|How well does SEO work anymore?|
SEO vs Paid Search
SEO seems to be getting more and more time intensive, and the results are harder and harder to get. I've heard some mentions of the long-term state of SEO, and one that caught my eye was that SEO would be most useful for the 'long tail' while any highly competitive words would almost have to be paid for.
The weblogs I look at seem to confirm this - the majority of search traffic comes from terms that we're not specifically optimizing for. All of our optimized terms, first page and #1 ranks and all, only make up a relatively small percentage of overall search traffic.
For example, if you were selling books, what hope, if any, do you have of beating out Amazon.com or even cracking the first page? Some areas just seem nearly impossible to crack without huge amounts of effort, and that's often not economically reasonable.
What are your thoughts?
SEO is now expensive.
It used to be really cheap, but if you want to compete against the best in the industry, either you need to hire a very expensive SEO expert, or spend a lot of money on copywriting, links and optimization of revenue.
Good value SEO is all about knowing what fights to pick. Want to be number one for loans? Yeah, as you point out, so does everyone else.
We tend to optimise for 2 or 3 word phrases, and lots of them. It's not difficult to find the most popular words used to describe your target market, just find them and then start putting them together into sensible phrases.
We often use AdWords to test the water; pay for ads (making a small profit or loss normally) and then analyse the ways that people find us/our clients.
The long tail is indeed really important, those phrases that you pick will rarely crop up as exact matches for what people search for, it's the combination of popular words and the other content on your pages that makes the difference.
As for the generic terms, it's possible to rank well for them but there are not that many that actually make sense to optimise for. We have a client that is #1 for their industry's main term yet only a small percentage of their traffic comes from that term. A similar effect to 'the long tail' happens when you are #1 for your generic, you end up with your 'long tail' starting with 2 word phrases rather than 3 or 4 (hence floods of traffic).
We recently looked at an SEO project for some very popular (read expensive) terms; as was the case in that scenario, by the time your client can afford an SEO campaign for on such a scale they probably don't need it.
The few people out there who can truly afford to do large scale SEO campaigns are either well-funded and relatively unknown or they are SEO firms that have a steady flow of income and time and expertise to dedicate to a new, ambitious project.
Yes, optimizing for many 2, 3, or 4 word terms has been my approach too, but some client sites are quite small, like 10-20 pages tops. These aren't eCommerce sites with hundreds or thousands of pages where we can tweak to our heart's content - these are small, corporate portals that have a specific function so it's hard to optimize on-page for a large number of terms. Seems link-building is the only way to go but it's so labor intensive that the costs get to the point where a PPC program almost seems like the better option, even though there's the obvious downside that when a PPC program ends, the rankings vanish.
I think part of the problem is the client's expectation to see immediate results combined with our agency's desire to *show* results to a client as quickly as possible to justify our services. While we clearly caveat SEO as a long term process, it's a lot easier to sell in PPC and makes us look a lot better when, one month in, we've driven loads of traffic.
Seems like a combination of the business and technical/algorithm factors I guess.
Always keep in mind that research has shown that only 20% of users click on sponsored ads within the SERPS. So no I do not think SEO is dead. Yes, it is very time intensive, but it has to be incorporated into your overall internet marketing strategy if you want to remain competitive in your industry.
We use a simple little method (among others) for constructing 2-5 word phrasings.
Here’s an example for a online ecommerce coin shop;
Rare American Coins
Buy rare American coins
Buy rare American coins online
This is then augmented by switching ‘Rare’ with ‘Antique’ or ‘American’ with ‘Canadian’ or ‘World’. This produces excellent sub-sets for targeting. I can tell you they have done extremely well for a variety of these combinations (such as SERPs for ‘Buy American Coins’, ‘Rare coins online’ etc..)
Utilizing this method and an understanding of LSI (latent semantic indexing) will go a long way in establishing strongly defined and targeted Keywords/Phrases (KW/P). We use dome other methods, depending on the engine we’re targeting, but this is a good method to try if you’re looking for new ideas….
I am interested in this though” research has shown that only 20% of users click on sponsored ads within the SERPS.”. Can I see the data? I have some white papers on end user (surfer) behavior and while the numbers varied, (it is also broken down into population segmentation) they had the number of users preferring to use ‘organic’ results at 65% not 80%. Doesn’t seem like much, but once you factor in a Billion surfers, 15% error rate is something to be sure.
You show me your data, I’ll show you mine?
The real question is how patient are you? Or how long will the customer wait for results. In limited budgeted companies, sales and cash-flow are the only thing upper management care about. Therefore SEO would not be a good idea. Present Pay-Per-Click instead. But if it’s you site and the money is coming out of your pocket then SEO is mandatory, good web design practice, and in the first year will pay for it’s costs.
If you use the current SEO trend recommendations, make sure your PR feed back is working, and you do not play the SEO games, you will get within the top 40 on keyword terms (less than 1M). You will need multiple indexes and a PR update (or two) before you will see results that you want.
Or you can move into “Aggressive White Hat” concepts by pushing the keyword density to equal the top 10 average. This should get you within the top 20.
After this, it becomes the tuning of the full SEO object (title, alt, H1, H2, etc.). But, you should be doing this anyway. From this point on, moving up will be based on your inbound links and their associated text.
As for “quality” links, this means higher PR on the page that the link is from. (A PR 9 site has no value to you if you link is on a PR 0 page of that site.)
As for the content of the link text, it should be looked at the same as you would the page title you are connecting to. In short, you should give thought and planning to your link popularity program.
Now, as for keywords! Single words will just get you traffic. Although this make the site’s numbers look good, you will not increase sales. Most of our pages are now based on a two-word phrase that is to apply a “pre-filter” to the search. The quality of the results are much greater and the conversion rate goes up greatly. Once in a while we use a three-word phrase but that is for very competitive topics or very focused targeting.
By doing the foundation of SEO tuning on your web site, you will have a very solid site within a year. And you will be improving the SEO monthly as well.
So if you just want traffic, are being judged on traffic and get paid for traffic, then PPC is what you should do. But for those of us that are in it for the long hall, and started our SEO 4 years ago, SEO is mandatory.
So, are you a short term or long term player?
Note: Click Fraud Reviews are over 30% for our major customers and all have implemented MAJOR SEO programs. It just took them 2 years to make that decision.
And as for Amazon and the big boys. People search for a specific object. Once they find it, they run another search to find the lowest total transaction price. Even if you are #1, if your prices are higher the a #40 position site, the #40 will get the order. And that is the only thing that really counts.
All I can say that there is no good documentation which can help you rank well. The reason is that Mr Matt cutts also read that :).