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February 8, 2007

When is Optimization Necessary? And for How Long?

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Barry Schwartz pointed us to an interesting thread over at Cre8asite that asks if search engine optimization is always necessary for a Web site. I racked my little brain trying to think up times when optimization wouldn’t be necessary and the only time I could think of is when you don’t care if anyone else ever sees your site. When you’ve created it for yourself and no one else; when you don’t care if it’s profitable and it’s not related to core your business. Then search engine optimization doesn’t matter.

However, for the other 99.7 percent of sites out there, optimization is always necessary and should be made a priority.

There was some talk in the thread about whether a site needs to worry about optimization after it’s (a) already achieved rankings or (b) its a large brand. I say yes. Every site that doesn’t fit into the .3 percent mentioned above needs to be optimized, and it should be optimized for the entire life of that site.

It takes a lot work to get a site to rank well in the search engines. Site owners must blend the technical aspects of search engine optimization (site architecture, Meta tags, code generation, etc) with its marketing aspects (copywriting, branding, link campaigns, etc). And though some may call SEOs snake oil salesmen, the process isn’t easy. It takes a lot of testing, trial and error, experimenting with keywords, tweaking copy, and a dozen other factors that combined mean you may eventually hit the winning combination and rank well.

So after you’ve done all that work, are you really going to let your complacency allow you to stop? If you have an iron stomach and don’t mind watching your site drop from the engine’s grace, go for it. Stop worrying about your site. Otherwise I wouldn’t recommend it.

To me, backing off the methods that helped my site to rank well is a waste of my investment. Knowing the affect high rankings can have on site traffic and conversions, I wouldn’t let up. Maintaining and monitoring campaigns takes a minor amount of time but is just as important as the initial start-up. Optimization can’t be run on auto-pilot. Keywords change. Algorithm’s change. Content needs to be updated. All of that takes continued care. [The only people who think SEO is a one time fix are the people who have never done SEO. –Susan]

And what about big brand companies? They may have an easier time getting into the index and ranking for their brand name, but let’s be real, virtually anyone can rank for their company name. As noted in the thread, Nike’s offline fame is only going to help them show up for the term "Nike". It’s not going to bring in new sales from searches on terms like "track spikes", "trail runners", or "athletic apparel". Nike will only rank for those terms by optimizing for them. And what if Nike didn’t give a thought to the search engines and designed their site in Flash, providing no text links or other content for readers? How much site traffic and conversions would be lost? Probably more than they can afford. [Not optimizing because they were big brands and therefore didn’t need it is what big brands are now struggling to correct. It’s galling to be beaten for your own brand name by a hobby site or affiliate sites. –Susan]

No matter how successful your site is or how well-known you are, there’s always room for growth and improvement. Truly successful sites are those that continue to grow beyond their initial goals and markets. If Nike wanted to remain a sneaker company and only wanted to rank for "Nike", then their optimization goals have been met. But successful sites exceed expectations. Don’t let your satisfaction with today’s rankings cause you to pass up an opportunity to make your site better.

The bottom line is you can’t set up a search engine optimization campaign and then just forget about it. An established site may have the technical aspects of search engine optimization down, but the marketing aspects need constant care and upkeep. Just because you rank well today doesn’t mean your rankings will hold through tomorrow.

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One response to “When is Optimization Necessary? And for How Long?”

  1. Anna writes:

    “It’s galling to be beaten for your own brand name by a hobby site or affiliate sites”

    Or for something that contributes to a bad rep… search for uhaul in Google… 4th result is dontuseuhaul.com. It used to be worse in the results of course, but there are plenty of companies not managing their reputation with simple SEO.



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