The other day a potential client posed the question above. It wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last – of that I am sure.
And it’s a fair question. Many people’s concept of SEO is limited to content optimization, i.e., getting keywords into the right places. And that’s certainly important.
But focusing solely on content without working on all 3 legs of the SEO stool will only deliver limited results. It’s pretty obvious that a stool without 3 solid legs isn’t a very good one to sit on – and the same goes for SEO.
As a refresher, here are those 3 legs:
1) Technical SEO
2) Keywords & Content
Let’s take a look at this potential client’s situation to see how those three legs of the stool work together.
A Case In Point
At the time this potential client contacted me, their site was only ranking on Page 1 of Google for about 4% of all the keywords in their “portfolio” (per SEMrush). This means that they were definitely missing out on opportunities to show up in Google when their target audience was looking for them.
My diagnosis indicated that the reasons for that poor ranking were shared across all 3 legs of the SEO stool; here’s a breakdown.
Good technical SEO ensures a website’s full indexation and maximum visibility in search engine results pages. In other words, if Google can’t crawl your site efficiently and you don’t take advantage of technical SEO opportunities, efforts put into the other legs of the stool – content work and link building – will only yield limited results.
For this potential client, there were definitely technical issues holding the site back. If the site isn’t sending all the signals to Google that it should be in order to have that shiny new content added to the index, our work on content will bear little fruit.
In this potential client’s situation, those included basic technical SEO no-no’s such as:
- Nonexistent Robots.txt
- XML Sitemap
- Unnecessary Internal Redirects
- Duplicate Content
- Poor Page Load Times
No Tracking for Conversion Actions (this is not a crawlability factor per se, but it means they couldn’t see the impact of their work on the bottom line)
Keywords & Content
It’s hard to know for certain without performing keyword research whether this particular site was targeting the best keywords, but my suspicion was that they were probably not. Some of those keywords in their “portfolio” might not be the best ones to attract their core target audiences, while others may be spot on.
But the site definitely had some significant room for content improvements, including:
- Short Meta Titles
- Poor Meta Descriptions (essentially copies of the Meta Titles)
- Pages with Missing or Multiple H1 Headings
- Unclear or Nonexistent Calls-To-Action (again, not an SEO factor, but they were missing out opportunities to convert site visitors into potential customers)
And if these elements weren’t optimized, certainly the body copy could use some work as well.
Links (and Local SEO)
Since this organization had a local footprint with branches in different locations, they were a candidate for Local SEO. Local SEO is a subset (or stepchild) of the larger Link Building umbrella that SEOs work on.
Inbound links are like “votes” for a website. While technical SEO and keyword-targeted content are table stakes for inclusion in search engine results, inbound links from other relevant, authoritative websites will help propel a website to the top of organic search engine results.
In addition, when a user makes a Google query with local intent (e.g., “shoe store milwaukee”), the Local Search algorithm serves results pages with different features, including the large map at the top. It is an entirely independent algorithm with its own ranking signals.
From a Local SEO standpoint, I could see some glaring issues:
- No On-Site Location/Branch Pages
- No LocalBusiness Schema
- Unclaimed Google My Business Listings
- Very Few Online Reviews
Some SEOs out there might have taken this question and just run with it, optimizing pages like crazy. But that’s not how SEO works.
All three legs of that stool have to be solid, and that’s what I told them…
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