want to run at the most affordable prices possible but with the best team you can get. SEO isn`t rocket science, its about being detailed, organized and being persistent in churning quality content and links. There are always new goals to achieve in SEO, so company costs and the ROI of the SEO is a turning factor why companies are making wiser decisions to make this work – by looking at it from a practical point of view — to run long lasting SEO campaigns using minimal company resources.

  • SEO and The Future

Hybrid Marketing

“Withstanding the tests of time” as I pointed out in the above paragraph means that you will need to survive in the years to come and that you will be stable and aggressively making business. 5 years ago, SEO experts worked mostly in link building and off-page expansion, then we saw SEOs work a lot on-page as well and now we see SEOs work a lot more on content-building, Social media syndication, PR, Website optimization, ROI and conversion in websites. SEOs now even consult with application development companies as they have got really good at interpreting usability of websites and user-platforms, they even take charge of content in newsletters, website button placement and much more. The latest inclusion has been that SEOs do a lot of reputation management to get good reviews in sites like Yelp as these now directly affect SEO results.

Now that we have looked at reasons why SEO is usually outsourced, let`s move on to the main topic–

Top 10 Challenges and Solutions When Outsourcing SEO 

Industry, Geo-Language and Cultural Barriers to Content Generation

SEO language and Culture barriers

The Industry Barrier

One of the challenges you will face if your business is from a totally different industry like “machining” or “GPS devices” for example, is that many SEOs will not fully understand the technicality involved, how your customers would be swayed and what kind of content they would like to view. There are many SEO firms that specialize in a few industries. But the cons on industry specific SEO firms are that they lack the originality and fierceness that mainstream SEO companies have. Mainstream SEO companies use ideas from different industries bringing a fresh feel for even very technical SEO campaigns.

Overcoming this challenge

Cars, Merchandise, Real Estate, E-commerce SEO campaigns are pretty straight forward and will not bring much of a challenge because most of us know what they are about, there is only a little exploration required to understand the relationships between the keywords and the customers searching for them but SEO campaigns regarding Lawyers services, health services and engineering require some pre-planning or coaching for the SEO team. Having some benchmark sites, content ideas and some training/research time allows the SEO company to adjust and understand your industry better. However, it is best not to start right away but to let the SEO Company make an industry evaluation and competition analysis report first. If you are satisfied with their knowledge absorption, then you can easily start with them.

The Geo-Language Factor

If you are starting an SEO campaign for the US and for English Speaking Countries, there isn’t much of a problem here. But if you are planning to start an SEO campaign that needs Multi-lingual support, you need to know that this form of SEO is very extensive and language skills in specific Geo-target areas is a must if you want to be very competitive. You can already estimate that this also translates to exclusive language link building effort as well. If your keywords are brand based, then this challenge will be reduced significantly, this is why most multi-lingual SEO are brand related as they are already popular in some way in their Geo-areas.

Overcoming Language in SEO

As in the case above, the initial pre-SEO phase is where you will need to put emphasis on what goals you want for different countries. Using multi-lingual websites and inserting Google friendly codes in these pages can help a lot so you can expect a lot of on-page optimization and an extensive content and link planning. The best way to know that you are not going to be just drifting without direction is to have a plan sketched up that makes sense per country basis and also by being very practical in the choice of keywords. Local search is in favor of the local provider, so if you are an international company, based on your reputation and popularity, you may have a faster outcome or you may also have wait for a longer term before seeing results. Being practical is very important when you are launching a website with language support and multi Geo-targeted areas.

The Cultural Factor

If you are outsourcing to a company overseas, you will be faced with yet another challenge, which is the culture of the SEO Company. Although the language you and the provider use may be the same, culture plays a big part in terms of expectations vs deliverables, instruction absorption, business relationships and how work is fundamentally managed.

The only way to skilfully avoid working with the wrong one is to understand how in-depth the SEO Company understands the tiniest of details and how many satisfied clients they have had so far that use English as a first language.

Also only work with a SEO company that will set you up with a dedicated representative,  this will help with setting plans, giving instruction and getting results, reports and updates.

Setting Rational and Practical SEO Goals together

Setting SEO goals

Outsourcing your SEO needs co-ordination and goals need to be set timely and the best way to get goals set timely is to be practical about these goals. The truth is that no matter what anyone says, Google is a moving goalpost and they usually add about two tweaks in their algorithm almost daily. While most of these tweaks are not highly significant, they gradually do build up over time and sometimes they make additions and major adjustments such and the Panda and Penguin. But there is not much threat here however as long as your SEO provider follows Google guidelines properly.

Choice of Keywords and knowing the landscape of the SERPs for the keyword is something to be practical about. If you see the competition put more resources in Content and the results are primarily dominated with authoritative websites, you need to understand what`s actually doable with your budget spending. This is one of the challenges I see when someone tries to outsource, they try to bite more than they can chew because SEOs and customers alike feel, that the more keywords they can target, the better their business will be.  Both the company and the client need to be practical about whats possible within the budget proposed.

 Measuring effectiveness of the SEO

Measure your SEO

The biggest problem in SEO is that you do not actually realize the value and business opportunity unless you are in the top 3 ranks. Seeing actual money and business outcome takes time. This is where most of the SEO frustrations lie – i.e. in getting there. However, keeping good track and measuring your placements means that you will be seeing certain patterns that are clear indicators if you are doing well or not – you may see that rankings are climbing — If you remain stagnant or move down a few spots occasionally, there is no need to fret as it does happen once in a while but having too many of these plateaus and hills means that you need to rethink and re-evaluate with your SEO company for a better strategy.

Sometimes a strategy used in one industry like “Entertainment” for example, may not work for another like “Hotels”. This is due to a different level of competition in these industries and how hotels are  searched locally using a more different set of link building for local search. This is usually what we see when a certain SEO company has only one way of doing things and it may not be working for you. Use a company that has more than one way of doing things. They may be amazing at content but failing in proper link building, it is best to use a company that is well-rounded with a balanced strategy. Ranking upwards although sluggishly is by itself a good outcome especially if you have a look of competitors.

Getting everyone on board

SEO needs cooperation

This is an issue for both the provider and the client. Many companies do not understand that the new way of doing things is to have everyone on board with the SEO plan – at least to be cooperative in some form or way even with an outsourced SEO firm.

Let`s take the case of an imaginary Real Estate Group which may have 30+ agents but who have their own websites that aren’t ranking but they are good in writing local market content for their own domains but never want to work together as a team in terms of content syndication or participate in a common social media strategy. The “all for one and one for all” team on the other hand always gets results because the content gets syndicated 30x times more, the links are 30x times more powerful and of course the company just seems more professional to work with.

This is actually one of the biggest problems in SEO,  but if you ever do come up with a plan that has everyone on board with the SEO and to be of some small help such as syndicate the content or video proactively, this can eventually be turned around to be your biggest strength that every competitor would envy.

Easier said than done! – but had to be listed as on one of the biggest hindrances in doing better SEO in a company/enterprise level.

SEO Moving slow due to a bad communication strategy

Slow Communications and SEO

SEO as we know already takes time, now what is even worse is when communication pathways are made in such an order that it takes several communications internally inside the company before even a small item gets the green-light approval.

Not everything has to go through your Communications and PR department, some items may have to, but remember, that there are some ways to make and build content and links which can be pretty standardized where only one authorized person from the client company can endorse. If one person can approve content, it will save more time than having ten people look into it during a monthly meeting.

The best way to keep content and links moving on time is by

  • Make a pre-planned link and content agenda ahead of the SEO
  • Have them pre-approved well before the execution date
  • Only one person from the clients side reviews the content and links
  • Make a guideline for the SEO company on what can and cannot be done without the company’s authorization which should be reflected on an agreement or contract prior to the SEO.

SEO is extremely time sensitive so it is best to move ahead without spending too much time on formalities. Every formality should be pre-planned and handled before the SEO starts – all you really have to do is to have one person from the company to let the SEO run on time as planned.

Being SEO adaptive

Adapting to SEO changes

Most companies do not like change especially at the Corporation and Enterprise levels. Totally understandable! – but is this going to mean that you are giving up on new SEO opportunities that arise because you do not want to “rock the boat”?

Nowadays, reviews and social media is a big deal and there has been ample proof that there are good positive SEO results to be had if you travel this path. Most people, almost 75% of them do not believe the communications sent from a company and do not bother sharing their communication. They prefer to hear from other customers about you and about your reputation, so have you set up your online system to make this feasible? If you have set up an “Iron Curtain” on what you communicate about and your competition starts getting down to earth with the new generation of consumers, you are likely, to not do as well as the competition.

This is another challenge in SEO outsourcing — when many good ideas are simply given up on. SEOs have great ideas, I think listening and trying something new is not just worth it – it could mean tremendous success all over.

Open to changes in Landing Pages

Seo and Landing Pages

Many times, SEOs will ask clients to change their website structure or pages because of usability flaws and its impact on conversion – then the clients say “This is a new website, we just made it! and we have some good conversion in it! – if it ain`t broke, why fix it?”

Changing the site is a big commitment and you may not have to go there unless the site is poorly made and the site hierarchy is illogical; but there is no real way to know what`s best till you are applying some A/B testing at least on a few landing pages.

Start at least with changes to some high traffic landing pages. This allows you to already start doing something with the visitors already in your website. There is no need to fear as the original web pages will be backed up and can be applied if the new pages aren’t doing as well as anticipated. There are always better ways and better landing pages to be made. In my opinion, the more you are open to changing the landing pages, the faster you will be able to see what works and what doesn`t.

 The shifting SEO landscape

Another popular problem when you outsource SEO is that not everything will go exactly as planned because the competition can change and the search engine algorithm will almost surely change. In the last few years, we have seen Google transform and absorb more and more new platforms and not just their algorithm. The SERPs themselves have changed and they have added more result filters into the mix.

You could have a pre-planned list of activities but because of the dynamics involved, your SEO can change if the search engines favour something else that your competitor is doing and so on and so forth.

If you are armed with this knowledge, then you will not fail as your enthusiasm and eagerness will not give in if things don’t go right. You can easily avoid feeling in a slump and take positive actions by working on a new SEO course of action right away. Anticipation makes you ready and it keeps you on your toes.

The only way to make sure you don’t get the rug swept below your feet is by tracking yours and the competitors ranking almost weekly and seeing why one is moving up or down. This is not something you would have to do yourself but you can ask of these reports from your provider and this is good information so you will not be caught blind-sided and in fact you can use this information to further enhance your SEO.

New Web Technology and Websites

SEO and Mobile devices

A few years ago, many invested in having a mobile website but nowadays a responsive web site is almost the standard for mobiles and handhelds. You can still use the mobile (m.site.com/) version but you may see that it is exhausting to update content in the M version and the WWW version especially if content is your forte. This is not a must but if you agree to having sites with cohesive content and branding with spending as less time as possible, then you may as well go for what’s available and what’s more efficient.

Using new websites like Instagram or Pinterest shouldn’t be thought of as they don’t apply to you, there may be creative ways to use such websites. Never say no unless it is absolutely irrelevant and remember that not all referral participation websites need to be prioritized similarly but getting some good visits from such sites should not be overlooked.

So choosing new technology and referral websites will always be upfront during your SEO journey and it should not be given away without some thought by you and your SEO team. Sometimes new opportunities are completely wasted by not having an outsourcing plan that does not pick up on new technology, websites and channels.

Keeping a positive mind

Positive Seo

This by far is the most important challenge of all. You are investing money and time into nurturing your SEO with your provider. Then, there are other things to think about such as ranking improvements, content opportunities, collaboration between the company and the provider, goals, reports, meeting and this cycle repeats itself.

The only thing that gets me through all of this personally, is a good half an hour jog every other day. I cannot think of any other way in keeping your cool and keeping your head straight and thinking clearly. Jogging may not be your thing, but whatever you do, you need time for yourself to think positive. SEO needs nurturing and this can bring some frustration, so having a positive mind always helps. I cannot stress enough of this as those who have a heavy set mind are not ready to brace for the usual SEO challenges and so will not get to see the picture clearly but only seeing the mist ahead instead of what can be done to move forwards. This is extremely important.

This kind of passion and persistence will almost surely get you ranking high in time. I would like to prove this part with an actual funny conversation I had with a client last week — he told me this.

Client : You know my doctor said I looked healthy during my examination yesterday.

Me  —  That`s Good! So are you Eating Better, Getting More Exercise?

Client : That`s what my doc asked me too! I smiled and told him .. Nah! – My Seo finally started working!” 🙂

Conclusion: Outsourcing SEO is not just an excellent choice, it`s actually very popular and we have seen, that this has been the case in the last few years and why it will be the trend for the next decade to come.

You may have some awkward anxiety or a not-so-good feeling about outsourcing your SEO or even doing any SEO at all. But should you choose to try outsourcing, then we have almost pointed out that the main challenges, are mostly to do with planning and preparation, then execution and making an alternate course of action. This still follows a pretty standard operational process like most of marketing. If you have done marketing in some form, you will surely see that this is the same ball game with different players and challenges but the rules are the same.

You will be successful as long as you have the right information always and an SEO team that you can depend upon who is as much or even more energetic, proactive and enthusiastic as you are. If you are interested in reading more about SEO outsourcing and The Philippines, I have written a few more thoughts at this page — REDKITE SEO.