December 15th, 2012 § 1 Comment
The last year has been hard on the SEO community – anyone working in the trenches has seen huge algorithm updates, penalties and big changes in the way we do, and talk about, SEO.
I’m not going to re-hash the Penguin and Panda updates. We all know that link buying is now problematic, and even the most innocent of technical issues (like filtered navigation or indexable search pages) can get your site hit without warning.
The SEO community and any agency worth their salt has had to take notice of these changes, and I bet there are a dozen other “SEO in 2013″ posts out there saying exactly that.
What stands out most for me going into 2013 is that SEO is no longer about just hiring an agency to make the magic happen.
So many SEO clients want to take a hands-off approach, and in a way who can blame them? They’re paying a retainer so that you make them rank week after week and month after month, improving their search visibility and driving traffic to their site. Why should they have to do any work?
Well, 2012 has kind of shown us that’s a recipe for disaster. If I’m building links for a client, I want to know what’s so special about their site or about their company that someone should link to them. I ask for content, or a story, or an innovation – anything that can be used to create a dialogue with the outside world. I don’t want to know that they want X number of links this month and it’s my job to find them – that’s not how linkbuilding needs to operate from now on.
2013 needs website owners to take an interest in their brand online, whether that’s by creating great content or getting involved in social media, finding advertising and partner opportunities or whatever it may be. Clients have to give their SEO something to work with. An SEO with nothing interesting to pitch is just a linkbuyer, and we know how Penguin feels about that.
Looking at on-site SEO, it’s equally important for clients to get involved. At one point this just meant making title tag changes or adding a little content here and there, but Google’s increasingly comprehensive technical guidelines mean a whole host of changes could potentially be made to bring a site up to scratch. Some of these guidelines – like the use of robots.txt, rel=”canonical”, prev/next or noindex – can affect a site massively if implemented incorrectly. And it’s not just behind-the-scenes stuff that needs to be spot on – the user experience is increasingly important too. Thin pages or duplicate content can absolutely bugger a website. Pages that were fine 12 months ago can now cause issues, and that’s no-one’s fault, that’s just the fallout from Google’s algorithm changes.
Unfortunately, telling a client that their website needs an overhaul isn’t always easy. They may have spent thousands on it already, or they think it looks fine as it is, or they think you should be able to make them rank anyway (because that’s your job, right?). Well, like I said before, just hiring an agency and sitting back afterwards isn’t enough. Clients need to get on board with site changes and actually implement them. Too many times I’ve seen sites flounder where investment in a better website would have made a difference. The fact is that making a better website for SEO can also mean making a better website for users – investing in content and a great user experience can only be positive things for any online business.
This certainly isn’t the death-knell for pre-2012 SEO practices. Sites still rank with paid links and crap content, and I can’t see that changing any time soon. If you’re going to play by Google’s rules however and build some longevity into your strategy it’s time to get clients on board and work in partnership with them. SEO isn’t an external add-on anymore that clients can pay for and then forget about – it’s moving more and more into the marketing sphere. We need to educate clients on how to market themselves online, and build an SEO strategy around what makes their site great. If their site’s not great to begin with, we need to make sure it becomes so, and this means lots of involvement from them.
It might be a tough sell, but it’s got to happen to bring SEO out of the dark ages and into a bright new 2013.