The simple answer to this: SEO should be considered as early in the development of your website as possible, and whenever a change to the website is going to be made.
The not so simple problem, is that with the number of stakeholders within any sizeable organisation who share responsibility for the website, marketing and acquisition channels, development and technical assistance, SEO – and some of the responsibilities that fall under an SEO consultant/employee’s remit – can unfortunately be overlooked.
In my line of work, and I would hazard a guess in many SEO consultants’ working weeks, there are a number of situations that have a habit of catching you surprise, when one of said company stakeholders has “done something” without consulting you first. Here are my top 4 (either personally experienced or through stories from other SEOs):
Too many times to count
Scenario: Person A has put a page up regarding a new promotion, and wants to know how many hits the page has had, how many registrations or sales said promotion has brought in and how much profit they have made the company after all costs (including that huge billboard they put up, as well as a ton of PPC traffic purchased).
Issue: Person A got the dev team to put the page up urgently as the billboard was about to be unveiled, and they didn’t tell the person who heads up analytics (usually tied in closely with SEO) about the page, which simply linked to the registration form, or product category.
Result: SEO/Analytics person gets it in the ear for not tracking the page and resulting traffic (it’s his/her responsibility to know about every page, after all!), thus nobody’s able to work out if said promotion was a success or another massive failure.
Why are people finding our page!?
This one actually happened quite recently
Scenario: Person B has put a page up regarding a new promotion through a media buyer. The promotion is only open to visitors arriving from said channel and nobody else.
Issue: Person B got the dev team to put the page up urgently as the offer was about to go live, and they didn’t tell the SEO about the page. The resulting popularity of the page pushed it up the SERPs organically until it ranked 2nd or 3rd for the brand name, with nice juicy “Sign up now for a big promotion!” title tag, matching description, etc… it really was an offer you couldn’t pass up.
Result: SEO person gets it in the ear for not blocking the page and resulting organic traffic (it’s his/her responsibility to know about every page, after all!), thus they had to give the offer to some people who had not arrived through the correct acquisition channel until the SEO could get the page removed from the index (fortunately, they did it quite quickly!).
Why isn’t our site appearing for brand searches?
My favourite story from a friend at a big SEO agency about a very well known brand
Scenario: Person C hires a big design (not SEO) agency to build them a brand new, shiny, sparkling website. It’s all singing, all dancing, you name it, it’s got it! The proverbial mutt’s!
Issue: Person C requested that the design agency to put the site up urgently as they wanted to launch the website before a specific event, and they didn’t consult anyone in regards to SEO, but expected the site to rank quite quickly (it was backed by a big UK brand, after all). The site was up in plenty of time, press releases went out, lots of nice, top media websites picked up the story, linked back to the site, no love from the big G. The design agency just don’t understand what’s going on. It’s been weeks since the site launched, why is it not appearing for any searches regarding the product/service?
Result: SEO consultant gets called in by the brand, makes one change to robots.txt (apparently it hadn’t been amended since the site was in test, when they didn’t want any search engines finding it) and all is well (it’s his/her job to know these sorts of things, after all.)
Why don’t we rank for our own story instead of these press release syndication sites?
You can lead a horse to water…
Scenario: Person D distributes many press releases on behalf of their client, replicates the press release on their own website, but never seems to rank for stories about their client, even though the PR was on their site first. The PR distributor and numerous sites who syndicate content always outrank them.
Issue: Person D always includes a few links in the press release, but as we all know, the PR distribution company always includes a link back to the version of the PR on their site… Person D, unfortunately, does not!
Result: SEO gets bugged, repeatedly, whenever this happens, even though they have given Person D instructions on how to optimise their press release distribution method.
Everything and anything can have an effect – positive or negative – on your website. Submitting a story to a bookmarking site brought this very site down back in November last year, because I hadn’t expected such a high volume of traffic, enough to bring my host down! On and offline marketing/PR efforts, promotions, etc… they all have an effect on your SEO.
The time has come for SEO to be seen as a complimentary channel to all other marketing channels, be they for acquisition, retention, reactivation… even – as I’ve recently spoke to an online casino about – reputations can be managed through search and SEO.