SEO – Standing still is just not an option

by Peter Young on September 3, 2010 · 3 comments

All of us have been there, sitting in front of a client who wants world domination – or indeed wanting to be the client who wants world domination. However dominating something, whether it be a singular keyword or an entire sector is not easily done – and takes a lot of time, work and meticulous planning.

Search itself is an interesting sector. Many organisations struggle to get a foothold within organic results, relying on secondary channels such as Affiliates, Paid Search and more recently Social Media. This is especially evident in sectors such as Gaming – where returns are often high, markets heavily competitive and the sector itself highly mature.

It is roughly possible to break organisations within search down into four rough groups, which I have provisionally named:

  • Sector Specialists
  • Keyword Kings
  • Long Tail Leaders
  • Non-Starters

The groups above could be differentiated based on

  • Content developed – Assumed here is obviously a well thought out information architecture and clear differentiation of unique content
  • Links acquired – Again assumed that clear strategy to link acquisition – with some focus on the acquisition of semantically relevant links to the site.

Further to this I broke this down into the four distinct groups outlined above, which could be described further as follows:

Sector Specialists

Examples: MoneySupermarket (UK)

There aren’t many examples of organisations out in the wild, however Moneysupermarket could be described as one such example. Dominant across a number of heavily competitive generic and long tail queries across the finance sector including home insurance (and until recently car insurance), secured loans and a number of utility centric terms.

When you go into Moneysupermarket you get a feeling for why. Its one of the most search centric of organisations I have come across, with a number of the functions heavily feeding into their organic search, something which I hate to say a lot of clients do not do effectively. That aside, that visibility has been built up by extensive link acquisition targeting a variation of their targeted terms – and extensive on-page content content development (at last count 90,100 and counting).

This isn’t something that can be recreated overnight – in fact I would argue that any site starting out   now may find that job nigh on impossible to recreate it.

Keyword Kings

Examples: Admiral (currently no.1 car insurance)

Keyword Kings are often sites that heavily focus in particular areas – one particular trait here can often be seen in their keyword profiles. Keyword kings are often much more heavily offpage dependant – relying less on the day to day content development.

More attainable than achieving sector specialism merely because the lack of dillution allows for much greater traction – however the effect of much of this is that the effect of this often varies significantly from vertical to vertical.

I would suggest this is where you will find many of the high end organisations targeting particularly in areas such as insurance, or gaming where you can often find ‘jackpot terms’ driving a vast majority of the traffic to the sites.

Long tail leader

Examples: Too many – Marmaris Holidays would be an example though

For many sites starting off, this is often the way to make some initial wins before taking on much loftier targets. For larger sites however, who can rely on much greater site authority, this can often be a good way to mop up smaller volumes of targets.

Given the lesser volumes of active competitors, there are still a number of long tail terms which can be actively achieved without any significant direct link acquisition and by just a degree of on-page optimisation.

Cheap flights is an example of a site which has attacked these long tails very effectively, from destination led search terms to source led search terms, they have gone after many of these via extensive content supported by a very cohesive internal architecture framework..

One shouldn’t at this point forget the important role that internal navigation can play. If you can’t at the end of the day provide the search engines with a clear indication of what you consider authority pages, then why should Google presume that?

Non-starters

Exactly as it sounds, and as the graph suggests comes down to organisations/sites who do not develop any content strategy or acquire any links. Doing so is unlikely to see you generate any significant traffic or visibility to the site – and as a result little direct ROI atributable back to organic activity.

Such sites will often require significant support via paid search in particular – however other channels may also come into vogue where required. Thats not to say such sites can’t be succesful – one however probably shouldn’t factor organic search into play as a major factor.

Conclusion

Search engine optimisation is an interesting channel – however there is no doubting things are very different from the days when I started out (strangely talking to the likes of Rand Fishkin in the Cre8asite forums) – with campaigns now bringing together a wide variety of on and off-page techniques as well as external channels such as PR and Video in many cases.

As such simply standing still and hoping for the best is not enough. A search engine optimised site is simply not enough and needs to be supported by either further extensive on-page content or via off-page activity – where aggression is often determined by competitiveness and the competition itself.

Google+ Comments

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

David September 3, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Peter,

That’s an awesome but simple visual way to show where the client is trying to be. Also a nice way to break down depending on which campaign keywords or budgets they implement where they might be.

Peter Young September 5, 2010 at 10:33 am

Hi David

Glad you think so – to be honest it needs the post to explain it as it was tested on a couple of the SEODojo crew without the post prior to distribution.

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