As far as I’m concerned, as a long-term web development and marketing professional, there are just a few broad aspects of search engine optimization (SEO). There is (1) your web site’s infrastructure, (2) your content (which may be on-site or off-site), and (3) how you distribute that content.
I do a lot of SEO work here at Array. Typically, a client will initially have some sort of vague idea about SEO. Often, there will be a belief that the web site itself just needs some new code installed (whatever that means) — a quick, one-time adjustment , and then their Google rankings will somehow improve.
So, we go through an education phase, whereby I’ll explain that, yes, infrastructure matters and, yes, we can indeed do some things on the web site to help a little. But that’s not going to be the magic that gets the client the significant ranking improvement they’re after.
For that, I tell them, you need content. Quality, on-point, consistent, key-word / key-phrase-loaded content.
Clients don’t like to hear this, though. And I think the main reason is this: If it were just an infrastructure thing, they could throw money at it and it would be done. But content is different; it takes time. And, in many cases, it takes subject-matter expertise.
And that’s the crux of the SEO problem. It takes a combination of time and expertise. In many cases, the client feels that he or she is the sole holder of expertise in the business, yet he or she doesn’t have the time to dedicate to a content creation regimen.
There’s no magic solution or recommended approach that anyone could take to address this. I believe it needs to be addressed on a case-by-case basis. In most cases, the smaller the company, the more that the owner is going to need to make at least a little time to do SEO properly. Let me give you an example.
Content Creation / SEO Example at a Smaller Company
I was hired by a consulting company to improve their local Google positioning. It was an interesting case because, if you’re familiar with the Business Journals papers available in 40+ major U.S. cities, they publish all sorts of “Top 25” lists in various industries throughout the year (e.g., “Top 25 Consulting Companies in [whatever city]”).
The client in question hadn’t even made that list, which (to me) indicated that they arguably had zero business being able to rank well on Google for any industry key words or phrases because, presumably, there were at least 25 larger competitors in town!
Moreover, the owners were perpetually busy, as you’d expect. So, how the hell was I supposed to generate content?
I think some SEO companies likely want to do things like initiate a vlog or blog and start farming out content for key words and key phrases. And yes, this might work for some companies. (I’ve in fact been hired by other PR firms to write key-word loaded reports for this very reason. Somewhere online are numerous SEO articles about credit reports, written anonymously by yours truly.)
But that approach likely would not work for everyone — and especially not for smaller companies with well-developed niches. That’s because the business owners have branding and image concerns, after all. There’s bringing in traffic on the one hand, and there’s quality on the other. Right? So, a small company isn’t going to want a blog that brings in traffic but also makes them look less savvy than they should. (This is why, as I suggested, that those with expertise, such as the owners or managers, need to be involved.)
That all said, there are always ways to “tap the expertise” in economical ways that allow us to extract the content we need from owners / managers, yet minimize the time required from them.
In the case discussed here, I went with interviews. What I did was as follows:
- I came up with a long list of questions relating to the industry. So, right away, you can see that this step took a good bit of time, yet not from the owners. Also, as these were just questions that anyone might ask, general questions were okay. They needn’t have been groundbreaking questions — just ordinary, professional business questions.
- We then did video sessions with the owner. These could be as brief or long as the owner had time for. In this format, I asked the owner questions (I was off-camera), and the owner would simply answer them on the spot. As he was the expert, this was very easy for him. And as many of the questions were basic, he answered in a very broad, educational way, as though he were explaining these concepts directly to me. (If he flubbed up an answer? No worries, we’d do another take, or I’d edit it out.)
- As to that last point: Imagine I asked him maybe five questions, to which he answered each one for five minutes. That’s twenty-five minutes of the owner’s time, which we usually squeezed in as he had availability. With Zoom and whatnot, that’s easier than ever to do! So, his investment is 25 minutes per session, and that gave me much more to do, as I’ll explain.
- Then we edited each question into a standalone Q&A video. So, in the above example, we’d have five videos made, each one with maybe four minutes of content, plus an opening and closing graphic. We’d then transcribe the video, which created text we to use alongside it. As we were talking about issues within the client’s industry, the text naturally was key-word and key-phrase loaded. But, of course, many of my questions were also specific to various key words / phrases. So, the text was always very on-point!
- Then we posted the video to YouTube. We’d post the text as the video’s description, along with a linkback to the web site and various keywords / tags. This got us the basic YouTube link that we’d use in various places. (We also uploaded the video and text to other platforms, and/or used the YouTube link to embed it on those platforms.)
- We then made a blog post on the client’s site, including the YouTube video and the text. That got us a permanent blog post link with a nice keyword-loaded URL on the client’s domain. (And that link could be shared by the owners / management on various social media sites, etc.)
- As we had five videos, we would post one per day. So, that’s a TON of great content for a whole week, all for a 25-minute investment of time from the owner. And we’d keep that up for an extended period. In one year, with this minimally invasive plan (as far as time investment goes), a client could have 250+ videos and blog posts completed, all keyword loaded.
What happened? Well, they found themselves ranking at the #1 spot on Google for all sorts of industry pages. It took time, but it happened for this client within about six months, and their positioning continually strengthened in numerous ways.
I always laughed because they had absolutely no business ranking that high, given so many other much larger players in town. But, there it was. (I did simplify the above a bit, and should note that we almost never got 5 per week. But, ideally, that would’ve been my plan.)
My points here are that (1) yes, it takes a lot of work and content, but (2) it needn’t impinge as much as you might think on your time, so long as you’re able to outsource aspects like transcription, editing, video, posting, social media, distribution, etc.
And, as I said, each client is unique, so the above may not work for you or your niche. But, something similar may well exist to help maintain the level of quality you want / need (in terms of content, production values, etc.), yet also accomplish the level of consistent output that Google tends to reward.
✍🏻 Jim Dee maintains three blogs — Hawthorne Crow, Web Designer | Web Developer Magazine, and Wonderful Words, Defined — and contributes to various Medium pubs. Connect at JPDbooks.com, Amazon, FB, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Medium, or Jim [at] ArrayWebDevelopment.com. His latest screwball literary novel, CHROO, is a guaranteed good time.