20th April 2017

Google's advice to businesses on hiring an SEO expert - part one

Google recently released a video offering advice to businesses on hiring an SEO expert. You can watch the video below - and we would highly recommend that you do so as it's a good video, if a bit lengthy.

We've also pulled out some of our highlights and added a bit of additional detail and an explanation of how we work within Googles criteria and how we apply the best practices that Google advocates.

Because the video is quite long (nearly 12 minutes), we've broken this up into two parts (say that 5x fast!). The first part, below, focuses on Googles advice on what SEO is about and what an SEO expert should do for you. The second part, which we will post next week, offers advice on how to choose an SEO expert or agency.

So, without further ado, what Google says, and what we think about it:

Google says: “An SEOs potential is only as high as the quality of your business or your website. Successful SEO helps your website put your best foot forward so it ranks appropriately in a spot where an unbiased potential customer would expect your site to be seen."

I-COM says: This is a hugely important point to emphasise. Not every website deserves to be #1 in Google for any, much less, all of its key terms. Google wants to provide the best result for each individual searcher so, for example, your local law firm in Manchester is not going to be the best result for a searcher in Norwich even if they have typed a very generic phrase into Google.

Additionally, you have to consider that for each broad topic, there are many ways to search and many people looking for many different answers. While you may think you have the definitive page on a particular subject, Google may determine that the user intent for a particular long tail search is better met by a different page.

A good SEO will work hard to ensure you have the best possible chance of ranking highly, but will never guarantee a particular level of visibility. He or she will also keep an eye on how people engage with your website and its pages in order to make constant improvements and to ensure that you answer all the key questions that your users might have.

Google says: “A good SEO will recommend best practices for a search-friendly site from basic things like descriptive page titles..to more complex things like language markup... SEOs ensure that you are serving your online customers a good experience, especially those coming from a search engine, and that your content is helpful, whether they are using a desktop computer or a mobile phone."

I-COM says: We make it our business to keep up to date with all the changing technical requirements of delivering a good online experience. As Google develops its search engine and becomes more intelligent, SEO changes often at a breakneck pace. We have people in the business whose job it is to focus on the changing search landscape to ensure we stay ahead of the curve and are constantly reading industry blogs and news sites. We keep an eye on the Google blog as well.

Google says: “In most cases, SEOs need four months to a year to help your business first implement improvements and then see potential benefit."

I-COM says: SEO takes time because we often have to make fundamental changes to websites and website content. We then have to wait for Google to crawl and index the changes. Improving visibility is a long-term goal that requires us to undertake a range of activities to improve your website, its content and your overall online presence. We have to demonstrate to Google that your site is more deserving of that visibility than all of the millions of sites ranking below it for any relevant query and that it should also outrank the sites sitting above it.

When Google says that it can take four months to a year to implement changes and then begin to see the benefits, this is because they have data to back this up (even if they dont always share it with us). In our experience, depending on the budget a business has to put into digital marketing, it can take longer. The important thing to takeaway is that you need to be patient with your SEO consultant and your agency and work with them to find other ways to drive traffic while you wait for your SEO results to show. You need to budget to run paid search and social media campaigns, look into whether affiliate marketing will work, and make the most of PR opportunities and influencer marketing while you wait for the SEO results.

Google says: “Request a technical and search audit."

I-COM says: This is always the first stage in any digital marketing campaign where search visibility is important (and wed recommend it even where it isnt as fixing SEO issues can often improve overall site usability). We cannot possibly know what the SEO team needs to do and we cannot prioritise activities and build a strategy until we have a thorough picture of whats good and bad about your website and until we understand your whole online presence.

Google says: “An SEO should make sure that for branded queries such as Gmail your website is providing a great experience that allows customers who know your brand or website to easily find exactly what they need and potentially convert. They might recommend improvements that help the entire searcher experience from what the searcher sees in search results to when they click on a result and use your website."

“For unbranded queries, an SEO can help you better make sense of the online competitive landscape. They can tell you things like, ‘Here are the types of queries it would make sense for your business to rank, but heres what your competition has done and why I think they rank where they do. .. An SEO will provide recommendations for how to improve ranking for these queries and the entire searcher experience."

I-COM says: Far from focusing on individual keywords, we look to build your website up as an authority on a series of relevant topics, in order to drive overall visibility for all queries related to those keywords. We keep an eye on the competition to ensure that were taking advantage of any opportunity to help you grow. In addition, we want to ensure that anybody searching for your brand can easily find the information they require and that the website provides an experience that sells your business, tells your brand story and conveys your value proposition and USPs.

Google says: “One basic rule is that in a majority of cases, doing whats good for SEO is also doing whats good for your online customers: things like having a mobile-friendly website, good navigation and building a great brand. Additionally, if youre a more established brand with complicated legacy systems, then good, search-friendly, best practices likely involve paying off some of your sites technical debt such as updating your infrastructure so that your website is agile and able to implement features faster in the long-term. "

I-COM says: This is a sentiment with which we wholeheartedly agree. If what were asking you to do doesnt make sense for your users, then you should encourage us to rethink what were suggesting. You also need to expect, however, that if you have an old website and systems, or if you got your website on the cheap, theres probably going to be serious problems and it will likely be more cost-effective in the long run to replace your site with a well-designed, search friendly, future-proofed solution.

So thats part one. We hope youve found it useful. Certainly, if you have any questions about the role of SEO or what types of activities fall under the remit of an SEO expert, then get in touch, as were happy to answer your questions.

Look out for part two, which will focus on helping you choose an agency. In the meantime, do watch the video.