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In today's digital world, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has become a crucial component to the online success of any business. However, as the demand for SEO services has increased, there has also been an increase in agencies and professionals promising extraordinary results, often without having the necessary skills or even deceiving or confusing the client. This article explores how to recognize a bad SEO, differentiate them from those who carry out effective marketing activities but which are not SEO, and discover real scams or deceptions to the detriment of their unsuspecting customers.
In short, if you do SEO, you must do Search Engine Optimization, everything that is not Search Engine Optimization is not SEO.
It very often happens that so-called SEO or Marketing agencies say they do SEO, but then in the end they limit themselves to conducting Advertising campaigns on various platforms and social networks. The end customer sees more traffic, more visits, more orders, more turnover, more profit and is convinced that the consultant's work is excellent and that he is actually doing SEO, when in fact they are only and exclusively doing paid and unpaid advertising campaigns SEO.
Differences between SEO and Advertising campaigns
To fully understand the differences between SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and advertising campaigns, it is essential to explore in detail the peculiarities, strategies and long-term implications of both methodologies.
SEO: A Marathon, Not a Sprint
SEO is a process that requires patience, consistency and a holistic approach. Unlike advertising campaigns that generate immediate visibility, SEO is a marathon that requires a long-term investment. This methodology focuses on optimizing various elements of a website, such as content quality, usability, page loading speed and internal and external link structure, as well as the authority of who writes what.
The main goal is to improve organic visibility in search engine results, such as Google.
Key elements of SEO include:
- On-Page Optimization: Refers to all changes and optimizations made directly within the site, such as the quality and relevance of content, the use of strategic keywords, HTML tag structure and image optimization. This process involves careful analysis and improvement of the site's content to ensure that it is not only informative and useful to the user, but also structured to be easily indexable by search engines. The use of relevant keywords helps tell search engines what a page is about, while the structure of HTML tags, such as titles and meta tags, provides additional context and improves the site's understandability.
- Off-Page Optimization: extends beyond the boundaries of your website, encompassing a series of external activities that aim to strengthen the reputation and authority of the site in the eyes of search engines. At the heart of this strategy is the building of backlinks, or the practice of acquiring links from other websites that point to your own. These backlinks act as a type of vote of confidence in the digital context, signaling to search engines that other sites consider your site's content worthy of sharing or mentioning. The quality, relevance and authenticity of these links are crucial; Links from authoritative and relevant websites in your industry can have a significant impact on your site's ranking. At the same time, off-page optimization strategies also include activities like social media marketing and guest blogging, which not only help build backlinks but also increase visibility and brand awareness. Other practices such as participation in industry forums, viral content creation, and online reputation management play an essential role in influencing public perception and visibility of your site, thus indirectly contributing to its search engine rankings.
Advertising Campaigns: Instant Visibility and Direct Costs
Advertising campaigns, on the other hand, offer immediate visibility through paid ads on search engines and social platforms. These ads are typically placed at the top of search results or on social media pages, and are marked as “sponsored” or “advertising.” Digital advertising campaigns are based on a cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-impression (CPM) model, where you pay per click or per thousand views.
Crucial aspects of advertising campaigns:
- Precise Targeting: Advertising campaigns allow you to target specific demographics, interests and behaviors, offering the possibility of reaching the desired audience in a very direct way.
- Measurable Results: Provide real-time data on ad effectiveness, including clicks, impressions, conversions and ROI (return on investment).
- Flexibility and Control: Allow you to modify, optimize or stop the campaign at any time based on results or available budget.
Advertising campaigns and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) represent two fundamental but substantially different approaches in digital marketing. While SEO is dedicated to the organic and natural positioning of content, improving the site based on search engine ranking factors, advertising campaigns focus on the forced and paid positioning of content.
A clarifying example is the promotion of a product such as "pleated mosquito nets". In an advertising campaign, you could simply create a website, a landing page or an e-commerce site and then launch an advertising campaign, where you participate in a sort of auction in Google ADS to ensure that the ad appears in Google's sponsored results . This process does not require advanced SEO skills, just basic knowledge of Google ADS. However, appearing in sponsored results is no guarantee that the click will lead to a sale, nor that the site is optimized to maximize conversions. Indeed, your site could be unattractive, slow or poorly structured and still get a high position in sponsored results, simply because you paid for that visibility.
On the other hand, organically positioning “pleated mosquito nets” within the first five results on Google requires a completely different technical approach and advanced SEO skills. This process includes optimizing the site's content, improving speed, usability, and ensuring that the site meets search engine ranking criteria. A high ranking achieved organically has significantly greater value, as savvy users know that if a site is at the top of the results without advertising, it must have valid reasons why Google ranked it so high.
While advertising campaigns can offer immediate visibility, they do not necessarily indicate SEO expertise. On the contrary, effective SEO work leads to organic positioning which not only improves the visibility of the site, but also increases its authority and trust on the part of users. This distinction is crucial for companies trying to understand how to effectively invest in digital marketing and what strategies to adopt to maximize the return on online investments.
The Key Difference: Organic vs Paid Visibility
The most significant distinction between SEO and advertising lies in the nature of visibility. In SEO, visibility is earned organically. This means that a site appears in search results because it is deemed relevant and useful by search engines, not because it paid to be there. This organic visibility tends to have long-lasting value and can lead to a stronger brand image and trust from users.
In contrast, in advertising visibility is paid for. While it can generate immediate traffic, this type of visibility does not have the same longevity or perceived authority as organic traffic.
The user who finds a sponsored link in the first position on Google knows that that link is there for the simple reason that someone paid to be there. There are no specific merits and with this awareness in niche markets where the user knows how paid positioning works, he could simply ignore the sponsored results altogether and move on to organic ones which certainly have a history and precise reasons for being among the first positions.
Furthermore, once the advertising budget is finished, visibility disappears unlike a long-term SEO plan and strategy which allows you to obtain consolidated and long-lasting results over time.
A good SEO requires a site that complies with the Core Web Vitals
In the context of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Google Core Web Vitals represent a crucial set of metrics used to evaluate user experience on a website. Google has clearly distinguished these factors from the so-called Vanity Metrics, explaining that unlike the latter, which may appear impressive but do not influence positioning, i Core Web Vitals they are actual ranking factors.
Vanity Metrics, such as the number of unique visitors or page views, can give the illusion of a performing website without having a direct impact on its ranking in search results.
I Core Web Vitals include three fundamental aspects: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). LCP measures the loading speed of the main content of the page, FID evaluates how quickly the site responds to user interactions, and CLS quantifies the visual stability of the page during loading.
We, for example, with our company website managedserver.it are not satisfied with being "one among many", but we claim to excel knowing how important it is to pass the Google speed assessment. We work hard to pass tests on both desktop and mobile devices. To achieve this result we spare no expense.
Obviously, struggling in this perspective from a technical point of view helps us to position ourselves at the top of Google's SERP for strategic and very competitive keywords, which allow us to be found and conclude the sale of our services. For example, we are within the top three positions for the keyword “Dedicated Servers”:
This allows us to have good visibility and authority, avoiding having to pay clicks for paid ads which in our specific sector, that of Dedicated Servers and hosting, can even exceed 5 euros per single click.
Considering that we receive on average at least 500 clicks per month for that keyword, it means that every month we generate a traffic value for that keyword of at least 2500 euros, which we would have had to pay to Google to be seen in the sponsored ones, if we had not been positioned organically with the SEO work we have done.
Having a website that surpasses the Core Web Vitals, both on desktop and mobile devices, is essentially a demonstration of having optimized the site in line with Google's expectations. This not only improves your ranking in search results, but also ensures an optimal user experience, especially important in competitive markets where a superior user experience can make the difference.
Furthermore, the Core Web Vitals they ensure that the site is accessible and performant even on older devices or with slower internet connections, such as 3G or with poor coverage.
In this context, a good SEO or quality marketing agency will focus long-term on strategies to ensure the website meets or exceeds Core Web Vitals. This commitment demonstrates a deep understanding of how Google evaluates websites and a commitment to optimization not only for search engines but also for the end-user experience.
Google itself, among its reports, releases the scores of the pages on your site that may be good, bad or need improvement. If you want to do yourself and your business a favor, always expect to have at least a monthly report of that data above, or to have them leave you the login credentials to Google's Google Search Console so you can check for yourself what the person is up to. your SEO.
If you see pages that fail Google usability, or you see PageSpeed tests that fail Core Web Vitals, ask your “SEO” or expert marketer for explanations and ask in detail if he is making the site compliant with Google's Web Vitals. If he claims it's not important, change it immediately, he's scamming you.
While paid advertising campaigns can be used to temporarily make up for SEO deficiencies and generate immediate traffic, the ultimate goal should be to build a site that naturally excels in organic positioning. This strategic approach not only increases the long-term visibility of the site, but also reduces the reliance on expensive advertising campaigns, improving ROI and ensuring a constant flow of traffic and conversions based on the quality and effectiveness of the site itself.
A good SEO has their site compliant with Google standards and Core Web Vitals.
The effectiveness of an SEO consultant can be quickly assessed across your company website. It is a fundamental principle that an SEO expert's site should reflect the highest standards of optimization, especially in relation to Core Web Vitals of Google. Those who hide behind sayings like "The cobbler walks around with broken shoes" often prove inadequate in our sector. The website of an agency that offers SEO services must be a shining example of excellence in terms of optimization.
A site that surpasses the Core Web Vitals testifies not only to the SEO agency's technical expertise, but also to its commitment to following the most up-to-date guidelines provided by Google.
Below, for example, is the site of a well-known Web Marketing and SEO company which, however, at the end of the day ends up only running ADS campaigns. What's even more worrying and obvious is the wording “Find out what your real users' experience is like: no data”.
The message “Find out what your real users experience is like: no data” in the tests Core Web Vitals Google indicates that there is insufficient data to provide insight into the experience of real users on your website.
When you receive this message, it means that Google hasn't collected enough data from real visitors to your site to provide meaningful analysis. This can happen for various reasons:
- Low traffic: If your site has relatively low traffic, there may not be enough visits to generate reliable data.
- New site or recent changes: If your site is new or has undergone recent changes (such as a domain change or significant renovation), there may not be enough history for the data.
Understand that an SEO agency with a presence of at least 5 years, which has no traffic, is an agency that should be avoided regardless for SEO activities. That doesn't mean I'm not good at other things, though, but SEO is definitely not.
Furthermore, demonstrating the ability to optimize your website according to these parameters is a clear indicator of the quality of work that the agency can offer its clients. In other words, an SEO agency that does not apply these practices to its website lacks credibility and trust, essential in an industry where technical skills and transparency are the key to building long-lasting and profitable relationships with clients. A website optimized according to i Core Web Vitals it is not just a showcase for potential customers, but it is tangible proof of the effectiveness and reliability of the SEO agency itself.
In an increasingly crowded and competitive digital market, It is essential that every client demands clarity and specificity in the SEO services offered by agencies or consultants. In particular, regarding technical SEO, clients should explicitly request that their websites be optimized to pass the test Core Web Vitals of Google. This requirement not only ensures that the site is technically cutting-edge, but also ensures that the SEO practices adopted are in line with the latest and most relevant search engine evaluation parameters.
While advertising campaigns can provide immediate and tangible results, in terms of visibility and traffic, they should not be the only strategy on which digital marketing is based. Even when a company has a large budget that allows for aggressive advertising campaigns and a good return on advertising investment (ROAS), it is crucial to consider a balanced approach that includes careful website review and optimization. This process should aim to meet the requirements of Core Web Vitals, improving hosting and adopting SEO best practices. In this way, a company can gradually reduce its dependence on sponsored campaigns, consolidating the results obtained and gaining valuable organic positioning in search engines.
A consultant or agency that focuses exclusively on advertising campaigns, without paying due attention to organic SEO and compliance with Core Web Vitals, is not operating in the true spirit of SEO. Instead, it's simply promoting paid visibility, which is the exact opposite of what SEO aims to do. To realize the full potential of a website and ensure its sustainability and growth over time, it is essential that technical SEO and continuous user experience improvement are considered key elements in a company's digital strategy. This approach will not only lead to an increase in organic traffic, but will also ensure that the website is well positioned to capitalize on emerging trends and future evolutions of the digital landscape.