Effective search engine optimization is equal parts art, science, and EXPERIENCE, so I sat down with industry veteran Joe Laratro to get the dish on what matters most in SEO. Joe is a recognized and leading expert in the Search Engine Marketing industry, and regularly speaks at industry events like Webmaster World, SMX, and Search Engine Strategies. He sits on the advisory board and is the lead moderator and speaker for PubCon.
1. What are the most common mistakes newbie SEOs make?
Search Engine Optimization has changed over the years. I would say there are three distinct generations of SEOers: the meta taggers, the link builders, and the social media marketers. I have seen newbie SEOs try to choose one path for optimization. For long term success all areas and disciplines of Search Engine Optimization need to be addressed and made part of the ongoing strategy.
Another newbie mistake involves trying old and dated spam tactics. I do quite a bit of teaching for the Industry. I am always surprised when someone hints at cloaking, or using white on white text. When I think about it, where is the history book on SEO? Newbie’s need a resource of what not to do and how to learn from the mistakes of Webmasters / Marketers / SEOers of the past.
2. On the flipside, are there common mistakes that experienced SEOs still make?
I think to some extent experienced SEOs can make the same mistakes as my first point in question one. We cannot pigeonhole ourselves into only doing one type of SEO. Site architecture, optimized growing content, and natural link building are essential for success. I have seen SEOs that just focus on one area. If we look at link building, it is possible to rank for keywords without ever optimizing the main site. But will that cover the hundreds if not thousands of keyword variations that might drive traffic to that Web site? No.
Benchmarking, analytics, and tracking SEO changes are more common problems. Clients come back and ask what SEO accomplished for the Web site? The numbers should be easy to prove – increasing search referrals and increased number of keywords driving those referrals. This has become even more important since Google’s announcement in December of 2009 of full time personalized search results.
The last mistake that is fairly common does not happen because of the SEO professional. This problem lies in communication and tracking between marketing departments and technical departments. Unfortunately SEO work gets overwritten without anyone’s knowledge. It can be days, weeks, or even months until the issues are identified. Each department claims the other speaks Greek. Finger pointing flies, but the real loser is the Web site. SEO’s have to monitor their implementations.
3. What are 3 things marketers can do RIGHT now to improve their organic rankings?
- Have a solid technical infrastructure that is search friendly
- Have an ongoing content development plan to add new and useful content to the Web site
- Have a link building plan in place: target directories, social media sites, and related Web sites
4. What are the 5 most important elements of an effective search optimization practice?
- Write great subject based content – optimize the basics: title, meta description, alt tags, H tags, and links (anchor text)
- Make a link building plan, stick to it, and monitor it’s growth (hint – social media sites should be a large part of this strategy)
- Consider the value of internal linking when it comes to keywords and anchor text (navigation and in content links)
- Make sure the Web site is registered with Google Webmaster Tools, Yahoo Site Explorer, and Bing Webmaster Central. Regularly review for issues and new insights.
- Monitor Analytics for keyword performance and trends
5. After implementing an effective search optimization practice, how soon can marketers expect to see changes in the SERPs?
Search Engines have become very adept at listing fresh content. The Search Engine Marketing community used to say wait 90 days to see the results. Some changes can occur much more quickly now. Personalized search also throws a large monkey wrench into seeing changes in the SERPs. I suggest monitoring Analytics for natural search growth and occasionally spot checking positions.