One thing that I have learned as an in house SEO and outsourced SEO is that companies almost always go about website changes the wrong way. The thing is that they ignore the people who need to be involved from the beginning and bring them in when its to late. What most companies forget is that when they change their site, when they redo their brand or when they decide its time to start updating their look, they need to have their SEO involved. If they don’t then their site redo may have been for nothing. Here are 5 common mistakes that many companies make with regards to SEO by not involving their SEO in other departments or website changes.
1. Allowing Copywriters and PR departments write their copy.
Although it sounds like having a Copywriter or PR person write the copy for your website and SEO press releases makes sense, it may turn out that they could cause more damage than good. Most SEOs know that repetition and keyword density as well as the positioning of your phrases is important. Copywriters and PR people usually write because it makes sense and with proper grammar which in turn removes the keyword phrases you are shooting for. A talented SEO writer will be able to have an article or webcopy that not only makes sense but also has the proper repetition, etc… It is important for the in house or outsourced SEO to educate the PR department and Copywriters and to let them know about how to incorporate SEO into their messaging and why it is important to keep the keyword phrases in tact or include anchor links in releases. Let them write traditional non webcopy and non SEO press releases and unless they are opened to writing with SEO in mind, separate the PR for SEO and online copywriting from in their normal departments and keep them with your SEO.
2. Having a Designer or Branding Company Design the Site.
This is another example of where it sounds like it makes sense to allow the Designer to design or do the Branding company to build the brand. The problem is that many of these companies go straight to flash or put navigation into a non SEO and user friendly format. Many times you’ll also find that they pull out a lot of the copy from the site because it doesn’t look nice and just include it in the images. After the company has wasted a ton of money on “branding” and design, they then go to the SEO and ask them to get their site ranking. The problem is that the SEO has to go and tell the company that just wasted a ton of resources that they need to redo their site over again.
Not only is it much harder to rank sites that are in flash or designed for “branding”, but the user experience usually sucks. Designers are trained to make things pretty and to get them to balance. Branding companies feed a ton of bullsh*t to companies and pretend it makes sense by throwing out buzzwords. When you combine the two you get a pretty site but it isn’t always functional and usually sucks for SEO. Not every computer can read flash and some have issues with Java, not to mention that the SEs usually can’t read flash either. Neither branding companies or Designers think of things like load time or naming your alt tags. The problem is that if they don’t actually know SEO then they design without thinking about it. This in turn leads to a site that will be next to impossible to rank. You may not only have to do a full redesign but if you don’t keep your old urls with backlinks in tact or you change all of the urls all together you have even further damaged your site. You have to involve your SEO in the entire process or you may as well kiss your SEO goodbye.
The next issue with having your Designer and “branding company” design your site is that they like everything to balance. When things balance and are designed to be pretty, usability usually starts to fail. Sometimes buttons are hidden or just become words. When real Marketers come in and an SEO who actually gets user experience sees this they cringe. The reality is that part of the user experience and conversion optimization is to make your calls to action stand out a bit and take the site off balance just enough to attract your eyes. When you take the call to action out of balance just enough so that the site still looks great but also pops, you not only help to guide the end user through the site, but you also keep the design in tact. Simple things like having your links change colors if you were already on that page seem small and like they wouldn’t matter, but when you have a site that increases conversions by 1% and you have over a million visitors a month, you start talking about a ton of extra money for something that little. Designers and branding companies usually don’t get this part right so when it is time to drive traffic and then get it to convert, a lot of times companies end up having to redesign again or create landing pages that avoid the site 100% to prove that the “branding” isn’t actually more harmful than good.
3. Putting the SEO in IT. When you hear the term algorithms and think about SEO and Engineers it sort of makes sense to put the SEO person in IT. There can be a lot of cross over between the two but what companies don’t realize is that SEO isn’t about IT, it is actually still Marketing. IT likes to program and automate but what they don’t always get is that it is also about understanding user experience, Marketing, creative writing, networking, guest writing, article marketing and creating natural looking paths and linking patterns. IT people are some of the smartest people in the world but when it comes to SEO the companies who assign it to IT usually end up getting banned from the engines or with lots angry webmasters banging on your door because of spam bots.
Guest blogging and article marketing ends up not being as user friendly when IT is doing it and you usually end up with article accounts that don’t build a following. SEO is something that should never be automated as automation is to easy for the Search Engines (SEs) to catch. IT is brilliant and can play a huge role in SEO but companies need to remember that SEO is part of Marketing and a combination of PR, Copywriting, IT, Advertising, Sales and Marketing. If you cannot get someone that understands each part, then it is important to teach someone in each department about SEO so that they can keep it in mind and help to make your SEO campaigns even more successful.
4. Keeping Sales and Marketing Separate.
Although there are huge differences in Sales and Marketing and the two should probably be separate departments, the person in charge of SEO should work closely with Sales and Account Reps. Not only do your Salespeople talk to Clients and Customers every day, but they may also talk to vendors and other people with content relevant websites. If they build the relationship enough to the point where they can ask for favors, then they can sometimes ask for backlinks off of their sites and in their footers. Not only are the sales people hired because they can be convincing, but when they build those relationships and get you those backlinks from content relevant sites, they can help to really give your site the SEO and link juice boost that you need.
5. Social Media and SEO.
Social Media and SEO are almost hand in hand in many people’s eyes. Social Media sites can be great places to not only get backlinks from, but you can meet other people with similar interests to your company who may have their own sites and you can get backlinks from there to. If your Social Media person doesn’t get SEO or doesn’t work closely with your SEO then you are missing out on a huge opportunity to get backlinks naturally from fans and followers but also from your accounts on the different networks. I highly recommend that if your SEO and Social Media team don’t talk at least once or twice a week then you get them together and set up a couple of mandatory meetings each week. The two can really help each other out not only because of the cross promotion, but because they can also drive traffic and followers to each other.
The thing that most companies don’t realize is that when they redesign or add to their sites they need to keep SEO in mind. If their PR and Copywriting department don’t understand the differences between web-copy and traditional Marketing copy or which keywords to build anchor links off of, or which pages to link to then you could be missing out on valuable SEO opportunities. If you automate or put an SEO in IT, which may also not understand why the SEO person needs certain tools or analytics then you have jeopardized their success. If your Social Media person isn’t in contact with your SEO and they don’t know about how to properly link to your site or to connect with other Webmasters or Bloggers in your niche, then you are missing out another huge opportunity to build backlinks. SEO is a function of every department in your company. When you are ready to launch an SEO campaign it is important to have your SEO talk to each department head as well as be involved in any design or copy changes to the site. If you don’t involve your SEO, don’t go crying to him/her when your site starts to fall in the engines and they tell you that the only way to get your SERPs back is to redesign again.