If the current war on SEOs by Google wasn’t bad enough if you
own the site you work on, then it is doubly so for the SEO
working for a client. When the SEO doesn’t have sufficient
control over the strategy and technology, it can be difficult
to get and maintain rankings.
In this post, we’ll take a look at the challenges and common
objections the SEO faces when working on a client site,
particularly a client who is engaging an SEO for the first
time. The SEO will need to fit in with developers, designers
and managers who may not understand the role of SEOs. Here are
common objections you can expect, and some ideas on how to
1. Forget About SEO
The objection is that SEO gets in the way. It’s too hard.
It’s true. SEO is complicated. It can often compromise design
and site architecture. To managers and other web technicians,
SEO can look like a dark art. Or possibly a con. There are no
fixed rules as there are in, say, coding, and results are
So why spend time and money on SEO?
One appropriate response is “because your competitors are”
Building a website is the equivalent of taking the starting
line in a race. Some site owners think that’s all they need do.
However, the real race starts after the site is built. Every
other competitor has a web site, and they’re already off and
running in terms of site awareness. Without SEO, visitors may
find a site, but if the site owner is not using the SEO
channel, and their competitors are, then their competitors have
an advantage in terms of reach.
2. Can’t SEOs Do Their Thing After The Site Is Built?
SEO’s can do their thing after the site is built, but it’s more
difficult. As a result, it’s likely to be more expensive.
Baking SEO into the mix when it is conceived and built is an
Just as copywriters require space to display their copy, SEO’s
require room to manoeuvre. They’ll likely contribute to
information architecture, copy, copy markup and internal
linking structures. So start talking about SEO as early as
possible, and particularly during information architecture.
There are three key areas where SEO needs to integrate with
design. One, the requirement that text is machine readable.
Search engines “think” mostly in terms of words, so topics and
copy need to relate to search terms visitors may use.
Secondly, linking architecture and information hierarchies. If
pages are buried deep in the site, but deemed important in
terms of search, they will likely be elevated in the hierarchy
to a position closer to the home page.
Thirdly, crawl-ability. A search engine sends out a spider,
which grabs the source code of your website, and dumps it back
in the search engines database. The spider skips from page to
page, following links. If a page doesn’t have a crawlable link
pointing to it, it will be invisible to search engines. There
are various means of making a site easy to crawl, but one
straightforward way is to use a site map, linked to from each
page on the site. The SEO may also want to ensure the site
navigation is crawlable.
3. We Don’t Want The SEO To Interfere With Code
SEO’s do need to tweak code, however the mark-up is largely
SEO’s need to specify title tags and some meta tags. These tags
need to be unique for each page on the site, as each page is a
possible entry page. A search visitor will not necessarily
arrive at the home page first.
The title tag appears in search results as a clickable link, so
serves a valuable marketing function. When search visitors
consider which link on a search results page to click, the
title tag and snippet will influence their decision. The title
tag should, therefore, closely match the content of each page.
The second aspect concerns URL’s. Ideally, a URL should contain
descriptive words, as opposed to numbers and random letters.
For example, acme.com/widgets/red-widgets.htm is good, whilst
acme.com/w/12345678&tnr.php, less so.
The more often the keyword appears, the more likely it will be
bolded on a search results page, and is therefore more likely
to attract a click. It’s also easier for the search engine to
determine meaning if a URL is descriptive as opposed to
4. I’ve Got An SEO PlugIn. That’s All I Need
SEO Plugins cover the on-site basics. But ranking well involves
more than covering the basics.
In order to rank well, a page needs to have links from external
sites. The higher quality those sites, the more chances your
pages have of ranking well. The SEO will look to identify
linking possibilities, and point these links to various
internal pages on the site.
It can be difficult, near impossible, to get high quality links
to brochure-style advertising pages. Links tend to be directed
at pages that have unique value.
So, the type and quality of content has more to do with SEO
than the way that content is marked up by a generic plugin. The
content must attract links and generate engagement. The visitor
needs to see a title on a search result, click through, not
click back, and, preferably take some action on that page. That
action may be a click deeper into the site, a bookmark, a
tweet, or some other measurable form of response.
Content that lends itself to this type of interaction includes
blog posts, news feeds, and content intended for social network
engagement. In this way, SEO-friendly content can be
functionally separated from other types of content. Not every
page needs to be SEO’d, so SEO can be sectioned off, if
5. The SEO Is Just Another Technician
If your aim, or your clients aim, is to attract as much
targeted traffic as possible then SEO integration must be taken
just as seriously as design, development, copy and other media.
SEO is more than a technical exercise, it’s a strategic
marketing exercise, much like Public Relations.
SEO considerations may influence your choice of CMS. It may
influence your strategic approach in terms of what type of
information you publish. It may change the way you engage
visitors. Whilst SEO can be bolted-on afterwards, this is a
costly and less-effective way of doing SEO, much like
re-designing a site is costly and less effective than getting
it right in the planning stage.
6. Why Have Our Ranking Disappeared?
The reality of any marketing endeavour is that it will have a
shelf-life. Sometimes, that shelf life is short. Other times,
it can run for years.
SEO is vulnerable to the changes made by search engines. These
changes aren’t advertised in advance, nor are they easily
pinned down even after they have occurred. This is why SEO is
strategic, just as Public Relations is strategic. The Public
Relations campaign you were using a few years ago may not be
the same one you use now, and the same goes for SEO.
The core of SEO hasn’t changed much. If you produce content
visitors find relevant, and that content is linked to, and
people engage with that content, then it has a good chance of
doing well in search engines. However, the search engines
constantly tweak their settings, and when they do, a lot of
previous work – especially if that work was at the margins of
the algorithms – can come undone.
So, ranking should never be taken for granted. The value the
SEO brings is that they are across underlying changes in the
way the search engines work and can adapt your strategy, and
site, to the new changes.
Remember, whatever problems you may have with the search
engines, the same goes for your competitors. They may have
dropped rankings, too. Or they may do so soon. The SEO will try
to figure out why the new top ranking sites are ranked well,
then adapt your site and strategy so that it matches those
7. Why Don’t We Just Use PPC Instead?
PPC has many advantages. The biggest advantage is that you can
get top positioning, and immediate traffic, almost instantly.
The downside is, of course, you pay per click. Whilst this
might be affordable today, keep in mind that the search engine
has a business objective that demands they reward the top
bidders who are most relevant. Their auction model forces
prices higher and higher, and only those sites with deep
pockets will remain in the game. If you don’t have deep
pockets, or want to be beholden to the PPC channel, a long term
SEO strategy works well in tandem.
SEO and PPC complement one another, and lulls and challenges in
one channel can be made up for by the other. Also, you can feed
the keyword data from PPC to SEO to gain a deeper understanding
of search visitor behaviour.
8. Does SEO Provide Value For Money?
This is the reason for undertaking any marketing strategy.
An SEO should be able to demonstrate value. One way is to
measure the visits from search engines before the SEO strategy
starts, and see if these increase significantly post
implementation. The value of each search click changes
depending on your business case, but
can be approximated using the PPC bid prices. Keep in mind
the visits from an SEO campaign may be maintained, and
increased, over considerable time, thus driving down their cost
relative to PPC and other channels.