Search Engine Optimization is not Marketing

Dave Felts

One of the account reps is dealing with a client who's interested in SEO on their site. Niether the rep nor the client has a firm grasp on exactly what that involved. This is how I explained it to her:

SEM is search engine marketing. Like any marketing function, it involves paying for the delivery an advertising message in an attempt to gain customers to make sales or to promote brand awareness. You take how much you spend, figure out how many sales derived from your effort, bump that up against how much you made, and figure out if that campaign was effective. Marketing is typically conducted to promote a service or product that already exists and is immediately available.

SEO doesn't work like that. The best time to optimize your site is pre-production. Do good SEO as you build your site and you won't have to do anything more except a tweak here and there from then on out. It's a lot easier to do SEO up front than go back and redo it later.

The concern marketers have with SEO (at least the concern they've expressed to me) is that it's not easily measured and there's no guarantee. I tell my clients, "Do what I say, and I guarantee you'll rank higher in 6 months than you do now for the terms you target." But I can't guarantee number 1 on Google or any other provider. And SEO provider who does is either a liar or has a bag of black-hat tricks up their sleeve that are just as likely to get you banned as ranked.

SEO is not marketing! SEO is building a site so that it's easily found, crawled, indexed and ranked by the search engines. You don't see results in a week, or even a month. You can't directly calculate a return on investment.

If you're thinking about SEO, do a baseline analysis of your traffic to determine:

1. The average number of unique visitors per day over the last three months

2. The average number of page views per day over the last three months

3. Your position in the organic results for they key terms you want to target in Google, Yahoo, and MSN

Now do your SEO, wait 6 months, and repeat the above. If the results are the same, or only a little bit above where they were, then your SEO wasn't effective. But if there's a significant difference, and you've got a good deal more traffic than you did before, it probably was.<

Dave is a full-time Search Engine Marketing Manager. He also runs SyteSurge, a web site dedicated to search engine optimization and Internet marketing.

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