Once in awhile we have one of these raging debates that takes place about whether all SEOs are crooks. This is not the word people always use, but when they offer up the opinion that SEO doesn't really work, this what they are really saying about the people who practice it. I always stay out of these discussions, because I have nothing to defend. The real bottom line question that each SEO, and each of their clients must ask is "did the traffic of the client's Web site increase after the changes were made?".
If you are a professional SEO, and the great majority of the time you can answer this question "yes", you have nothing to defend either.
But let's dig into the mechanics of SEO a bit further. You have to differentiate between technical SEO, content planning and implementation, and Web marketing when you talk about SEO these days. Technical SEO includes the following types of activities:
- Keyword research
- Picking smart title tags and page headers
- Making sure that the major pages of the site are text rich
- Implementing alt tags
- Reviewing anchor text used on site
- Reviewing and optimizing site navigation
- Eliminating any spammy practices, such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, or hidden text
Content planning and implementation relates more to the deployment of quality articles on the site. While this overlaps with the notion of making sure that pages are text rich, the actual article selection and writing are a bit of a different task. Of course, technical SEO includes making sure that the articles have the right titles and headers, and are reasonably keyword rich. However, usually I find when you provide a knowledgeable writer a topic and a suggested title, that you will get a keyword rich article back without having to do anything more.
The Web marketing piece is very straightforward. This is the process of getting links to your site. This plays a huge role in a successful SEO campaign, as links are still a critical factor in search engine rankings.
But today, let's focus on the impact of technical SEO, with a case study submitted by Aaron Eden, a technical project manager at the Stevenson School.
Fair winds were not blowing for Tradewinds Carmel. The initial site design was poorly optimized from an SEO perspective. Here were some of the problems on the site:
- All the links on the home page were implemented using images
- Titles to all the pages were identical
- None of the pages made use of HTML headers
- Alt tags were not implemented on the images
- On site content was OK, but a bit thin on keyword richness
The site was significantly revamped to improve all of these areas. Keyword rich titles, headers, and Alt tags were implemented, and the content was revamped to increase its keyword richness. Note that in reviewing this case study, I took the time to look at The Wayback Machine and looked at the site as it existed in April of 2006.
While the person who submitted the study to me, Aaron Eden, provided a summary of the changes made, I did not rely on these in putting together this article. I reviewed the April 2006 version of the site and the current live site to analyze and compare the differences. So you can consider the itemization of the problems, and the changes that were made as "audited results".
The SEO changes were made in the middle of 2006, and it brought about significant results. Here are the results to the visitor traffic:
There is a nice lift in the visitor data, with it nearly doubling. As is common with SEO, it does take time for the search engine robots to pick up on the changes to a site, and make updates to their index.
The result on the bottom line was dramatic too. Looking at December '06 revenues vs. December '05 revenues, there was a gain of 8%. By April of '07, however, the revenue lift over April '06 had grown to 35%. Technical SEO may not be particularly sexy or fashionable, but done well, it brings results.