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SEO Rockstar or SEO Janitor?

By Nick Maus

Spoiler Alert: You’re probably an SEO Janitor

I’ve worked for several companies over the years that boast about how they invest in their employees and have an endless library of tools and resources to help their employees grow. Usually, this means they have an online portal with e-learnings, many of which were created 10 years ago and not updated since. I decided to put the claims to the test with my current employer, Pinckney Marketing. 

Back in March, I started looking at all the various conferences throughout the country and finally narrowed it down to MozCon in Seattle put on by Moz. I printed out the speaker line up, highlighted the sessions that were going to be most relevant to our company and presented it to my boss. 

He looked it over and gave me a nod of approval.

Bound for MozCon (and an SEO reality check)

I was so excited and counted the days, hours and minutes until my flight from Charlotte, NC to Seattle.

I finally arrived in Seattle and walked into the conference where I see a huge group of like-minded eager professionals ready to soak up all this great knowledge sharing and industry-leading research.

The smell of fresh brewed Starbucks coffee is in the air, upbeat music is playing, there’s a miniature light show going on in the conference hall. It was everything to get me pumped up and ready to be the Rockstar I knew I was.

…..until the first speaker came on stage

Jono Alderson from Yoast, a program I rely on daily, came on stage and made a very bold statement….“We are NOT SEO Rockstars”

My heart dropped. What do you mean? I do all the things! I follow all the rules and my organic search rankings are up month over month and year over year. How am I not a rockstar?

Then he began asking the audience some questions.

How much time do you spend writing Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, Alt attributes over and over and over again? How can we be optimizers when we create so much waste? According to Jono’s research, we spend up to $200 million every month as an industry fixing the same errors over and over again. But we don’t need to…

“We are not rockstars, we are janitors cleaning up all the SEO messes”

A novel concept that I could very easily relate to none the less. I’m sure at this point my blood pressure began to level out and I was feeling a bit calmer. The girl next to me that was hyperventilating into a brown paper bag began to slow her breathing back to a normal cadence. (not really but the visual of that certainly explains the feeling in the room)

Instead of trying to clean up the messes we need to fix the root cause and often times we are creating our own mess. 

Every time we create new pieces of content whether they be web pages, blogs, videos, lists or anything else under the SEO sun we need to think about how to optimize this content as it is being developed as opposed to after it is complete. 

I’ll give you one example of a problem we see quite often. 

When many companies create websites they spend a lot of time and effort writing content, choosing the right images, developing all the sliders and animated effects for the site and then after the website launches they are left scratching their heads why their new and improved website is not ranking well. 

At this point, they begin talking to their marketing person or a marketing agency about how to increase their SERP (Search Engine Results Page). 

The SEO specialist begins dissecting the content, looking at what keywords the site ranks for, studying the HTML code for errors and holes and comes back with a report and a recommendation to spend another bucket of money and hours on fixing title tags and meta descriptions and URL lengths, etc. You just got promoted to SEO Janitor.

So I’d like to offer the marketing community an alternative so that we can spend less time correcting our own mistakes and more time creating great content on the web.

Everything will start with intent and research.

First, define the “Why?” and “What problem does this solve?” questions to help you build intent. Does the piece of content answer questions in your industry which have not been sufficiently addressed or are you simply rehashing general knowledge. 

If you are regurgitating content you found somewhere else on the web, or that is common knowledge, your ranking factor will not be strong and should focus on a different piece of content. 

Once you have a great topic for content, research keywords to see what people are searching to help structure your sentences in a way that will pair with high volume search queries. Keywords you think would have a low search volume may surprise you and possibly give you an edge over your competition.

Lastly, structure your content in a way that search engines can understand your content. This can be done through Header Tags, Meta Data and Schema markup.

Although website builds are much larger projects, they can follow a similar process. If you are passing the design over to a web developer, provide them a cheat sheet or guide that labels how items on the web pages should be tagged. 

Label your primary header as an H1, give the developer images that includes a list for file name, description, ATL attribute and other important metadata. Highlight text that should have a link and provide the link to the developer. Use this process for every element on each page.

The more we can do to help create great optimized content from the beginning, the less time and money we will spend on the monotony of correcting title tags and meta descriptions.

This is one approach that I’ve found works well for myself. I’d encourage you to try it or develop a process of your own so that we can collectively make an effort to stop being SEO janitors and start becoming SEO Rockstars.

One thing’s for sure, SEO can be daunting. From understanding title tags, to crafting a stellar meta description, implementing good SEO practices (and fixing poor ones from the past) can help your business be seen. Sound like something you’re interested in? Download our SEO Guidebook.