Editor’s note: “Ask an SEO” is a weekly column by technical SEO expert Jenny Halasz. Come up with your hardest SEO question and fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!
What’s the most important aspect of SEO?
This is one of the most common questions in SEO.
And debate rages to this day.
Is content the king of SEO?
How about links?
Is technical SEO just makeup? (Oh no you didn’t. –Editor)
The answer is that it varies by company, industry, and location. Read on for some generalized explanations of what should be “king” in different scenarios.
The most important thing to focus on for businesses that have a physical location (i.e., a place customers visit, either to buy stuff or to get services) is local SEO. This includes service providers like attorneys, doctors, and house cleaners.
This is a specialized type of SEO that focuses on obtaining local links and mentions, making sure the company is referenced consistently, and optimizing for mobile and maps.
Local brick-and-mortar websites typically are small, around 30 pages or so. While technical SEO is always important, it isn’t likely to be a big issue these types of websites will encounter.
In addition to local SEO, local brick-and-mortars can benefit from online public relations (PR) and branding efforts. AdWords may also be a worthwhile investment (friendly reminder: investing in PPC won’t help you rank better in organic search).
Small Business Site (Non-Local)
SEO can be incredibly tough for small businesses. They can’t afford quality providers and larger agencies typically don’t want them as clients.
A small business site has to spend beyond its expected return. A good (but small) AdWords campaign may be a good option.
With small businesses, the key is choosing one aspect and focusing on it. Each of these elements all have their relative pros and cons.
Social media marketing helps build a following and usually has a good return on investment – but it’s time consuming. However, this will help businesses grow and get to the next phase.
A great content strategy will help small businesses perform better in SEO, but this is equally time consuming as social media. Plus, it’s difficult getting people to share content when they don’t know about it.
Link earning is incredibly important for small businesses, but be careful to only accept link building techniques that focus on PR and subject matter expertise. Any other link strategies can become problematic.
The most cost-effective solution for small businesses is to hire someone in-house.
Budget dictates which aspect of SEO to focus on at a mid-size company. Similar to a smaller site, you’ll need to pick an area (content, social, links) and focus there, then move on to the others as time and budget permits.
A technical SEO audit is a worthwhile investment to highlight areas that haven’t been developed well, or which should be changed as time goes on. Keeping a mid-sized company website aligned technically can have a significant payoff as it grows.
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PR and social are important for these companies as they grow. Pick one or two social channels and focus on them; be careful not to spread yourself too thin.
Some content is a must, but posting daily isn’t necessary to get SEO benefits. Decide on a few topics to cover and try to carve out a niche for the company as the source to get a certain type of information.
Any content efforts are unlikely to pay off in the short term with sales/signups. However, it will help the company gain authority and trust, which will help it compete with larger competitors as it grows.
Any company with more than 3-4 employees should have at least one in-house person dedicated to marketing, ideally SEO (working with a mid-size agency or a consultant). Develop solid strategies, editorial calendars, social messaging, and other initiatives that will raise the company’s visibility.
Large Enterprise B2B Company
The focus must be on content and technical at large enterprise B2B companies.
You’re likely to have lots of problems with technical SEO that should be sorted out, maybe even low-grade algorithm impacts for thin content or poor link behavior. Fixing these issues is likely to be the quickest bang for your buck.
You should also have a strong content strategy that is aligned with a branding team and engage regularly on social (although probably not as critical as B2C).
The one area you can probably relax on a little is link earning. Large enterprises usually already have a strong link profile, which will help SEO performance.
Creating a great content strategy and pushing it out through social channels while engaging with your social influencers will probably be enough to keep you earning links regularly.
Large Enterprise B2C Company
If you have a large website with millions of pages and products that cater to consumers, you don’t get to focus.
Your budget should be big enough to include everything previously mentioned, including a strong content strategy, social media management, and regular PR and link earning.
You should also invest in reputation management, as consistent responses and regular monitoring are critical if you’re working with end consumers.
Multiple agencies are usually involved at large enterprises because no single agency can provide top-notch service in all of the needed areas.
Consider hiring a consultant or contracted CMO to manage your agencies and providers to keep them aligned on strategy and communication and resist the temptation to “put it all under one roof.”
These are just examples of strategies that could be used at each level and are based on my own experience. There will always be outliers, and specific situations, so go with what you know.
Similarly, watch your competitors. If they are investing heavily in one area, it’s likely that you need to be, too.
Whatever strategy or approach you choose, just make sure you:
- Have a plan.
- Stay focused on your long-term strategy.
- Set a reasonable budget and stay within it.