NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – Search engine optimization is a necessary part of increasing visibility for your client’s business online. With a delicate balance of link building, content creation and on-page optimization, a top SEO company can get their client’s site ranking highly for their desired keywords after a reasonable amount of time. But what happens after you get your client to the top? Where else is there to go?
SEO firms have to juggle a lot of variables – Panda updates, algorithm changes, market analysis, link building, etc. Gray-hat SEO techniques can change a lot over time and SEO companies need to see beyond three years to ensure a site isn’t penalized or declining in rankings.
Ultimately our goal as an online marketing company is to increase our clients’ businesses. In that way, our strategies must be specifically targeted to each client’s unique market for long-term growth. How do we create these successful long-term SEO strategies?
It’s simple in theory: create a great site and find the right market for the client to thrive. In reality, it takes dedication, flexibility, realistic expectations, trial and error, communication, creativity and sometimes a little bit of clairvoyance.
SEO companies have to look forward for their clients. They should focus on what will benefit their client in the long term – think three to five years down the road – not just a short term gain in rankings.
These six steps will get you started.
1. Make a Great Site
SEO companies should care about more than just keyword density, metadata, H1 tags and inbound links; they should also focus on creating a solid, well-built site. Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, makes Google’s guidelines seem incredibly simple.
“Our guidelines have always been kind of steady – make a great site so that people want to link to it,” Cutts said at the annual Search Marketing Expo (SMX) Advanced conference this June.
OK, Matt. That sounds easy, but is it? Not so much. Creating great sites relies on a variety of factors. A great site certainly needs quality inbound links, original, well-written content and appropriate H1 tags, but it also needs a pulse.
Great sites are valuable and well designed. A really great site is pleasing to the eye and has a clear, concise design. A great website should also load quickly, look beautiful, have a memorable URL, include relevant information for your visitors and be cleanly coded.
Great sites are watched carefully and managed – they aren’t just built and left to collect dust. Great sites notice their “bugs” and work to fix them. Great sites generally involve good programmers, good designers and good copywriters.
To be successful with SEO in the long run, you must certainly optimize on-page text, but you also need to engage the audience with a refreshing, clean website. You must be the watchdogs of your clients’ sites and continually look for ways to improve the value of their sites.
2. Set Realistic Expectations
Just as a business should never trust an SEO company who claims to get their site to the top of Google overnight, they probably shouldn’t trust a company who says they can keep them at number one indefinitely. SEO changes, and sometimes a site will fluctuate for a while before reaching the top.
“We need to let the client know that each SEO project has an expiration date,” says Matt Zadeh, Sinai’s Digital Marketing Consultant. “Even the white-hat SEO projects. Nothing in the world of SEO is permanent because Google’s algorithm is not permanent. The best thing to do as an SEO firm is to be upfront with the client and prepare them that they need to start a new project every few years to always be ranking on the top.”
Make sure your client understands that SEO is a constantly changing field, and SEO companies are constantly refining their strategies to provide better and better service. Zadeh says a reevaluation should take place every 3-6 months. Your clients should understand that creating the best services takes time. Which brings us to our next tip.
3. Try to See the Future
You need to keep up with SEO changes so you know where the industry is headed. You have to read and analyze and gather data and analyze more data. There is always more to learn, and the more you learn, the more you know.
That sounds a little Dr. Seuss-like, but it’s true.
The goal of a good search engine is to anticipate human behavior. If you can understand what humans like about good websites, you can create websites that humans (and search engines) like.
As you keep reading and studying SEO, you see trends. You see what works and what doesn’t. This allows you to anticipate the future and prepare for it. Seeing the future of search, though, is only part of the battle. You must also look into the future for your client’s business.
Take time to learn your client’s market. Learn where your client’s customers are. Learn which social network they prefer, which blogs they read and what hobbies they have. This knowledge will open up new possibilities for your clients’ SEO strategies. Use logic to determine the best strategy for clients on a case-by-case basis.
4. Be Consistent, Then be Flexible
These two optimization tips may sound contradictory, but they aren’t at all. Once you’ve created a strategy to increase traffic and boost your client’s business, closely monitor the fruits of your efforts. You should see increases in your client’s traffic as a result of your consistent work.
If a strategy has been executed for months and months without any benefit, it’s time to let that strategy go and brainstorm a new one. The search engine optimizer who knows when to quit a technique shows his flexibility and dexterity in the field.
Not all SEO techniques strike gold, and there’s no use holding onto ones that aren’t working. We should objectively analyze our efforts with clients even if we’ve been improving their SEO for years.
Businesses and SEO companies need to routinely discuss the trends they notice. Great ideas come from putting your head together with your client. You spend your time watching industry trends in the SEO and marketing world, and your clients spend their time differently.
For example, if you have a dental client, they can tip you off on an emerging dentistry trend that’s hot right now, and then you can help them ride the cusp of that trend through SEO. Both parties – the SEO firm and the client – should spend time discussing their expertise to find an individualized strategy for the client’s success.
Zadeh believes a strong rapport is one important key to a long-term client relationship.
“If you want to make a long-term client successful, you need to establish a friendship with the client and almost a partnership,” Zadeh says. “Be very honest and upfront, let them know the risks and success potentials, and always deliver what you said you would. If you promise rankings and can’t achieve them, give them a couple of months of work for free till you catch up. If you can’t achieve your promises, then let them know what the reason was and when it’s going to be fixed.”
6. Be Creative
In the end, each client you have as a search engine optimizer is different. Inventive solutions created specifically for each client is the way to approach long-term success in SEO. As SEO shifts and evolves, the companies who offer creative solutions and care about their clients’ successes will flourish.
When clients know you’re in for the long haul, they’ll trust that you’re trying to build something with them. And isn’t that what we’re all trying to do?
What tips do you have for enjoying SEO success past the three-year mark?