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3 SEO Questions You're Not Asking, But Should Be

SEO. You know it stands for “search engine optimization.” You know it’s about securing the top spot on Google search results. You know that lots of businesses of all sizes have used it to generate traffic, secure leads, and make sales.

That’s a lot to know – but it’s not the whole story.

Recognizing this, lots of business owners search out information on SEO, whether online or in conversations with digital marketing professionals. This is an important first step if you’re deciding whether SEO is right for your brand, and we applaud anyone who’s doing it!

But here’s the thing: Sitting down with an SEO pro is a little like visiting a doctor. It’s vital that you’re honest and realistic about everything. And, above all, your future success may come down to knowing the right questions to ask.

Wonder no more! Here’s some insight into three major SEO questions you may be too nervous to ask:

“Is the Field of SEO Changing?”

Maybe you’ve read up a little bit on the history of SEO (if not, we’ve got a handy timeline available here). Maybe you’ve heard stories about it from colleagues or competitors. Maybe you’ve even used an SEO strategy some time in the past.

All of these are great ways to get started “dipping a toe” into the waters of SEO – but they’re not comprehensive. Or, above all, current. As you get started developing the SEO strategy that’s right for your brand, it’s vital that you understand one thing: Google is always changing, and SEO must change with it.

Now, with that being said, it’s important to realize that the fundamentals of SEO are actually quite steady. Creating high quality content, building out a large and functional website (including mobile functionality), developing a backlink strategy, and setting up the back-end of your site for easy crawling by search bots are all essential components of any SEO strategy, and they always will be.

So, with that said, it comes down to the little things. For instance, Google frequently rolls out updates – generally without making an announcement to the SEO community – that shake up search rankings, sending longtime leaders tumbling and scrappy underdogs to the top. Will your strategy be able to weather these blips?

Similarly, Google and other search engines are always in the process of refining the look, feel, and functionality of search engine results pages (SERPs). A few years ago, say, nobody was concerned about featured snippets, knowledge graphs, or voice search – now, they’re essential to understand if you want to maximize your presence for a given search result.

The bottom line: All of the little updates, tweaks, and developments to search engines and SEO best practices add up over time. It can be a lot to keep a handle on even if you eat, sleep, and breathe search – let alone if you’re trying to go it alone. It’s vital to understand the innovations and changes to SEO if you want to succeed long-term.

“How Long Will Successful SEO Take?”

It can be nerve-wracking to ask your SEO pro how long it may take to get results. And, if you’re just searching for yourself, you may be finding that lots of less-reputable SEO sites are hesitant to discuss timelines. There’s a reason for that.

You see, the thing is that SEO is a tricky business – and instant results are not guaranteed. In fact, you should be wary of any SEO firm that makes promises about short cut or speedy results, because one of two things is going to happen:

  1. Any early results are going to be short-lived and unsustainable
  2. The company is cutting corners or using tactics that will backfire over time

The very basis of SEO is time. Domains need to gather authority with search engines, as they are evaluated, indexed, and ranked over days, weeks, and years. On the day-to-day, it takes time for your creative and technical team to research and develop a keyword strategy, and to create individual pieces of content to execute that strategy. Finally, it takes time to build the size of your site – with what we call the SEO “boom” generally not taking effect until you’ve reached hundreds of indexed, valuable pages.

The other thing to keep in mind? It’s vital that you and your SEO professional are on the same page about what “success” looks like. Is it simply gaining the top search rankings for certain keyword, for the sake of brand recognition? Is it increasing your rate of organic traffic? Is it conversions (i.e. finished transactions or sign-ups)? There is merit to all of these wants – and strategies to match.

Before launching into an SEO campaign, it’s essential that you’re clear on what SEO can realistically accomplish – and whether this strategy is the right fit for your goals.

A bonus tip: If you’re talking to an SEO firm that refuses to acknowledge that there are other methods for traffic and lead generation out there, consider that a red flag. There are many digital marketing methods that can supplement SEO efforts, or achieve stunning results on their own; these include pay-per-click search ads, social media marketing, email marketing.

“What Are the SEO Tactics I Should Avoid?”

Since the dawn of SEO as a marketing strategy, there have been people who have viewed search engines as a game to be dominated and won, rather than a platform to be put to work. As a result, there have always been SEO practitioners who rely on shady or backhanded techniques (in the industry, we call this practice “blackhat” SEO).

When you’re discussing your SEO options with a professional or researching on your own, it may be daunting to also ask which tactics should be avoided. After all, it can take a remarkable amount of effort and skill to find out what really works – let alone what should be avoided.

Still, it’s vital that your business doesn’t get into bed with blackhat SEO practitioners. These tactics can backfire, and result in your web presence actually being penalized by Google and other search engines. For many brands who attempt an SEO strategy solo, it’s also easy to fall into “grayhat” territory – that is, accidentally relying on questionable techniques, out of a lack of knowledge.  

So, what tactics generally fall into the blackhat category? We’re talking about SEO methods like:

  • Keyword stuffing – loading your content with too many keywords, to try to game Google
  • Duplicating content – whether you’re plagiarizing or just always reusing your own content, this gets you penalized with search engines, which prefer novelty
  • “Automating” content creation – people like to read content by people, not machines
  • Buying backlinks from third party sites – this is deeply unethical, and Google has gotten good at spotting shoddy links
  • Posting purely for the sake of building a site, without creating value – size matters when it comes to your site, but if you’re not creating value, users won’t care to engage with your site (and search engines won’t either)

Have any more questions about SEO? Looking for an experienced guide as you begin to navigate the steep mountain of Google SERPs for the first time? Curious what digital strategy will be the right fit for your brand? That’s where Geek Chicago comes in! Don’t hesitate to drop us a line today to keep the conversation going!

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Jason Finn

Founder & Chief Geek

Jason has nearly 20 years of consulting experience, predominantly in the technology space. Most recently he was the COO and Director of Technology for Rich Casto & Company, a national training and consulting organization in the real estate industry.
As a consultant for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Envision Consulting Group (now IMS Health), Jason has served clients of all sizes, including Big Pharma, Fortune 500, and Global 1000 companies:

  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • AOL (America Online)
  • Astellas Pharmaceuticals
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Ford Motor Credit
  • Wockhardt USA (formerly Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals)
  • Norwich Union
  • PNC Bank
  • Reynolds and Reynolds

Sarunas Budrikas

Creative Director

Sarunas is a web design and development expert with hundreds of successful projects in his portfolio. He is passionate about delivering extraordinary user experiences for every client and consistently goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations. As an SEO expert and strategist, he can optimize your website, or app, to get the most out of it, day in and day out. Sarunas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kaunas Technology University, in Lithuania. Sarunas now lives in Chicago, and calls it home.

Alexandra Olsavsky

Client Experience Specialist

Alex specializes in content generation and social media promotion for Geek | Chicago clients, helping to solidify their presence in the online community. This includes blog writing, graphic design, co-ordination and design of weekly newsletters, and active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Outside of Geek, Alex is a classically-trained soprano who professionally performs around the city of Chicago (most recently with the Chicago Baroque Band, and with the Rolling Stones for their "50 and Counting" tour).