Technical SEO vs. Actionable SEO

Car engine

I believe in a good ole’ fashioned site audit. Unfortunately many SEO companies base their entire practice on on-page, technical audits. Often times these reports fall on deaf ears as the companies seeking SEO advice already know what their glaring problems are: messy URLs, poor internal navigation, missing site maps, botched opportunities with headers, etc. While an initial SEO report for a fledgling website may need to be more thorough it’s perilous to obsess over the technical aspects of a large say, ecommerce website that has thousands of product pages and has been doing business for 5+ years. If you follow SEO blogs you can see a trend (downward) in how on-page SEO is discussed.

The problem lies in the disparity between client expectations and industry best practices.

You can see from this handy dandy Google Trends graph that the search term “on page seo” continues to gain popularity. This is confusing for many SEO professionals: companies want technical audits, they still obsess over things like meta descriptions, title tags, and keyword saturation but SEOs know that these factors make up a very small percentage of what Google’s algorithm factors into the rankings. Then what happens is that these SEO companies are more than happy to spend their time on these audit reports for several reasons: it’s (apparently) what the client wants, it’s easier than link building, it’s easier than writing/creating content, and the overhead is well, your head. This is a dangerous situation that will ultimately do a disservice to the client as well as further sully the already damaged reputation of SEO.

“Corporate SEO”

I had an interesting experience while consulting for a Fortune 500 company in Atlanta. Our British counterpoint and I were to do a cross-check of each others websites (same company, UK and US versions) and then present each audit to each other over a screenshare/conference call. And we were seas apart on what we analyzed and put emphasis on. My first inclination was to examine their current inbound links and content creation activity. His was to analyze Javascript loading, CSS sprites, and site maps. I was blown away by this. Here was a respected SEO professional working for a prestigious international company and he’s talking to me about asinine on-page factors that have nothing to do with moving the needle. I could have given a flip about how they were compressing Javascript and CSS. This may be indicative of how SEO is practiced in corporate America; crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s. The conversation was dominated by on-page factors while link building and content creation took a back seat.

SEO Morphs Into Inbound Marketing

I started this agency because I’ve seen what other firms provide to their clients: first class reporting, second class envelope pushing. SEO needs to be more than tweaking on-page factors. SEO companies to incorporate video, email marketing, and rich media into their services. Our industry is surely dead if we can’t wrap our heads around this.

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