SEO Friendly vs. SEO Strategy: Two very different approaches

SEO Friendly vs SEO Strategy

What do people mean when they say they can “do SEO” for you?

They usually mean one of two things.

They either want to give your site the ability to be found. Or they want to engineer your site to be found for certain things that will benefit your business.

It’s important to understand the difference between SEO friendly and SEO strategy.

When you see someone offering an SEO product or service, you should be able to better understand if you need it after reading this.

A Not So Hot Scenario

Man sweating who doesn't understand why he can't rank for Miami Floor Heaters keywords

I don’t understand. I have the keywords in my domain. I’ve created a beautiful website. If I use the site operator (site:domain) I see that not just some but ALL of my pages are indexed by Google. I can even take a snippet of text from any page on my site, paste it into Google and watch my site appear on the front page every time.

But I still DON’T show up for “floor heaters for sale in Miami.”

Here’s my sitemap by the way…

SEO Friendly Sitemap

This could be a very popular and profitable company. But does Google have any reason to send this website visitors, other than brand searchers?

What is SEO Friendly?

Saying something is “kid friendly,” means that children are welcome and accommodated, not that they are given any kind of special treatment. The same can be said of SEO friendly.

If you have an SEO friendly website, you have a website that is indexable, findable, and has the capability to show up for searches in Google. It includes basic keywords, title tags and other basic elements of SEO. The website is built with clean code and logical page hierarchy with categories, subcategories, posts and pages. Your website uses clean URLs, or if not, the URLs are properly canonicalized. Your website also includes a sitemap designed to help search engines see the pages on your website.

SEO Friendly Content

Web design companies may sell SEO services that establish a certain level of SEO friendliness. As part of the site design process, most web designers will ask you to supply the content which they’ll incorporate into the site. My designer friends complain that clients are often slow to deliver their content. And they’re right.

“My client knows his business better than me,” web designers say.

“But I’m busy working and don’t have the leisure time for writing content which is why I know my business better than you,” the client might say.

This conversation gets nowhere because neither the designer nor the client understands that the content you publish sets the stage for how successful that site of yours will perform.

Minus any marketing input or fist fights, the designer and client often end up producing SEO friendly content.

SEO Friendly Is The Default

Most platforms have some degree of default SEO friendliness built in. Starting with an SEO friendly platform is part of the battle. It gives you a structure that you can build your SEO strategy upon but no advantage over competitors.

WordPress is my favorite SEO friendly platform. If you’re using WordPress, you may hear that all it takes is installing the Yoast SEO plugin and you’re done. But installing WordPress with a top name SEO plugin isn’t going to move the needle. It means you are now ready to decide what keywords, personas, content, tags, etc. should be part of your strategy. Time to get to work.

Can SEO Friendly Be Good Enough?

Some types of sites can get by easier than others with an SEO friendly approach and no thought of keywords or strategy.

Local sites with regional influence – I recently visited the office of a local Atlanta area security company to talk with them about SEO. They’d established quite a local reputation over the last decade or so from traditional advertising and sales along with making investments in the local community. Almost all their organic visitors came from brand name searches. The business had survived with a handful of informational pages… an SEO friendly site. They were only now ready to dive into digital marketing to get the results they’d always wanted.

Celebrity site – CharlieSheen.com abruptly came online when the celebrity acquired the domain years ago gaining lots of notoriety and links. It’s offline now but still has 6k links according to Moz Link Explorer. I doubt he had a “winning” SEO strategy or that he needed one at the time. Looks like he just needs a host now.

User generated content sites – Some sites generate all their content from engaged users who could care less about SEO. Google has no problem with sending visitors to pages with content created by users. Think about a site like Reddit that ranks prolifically for keyword phrases across the spectrum.

But even more competitive businesses launch and get by with bare bones SEO friendly sites, never living up to their potential.

How much more profitable could they have been? How much faster could they have grown? How many more employees could they have hired?

Oh, what a waste.

It’s Better to Have an SEO Strategy

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

It may take time and much pain, but I see businesses that eventually realize “getting by” with an SEO friendly site looks less and less sustainable. They decide to fight. It’s a joy to observe the excitement experienced by a business transitioning to a strategic SEO approach.

Doing strategic SEO doesn’t exclude any of the SEO friendly stuff. You need the foundation. Anyone undertaking SEO strategy would first make sure that a site can be crawled and appear in search results.

In our above flawed conversation between the designer and client, both push off the responsibility of content. But the ideal is to have designer, client and SEO professional all involved. An SEO consultant, reputable agency or in-house SEO does the research, engineers the content and ensures quality. Your content is the reason Google sends visitors to your site.

What Constitutes an SEO Strategy?

“A strategy is where you allocate your resources.”

My friend, Tom Tortorici sums it up beautifully.

A strategy for a presidential candidate might be to campaign in swing states where his opponent hasn’t visited.

An SEO strategy for a business might be to create content for a desirable group of keywords or audience that their competitors have overlooked.

Strategy means getting creative. You don’t formulate a strategy and then you’re done. It may take a long time to evolve. Thinking. Researching. Testing. Learning.

An SEO strategy finds weaknesses, highlights strengths, locates opportunities, revealing where you must put your resources. It combines an SEO friendly website, with a plan to bring your audience to your content. With that information in hand, you can begin to make the transition from SEO friendly to a winning SEO strategy.

Oops. I almost forgot about our “Not So Hot Scenario” above. You may not be able to sell a lot of floor heaters in Miami, but now you can show up higher for the keyword phrase.

SEO Friendly SEO Strategy
Passive Active
Limited or no research Research intense
Indexable Pages Performance Pages
Ranks for Brand Keywords Ranks for Brand and Generic Keywords
Low Cost Expensive

Published 08/01/19, Edited 08/24/19.

About Emory Rowland

I'm an Atlanta SEO consultant and founder of Leverable. SEO has been part of my life for over two decades and always will be. I love helping people improve their search performance aka "lift for the good guys" through Leverable. I believe in the empowering capabilities and rewards of effective SEO. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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