What is SEO to you? Did you know it was all this and more?

by Jim June 11, 2019

SEO has come a long way over the past decade or more. Where ranking ten keywords on page one was the only mission brief it now encompasses so much more. You need to understand how SEO forms part of a larger strategy and what that means for your business growth. SEO does more than you probably realise and is more than traffic and rankings.

What I learned

  • SEO’s dramatic evolution
  • What does SEO mean to you?
  • How will SEO grow your business?
  • What’s a lead worth?
  • Why SEO is more than traffic and rankings


Hey, welcome back Rankers. It’s a long weekend here in Melbourne. I thought I’d record now anyway, so I can get it out early and not have to worry about it on a day off. But a lot of people don’t have a public holiday, so sorry. We do.

What is SEO to you?

I want to talk to you a little bit about SEO. I know, right? Huh. Hmm. SEO. The reason is I had a call during the week, hi Adam, and had a long chat with Adam who wants to be an SEO client. I said well what does that mean to you? Because it used to mean rankings. It used to be like back in, I don’t know, 2004, 2005, it used to be about, okay, we’re going to work on 10 keywords and we’re going to get them all on page one within a given period of time. Back then I used to do it as project work. It was just like a set project. You do it over a month and bang off you go. Charge a lump sum, see you next time.

Problem with that model is the client usually stuffed up the following month after you left and after they paid all that money and then they blamed you. So that’s when we started, and I’m pretty sure we were one of the first ones in Australia, to start the retainer model, if you like. That was basically so we could be there watching them and look for more things and how we could grow their business and their traffic and their rankings.

To me rankings have never been about the goal. Rankings has always been the strategy. Then the tactics to do that to get those rankings is SEO, of course. So it’s always been about how does this grow your business? You’re getting the eyeballs, what are you doing with them? Is that traffic converting?

So my comment this week to Adam was that we’re very strict about the people we put on the revenue model. But that’s our model purely for retailers, and we work a lot with retailers. For our B2B type clients and clients who are looking for lead gen and those sorts of things, we still welcome them, but it’s not a revenue model. So we ask them to put a value against the leads that they’re getting. And that’s difficult for most businesses, which is interesting.

So you would say to someone if I could give you 300 qualified leads, what’s that worth to you? You’d quickly work that out. Like if someone said to me, Hey, I’ve got X amount of leads, this is what they’re looking at, this is what they’ve asked for, they’re prequalified, they’re actually looking for you, well, I’d have a long, hard think about what I’d prepared to pay for those. And we have in fact, as you might imagine.

The way that we did it was, basically there’s a couple of ways you could do it. You could look at the lifetime value of a client. So this is from a guy who’s an actuary turned marketer. So I really value his opinion. One of the things he said to me was well, look at he lifetime value of clients. A good metric is say pay 2% to 3% to acquire that client.

So if you can work that out, if you’ve got long-term clients, repeat business, that sort of thing, you can work it out that way. Then you take it back so you’ve got a value of a client, or it could just be a one off payment they are paying you for a piece of work. In that case you simply say, Well how many leads do we usually close through our website?Ó And even if you get an amount of spam, you can say well out of the 10 leads we get, we close one. So you can quickly work out that you’re going to close 10% of those leads that you’re getting and they’re worth X. Back when I used to do sales in the 80s, you always had to think of every rejection as being worth something

So if it took you 10 rejections to get a $100 sale, each rejection was worth $10. Well, it’s a bit of a mind game as a salesperson that you do. But for a business it makes sense because you can say okay, I know not every lead converts, but they’re each worth this essentially. Or what am I prepared to pay for each lead, knowing that I’m only going to close 10%?

It’s more than rankings & traffic

So a couple of ways you can think about it. But what I said to Adam was don’t think about it as necessarily an exercise in rankings or traffic. That’s essentially a by-product of doing good SEO and it’s not the goal because there are so many things that go into SEO, as a lot of good SEOs will tell you, it’s not just me this time, is that it’s a lot of user experience stuff that you’re doing. So things like speed, things like navigation or things like usability issues that you would fix maybe for the Googlebot. The reason the Googlebot needs them, it’s because the user needs them for a lot of those things. Accessibility, prominence of content, that’s telling them that you’re telling the user something.

So if your important content isn’t prominent, then what are you doing? So that’s what Google is doing as well. It’s looking at all those sorts of things.

So good SEO, a lot of it’s about good user experience. A lot of it does come down to that, but it also comes down to some would say less user experience stuff like structured data and those sorts of things. So you can start to get more information on your website displayed elsewhere, like in the search engine results, things like prices or whether it’s in stock or things like that. Things that maybe are dynamic on a page, say for retail, but also for someone who’s running events or anything like that. Recipes is another one. That’s also good for the user, not for the bots. Because the user gets to see your content elsewhere. Yes, you’re doing something for the robots.

So a lot of the stuff that you do with SEO affects a lot of other areas of your business, including paid ads. As I’ve shown you before, when you get your structured data and you do good SEO on a site, the ads are always going to work better. We usually have a bigger impact on sites where we’re doing the SEO and the ads rather than just the ads alone.

And the other thing, and spare a thought for your poor SEOs who may not be doing your ads. Because as soon as you switch on a brand campaign, their traffic goes through the floor for organic. So if you’re measuring them on traffic and then you switch on an ad campaign, they’re going to lose a lot of mobile organic traffic with that.

So there’s all these other things. So the SEOs in some ways shoot themselves in the foot if they’re not doing the ads because they’re getting the site looking really good, and I had this conversation last week at Retail Global. Hi Tracy. I said look, I can do a lot more on your site but I need you to understand it’s going to make your ads people look good. So we’ll monitor that and we’ll watch that because it’s going to increase their conversion rate and it’s going to drop their cost per click because it’s going to be a higher quality site and all these other things. We don’t even have to touch the AdWords. We know that’s just going to happen.

So when you are doing SEO, once again, we’re very careful about the clients that we bring on as SEO clients. You’ve got to understand, and SEO is not a very good term anymore for what most competent SEOs are doing compared to what it was when it was purely manipulation of the search engines. It’s not that anymore. So just have a think about that. When you’re doing that, have a think about how you’re going to measure the success of the campaign. This is if you’re using an agency, if you are using someone internal. There’s a lot of other things that good SEO does that you might not know about and you might just be thinking about rankings and traffic. Don’t.

Hopefully that’s helpful and we’ll see you next week. Thanks very much everyone. Bye.

Jim’s been here for a while, you know who he is.

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