Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important part of online success.
But beware of SEO agencies.
Let’s define some terms. Search engine optimization is a data-driven approach to structuring your website to make it easy to use and effective in supporting your business goals. SEO entails a variety of approaches that work together, making your website more attractive to search engines and humans alike:
- Technical: Ensuring your website is fast, secure, and performs the way it’s supposed to for everyone
- Informational: Choosing the right topics for your online content to meet user needs and get found
- Navigational: Building your website so content is easy to find and users can achieve all their goals
Specifics on how to implement search engine optimization are largely dictated by Google. Google parent firm Alphabet controls the world’s top two search engines: Google itself at #1 and YouTube at #2. It is also among the undisputed world leaders in artificial intelligence, which is driving change in SEO faster than ever.
Since the dawn of the modern e-commerce era back in the early 2000s, some form of SEO has always existed. In more recent years, Google has explicitly laid out a number of SEO best practices. Each one of these focuses on providing the best experience for end users so they’ll keep trusting Google search.
Yet, every time there’s a tiny change to how SEO is done, you’ll hear a chorus proclaiming “SEO is dead!”
Over the years, this predictable fear-mongering has given a lot of people, including plenty of well-meaning business owners, a distorted view of what SEO is and what it means. Some imagine a Wild West scenario, believing SEO is “cheating” and is only practiced by “black hats.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. Modern SEO is scientific and based on principles that make life easier for your website visitors. Google encourages it. And if you’re publishing content on a website with the intention of getting sales, followers, or leads by becoming more visible in search, you are doing SEO.
Just as dangerous, however, is the opposite misconception:
The idea that SEO is so complex and mysterious, that only a dedicated SEO agency can deliver results.
That’s the line promoted by plenty of SEO freelancers. And if you listen, it can tank your website.
Today’s SEO Is Too Complicated for Those Who Claim to Specialize in SEO
SEO is crucial. You need to apply it to all your digital marketing efforts.
But it doesn’t work in a vacuum, and that’s where the claims of most self-described “SEO agencies” fall flat. An SEO agency encourages you to take a narrow view of marketing – saying, in essence, that just by rewriting a few of your existing pages to conform to today’s SEO standards, you’ll see the results you want.
In the majority of cases, it doesn’t work out that way. More nefarious is when it does work, for a while – in part because Google prioritizes new websites in search results early in their lifespan. But when the bonus wears off, presumed results from a standalone SEO strategy often go with it.
Self-proclaimed “SEOs” who focus exclusively on SEO can always shrug their shoulders and say you need more of the same to get the outcome you want. In reality, though, failures of SEO are usually traceable to failures to look at marketing in a holistic way – an approach you can only get from a full service marketing agency.
Let’s look at three common scenarios businesses like yours should avoid:
1. Big Claims About the “First Page of Google”
What they say: “Get on Google Page 1 fast!” is probably the single most common claim that anyone has heard about SEO. This isn’t limited to SEO agencies – you’ll also see it among freelancers at websites like Fiverr and its thousands of clones. Sometimes, the offer is sweetened with the assertion it’ll only take 30 days.
Undoubtedly, every business can benefit from being on the first page of Google results for a carefully selected collection of relevant search terms. These results need to reflect what your audience is actually looking for and how they think about it, without inundating you with nuisance traffic or tire kickers.
What really happens: The amazing thing is that most new websites can reach the first page of Google for a few hand-picked terms that aren’t too competitive. Again, Google gives a significant advantage to new websites. In the long run, this helps Google evaluate whether a new website has staying power.
But those early results soon peter out, and by the time your traffic dips (usually all the way back to zero) you’re stuck in a long-term contract that doesn’t serve your needs. By pretending those initial results are the work of their own SEO wizardry, unscrupulous providers could string you along for quite a while.
What New York Ave does instead: At New York Ave, we don’t promise overnight results – and we don’t pretend good SEO is a “one and done” affair. Yes, we can get most clients to the first page of results for the right search keywords in a reasonable timeframe. The trick is keeping you there.
Sooner or later, your search results will dip as Google decides on your long-term search position. What then? You need to have a complete marketing strategy in place that helps you turn the traffic you’re getting into real business value while working your way back toward the top results of the search keywords that matter most.
A marketing strategy that incorporates blog posts, pillar pages, link building, and more is the only sustainable way to reach and maintain optimal SEO. A complete marketing strategy takes about 90 days to start bearing fruit, leveraging that early traffic at the start and developing new traffic sources by the end.
Anyone who says it can be done faster has a bridge to sell you.
2. Laser Focus on “Your Top Three Keywords”
What they say: “We’ll get you to position one, page one for your top three keywords.”
Keywords or key phrases are the specific search terms your audience types in when they use Google search to look for products or information. There’s no doubt about it: Keywords are important. The fact that Google now recognizes synonyms for most searches hasn’t changed the fact that keywords are at the root.
Once again, though, they aren’t telling you the whole story. By structuring your website to rely too much on a specific handful of keywords, you can prejudice the way Google’s algorithm rates you for years to come.
What really happens: This is another case where you might see impressive short-term results, but you’ll have trouble reaching your long-term goals. Without a holistic, well-balanced strategy that incorporates a range of keywords relevant to your audience, it’ll be difficult to break out of those initial keywords.
While you might have moderate traffic from your first three or five keywords, someone will eventually come along to claim the top spots from you. Without traffic from other keywords to fall back on – including those keywords that might have less search volume or lack a “top three” position – you’re pigeonholed for good.
In short: This approach convinces Google you only do three things. Most businesses aren’t that specific. You want to do more, and you want your online presence to reflect any future evolution. This does the opposite.
What New York Ave does instead: New York Ave uses keywords as a starting point. With our understanding of your industry and audience, we dive deeper into the overall topics they’re interested in and burning questions that influence their buying behavior. This includes “tangential content” that speaks to buyers’ broad interests.
The result empowers your business to draw attention to its specialties while giving you the momentum to build your future. Our average client has dozens of core keywords they rank #1 for, but also hundreds or thousands of relevant positions through results pages 1 through 4, working their way up each month.
Our methods boost your overall ranking across all your keywords, not just a few.
3. SEO Tactics That Get Your Website Penalized
What they say: Wannabe SEO agencies don’t really say anything about this, because they know that if you knew about it, you’d drop them like a bad habit. Tactics that wouldn’t fly even in the late nineties are a big element of how they get “miraculous” results, getting your website penalized once they’re found out.
What really happens: The most common way is this: Creating pages that are effectively invisible to users but repeat relevant search keywords over and over. This tactic was enough to skew entire search results decades ago. Nowadays, Google does catch on, usually within months rather than years.
When it does, a website can be struck from all search results. Forever.
What New York Ave does instead: We put in the work to create a website that’s properly organized, optimized for both humans and Google’s “bots,” and naturally evolves over time. Paired with ongoing blog content, pillar pages, link building, video storytelling, and the rest, we craft a website Google knows will be there for the long haul. Your search positions follow suit as your website gains lasting credibility.
Go Beyond “SEO Agencies” with a Full Service Marketing Agency You Can Trust for the Long Haul
If you’re lucky, a good SEO agency might get short-term results. But if you’re here for the long haul, you need a marketing agency that stands with you every step of the way. With the right agency on your side, you’ll get the expertise, experience, and staffing you need to supercharge your SEO with a complete marketing strategy.
The New York Ave approach can feel tedious, but that’s SEO in a nutshell. The alternative? An unpredictable roller coaster ride, where you experience mountaintop highs and bottomless pit lows – sometimes in the same month. Chasing short-term SEO leaves you at the mercy of Google’s algorithm.
That’s why, when Google adjusts the way its search rankings are calculated, “one trick pony” SEO agencies are usually left scrambling in their wake and struggling to catch up. That leaves you with impaired search rankings for a few weeks or months as they try to figure out what’s going on this time.
Our clients stick around because we’re tried and true. Steady. Predictable. Proven. In the world we live in now, that should be a refreshing change of pace for businesses that have been taken for a ride. Contact us today.