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SEO Isn’t Link Building

This is pretty straightforward, but it’s an extraordinarily common misconception. People think of SEO, and they think of two things: keyword density and link building. Let’s just set on-page SEO aside for a few minutes, though, and concentrate on the ‘grunt work’ of SEO: the off-page side of things.

It’s very easy, when you’re in a ‘numbers game’ kind of industry like SEO, to get yourself caught up in short-term statistics. The number of links you’ve built. The number of unique root domains you’ve built links from. The amount of positions in the SERPs that your client has risen for their top few keywords. All of these numbers have importance, but they’re not important. Measuring your SEO efforts by the number of links you’ve made is like measuring the value of a blog post by counting the number of words it contains: it’s relevant, but it kind of misses the point.

SEO is making money
SEO — both on and off-page — is about exactly one thing: making your clients more money. You can claim victories and pat yourself on the back for the 10,000th link you’ve built for a given client, but if those 10,000 links didn’t equate to a net profit for your client, there’s no celebration to be had. On the other hand, if you build just five links and those five links make your client a hundred bucks a month more than your services cost, you’re doing it right.

Link building is a huge part of what an SEO crew does all day — but it’s actually only a small part of the overall marketing puzzle. SEO is only one way to draw new customers onto a website, and link building is only one part of SEO. The more ways that your crew can add to your client’s bottom line, the more your services are worth, end of story.

“SEO” companies are actually “Web profit enhancement” companies.
There are SEO companies out there that offer some startling, seemingly not-SEO-related services. Mobile website conversions, pay-per-click campaign management services, custom blog building, app building, copywriting, complete web design services, video creation — the list is endless. The reason that they offer these other services is simple: these are the companies that have embraced the notion that ‘SEO’ doesn’t really mean ‘SEO’ anymore: it’s evolved. Today, ‘SEO’ is shorthand for ‘Web profit enhancement’, and if your SEO company only offers to optimize their client’s content to rank well on search engines, you’re a dinosaur.

To that end, no matter what services you offer, you should constantly be reminding your crew that the end goal is making your clients more money than they made last month. That means defining goals, managing expectations, tracking a lot of data, and being willing to celebrate when it matters — when your client is richer because of your efforts. If you’re congratulating yourself for any other reason, you’ve lost track of what your job is.

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