Commonly Confused SEO Concepts

What you will learn: The accurate meaning of important SEO concepts, which will help you to better direct your SEO campaign.

Who should read this article: Company and marketing leadership.

To non-specialists, SEO is a confusing tangle of ideas and activities. While it is not necessary for company leaders and even marketing directors to understand the technical nuances of SEO execution, certain concepts are extremely important for keeping campaigns properly focused. Let’s take a look.

1. Confusion about Rankings

Basing an SEO campaign on ranking metrics is a mistake: it will reduce your relevant traffic and conversions.

Rankings used to be a very important metric, back when rankings were fairly consistent on all Google searches everywhere for a given search query. Today, however, things have changed radically. Search results vary depending on a user’s physical location, search history, the type of search conducted (e.g., images, news) and other factors. Bottom line: Ranking position varies from day to day, search to search.

In addition, ranking highly for a given keyword, to the extent it can be measured, is still not the best indication of SEO effectiveness. If the highly ranking keyword has a low search volume, or drives traffic that is not relevant, it will not produce conversions.

The true focus of an SEO campaign should be to drive relevant traffic that converts into sales leads or e-commerce revenue. The artistry of campaign management is to develop the best group of keywords to accomplish those things. The ideal group usually consists of a mixture of high-volume, mid-volume and low-volume keywords, all with a high probability of generating qualified traffic and conversions.

2. Confusion about Content Marketing and SEO

Content marketing is not SEO. Certain content marketing techniques are used in all SEO campaigns. A pure content marketing campaign does not produce SEO results, except by accident.

Content marketing uses content to achieve all sorts of Internet marketing objectives, from branding to customer acquisition to customer retention to … SEO. Specifically, SEO makes use of these content marketing techniques:

  • Content production for on-site and off-site content generated to produce inbound links and keyword optimization.
  • Content outreach to place content on SEO-targeted websites, and build relationships with those publishers.
  • Content analysis to evaluate the SEO effectiveness of on-site and off-site content.

These content-related tasks represent part of the SEO campaign investment — sometimes a significant part. These tasks can be outsourced to an SEO agency, handled in-house or approached collaboratively, depending on the skill sets of both parties.

3. Confusion between Leads and Inquiries

SEO campaigns should not be evaluated based on inquiries, because inquiries are not leads. Many campaigns call inquiries “leads,” which drastically overstates results and causes companies to invest more in SEO than they should, and causes agencies to inefficiently optimize campaigns.

As it applies to an SEO campaign, an inquiry is a form submission or phone call promoted by the campaign. Thus, an inquiry could be a sales lead, but it could also be spam, a sales solicitation, a personal phone call or something else.

Our client data shows as much as 45 percent of SEO campaign inquiries are not leads.

Thus, if an agency reports inquiries as leads, it could be overstating lead production by almost half! To prevent this, the agency must incorporate a lead validation process into its campaign, to isolate sales leads and give clients a clear picture of how well their SEO campaigns are performing. Look at this lead validation infographic for a visual explanation of this concept.

4. Confusion about Local Search

Local search optimization has a unique and extensive set of best practices. Local SEO is not just for local companies; national and global companies can also benefit greatly from a local SEO campaign.

Local SEO is a specialization within the field of SEO. Certain agencies are quite good at it; others have little or no experience. Local SEO has hundreds of techniques used to make companies appear prominently on Google for local searches; many of these techniques, such as obtaining citations in local online news publications, are not used or not high priorities for national/global SEO campaigns.

For local businesses such as restaurants, local SEO is obviously important. However, because Google is keen on serving local results to its search engine users — mobile phone users in particular — national and global companies can improve results by launching local campaigns. For instance, a national company could target Chicago keywords, eliminating or gaining a big edge over its national SEO competition and capturing a bigger share of a large market. It is certainly an option to investigate.

5. Confusion about Mobile Search

Google is rewarding mobile-friendly Web content with greater visibility, and this trend will continue. Today, if a company has a non-mobile-friendly website, it will lose some ground in SEO, and maybe a great deal of ground.

Mobile Internet access now exceeds desktop access, and the gap will only widen. Knowing this, Google has begun to make mobile friendliness a more important part of its organic search algorithm. Thus, all other things being equal, a mobile-friendly Web page will definitely outperform a mobile-unfriendly page on mobile-based searches, and possibly outperform it on desktop-based searches.

Having a mobile-friendly website is important for many reasons in addition to SEO. However, if you are trying to develop a timetable for converting your website over to a mobile-friendly design, an important SEO consideration is the nature of your website traffic. If you have a high percentage of mobile traffic, make the move as quickly as possible. If you have a high percentage of desktop traffic, you may be able to take a bit more time without seeing a precipitous drop-off in organic traffic and leads.

Confused about other SEO concepts? Contact us with your questions. The more you know, the better your results will be.

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