I’m a firm believer of common sense. It’s often the solution to most problems – even in fields that you are less experienced in.
But common sense has several flaws:
- People often have varying perspectives on life.
- Different ideas may be floating around simultaneously.
- It lacks structure – a process of its own.
- A small business has limited time and resources.
I’ve seen small businesses that manage to pull it off without any SEO knowledge or consultancy simply because they follow some basic practices that make sense.
But SEO works differently if you try to rank for Google, Bing, Yandex, Baidu. There are cultural differences in each region. There are certain priorities that search vendors have in mind. There’s the added focus on various areas – such as ranking their own services around search engine terms (like products or translation solutions).
The basic philosophy of SEO is fairly simple. You need to produce outstanding content that your audience needs. And receiving links to your content would yield higher results – both in terms of traffic and via ranking opportunities.
What an SEO consultant (or agency) does is dive deeper into the process – considering the search engine ranking factors and business-specific areas that would benefit a business.
For example, local businesses need additional exposure online. Search engines often provide additional products or services that boost one’s presence. With Google, you can sign up for Google My Business and list your venue in their system. This adds a featured snippet for branded search and ads a label for people browsing Google Maps.
This new listing can handle reviews and collaboration from the community. If you own a coffee shop, your visitors may receive tooltips or suggestion boxes inviting them to upload a photo of their own and post a review – which in turn receives additional traffic.
While Google+ failed as a mission-critical social network, statuses are still ranked in SERP results. This may result in additional managed results from your brand for certain keywords.
Businesses serving international regions may need to rethink their internal indexing for each region. If you maintain a website for each location, there are on-site and off-site strategies that would rank the right spot along its Google My Business details, a pin on the map, and the appropriate language version as the first result. This reduces the bounce rate.
Higher bounce rate would also result in deranking your property further down the search pages. It’s logical – that indicates that users are not satisfied with your site and have resorted to alternative solutions.
Same goes for content. Which gets a bit more contradictory – submitting viral content outside of your field may yield higher traffic and more time spent on the site. But the search engine may recategorize your site in a different niche – thus pushing back results for your top keywords.
This also reflects on incoming links. If you are primarily linked through sites on different niches (such as private blogging networks), this would smell fishy. Popular link building services may harm your results instead of improving them.
There are ways around it – You can spin off a subdomain installation that is targeted as a separate site. This is where most people get confused – launching a subdomain versus maintaining a separate property in a subcategory. Both have strengths and weaknesses depending on your business goal.
In order to provide more relevant content for certain data types, search engines monitor for different signals such as structured data or preferred pages to crawl via a sitemap or a robots.txt file. Both could be used to indicate the type of content that a crawler should focus on.
Structuring markup and the on-site SEO, as a whole, have evolved over time as well. Performance is now an important factor for ranking. SSL certificates are mandatory and Chrome is alerting visitors landing on a contact form under an http site (instead of https). HTML5 now allows adding more than a single H1 tag to your content if it resides in a section (or another semantically-legit tag such as header or footer).
Each year Google introduces 500–700 updates to its search algorithm. Some provide clarity, others fight against black hat SEO attacks. Regardless, relying purely on your common sense is often impractical.
There are thousands of different action points that SEO consultants go through for each business. While the investment may be questionable for small businesses, it may be beneficial in terms of long-term results.