We wanted to share our thoughts on SEO, how it has changed, and how the Firm Media team works together to create and maintain websites that perform well in search engines and drive more business to our clients.
What is SEO & What WAS SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and what it entails has changed a lot over the years. But the simple definition remains the same: anything we do to make a site “findable” on the web within the results of a search engine.
SEO used to be something done autonomously of most other aspects of website design and development. It was a task or set of tasks to be done once the site was launched to get search engines to rank it better than other sites. Things aren’t so simple anymore.
More than the Icing on the Cake – It’s in the Whole Mix
SEO is now more than just a single department, person, or task on a website. It’s not something we just do after everything is built. Once upon a time, we added keywords to pages, did meta tags, and did some link building to make a site “search engine friendly”.
Now, SEO is part of every process. It’s design; development; data and reporting; social media; and everything else that makes a site function to be found on the web. It is also conversion optimization. What makes a website convert a visitor to a paying member, patient, subscriber, or client? SEO is involved in every aspect.
How do we Design for SEO & Conversion?
Just like fashion, design trends come, go, and come back again. There will be times we look back and ask ourselves, “What were we thinking?” There will also be classics that always look nice. An important question we ask ourselves about web design trends is “What does the data tell us?”
Many teams choose a design based on how they feel about it. Of course, liking a design and having quality visual elements is important. But after we look at data about how design trends affect SEO and conversion, and we understand how we “feel” about a design, we ask the most important question: At what point do we have to go with the data over our feelings?
This is a struggle; especially when we are working at something as creative and subjective as design. Remember all those sites built in Flash? Those sites didn’t rank well, and now reputable design firms won’t even build sites using that technology. It was such a huge trend, but now it isn’t even supported on some of the most widely used mobile devices.
What does this tell us? That we can’t always trust the trend, we have to look at the data we can gather about website performance. We look at whether a site is ranking in the major search engines for its main keywords, whether enough people are visiting the site, how many people are contacting the practice via the website, and finally, how much tangible business is coming in via the website. In addition to this, we look at what parts of specific pages are read the most (yes there is technology to give us this info!) and a number of other metrics to see how people are actually interacting with the website. This means we can usually see if poor performance is inherent within the design, infrastructure, content, or other aspect of the overall website.
It is from this that Firm Media derives the “Data Driven Decisions in Digital Marketing” (or 4DM) approach that drives our whole team.
Can SEO & Text Content Live Without Each Other?
You may have a website with a lot of information, or you may have one that is going with a minimalist approach. Each is valid, but text content is always going to be crucial to getting a website found in search engines. More than ever, content and SEO are one; no longer able to live alone.
Most of the major algorithm updates by Google and other major search engines involve the quality and quantity of content in some way. It is the main way that we are able to communicate to search engines and people what your website is about.
This means, a website with no home page content is not an ideal practice – though it is common to see. The home page is the gateway to all the other sections of the site; creating a funnel for readers and potential clients. The content is optimized with headings and other formatting to make it easily skimmable for visitors and easy to read for anyone who wants to go through the pages word for word.
Can SEO & Development Teams be Separated by a Solid Line?
Not anymore. A good search engine optimizer needs to understand how to communicate with the development team regarding the more technical aspects of SEO. Since code, scripts, and overall site infrastructure affect SEO in a significant way, these teams must be interdependent.
This also means developers need to cross the line to be working at making sites SEO friendly on the technical and granular level. These teams should always work under a mutual learn & teach paradigm.
The members of the SEO and Development teams here at Firm Media understand that this concept directly affects the success of our clients’ websites.
So, Does SEO Rule the World?
No. And YES.
As we went over at the beginning of this post, SEO is not just icing on a cake anymore – SEO is in the whole mix. A digital marketing team doesn’t work well without incorporating a search engine friendly approach into everything they do. Our approach to SEO at Firm Media is that search engines are for the people, by the people. So if Google publishes what they believe a website should contain in order to be in their search engine, we should assume Google has the data to prove that people want to find those things on your website. That means data will often trump feelings.
Who at Firm Media is Involved in SEO?
Anyone who works on the website you have representing your professional practice is part of the SEO process and experience.
Each of our team members is 100% for the success of the client. Because of this we each have a bit of “SEO” in our work. This also means SEO needs every other aspect of website building in their work.
SEO is now more than a process – it is a whole concept upon which everything we do is built.
So EVERYONE at Firm Media is on the SEO team to help your website perform its best in every way.