I’ve been talking with a good friend of mine a lot lately about SEO.
He’s working on a new business idea and knows that SEO, both on-site and off-site optimization, are crucial to his initial and on-going success.
However, he proposed a question that I felt I had the answer to, but wanted additional feedback from others.
The question was:
At some point can’t we just STOP the SEO consulting and rely on word of mouth and viral marketing to keep us in the top of the SERP’s?
My initial reaction was NO. Once you’re at the top of Google you can’t just say, “All is well.” You have to CONTINUE to follow the search engine rules, continue to build quality links, continue to provide valid content, etc.
I told him I would ask around from a variety of sources. Here are some of the answers. Take note of the variety of names – there are some “big players” who have been involved in SEO for a long time. Thanks in advance for your responses.
Why SEO for a Big Business?
The Official Question:
Do big online companies (Twitter & Facebook) ever use or need SEO?
Aaron Wall, one of my SEO favorites
Brian Clark, Copywriting Tips
Janet Meiners Thaeler, Online PR
[16:17] Janet M: I don’t think they do
[16:17] Janet M: I don’t even think Google does
[16:17] Janet M: they own authority sites
[16:19] Janet M: 1 – they have brand recognition because they created something useful & easy to spread 2 – huge #s of people depend on their service, 3 – people constantly produce new content that sustains them & keeps them relevant
[16:20] Janet M: but that doesn’t mean all big companies don’t use it
[16:20] Janet M: they are fundamental shifts/game changers
[16:21] Janet M: if your big business isn’t great or something remarkable like that you need SEO
[16:21] Janet M: their SEO is link building happens & grows organically without them having to do it
Dan Patterson, SEO.com
[17:20] Dan: i’d assume that they don’t really do much. They’re viral enough that they’re doing fine. Could they benefit from it? Sure! Not everyone knows about them and there are definitely phrases out there they if they ranked for they could get more users.
[17:21] Dan: personally, I can’t think of a single brand that couldn’t benefit in some way from SEO
[17:21] Dan: heck, just yesterday i was on the phone with a guy i know that has a website, and he has NEVER heard of Google Analytics
[17:22] Dan: the more phrases you rank for, the more exposure you potentially have
[17:22] [email protected]: true
[17:22] [email protected]: think about coca cola, who obviously doesn’t do much in terms of SMO
[17:29] Dan: but Pepsi is launching a huge campaign
[17:30] Dan: http://mashable.com/2009/12/23/pepsi-super-bowl/
Ben Nettesheim, Online Backup Marketer
[17:03] Ben Nettesheim: my two cents…
[17:03] Ben Nettesheim: I would say yes. It’s all about reach and frequency… even for the big dogs. If a consumer runs into your brand over and over and over, they will tend to remember it. This runs true in print, on the streets, and most certainly online. If a user consistently see Amazon as an answer to a search, then Amazon will likely be at the front of their mind for a future search or question. Likewise with Twitter of Facebook – If their services provide an answer to a search or question, then look for them to be a likely candidate for answers to future questions and searches. They have become the authority because their answer is consistently on top… even if you could have gotten a better or cheaper answer elsewhere.
[17:06] MollerMarketing: but all in all I have formed my own opinions which are EVERYONE needs SEO if they plan to stay at the top of their industry
[17:07] Ben Nettesheim: i agree. I could see the argument that if they are big enough they will get it w/out trying
[17:07] Ben Nettesheim: but even a small effort yields big return
[17:07] MollerMarketing: yeah, that’s been some of the feedback
[17:07] MollerMarketing: one point was that even the big dogs follow seo rules
[17:08] MollerMarketing: Youtube is all about “link bait” – allowing people to embed code and share
[17:08] Ben Nettesheim: yep and my opinion is if you are that big, you already have an advantage… so use that advantage instead of waiting for someone to take your advatage away
[17:08] MollerMarketing: exactly
[17:09] MollerMarketing: there’s always the little guy that might be doing all the right things that will pass you right up
[17:09] Ben Nettesheim: i wonder if you could find some examples of big guys not at the top of the SEO list who could benefit by putting a little more effort into it
Russ Page, Utah-based SEO Firm
[16:23] Russell Page: They absolutely follow the principles. Just one small example of this was when Facebook added the ability for you to be able to change the location of a page or a group from a number-based URL to a specific keyword based URL.
[16:25] Russell Page: YouTube includes easy to copy-and-paste URLs to everyone of their videos, which is a link building tool among other things.
[16:37] Russell Page: Big news sites are finally starting to see the value of linking to older stories or stories that are similar or to topic pages
[16:37] Russell Page: I’m talking about sites that get millions of hits a day already
[16:37] Russell Page: so they are already in the large traffic category
[16:39] Russell Page: this is in the middle of a CNN story.
[16:39] Russell Page: http://screencast.com/t/NzY3YzVj
[16:49] Ryan Scott Miller: I know Twitter took steps to make their profiles more SEO friendly, but with the recent deal between Twitter & Google, Twitter gets special treatment in Google results.
[16:50] Ryan Scott Miller: Facebook might not need SEO simply because their user base is the size of the US population
[16:51] Ryan Scott Miller: For many people Facebook IS the internet much like AOL was in the early 90s [16:51] MollerMarketing: although Facebook follows SEO rules of Friendly URLs and they are now indexing some content for search
[16:51] MollerMarketing: so they must see some value
[16:54] Ryan Scott Miller: Ultimately SEO is valuable because it optimizes your presence on search engines which are what people use to access & understand the internet
[16:54] Ryan Scott Miller: Facebook, like search engines, has become that portal through which people access the wider internet in general
[16:56] Ryan Scott Miller: Hence the necessity to optimize your presence there like you need to on search engines
Devin Eden, Programmer, Eli Kirk
[16:21] Devin Eden: every company has to start somewhere.
[16:22] Devin Eden: I would be a little surprised if google has a white list of sites that will automaticaly rank high
[16:22] Devin Eden: however everyone knows who face book and twitter is.
[16:23] Devin Eden: so I would think their isn’t much need for them to “advertise”
[16:24] Devin Eden: However i think the real answer is it is more a business decision. I would use seo just as an other advantage over my compatetion
[16:25] Devin Eden: but thier are some easy ways to find out
[16:25] Devin Eden: one could be by paid adwords in google. The other would be by doing some search for hard to get key words
[16:26] Devin Eden: if they pay for ads then they for sure spend time with getting the site out their
[16:28] Devin Eden: It looks like facebook doesn’t
[16:29] Devin Eden: so far the only search that turned up facebook was social networking and it was only the social portion that goth the resolts
[16:32] Devin Eden: I am pretty sure apple spends a lot on seo
[16:32] Devin Eden: if you search for their products they are almost always the first one
[16:32] Devin Eden: I haven’t seen that as much with say microsoft
[16:37] Devin Eden: for more reasearch I would try searches that you would use to find a site like twiter and facebook
[16:37] Devin Eden: if you can’t find them then they don’t bother with seo
[16:37] Devin Eden: you could test that with some other larger companies as a comparison
Thanks to all of your for your responses.
After reading these over, this was my initial conclusion:
If I were to ask the question again, I may clarify it like this:
At what point is a company (big or small) ok with ending their SEO Campaign? (ie. not investing the time/money to maintain placement because the word of mouth is strong enough to keep them at the top)
I actually did re-ask the question on Twitter and via Chat to a few more people. Here’s the follow up question:
Answers were a bit more clear:
Aaron Wall, PPC Blog
Well it makes sense for them to want to rank their profile pages for the associated brands. And if you have a copy of Google’s internal ranking documents they state that they want to rank these pages for brands. Optimizing the page titles is an easy way to help the pages pull in more traffic. And some social sites like WordPress.com create topical tag pages which accumulate pagerank and anchor text against a target keyword and then they rank well for those. The nice thing about ranking such pages is that it is free traffic that can be monetized aggressively without tarnishing up user profiles or harming the site’s organic growth.
I wouldn’t try convincing clients of anything. Either they are sold on SEO or they need to get a clue. It’s your job to sell them on hiring you, but it shouldn’t be your job to sell them on SEO because the ignorant often wishes to remain so. Most investors and start ups are doomed to fail because they think engineering is important but think of marketing as an after thought.
The bottom line is, SEO will never be an end all cure all process. You need to use all the online avenues to build your name and business reputation.
However, I feel a company should definitely invest the time and money to build a strong SEO presence. As they gain some recognition and placement from SERPs, they may re-allocate funds at some point to additional types of online marketing (social media optimization, video marketing, viral marketing, link bait, brand and reputation management, localized marketing, image optimization, etc.)
But a small to medium sized or start-up business should never fully eliminate on-site and off-site SEO!
As my great Arizona SEO friend said recently:
- Are you always going to need a properly coded site? (technical SEO)
- Are you always going to need good content?
- Do you want people to find your content?
- Do you want people to find your images and videos?
- Are you always going to need people linking to you?
- Do you want people talking about your business?
- Do you think you might use Google, Yahoo or Bing in 2010?
If you answered YES to any or all of these questions (which I dare any of you to tell me you didn’t) then YES, you will be using SEO in 2010.
What are your thoughts on this SEO discussion?