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Don't Hire a Butcher to do a Baker's Job

Mark Jackson
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Our industry is hot. Red hot. As such, just about every idiot who has ever coded a page of HTML will tell you that they "do SEO."

I've written before about how this gives our industry a bad rap. Companies get burned by said "SEO provider" and then are hesitant to go down the path again for fear that they will, once again, get burned.

SEO is hard enough. Our business is a moving target. We have to read constantly, stay on top of emerging trends, determine what the best course of action may be for our clients today, and ensure that we're recommending strategies that will stand the test of time.

We also write copy, fix technical issues, create information architectures...the list goes on and on for every method/tactic that we could explore during the course of a SEO engagement. We spend a lot of money attending conferences, subscribing to many great tools that assist us with our efforts, build tools to add value to our client offerings, and then "compete" with those who really are not "the competition."

"My Web Design Firm Handles my Search Engine Optimization"

There are a few firms that I might believe do a good job of both Web design and SEO (I'd like to include my company among this group). I'd also say that most Web design companies have no business claiming to "do" SEO.

I can't tell you how many times I've been called in to look at a recently redesigned Web site and have been asked to "optimize it."

More often than not, what I get is a Web site that might look better than it once did, but with half the number of pages/content (because they "wanted to streamline the content" they were presenting), and new marketing fluff content that has little, if any, SEO value. Also, the navigation is in Flash, or -- worse yet -- the entire site is in Flash and in a frame.

It's a rare occasion when I see a Web site built with SEO in mind (it's "search engine friendly"), much less with any noticeable SEO in place. And, this is from the firm that professed to "doing SEO."

"Our IT Team Handles our Search Engine Optimization"

Wow. Really? For some reason, I just don't see an IT team writing -- or consulting on the writing -- of compelling, search engine friendly Web copy. My guess is that they also know little of how to conduct keyword research, competitive analysis, link generation, or "rules of the game" (e.g., abiding by certain guidelines, avoiding penalties).

And, more often than not, these are the same guys who selected the expensive content management system that is very unfriendly for the search engines and is making the URLs so incredibly dynamic that it's difficult/impossible for the search engines to index your content. These are also the guys who developed the mile long URLs, server load balancing (ww2.sitename.com; ww3.sitename.com), or the poor internal linking structure that makes the search engines get lost while trying to accurately index every page of your Web site.

There are few -- still today -- that really do SEO. It's hard work. There are no short cuts. True SEO firms follow a process for a reason -- there's more to this than just slapping up some words in a title tag and celebrating your awesome SEO prowess.

In a future column, I'll write about the competitive analysis and how this one deliverable sets the blueprint for SEO success. My guess is that your IT team and/or your Web design firm has no idea as to what might go into a competitive analysis.

More on this next time...


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