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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as a practice, discipline, and online marketing channel has been around for nearly two decades. Despite being part of a rapidly changing and evolving environment, it still holds a lot of value to companies and marketers.  While there can be a potentially positive impact on rankings, traffic, and conversions from performing a one-time audit or optimization project, “one-time” activities in SEO are short-sighted and will only make a small impact compared to a long-term commitment.

Important note: We’re not saying there’s no value in an audit to evaluate current performance or as jumping-off point–see more about the benefits of an SEO audit–we’re talking about the overall mindset and expectations of SEO.

We’re not using the word “commitment” in regards to signing a one-sided, unfair contract that binds a company with a vendor for years.  We mean an honest evaluation of website goals, of all online marketing options, and if SEO part of the mix, ensuring that the proper expectations are set at all levels of the organization.  Unlike PPC, email, or other channels, SEO takes time and focused strategic attention to build.

We can’t optimize for all search engine algorithm variables at once and even after we tackle foundational issues, build a scalable structure, perform and perfect our on-page optimization, we’re still not done.  Understanding that the process isn’t finished is important because even for the best SEO in the world, algorithm updates never rest.  While we think we nailed it, we still must realize that as “perfect” as our strategy and execution might be, we’re aiming at a moving target.  Plus, in the absence of addressing external factors to foster engagement within our sites through inbound links or social media, to the search engines, we’re missing peer and community validation.  That’s a key piece missing from many audits and one-time optimization programs.  Thus, mileage will vary with one-time options that only address the optimization of content within a website to strive to get to a point of “perfection.”

Ongoing SEO will also allow for updates, testing, and continued optimization of on-page factors and the site content strategy as well.  While we might think that we have the perfect set of tags, headings, image tags, and body copy on every page of the site built into well-defined content silos, the real test is in how the search engines interpret the content and compare it to those sites that are already ranking well on the keyword terms that matter.  Having everything on par with best practices and competitor intelligence tools and data is not good enough and I have to be flexible to make ongoing and recurring updates to test and optimize.  This is in addition to the external factors noted above.

By now, we’re starting to go in a circle with the process and getting a little repetitive, but that’s necessary to prove our point.  Good and successful SEO efforts are never ending.  With that in mind, it is critical to plan accordingly to begin the efforts and to be flexible.  While we can put all of the tactics on the table and define the strategy upfront, we need to leave room for flexibility as we go.  We don’t know how well our updates will perform and might have to go through many rounds of updates to the same parts of the site before we see the successes we want.

Oh, and what about competitors and search engine algorithm updates?  We’ll save those for another post as hopefully, we have shown enough in this one to help lay out the case as to why SEO is not a one-time activity and is best suited for a long term commitment.

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