People consistently ask me if a search engine optimization (SEO) company or a particular search tactic is good or bad. There is no one-fits-all answer, because it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. What I can and do say is that you can better understand if a company or tactic is right for you by understanding “the WHY.” In other words, what is at the heart of what you want to do? What is your purpose? The answer is rarely top-of-mind – or simple. And, it certainly should never about increasing sales or profit. So, if it is not about sales or growth, what is The WHY? At its core, The WHY is more personal, more emotional. It is about adding value, fixing a problem, helping people or contributing to your industry or the world in a new way. When the action or tactic is undertaken with the sole purpose of ranking, it has a much higher probability of being devalued by Google at some point and you risk just spinning your wheels. It also may provide a short term gain that will inevitably fail in the future. The reason is because you ignored The WHY.
Let me explain further. Google’s ultimate purpose is to give the best possible answers to the questions of the searcher. When they do this, they remain relevant and viable. That is Google’s WHY – being relevant, connecting real people with real answers. When the answers become mottled and less helpful, the public will find an alternative source for our answers. The original reason I started using Google back in the 90’s was because it was simple and straightforward and gave me exactly what I was looking for. It was helpful. It made my life easier. Back then, Yahoo, the biggest competitor at the time, served up so many search results – many of which felt irrelevant to me – that I found that I was becoming consistently frustrated. Yahoo had an undefined WHY. Or, maybe they lost sight of their WHY.
With this simple understanding, we see why “the why” is so fundamentally important to SEM, SEO and search tactics. Any SEO approach with a clear purpose of illuminating the core value of your business’ purpose is probably a good tactic. In its simplest form, The WHY should be a business value not an SEO value. The WHY should always be a real marketing objective, not just trying to trick Google into thinking you are the answer. The WHY should always be providing the ideal solution and, in Google speak – the best possible answer.
Let me provide you with an example: On page optimization should not just be about using a keyword that your audience uses multiple times on the page because that is what you are trying to rank for it. Optimizing your page should occur by trying to speak clearly in the customer’s language and feature copy that delivers relevant value to the question it is answering. The good on-page optimization tactics will always be focused on answering the question logically first and foremost. The WHY is answering the question using the customer language, not ranking to optimize the page for the keyword.
Likewise, with link building tactics, the focus should be on delivering value. The WHY with every link built should be increasing the exposure and mind share of your business to a relevant audience where you add value. It should not be just to build a link from a high value site to increase ranking. Link building is where most of the SEO companies fall down, demonstrating the greatest contrast in efforts and long term results. Lasting long term link building tactics always have a business objective. The WHY is always to increase the mind share and value of your expertise or the availability of your services to a relevant audience. These links will never go away because they add real value.
The best part about taking this approach to SEO is that the value of the activities has more than one result. They increase exposure and reach of your brand while increasing the ranking of your brand with Google. Good SEO is truly the result of good inbound content marketing.
So, when you talk to any SEO firm, always ask them WHY? More importantly always ask yourself, WHY should we invest in SEO? That is always the first question we ask our customers when they tell us they need help with SEO. WHY do you think you need SEO? The answer to that question is when we can start doing what we are good at: helping our clients tell their story in the digital space by aligning their WHY to the customers unique needs.