What Does SEO Mean to You?

These days, there’s a lot of disagreement about exactly which tasks should be considered part of SEO. By definition, search engine optimization speaks to optimizing for search engines. DUH!

But the lines are sometimes hazy – increasingly so, as both search and Internet usage skills evolve. For instance, there are some aspects of site optimization for users that can impact rankings in the SERPs, but only in an indirect manner. Should those be ignored, just because they’re not ranking factors? I’d say no.

So the first thing to do is to decide where you draw the line. I have a very easy way of identifying which aspects to address for our clients:

If it’ll affect the client’s performance in any way, improving profitability, reputation, market share… whatever the client’s goal may be… then I see it as my responsibility to help my client address it. That includes, design, SEO, SEM, conversion, off-line marketing… all of it. Full stop.

Wait a Minute!

peacockLet me clarify: “addressing” those aspects doesn’t necessarily mean doing them all myself. For instance, I’ll offer no more than my opinion on design (I’m an engineer and we’re notoriously devoid of aesthetic skills). But I can point out some obvious points that might need attention (“Bob, your orange and purple theme looks like the NBC peacock threw up on a GeoCities page!”) and I can recommend a designer be brought in to take a look at it, if the client likes.

PPC is much the same for me… I don’t do it. Sure, I recognize circumstances in which it might be a good path, but again, I recommend a PPC professional be brought in to actually manage that portion of the campaign. I know my limits, and PPC falls way outside my area of expertise. By choice.

So I work with a number of other professional consultants that specialize in areas I don’t touch. On any given day, I’m usually collaborating with at least one other consultant, each of us doing what we’re good at. But at the end of the day, if the client isn’t getting maximum benefit for his dollar, then I don’t think I’m providing a responsible service. So I offer a full-package service, even though that may mean calling on other pros to add their magic to the mix.

So What DO I Do?

My strong suit is technical SEO. Maybe that’s the engineer in me, but I enjoy the nuts & bolts of making a site work quickly and intuitively, leading users from the SERPs to the Cart as quickly and painlessly as possible. That includes making the site as secure as reasonably possible, with a responsive design that functions as well on a smart-phone as it does on a desktop. It means a fast pageload, good crawling and indexing, intuitive navigation and site search and a host of other things I consider to be “best practices”.

I also develop WordPress sites for clients. Don’t we all love the projects where we don’t have to come into the situation late in the game and try to get things reworked so our optimization efforts will have a chance to do their stuff? For me, the ideal situation is where I’m building the site from the ground up, with SEO in mind. That means minimal spinning of wheels, less lost time and no excess cost for the client – it also translates into faster results.

What Does This do for the Client?

The obvious benefit is that the client’s site (and by extension, hopefully, their business) will become more effective and/or profitable – that the investment they make in my services proves to provide ROI, even if that may be difficult to quantify.

But a major goal of my client relationships is to educate, not just fix issues. I don’t just point out what needs to be done and how to do it, I try to help them understand why it needs to be done and how each aspect is just one cog in their business’s makeup. By doing so, they’ll hopefully gain a better understanding of how marketing is both the same and different today, compared to yesterday. That normally helps give them some clarity of how it may be still more different tomorrow.

What Does This do for Me?

First and foremost, taking this approach enables me to ensure that my clients receive tangible value from engaging my services. Whether that value comes directly from me or from another team member I bring to the table is immaterial.

That tangible value translates into return business, referrals and recommendations. It also allows me to know that I’ve fulfilled my responsibilities as a consultant. So I sleep better. And drink less. A little.

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Doc Sheldon has worked in marketing since the 1980s and he's been writing professionally since the 1970s. He owned and published weekly and monthly newspapers and magazines during the ’80s, before becoming a business consultant and ultimately "retiring" in 2008. He began studying SEO in earnest in 2003, and now specializes in technical SEO. His passions are the development of the Semantic Web, trying to figure out what changes may be coming next from the search engines and eliminating misinformation.