What does it mean and what is it to do SEO consulting today? And what is the best approach?
Doing SEO (Search Engine Optimization) consulting just to improve a site’s ranking is now too limiting, even though most of the time that’s what we are asked initially, before we have managed to transfer the full meaning and sense of this activity.
The basics of classic SEO activities are known to most who work with digital, few sites are on the first page by accident; they are all SEO optimized, and few search clusters are bare. Everyone wants maximum online visibility and organic traffic. Front row seats though, as we know, are limited, so what can we do to really improve our search engine rankings?
Doing SEO consulting therefore means guiding our clients towards all the possibilities of SEO, even the less obvious ones. It means inviting them to be welcoming to their users, or better, still guests and making them understand the importance of making a correct and coherent invitation with each page positioned on the engines.
Inviting users, and consequently the spiders, with a promise of value is at the basis of the welcoming to your own digital platform, and it is hospitality. Who lands on a site’s page from a search on Google or any other search engine has expectations dictated by his intent and by how we propose that page positioned for his search, such as the title and description displayed on the results page. Meeting his expectations simply, honestly, and consistently means being hospitable. Every click is a possible relationship offered by the user, and it should be honored with an in-page experience that is worth having. Years ago, I talked about how SEO and Usability were often linked, and how they traveled on parallel tracks. Today Google is going even further: it wants to be able to evaluate the browsing experience of a user on a page and give a score for ranking purposes to the User Experience and wants to do it automatically.
For this reason, SEO consulting is assistance, training and support for companies that want to position themselves on search engines. But it is also much more. So today we’ll talk about SEO Audit, keywords, html code, on page optimization, link building and everything that SEO experts do to improve the positioning of a site in their classic meaning. But we’ll also and especially talk about the approach to these fundamental activities, that SEO Specialists in TSW take when they start an SEO consulting project.
At TSW, consulting for search engine optimization starts with the definition of a SEO strategy, which in turn includes an objectives workshop, the starting point of most of our SEO projects, or more generally of digital marketing.
This first moment of “reconnection” with those who come to us aims at welcoming the client or prospect and all the participants in the project, who can express themselves freely thanks to a facilitator and the use of participatory sharing methods to collect ideas.
In this way, everyone actively contributes to the definition of an initial project strategy. The importance of this first step is fundamental in order to know in detail the recipients of these activities, the expectations, known issues and possible solutions, which in classic preliminary meetings, for reasons of time or form, do not always emerge in a structured way.
This moment has the purpose of clearly defining the company’s identity and vision, in four points:
In the past, we used to hold these kinds of meetings in person, often at our headquarters, because sitting at the same table, looking into each other’s eyes, and talking face-to-face creates an understanding, a communion of purpose. Lately we’ve been doing them remotely out of necessity, but we cannot wait to being able to restore them in person at full capacity.
Once we have identified the basic and fundamental topics for our client, we need to understand what people are looking for in relation to those topics, and therefore know exactly their intent, their motivations to search. Only in this way is it possible to propose the most suitable content suitable for their needs, thus increasing the chances that they will find our pages useful and enjoyable.
Limiting ourselves to look only at the search volumes and choose keywords only based on that, does not allow us to discover what people really want, the nuances and the “niches“, that if matched by suitable content, can generate much more satisfaction for both the user and the company.
In addition to the list of keywords, we then create a “zero moment” snapshot of the status of the current positioning of the website and the competitive environment. This is possible thanks to the elaboration of an organic benchmark on the main direct competitors and those detected in SERP. We analyze in detail which are the clusters covered by the competitors and the keywords for which there is most overlap, and we evaluate the types of results that Google rewards.
At this point, a fundamental SEO activity joins: a snapshot of the site’s health. An SEO Audit is first of all an analysis of the site from a technical and content point of view. But in reality, it is much more: it is the tool that guarantees a first step to know in depth the state of the platform, who developed it and how the client uses it, defining the first quick win interventions on the technical, content and offsite side, determining priorities and evolutives.
The most important thing is not to limit ourselves to reporting what we find, but to identify which errors and barriers, if resolved immediately, could bring significant improvement quickly. Only once the urgent needs are resolved, we can move on to the evolving ones, secondary in order of importance. Prioritizing by choosing what makes sense to do early in the startup phase can pave the way for even more complex future interventions.
On the contrary, focusing immediately on the resolution of a secondary problem such as a technical malfunction that involves many departments, clogged with bugfixing or other evolutives, will only dilute the effectiveness of our proposals over time.
Then begins the longest and most complex phase of our SEO consulting, namely ongoing optimization. It is the most complex part, both because it involves several departments and often several suppliers in the long term, and because it is not an operation under “total anesthesia”, or at a standstill: Search Engine Optimization is most often done live, adapting to what happens in the SERP, to the changes we expect. Moreover, it is not a mechanical process that the SEO specialist can carry out independently, but it is based on a continuous dialogue with the parties involved, on the mediation between different needs and on the ability to compromise.
Once the list of priorities has been defined, it is possible to proceed with the implementation of technical interventions and in parallel with those of content. If you are interested in learning more about the central role of content and the importance of writing for SEO, here you can find the article written by Chiara on this subject. The support then takes the form of alignment calls, sharing and exchanges via classic project management platforms, and finally final verification of modifications.
The goal must be to improve the site, bring value, strengthen the foundations, and create solid bases for future upgrades. This is the only way to create a welcoming and SEO-optimized site.
Consulting is not only support but also training. We always offer a moment of sharing and alignment on the latest news and trends in SEO, User Experience, Copywriting and Linking fields. These workshops, born with a “training” purpose, are becoming more and more occasions to gain awareness of own means and of how much it is possible to do, each for his part, for contributing to the improvement of the site.
In our experience we have met different people who have benefited from these moments: for some they are important to understand the terms and technicalities of our work, for others they are an update of previous knowledge a bit ‘dormant. Whether it is training, updating or acquisition of awareness, these moments have proved to be a substantial contribution to increasing the value of our activities.
Once the implementation of the interventions is finished or the site is online, the monitoring of specific performance indicators in relation to the identified objectives begins: often the changes are immediately absorbed, evaluated, giving quick results; in some cases instead it takes a few weeks before seeing the desired results.
This is where data visualization tools such as dashboards or specific SEO reports help to monitor and understand the effectiveness of what we are doing. Every intervention must be data driven: although it is increasingly difficult for these to be certain and complete, data is the only objective tool that every SEO Specialist has, and it is the true thermometer of the situation.
It is thanks to these tools that we analyze the data and define the next interventions in view of the weekly or monthly meetings with the client, and it is in these moments that we can compare ourselves with the project team and collect valuable feedback for the fine tuning of the strategy.
SEO is not always the solution to a site’s problems. There are cases and specific sectors where the potential of a platform, even if optimized, is not able to express itself. The experience in these cases is fundamental, in some cases patience is needed, maybe waiting for a bounce that “historically” happens, in other cases it is necessary to go back to the previous version immediately. For these moments there are no manuals or online guides, but only a lot of passion, a constant update, and the desire to discover and understand what is best for the customer and his goals, and for the people who live those research experiences.