January 26, 2011

SEO is a Discipline, Not a Project

By Stephen Laliberte

SEO is a Discipline, Not a Project

I can be a bit of an SEO skeptic. It’s not that SEO doesn’t work; it can work, and very well. But it’s easy to have unrealistic expectations of SEO, and there are some consultants who encourage those unrealistic expectations. In fact, I believe that SEO can be particularly valuable for publishers as long as their expectations are realistic and they are willing to approach SEO in a disciplined way. The advantage you, as a publisher, have in the SEO game is two-fold. First, you are always posting new content, and second, that content is specific in what it addresses and who it is addressed to. The challenge is that SEO cannot be a one-time exercise.

  • Reason 1: Each new piece of content requires optimization.
  • Reason 2: Competitor’s content is also striving for those critical top spots, so you can’t take anything, including your placement, for granted.
  • Reason 3: “Close” doesn’t count for much. 100th place out of 100,000 hits puts you in the top one percent, but you need to be on (or near) the first screen, which means top five or 10.
  • Reason 4: Your audience is changing, or at least changing their interests. A piece of news can send a wave of searchers to the Internet, and search terms can be influenced by that news.
  • Reason 5: Search engines change their algorithms. They don’t publicize their changes, but they do change as, for example, when Google started upgrading videos after buying YouTube.


Making SEO a Discipline

Make optimization daily routine for the editor/information producer to minimize effort, and make sure it only takes a minute or two. Then you train, monitor, correct, and reward. Here are some easy, effective techniques:


  1. Pick 3 keywords and put them in the URL and in the meta keyword of the page.
  2. Optimize everything: articles, blogs, white papers, web seminars, videos, jobs, etc.
  3. Place the title of the article in the meta title and in the meta keywords.
  4. Place editorial taxonomy tagging into the URL and keywords. Most publishers organize their sites by topic, and topic is your editorial taxonomy. Chances are that people handling content are already tagging, so it’s easy to also place this information into a page’s SEO components.


See if your IT group can develop functionality so that when you enter or pick keywords, the publishing platform will automatically place them in the correct places.


Watch, Measure, and Reward

Determine who in your organization is responsible. If multiple departments oversee content—editorial, marketing, custom media, etc.—instill this discipline in each of them. Check by periodically mousing over links on the website. If you find one that does not have keywords in the URL, remind the responsible party.


You Can Measure SEO

Many SEO consultants don’t provide metrics on the impact of their recommendations on SEO, but you can. Identify the actions you want readers to take when they land on your pages—register, opt into an e-newsletter, perform a lead generation—and track the sources of those arrivals. On the IProduction platform, a reader visiting your website from a search is automatically tagged with a Source Type and a source code that indicates the originating search engine and month and year of arrival.

  • IProduction's MailZeen circulation reporting lets you determine, for the month, the number of people who registered or opted in from each search engine.
  • Fulfillment sales reporting lets you see how many lead generations and purchases originated from SEO.
  • If you baseline these reports before you establish your discipline and then watch the numbers as you establish the discipline, you can watch interactions from SEO increase and resulting increases in lists, e-newsletter circulation, page views, sales leads, and sales.


Critical metrics include:

  • new registrations
  • opt-ins to editorial e-newsletters
  • lead generations
  • subscription sales
  • pay-per-view sales


Watch these with the same diligence as print circulation. In addition to SEO this will let you evaluate all your marketing and circulation building efforts, just as you do in print.