What Are An SEO’s Responsibilities?

by Dave Curtis on 11/30/2014

in Advanced SEO, Google, Search Engine Optimization

SEO Started Out When Search Engines Were in Their Infancy

More often than not, today’s working SEO is juggling 20 balls at once, jockeying for first, second or third position on page one in search engines rankings. This article explains a little bit about how search engine optimization works, and how it got to where it is today.

Alta Vista, Before Google

Before Google, Alta Vista

Back in the mid 90’s, and long before businesses knew how to take advantage of the internet (large corporations were trying figuring out how to monetize the internet for a very long time – and were putting a lot of money into R&D) there were every day smart people who taught themselves how to get their own sites to rank well by a process known today as Search Engine Optimization. Before 1995 there were so few websites that you could buy books that looked like telephone directories listing websites. AltaVista publicly launched as an internet search engine on December 15, 1995 at altavista.digital.com. At launch, the service had two innovations that put it ahead of other search engines available at the time: it used a fast, multi-threaded crawler (Scooter) that could cover many more webpages than were believed to exist at the time, and it had an efficient back-end search, running on advanced hardware. The crawler “Scooter” followed links in one site to the next to find them all. In those earliest days before AltaVista sharing links was the best way to get found because your site had to be found by following the links to it from a link on someone else’s site, and likewise, their site could be found by someone visiting your site. That was known as link exchange, and was a valid part of link building. In many cases those sites where the links existed were called directories, and most required a link back to them. In 1996, AltaVista became the exclusive provider of search results for Yahoo! Various changes were made to AltaVista, one of which was to change it from a Search Engine into a Web Portal between 1996 and 2000 (a portal is a website that offers multiple services, say Yahoo! Whereas, a search engine is the back-end process that searches the web when you try to look for some information, say the Yahoo! Search, Bing, or Google.)

Google focused on search from the beginning. It originated as a content crawler to help students locate data on the web and also try to make algorithmic determinations as to which search queries best matched each page’s content in order to return the results to web searchers. In the early days of Google Search Engine Optimization largely meant stuffing keywords into the Meta Keywords section of page headers and using the same keywords combined in phrases on the page (by the way, don’t think that optimizing for Bing is actually a separate action, Bing has regularly been stealing Google’s results for years).

“Old Style” SEO, some but not all of which is still used today also meant using those keywords in the page header’s Meta Description area. Asking friends to exchange back-links (e.g.: I’ll link to your site if you’ll link to mine) was still ongoing. Those were the days when getting listed in thousands of low quality directories counted as good links. Those were also the days when article marketing (reprinting the same article on 20 or 50 article sites with a link back to the author’s site) worked, when all sorts of simple, and not so simple tricks and what is now penalized as black hat still worked. Today’s older sites with all of those “Google Illegal” illegal back-links and proportional keyword stuffing have to clean up their acts.

Today’s SEOs Come in All Flavors, Shapes and Sizes

  • Like cheese, some SEOs are aged (or using aged tactics), meaning that they haven’t changed much.
  • Some SEOs won’t deal with writing content. They’re all about on-page and server side option optimization but they don’t provide any of the writing.
  • Other SEOs see no reason to provide consultancy on how to take advantage of social media (that involves sharing content from the website, so of course they wouldn’t want to deal with that).
  • And still others claim to more than what they are.  I invited an affiliate marketer once to take a look at one of my SEO articles and he told me that it was rather long, but he also said that he couldn’t judge it because he wasn’t an SEO.

A year later he was selling his SEO services claiming he was an SEO for ten years. Within a very short time he was on the SMX (Search Marketing Exchange) convention circuit speaking as a featured SMX Advanced speaker. Those types of conventions (SMX) are where the Fortune 500 headhunters go to pick and choose the SEO Consultants for their major firm’s websites. So in the early days of SEO if you were on the ground floor and smart enough to think of getting a convention circuit started you became the de-facto “accreditation authority” for who was, and who wasn’t, a top SEO. It’s amazing what you can do in SEO with a little Chutzpah (Jewish word for “insolence”, “cheek” or “audacity”) and a FORTUNE 500 company multi-million dollar budget backing a team of real SEOs. Including getting the company penalized by Google so it no longer appears at all in search listings.
That said SMX is an excellent organization and their roster of speakers includes real top notch SEOs whom I follow and keep updated by (from their own websites as well as by watching on YouTube the SMX videos where they’ve spoken) on a regular basis.

So What Does a Well Rounded SEO Do?

 A Full Fledged SEO’s Responsibilities Include (but are not limited to):

Keeping current in all areas of search and cloud network technology, provide options within budget, achieve desired marketing goals.

This includes understanding the needs and budgetary limitations of the client and prioritizing the work in the right order. Search Engine Optimization occurs in stages so the first phase on a lower budget should aim for the most benefits, even if those benefits are only to break even on the SEO investment sometime within the first year. Large ticket item products and services in busy times will break even sooner than small sites selling labor intensive lower priced items and services in slow times. To learn more about identifying a good SEO for your company’s needs, read my article Hiring a Good SEO, What to Know First, and How to Proceed.

Provide Hosting and CDN recommendations.

CDN means Content Delivery Network. What that means is that if all of the files (pictures, hosted videos etc) reside only on your own server, and your server is in Utah, then everyone in the country and Canada has to wait for the files to load from Utah. Along the way the routers may be busy with a lot of traffic and slow down the speed of your site. That’s a bad thing. But if your site uses a CDN then your site’s pictures will also be on a server in NY, one in Oregon, another in Texas, etc. Now your site loads faster – and because the client is getting two connections (one from a Utah IP address and one from the nearest CDN IP, the downloads are even faster! Google wants sites to load faster and considers it in ranking. Site visitors want a fast loading site or they get tired of waiting and bounce.

Initial site development: consideration of product & service division & subdivision known as siloing.

Siloing is the way a site is organized. Think of it as a filing cabinet. All the category “A” files in one place, all the category “B” files in another etc. When Google crawls the site it sees a silo fully of category A, category B, category C etc and it has a clearly defined well laid out site to index. It gets a strong message about what each part of the site is about. This work is done using either physical (html) or logical (database) siloing, and exclusionary linking which doesn’t cross link A to B or B to C unless absolutely necessary. Siloing via just the drop-down menu isn’t good enough. It’s got to be done right or it won’t work. When it’s done wrong by an amateur it has to be re-done and then a file called the .htaccess file needs to be updated with a 301 (page permanently moved command) for every single page on the site that has been moved or the page URL changed.

Menu development: User interface drill down directly to any specific point.

This part can be tricky when there’s someone at the company always requesting more links on the front page. Just as with siloing columns of menu items can be stacked up in various methods: a drop down, a drop down flyout, a horizontal dropdown with multiple columns for each dropdown item in the main menu, or the addition of a secondary sidebar menu if things absolutely require. The goal is to keep it as simple and uncluttered as possible, keep things in categories and not just keep adding buttons, and make it as quick and easy to get to a page as possible. The site should be clean and uncluttered and make it easy to buy or order services and that’s it. Just like a kiosk or a vending machine. If they want information then have a link with a drop down for any info they want and include a search bar so they can find it that way. But for the most part you want them to have 3 options – sign up, contact you, or buy.

Boiler Plate content creation: Individually optimized.

Under siloing is / are the main sections of the site for products and services. There may be five or six main services or product areas, each with a page and description. Obviously sites such as department stores will have more variety in their product lines, but the same principle applies. Each main section contains strong emphasis on that particular service, or the products in general within that silo. The boiler plate copy having then been written it’s time to get to the individual sub-page boiler plate copy written for individual products within the main category, or identical services offered in individual geographic locations. There may be several hundred or more boiler plate pages created by the time the boiler plate content portion of the site is finished. Each and every single one of them must be individually optimized. It’s pure drudge work, and something that requires weeks or months of daily effort. To learn more about boiler plate pages read Duplicate Content and Boiler Plate Pages.

Content Marketing: 3 to 5 part series articles, about 2 a month. Series provide funneling toward a request of action in the final part of the series.

There is no sugar coating this one – Your Top Competitors’ Sites Have More Pages of Good Content Than Yours – Period. In most cases, LOTS more. You’re not going to defeat them by dressing up your meta tags or getting listed with the online Yellow Pages. Google has gone gangbusters to determine which sites have the most relevant content based on what they’re now working toward recognizing from what people type into the search engines. That content based search engine change they’re working on is called “User Intent” so that people can use natural language similar to the way someone on Star Trek would be able to talk to a computer and be given the answers they’re looking for.So an avid gardener looking for answers will type in their query and the site with the content to answer their problem or question won’t be the one with the products, it will be the one with the products and the articles. The smart companies call this content marketing and the benefit is that the avid gardener will find all sorts of things out from this site over time and not bother to look for another site to buy from since the products are right there somewhere on the main menu.But it gets better because when the writing is relevant and timely to, say “non-chemical pest control alternatives to get rid of tics”, dog websites, garden websites and outdoor hiker/camping/hunting websites may soon be giving your article a link – and through that more juice in Google, plus more traffic, plus more shares on social media. Lots of wins. The article’s have to be interesting though and contain solid information or drama that keeps building until the end when the product or the service winds up as the hero at the end of the article series. It’s writing, and it’s work.

Branding The Company Image: Public Relations – Promoting good will efforts, charities, work done by the company within the community, social and society event attendance, awards and so forth (improving online reputation).

Brand A and brand B are side by side on the same street. Each one sells the identical products and offers the identical services at identical prices.Brand A is actively involved in the community and takes part in events and hosts an annual event for a different charity each year. Everyone is welcome and there are free hay rides for the kids. The service is friendly, the phone is always answered the same way “Hello, this is Bob, thank you for calling Brand A, how may I direct your call?” and nobody uses profanity.Brand B opens there store every day at the same time, doesn’t participate in the community, has no particular way of answering calls outside of “hello?” and isn’t involved in anything charitable even though it’s a tax write off. Sometimes there’s a bit of swearing going on, and even though it’s more in the nature of banter, some clients are visibly put off by it.A and B are both brands, but A has done a better job of consciously branding itself and gets more customers in the door year after year while brand B stews in envy. To learn more, see my Branding in a Nutshell article.

Reputation Management: Related to the above, recommendations based in part upon the competition’s branding efforts – how much, what type, how frequently, what are they *not* doing that is worth doing.

Obviously brand A has got it going. Brand B however has gotten a few poor online reviews, has no Facebook page, and has no way of knowing (because no-one checks) that people are trashing them for swearing while they were in there after their Bible Club meeting on Tuesday morning, that they’re rude on the phone, bla, bla, bla. (once the complaining starts it’s hard to stop).Reputation management in a case like this means strongly advising a company to follow the paid consultant’s advice on branding mentioned above. Part of that means putting policy into writing with consequences if that policy isn’t followed. It also means becoming involved outside of the business and in the community. But becoming involved isn’t by itself enough, that involvement has to become known and so the “public relations and marketing” aspect of the branding company image comes into play. Is the event covered by the media? Will a press release be required to gain their attention in addition to reaching out in person or with a few letters to the editor in the months leading up to an event? Where else can the word be spread? With tourism? With church groups? Will it benefit children? If so then teachers might like to know – and always bring your own discreet photographer with you for those great cameo shots of you with the local celebs. The local celebs are also the people you provide services and goods to! Keeping it real makes it more shareable. Remember, this isn’t to trick anyone, it’s a guide – sort of like the old bartender’s rule “if you don’t have a personality, steal a personality.” If you can’t deal with functions and events – find someone in your organization who can. Some businesses are almost wholly church oriented for growing their clientele. That works for that group but to truly grow you’ve got to go beyond into the wider community.

Social Media Sharing

The marketing content is shared on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc. (Facebook, however, [as of this writing] will shortly be taking the entire page from sites and scraping it into Facebook and placing paid ads around it – thus one of my responsibilities includes thwarting this by implementing a technique I devised.) Once a link is posted to the company Facebook Page it is shared to the personal timeline from the page, and then shared with others from that point to promote the page and the actual article on the business website. To learn more read my article Content Marketing for Facebook Pages, Linkedin & Twitter.

Link Building

Back link building is related directly to Cloud SEO as all websites are part of the network of interconnected networks that make up the internet. Backlinks are also directly related to Content Marketing & Social Media Sharing because valued, timely content is linked to.

Mobile Website

This can begin at any stage, particularly if there is more than one person performing the SEO as one person alone must deal with a multiplicity of tasks. Graphics, slide creation, menu layout and other special concerns need to be addressed individually and separately from those of the main site, and the mobile site requires its own optimization.

Database and Server/Site Issues and Security

If the site is Database driven as most sites today are, then that database must be maintained and managed. It needs to be regularly backed up, repaired, and optimized for performance.  PHP, CSS, Compression & other on site & Server Optimizations must be performed. Also installing login blocking measures to prevent hackers from breaking into the site is important as is adding in a malware detector in case they do slip in somehow and put something on the site that could cause visitors computers to become infected.Some SEOs say these things have nothing to do with SEO but if you’ve ever dealt with a new client’s hacked or infected site (as I have on several different occasions) then you would know that they no longer rank, and that where they do rank there’s a warning notice from Google that the site may have been hacked – or worse, a warning in Chrome that the site is known to have malware on it and a button with the option to “get me out of here”.

There’s lots more

I’m leaving out contact forms, email newsletter signup forms and how to write and test subject lines, email body, offers and benefits, measuring and tracking Pay Per Click performance using a spread sheet over time, writing whitepapers, gaining more likes on Facebook through something as simple as a “Like my page to be entered in a raffle to win X” and so forth.Full fledged all around good working SEOs are hard to find in my opinion due to the sheer number of details. I’m leaving out video optimization now that it’s so easy to host videos online. I’m leaving out the important use of H1 to H6 tags, and now Schema importance in search due in part to Google’s Hummgingbird update.

SEOs Come in All Sizes and All Shapes

There is no cheap one size fits all, quick fix, does it all automated great SEO. There is cheap one size fits all, quick fix, does it all automated Snake Oil SEO.  Good and great SEO is always hand crafted and always finely tuned. But someone like myself, knowing what needs to be done and how long each task requires to be done, and how to judge whether it’s being done right, and knowing enough about every aspect of Search Engine Optimization to assign and oversee an entire project’s development can perform the entire SEO job over time or employ as large a team as is necessary for far larger SEO jobs to speed things up significantly. That’s why Fortune 500 websites are so hard to beat – dozens of SEOs and content creators all working under one or two masters in cooperation with a marketing department, an art department, a public relations department and so forth, and why even if you find just one good SEO you need to take their consultation to heart and follow it even if it means doing a little more of some of the work (such as the public relations outings and providing any required information needed for the content writing) yourself. To learn more about identifying a good SEO for your company’s needs, read Hiring a Good SEO, What to Know First, and How to Proceed. Happy reading!


If you have any questions leave a comment below. I’m always happy to help.

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