What Good SEO Really Means
The most common misconception I run into is that SEO is a thing you can buy. It’s actually more accurate to think of SEO as a style guide that also has a few mechanical elements. The technical changes a programmer can make are like trading a messy ballpoint pen for a sharp pencil. It makes writing more legible, but it won’t turn anyone into Leo Tolstoy.
The same goes for SEO guidelines — following them makes posts clearer & easier to parse, but that doesn’t matter if the writing’s no good. This usually means that SEO work is enormously beneficial for sites with high quality writing that simply need help with online formatting… & not at all helpful for sites that publish filler content.
Google Analytics Provides The Best SEO Effectiveness Data
The best way to know whether SEO efforts are paying off is to monitor Organic Search traffic in the Google Analytics Acquisition report. Over the course of about six months, a site’s search traffic should increase if SEO strategy is working.
Another telltale sign SEO is working? Posts published several months ago are still bringing in new visitors. There can be other reasons for this — most commonly that a larger site linked to your article or shared it — but if you’re seeing a steady stream of traffic to many older posts, it’s probably what’s called ‘long-tail’ search traffic.
Sites Usually Have More Search Traffic Than They Think They Do
Also keep in mind that much of a site’s search traffic isn’t listed in the Acquisition report as Organic Traffic. Instead, it’s apportioned to the Direct traffic category.
Why? A large segment of Google searches are anonymized. Therefore, they have no ‘source’, which pushes them into the Direct category. In fact, a recent Groupon case study suggested that almost 60% of Direct traffic may be Organic Search traffic.So when Direct traffic rises, it’s probably from search gains.
Why Optimizing Posts Well Requires A Little Extra Effort
Following SEO guidelines well can mean spending a little extra time to name image files, write alt text, & come up with a good search title & slug.
Some sites focus all their efforts on SEO keywords, but people shouldn’t stop there. It’s just as important (if not more important) to make sure articles are clearly labeled, well-described, & searcher friendly.
Expect to block out an extra five minutes per post for SEO. Like compound interest, it’s a small, incremental thing that can return great dividends over time.
SEO Isn’t A Magic Bullet
I always tell clients not to expect results in fewer than three or four months. When people are lucky, their optimization efforts bear fruit quickly, but investing in SEO should never be a short-term prospect.
Following SEO best practices is wise even in the short term though, to be honest. Google Bot-friendly sites are reader-friendly, too. If nothing else, having a well-organized site map & clean, easy-to-read layouts will help your visitors find what they’re looking for & help reduce the bounce rate.
Questions? Tips? Invitations to magic shows? I’m here to respond if you hit up the comments!