For SEO: It Depends
Most clients don’t want to hear those words. Yet you’ll inevitably hear them uttered by every SEO at RKG at some point. Our other service teams laugh and, at times, struggle to understand our fickle nature and lack of concrete responses to certain SEO questions. We can hardly say, “it depends,” with a straight face anymore because we fully anticipate anyone about to hear it will be aghast.
But the fact of the matter is it does depend when it comes to SEO – to a degree. We don’t have levers to pull and buttons to push to get the results we desire, unfortunately. And there’s a lot of grey in SEO (and I mean this very differently than black hat and white hat SEO). What I refer to is the “unknown” that accompanies SEO – a grey area where we rely on the client’s system and resources to help us provide for them the best optimal solution.
Common factors that play into this include:
- CMS and ecommerce platforms
- Development resources
- Creative and content resources
- Business obstacles
- Inventory management processes
Most SEOs are anything but just SEOs anymore; SEOs are now integrated digital marketers. We entangle ourselves with multiple departments within marketing, PR and social teams as well as merchandising and IT. We have to understand and support how each group functions and where they have limitations. Sometimes we need to find and Band-Aid stopgaps until a team has time to fully address a greater issue that underlies the source of a problem.
While most SEO questions do, in fact, have a “best practice” response, we’re often driven by the above factors to perform our due diligence, ask important questions, and respond with “it depends” year after year.
Here are a few questions that call for the “it depends” reply:
How do we optimize our XML sitemaps?
“It depends...” How healthy are XML sitemaps currently? Is your site able to automatically generate clean XML sitemaps? Do you have the ability to generate images within the XML sitemaps? How frequently can you update XML sitemaps?
While best practices are pretty straightforward to follow, generating XML sitemaps automatically and in an organized structure is less simple to accomplish because the outcome depends greatly on the client’s platform and their capability to pull it off.
How should I handle expired products?
“It depends...” How do you currently handle inventory? Is your system or team equipped to determine if a product is gone forever or will return? Is your development team able to assign different response codes based upon this differentiation? Can your system do direct 301s at scale or will we need to redirect to the next category or homepage?
An SEO needs to find the answers to all of those questions (and many, many more) in order to fully address inventory management issues. While we can provide an ideal for the client, we typically need to revisit our recommendation and make adjustments based on the client’s ability to implement.
How do we optimize facets for SEO?
“It depends” on the platform you use, your ability to optimize those URLs, the on-page factors and internal links. “It depends” on which facets are search-worthy and how they’re currently handled. “It depends” on what on-page factors we can control, and where, within the facets. “It depends” on whether or not you can add rel-canonicals to the site and force URLs into a single URL structure.
It depends on a lot.
Should we host our blog on a subdomain or a subfolder?
“It depends...” A decision to either move a domain to a sub-folder or begin a new domain on a sub-folder can be reached various ways. What is the domain strength of the blog? What does the backlink profile look like? How well is the blog currently performing? Do design templates or does the CMS platform limit us?
For SEO, there are many working factors at play and there are certainly no magic bullets in SEO. It depends.
So, while those two little words might sound like a wishy-washy, less-than-concrete response to so many common SEO hurdles, here’s the reality: if we’re doing our due diligence, your SEO questions should be answered most often with more investigative questions and problem-solving discussions, in order to arrive at the optimal SEO solution for your business.