For years, I‘ve wanted to learn about SEO but it seemed so daunting and mysterious.
Fast forward to today and I find myself here in the editorial team at SEJ, getting an early glimpse at column after column of great SEO insight and advice.
Lucky me, right? (I think so!)
I get to do what I love in editorial and it’s a huge plus to interact with and learn from the work of such amazing people in action.
You see, I’m a firm believer in context and that having an overview helps with learning. That’s why I took this opportunity to ask SEO pros about their perspectives on what differentiates good SEO from great SEO.
From what I gathered, it’s in these areas where good SEO and great SEO really stand apart.
1. SEO Tactics & Strategic Areas of Focus
For some SEO experts, the difference between good SEO and great SEO is where effort and work are focused.
Put simply, for Adam Proehl, Partner & Co-Founder at NordicClick Interactive, good SEO means “checking all the boxes.”
Following Checklists, Best Practices & Proven Strategies For Good SEO
SEO professionals know the value of using proven tactics and strategies – specifics that Tony Wright, CEO at WrightIMC, reminds us include “On-page SEO done correctly, a content strategy, and a way to find links.”
These lead to “increased visibility, traffic, and conversions,” shares Winston Burton, SVP, SEO at Acronym.
Helen Pollitt also adds that good SEO is “…making sure an entity can be found through search at the right time, by the right audience.”
As for Ryan Jones, SEO Group Director at Razorfish, “Good SEO uses tactics that currently work to rank.”
And like him, Motoko Hunt, President, International Search Marketing at AJPR, touches on this, as well. She says that good SEO is “…improving ranking and results by following best practices.”
Natalie Hoben, Digital Marketing Specialist at Forthea Interactive, further explains good SEO as “Doing the standard. It’s doing technical audits, keyword research, content optimization, page speed improvement recommendations to ultimately improve a client’s visibility and get them more business.”
It’s “implementing strategies and tactics that you have successfully used for years,” says Mindy Weinstein, Founder & President at Market MindShift.
Kevin Rowe, Founder & CEO at PureLinq, rounds this all up but also shares a caveat. “A good SEO program is one that is set up for success against the goals of the program. And you’ll increase the likelihood of success if you include all of the key SEO areas (technical SEO, Content SEO, SEO Analytics, and Link Building),” he says.
“But don’t blindly follow Google’s search guidelines, but use them to help inform decisions then test, test, test,” Rowe adds.
Which Tactics & Areas of Focus Make for Great SEO?
In contrast, great SEO goes beyond the basics.
Hunt says this: “Great SEO pros take actions based on the understanding of how the search engine bots and websites work, and not because those are the best practices. They can identify the cause and the effective solutions outside the checklist.”
Wright also shares that the focus of great SEO is “…creating linkable content and getting high-quality sites to link to that content while also providing stellar technical on-page solutions.”
Manick Bhan, Founder and CTO at LinkGraph, says, “What separates greatness here is nailing all four areas: authority, content, page experience, and keyword/industry-specific ranking factors. Specifically, it’s addressing the key deficiencies that are holding a website back.”
He adds, “It’s about identifying what few things will move the needle on rankings the most, and doing them with excellence.”
“Great SEO delivers qualified traffic that converts potential customers into buyers and meets or exceeds organic key performance indicators, in addition to continuing to drive business value/ROI month over month and year over year,” Burton adds.
2. Taking Google & Algorithm Updates Into Consideration
We would be remiss not to mention how algorithm updates and constant changes in the industry affect what is good and great SEO.
Viola Eva, SEO Consultant and Founder at Flow SEO, shares that, “A good SEO caters to the algorithm and finds the right keywords and links, thus increasing organic traffic.”
What Makes for Great SEO Here?
To better explain the contrast, Jones shares: “Good SEO may get hit by core updates and algorithm changes but great SEO will only get better with each one because it was chasing what Google was trying to reward, not the actual algorithm inputs.”
Weinstein explains that great SEO is “…paying attention to the evolution of search, including changes in searcher’s behavior and algorithm updates, then adjusting (and implementing) strategies and tactics that align.”
“Good SEO solves mechanical problems that arise after every algorithm change, while great SEO is a cross-department mission to create great experiences that inspire trust and earn long-term revenue,” says Navah Hopkins.
3. Becoming Holistic Problem-Solvers
Hopkins also points out that, “Far too often, SEO (or any digital marketing discipline) gets stuck in the function and it’s easy to forget that we need to be business problem solvers – not just techies.”
“Good SEO addresses existing site and content issues,” says Rachel Vandernick, Founder & Lead Consultant at The Vander Group.
It also “…focuses on doing a few things well,” adds Maddy Osman, SEO Content Strategist at The Blogsmith.
What Is Great SEO, In Terms of Problem Solving?
Proehl points out that great SEO “inspires a shift in the mindset of an organization.”
“It involves considering every aspect holistically… having complete oversight on every interrelated aspect of content, backlinks, technical SEO, and performance and requires measuring and analyzing results to adapt strategy accordingly,” Osman shares.
Hoben adds that “Great SEO goes out of the technical nitty-gritty, in an effort to fundamentally understand a business as a whole from top to bottom and their holistic marketing strategy. It’s the drive to truly understand how search engine optimization can fit into the big picture for a brand, and how it can also work with other channels.“
Lily Ray, Sr. Director of SEO & Head of Organic Research at Amsive Digital, also points out that, “Great SEO involves identifying and understanding all the available opportunities to improve a site and being able to strategically prioritize those tasks, plus assisting with the implementation and execution of them.”
Great SEO is demonstrated by “…those that over-deliver and also future proof the campaign to ensure the work being done stands up to the test of time. That means the strategy and efforts should always provide a positive benefit now and in the future,” says David Harry, Lead SEO Consultant at Verve Developments.
It also “future-proofs a site because it doesn’t rely on only tactical leverage, but strategic prioritization of user experience through the lens of search,” adds Vandernick.
4. Staying On Point With Reporting & Utilizing Tools
SEO experts know the value of knowing and utilizing tools to analyze data. They also know how important it is to communicate and report what matters.
Ray shares that, “Good SEO involves using widely available SEO tools to surface opportunities and insights without much prioritization or specific advice about what to optimize and how.”
Jamie Indigo, Technical SEO Consultant at Not a Robot, also adds that, “Good SEO is knowing how to read reports and use diagnostic tools.”
What Sets Good SEO and Great SEO Apart
Indigo goes on to share that “Great SEO is knowing which reports to read, how the underlying themes interconnect observable changes, and which tools to use. The difference is that great SEO can interpret the observable output as it relates to changes in the (typically unobservable) internal systems.”
Brock Murray, Co-Founder at seoplus+, notes the difference between good SEO and great SEO boils down to this statement: “Impact: Be sure to move the needle for your clients and this is what separates the best from the rest.”
Greg Jarboe, President and co-founder at SEO-PR, adds that, “The difference between good SEO and great SEO is how you measure success.”
5. Putting the User First
Another great point that these experts stress is that good SEO vs great SEO means understanding what matters most and making that your priority overall – and that is the user.
Jones shares that, “Good SEO is SEO that works for Google. Great SEO works for Google and users; it understands what users are trying to accomplish and then builds something that helps them accomplish it, using good SEO best practices.”
Tom McLoughlin, Director at SEO Travel, also points out that good SEO means thinking about humans. “Start with data, collect all the information you can and do thorough research, but then switch back to thinking about real people. SEO is just another form of marketing, so if you always keep this perspective in mind then you can elevate the quality of your SEO work to the next level,” he says.
What Makes It Great SEO?
For Adam Reimer, President at Adam Riemer Marketing, “Great SEO is about providing an amazing user experience, understanding your audience, and catering to their needs.”
Osman shares that, “Great SEO always considers the final human end-user over search engine robots (finding a way to bridge the gap).”
Eva also adds that, “A great SEO pro integrates the brand narrative, the needs and aspirations of the audience, and Google’s preferences. They not only drive organic traffic but demand, MQLs, and revenue. They collaborate with other functions (mainly marketing and sales) to turn the vision of a company into reality.”
6. Learning, Training & Valuing Your Team
Good SEO professionals are able to identify their strengths and work in collaboration with others to accomplish objectives.
Hopkins touches on how working towards a common goal and working as a team makes for good SEO. She shares, “By building solutions with that long-term mission in mind, as well as collaboration opportunities with other departments, the short-term fires will get solved in the process.”
What Differentiates the Good From the Great
Great SEO, on the other hand, happens when experts who excel at their respective areas collaborate towards a common goal.
Pollitt says that great SEO supports other marketing efforts “to contribute towards the success of a business and how SEO needs to work alongside these teams to make sure the business, as a whole, benefits, and not just the channel.”
Jason Hennessey, Owner at Jason Hennessey Consulting, touches on another aspect of great SEO.
“The difference between good SEO and great SEO comes down to education,” he says. “Take the time to educate and inform the client as to why they are making the suggested changes to help the client to value and appreciate the SEO work being done.”
Jeff Ferguson, Partner at Amplitude Digital, also makes a great point that “Great SEO puts (marketing, website design, and public relations) back in the hands of the experts, armed with the knowledge that those roles now play an essential role in modern marketing strategy for a world where search engines are a critical touchpoint in the consumer journey.”
Brock Murray shares a great takeaway thought:
“Good SEO and a Great SEO can be summed up in:
- Training: Always be improving with ongoing education. Don’t rest on your laurels.
- Transparency: Always be 100% transparent with your team and clients in all activities.”
From the shared views of these SEO pros, it’s evident that knowing and being updated on best practices, tactics, and strategies to utilize for SEO is essential.
There’s also a need to stay updated on SEO tools and use them well.
These will help with analysis and reporting of data findings to other relevant teams and roles, as well as decision-makers and assessing both wins and challenge areas to focus on.
SEO professionals need to hone their problem-solving skills and be able to roll with the punches.
They must be prepared to address problems that need both immediate and regular attention, as well as anticipate issues and challenges that can arise in the future, regardless of algorithm changes and updates that may come.
This exercise – learning what pros think about the difference between good SEO and great SEO – helps give a better understanding of SEO and its purpose – both from a business perspective but, more importantly, for users that benefit from the end results of all the efforts of SEO experts and teams.
Hopefully, by looking at SEO from this perspective, you’ll find clarity in the sometimes mysterious world that is SEO, have a greater appreciation for the profession, and develop a better understanding of the concepts and tasks – the parts, if you will – that make up the whole.
Allow me to share a great, big “Thank you!” shoutout to all the amazing experts who took the time to share their thoughts!
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