10 Things EVERYONE Should Know about SEO In 2011


You don’t have to spend too much time in the SEO world to know that there’s a heck of a lot of contradictory information about there. As an SEO consultant, what is common knowledge to you reads like black magic rocket science to someone else. And sometimes that can be okay – it’s job security. But when it’s NOT okay is when the person infected with Bad SEO Information-itis is your boss. Or a client. Or that designer you’ve been tasked with working with. Or anyone else you need to have a basic understanding of SEO so that YOU can do your job without their meddling more effectively.

What do you wish your boss/client/person in the next department knew about SEO? If you could drill one thing into their brain to help their SEO education and make your life easier, would what it be?

Below are ten things about SEO I wish everyone knew.

1. SEO comes now, not later.

If you come to Outspoken Media freshly after new redesign and ask us to fix your designer’s errors, we may just charge you more than we would had you come to us first. Why? Well, as punishment for making everyone’s life more difficult.

The time to think about and plan for SEO is before you’ve launched or redesigned your Web site. It’s before all those content pages were purchases and before you’ve done much of anything. SEO comes now, it doesn’t come later. On Twitter, Ryan Jones commented he wanted businesses owners to stop thinking of SEO as a condiment they could throw on at the end. And I’d agree 100 percent. The sooner you bring SEO into the conversation, the better off you’ll be. Otherwise, you waste a lot of time cleaning up mistakes.

2. SEO is an investment into the long-term health of your Web site

There are quite a few marketing tactics that you can employ today and see results as early as tomorrow. For the most part, though, search engine optimization is not one of them. SEO is an investment into the health of your site that will get stronger with time; it’s NOT an overnight solution. And that’s why working with a reputable and trustworthy SEO vendor is so helpful – because you need them to help you set realistic expectations and to instill the faith that you will see results once the engines catch up to what you’ve got going on. A good SEO will be able to deliver on what they’ve promised you, but their job is made harder when they’re splitting their time between doing the work and having mini-therapy sessions in the CEO’s office. ;)

3. SEO does not equal shiny Meta tags

Though some really enjoy whispering myths that all SEOs do is rework Meta tags and explain the concepts of linking, it really is just a tad more complicated and involved in that. When we take on an SEO project, we have a long list of areas that we’re looking at when we complete that initial SEO site audit. Sort of like how a brain surgeon doesn’t just grab a scalpel and go to town on your inner lobes. There’s a science involved; a process. There are a lot of working parts that must be balanced to get the desired outcome. Otherwise the person dies.

In SEO, it’s your site that dies. And, by association, your business.

SEO may not be as complicated as digging into someone’s brain, but if you don’t know the inner workings and what’s involved, it may as well be.

4. Just because you read it on a blog or in a forum doesn’t make it true

Read. Verify. Test.


You should never believe anything you read on the Internet unless you are able to do these things. Yes, even if you read it on your most favorite, trusted blog or Web forum. Everyone has off days. Others are just bored or looking for page views.

5. SEO is not your IT department

Being serious about search engine optimization means making it part of your entire business process. That conversation may start with your IT department and your developers, but it has to progress beyond that in order to be successful. SEO isn’t just the concern of your IT department, but that of your content department, your marketing division, your link builders, your public relations people, your sales team, etc. Instead of locking SEO up in your IT room and creating an unhealthy battle between SEOs, Developers, and those that have to deal with both – let’s break down the wall and do this together. SEO isn’t anyone’s job, it’s everyone’s job and it needs to be treated that way inside your organization.

6. Your keywords actually matter

You can’t pick keywords out of the air and decide that those are the ones you’d like to rank for. Because as @Netmeg mentioned on Twitter yesterday, some keywords aren’t worth going after. Either because you don’t have the resources to go after them or because they’re not the keywords that are going to convert for you and deliver ROI. As an SEO client, you don’t need to know the total ins and outs of keyword research, that’s why you’ve hired an SEO consulting firm, but do know the basics. You should understand that, as Casey Yandle so eloquently noted on Twitter, rankings mean nothing unless they convert. Anything else is a vapid distraction you can’t afford.

7. [Click Here] is never suitable anchor text

Speaking of keywords!

You’ve identified them, yes? Someone on your team spent time doing research, running numbers, and pinpointed which terms will best convert for you? Awesome. So now use them. Adele Kirwer believes that [click here] is never suitable anchor text, for anything EVER, and I have to agree with her. Don’t make your SEO kick you.

8. Your rankings don’t tell the whole story

Where you fall in the eyes of the search engines is obviously important. In many scenarios, it’s what you’re paying your SEO services provider for. However, do be aware that there are many OTHER metrics you’ll want to look at.

Like what?

  • Increased conversions
  • Time on site
  • Better visibility
  • Brand sentiment and authority
  • Share of voice

With everyone getting personalized results, there’s a lot more to think about when it comes to SEO and there’s a lot more to watch. Your SEO vendor should be able to present your data to you in a way that helps you see the full view, not just the trail you took to get there.

9. It’s not all about you

SEOing your Web site means making it easier for your audience to complete THEIR objective and to meet THEIR goal. It’s about giving them something to connect with and maybe even inspire them. It’s not about you. None of this is about you.

10. In 2011, it’s not whether you’ll invest in SEO, it’s how

If you have a Web site that is responsible for driving leads to your Web site and converting users, than SEO is something that your business needs to make an investment in. So you can stop having that pointless mind battle with yourself and use that energy to decide HOW you will integrate SEO into the core of your business.

Ask yourself:

  • How can you better marry SEO into your sales process?
  • How can it be used to improve the content you’re putting out for users?
  • What does your SEO activities mean for customer service?

It’s the tiny things that lead to big results. When you’re worried about how SEO will fit into your organization, start small. Then build out.

Those are ten things I wish everyone could learn about SEO. They’re not even hard things, they’re basic things that would help move this conversation forward. What one thing do you wish you could hammer into your boss or your client’s mind? Or maybe what do you wish you knew sooner?

Your Comments

  • yankeerudy

    Great post Lisa, we spend way too much of our time having to educate clients/bosses about SEO and if they all knew these basics it would be so much easier. I especially like #4 – there is so much crap “expertise” out there it makes it difficult to know what’s what.

  • Graphiste

    Very useful post about SEO basics : SEO is a long-term investment with great ROI !

  • Fran Irwin

    Nice article Lisa; I’d love to make this a primer for any client considering and SEO contract. Numbers 5 and 8 are my favorites! So many clients come into the process uneducated; they could really benefit from accepting these basic facts. Thanks!

  • Jerry McCarthy

    Great points. One of the challenges we have is helping clients determine which keywords are specifically relative to their business. Sometimes a client will tell us they want to target a keyword with a double entendre. In which case we try to explain that a percentage of the actual searches for that keyword aren’t pinpointed for their products specifically. Some keywords are ‘loosely based’ off a broader industry which means they’re going to lose significant keyword search volume in the process. We always stress the goal of targeting keywords where 100% of the searches are undoubtedly relative to landing them business. Thanks Lisa!!

  • Tony Dimmock

    Excellent points Lisa,

    Point 8 resonates strongly with me. This morning I visited a new prospective client and we discussed the need to not only get targered visitors to his website but the absolute importance of monitoring their behaviour and converting them. He confirmed that, from the SEO experts he’d spoken to, I was the first to discuss conversion strategy, add-on sales and the need to turn his blog section into a gold-mine of opportunity. Also backup @yankeerudy’s comments about crap advice (#4) – everyone and their dog is an “expert” nowadays. Thanks for sharing :-)

  • Steve

    Re: “[Click Here] is never suitable anchor text ”

    The one time that’s not true is when you’re linking out to another website that targets a similar subject matter as your own – which is sometimes a worthwhile thing to do when providing valuable and referenced articles on your own site.

    Bit although I will link out to another site to improve the user experience of my own readers, I might ‘no follow’ that link and certainly won’t use keyword linktext that competes with my own rankings… I’ll use “click here” and let them battle with Adobe instead. ;)

  • Ken Jansen

    Fantastic Lisa. I am going to print this out and put it on the frig at the office, if that is ok. :) Traffic or Rankings without conversion is pointless, er vapid distraction. Nice job.

  • Robert Miranda

    As a burgeoning SEO I am beginning to encounter these scenarios on a daily basis. It’s posts like these that reaffirm that I am not going crazy.

  • Joe Schaefer

    Great post, especially in the sense of giving some ‘offline’/real-world comparisons. I guess the one thing that I have to hammer into minds is that there isn’t one single strategy — each project is unique. Sure, similarities exist, but a ‘package off the shelf’ doesn’t make sense to me. That’s also why I think that having multiple packages to choose from like a menu at a restaurant is dicey…there are usually too many factors that vary from one site to a next that require ‘personal’ attention. So, saying, “Ah…give them package ‘b'” never wold sit well with me.

  • Bonnie

    Great tips. I especially like #9 — this applies to so much more than SEO.

  • Rohin Guha

    Hey Lisa–these are great rules of thumb (especially those of us who only barely flirt with SEO at best). As more marketing, publicity, and commerce shifts to the internet, more of us will definitely have to go from making SEO “a condiment” to actually one of the main entrees on the table.

  • hillbillyToad @ ThatJeffSmith

    I am SO guilty on #7. I immediately went to ‘fix the glitch’ and discovered that finding where I had abused the ‘click here’ rule was kind of hard – even when using Google Search. So I wrote up a quick post on how to find your blog posts using SQL, which might be helpful to those of you using WordPress since it runs on MySQL.

    Find ‘Click Here’ Anchor Text In Your WordPress Posts using SQL I hope it helps!

  • Blue Fire

    Part one sounds very familiar. It is cheaper if the client goes to you for the SEO friendly site build and then ongoing, it is easier and cheaper for everyone. When they come to you with a completely borked website that they recently paid someone else to build then they can really lose out.

  • Jenny Shih

    Thanks for this info, Lisa. I’ve just started diving into the topic of SEO and incorporating it into my site (I know now–wrong order!), and I appreciate the insights here.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Lisa,
    Good summarized form of all the SEO techniques,
    I especially like your point 5 that SEO isn’t just the concern of your IT department, but that of your content department, your marketing division, your link builders, your public relations people and your sales team too.

  • Richard

    One more point is missed. For Local SEO – it is required to mesure the number of users from your target location. If this number is rising, then SEO is good.

  • Kaloyan Banev

    I agree with this points and especially the one related to sources. Reading different sources and opinions doesn’t matter much. Try everything practical, valuate different systems, follow official guidelines.

  • Todd Chambers

    Very insightful article!

    SEO encompasses so many online areas! There is no quick fix.
    I particularly like point 2. SEO is an investment into the long-term health of your Web site. This is why it’s paramount you work with an established reputable firm.
    Would you rather save money now or make money later?

  • Gilb_namebadges

    It never ceases to amaze how people just don’t do or ‘get’ keyword research and choosing keywords. Perhaps my judgement is clouded as I don’t need to ‘understand’ it, but choosing keywords is so important alongside aligning your site effectively.

  • Nuno

    I would have to disagree with the anchor text part. You can actually have non-descript anchor text because Google will read the text next to your links and in your page, not just your anchor text. That is 2007 way of thinking, IMO.

  • Maciej Fita

    I like #6. Many times i see companies that try to pawn of SEO to a web developer or a webmaster that might have zero marketing experience. Sure the implementation of the elements might be technical but marketing plays a very large role in on-site SEO efforts.

  • Stephen Orsini

    One of my compadre’s at Overit pointed me to this post – and I’ll continue to pass it around. From a lead developers stand point – I only wish more of the design and development community understood why all of your points are so important and valid… and like you stated, not as an after thought (paraphrasing).
    Anyway, thanks for the resource – I’m-a-sharin’!

  • Mike

    “SEO is an investment into the long-term health of your Web site” – especially when your seo service firm uses link buying strategy based on temporary links, when you stop paying them – your website will go down.

  • Tom Stevens

    There is no doubt about it, in my opinion, SEO is changing and changing quickly. As you said your ranking isn´t everything now.

    With the Google Panda they are more interested in your bounce rate and how long people stay on your site.

    The old days have gone and its a new world as far as SEO is concerned.

  • Eric Munley

    I was happy to read #6!

    One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing the phrase “we need to target [insert keyword here] because that is what our customers search for”. Most of the time, this comment is based on absolutely no research or data, just the person’s own opinion. Keyword research has to be unbiased and based on reliable information, no matter how you individually use search engines.

  • Martin - Custom Web Design

    “Don’t make your SEO kick you” – maybe I should try that a bit more myself, and I’m glad the message is getting out that SEO is something to be brought in at the planning stage. It takes time to get people to understand this. That some time invested in keyword and competitor research before any design work or website structure is done is still a new concept to people, but we will get there.

    Great pointers, thanks!

  • Salvatore Surra

    I love point 1, 3, and 7. I just die when I hear people say, “yeah we are designing a new website and we are thinking about doing some SEO”. You don’t think about doing SEO, you either do it or you don’t. To wait until after the project is going and in some cases launched is like asking a restaurant to make a steak medium after they’ve already cooked it well. #3 was great because often I get people asking me what I do and they think that it’s just keyword research and placing some title tags or meta tags, but in fact, it’s so much more than that. Site audits, algo research, link strategies, social media marketing, spec writing, traffic research, reporting, and many other aspects are covered in my job daily. It’s not just keywords and titles. #7 was the best though. I hate it when I see the words ‘click here’, or I’m even getting a little fed up with ‘read more’. Do we really think that users are that dumb that they don’t know how to use the web today? I think most understand that they click on the title to read a story, so by having the additional ‘read more’ link is often pointless and a waste of good anchor text.

  • Jimtsap

    Great article. I would like to comment on number 9 “It’s not all about you”…
    Internet in the beginning , was a society that everybody wanted to communicate, share and help each other. Nowadays I believe we all have marketized the use of internet, even we tend to market, one way or another, our own personalities via social networks. Well this is something that we should never forget. A little bit more humanity and a slight thought of how can I contribute on this big society.
    Take care yourselfs and others too.

  • Zunaira Karim

    I think point no. 5 hit home with me the most, especially that SEO is ‘everyone’s job’. The more involved people in your business are in SEO, the better results you obtain. A local based client of mine does it best. He has a blog up on his site and invested a lot of time in updating his blog plus his own social media sites for distribution, but most of all, he has other members of his team write posts on the blog as well. It’s a collaborative effort of online marketing, which includes my company and his team.

  • Bharat Patel

    Well lisa this are really some of the most important things i would like my clients to know before even thinking to choose any seo clients. Fantastic points made. :)

  • Lannon

    :) I like that; “In 2011, it’s not whether you’ll invest in SEO, it’s how”!!

  • Lily @Merchant Cash Advance

    The best keywords are the ones that you can find on your analytics program under “Goals achieved.”

  • Kelsey

    I hate when people always use ‘click here’ as anchor text! grr!

  • Maximilien

    Woow ! Great article Lisa ! I have just read the translation on LeMuscleReferencement in french and I really appreciated. I totally agree with that 10 things ;)

  • NextGen Writer

    Some good points Lisa, but I think SEO was a myth and it will always stay a myth due to ever-changing algorithms (e.g. we just had Panda). You need hard work, ability to follow the changing SEO trends and a LOT of good luck to rank better, right?

  • Akash Kumar

    Nice post lisa, agree with you on all of this. We have come so far but still people ask us how to write a good meta tag? And it makes me sick like hell, when people who read a information from some untrustworthy source and teach the same to the others.

  • Ankit Saini

    Very nice overview on seo 2011. :)
    For me.. SEO is to Do.. Not To Think..


  • Daniel Laws

    Nice post Lisa, I agree with everything you said. The ranking doesn’t always tell the whole story is becoming a more important part of SEO with Google Panda updates.

  • Joanna

    I think number 1 is how much of SEO rides on good user experience design. I like this article, which outlines how to put a team together so that all “human factors” are taken into account to make the site most usable, while optimizing the talents of your SEO marketing and UxD teams:


  • Andy Kuiper

    “Just because you read it on a blog or in a forum doesn’t make it true” I bet a lot of folks are wishing they’d taken more notice of this “need to know (#4)” Now that Panda and Penguin algo mods have ruined their traffic. So many times I hear, “but I read about it on bal blah blog, so that’s why I did it”… oops ;-)
    Thanks, Andy :-)