Michael Reynolds in General on Monday, January 23, 2012
I cannot count the number of times an organization has come to us looking for us to "do SEO" for their website. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has been a hot topic for a while and seems to be in no danger of losing steam.
SEO is powerful, practical, and effective. When executed well, it can bring high-quality traffic to your website and can lead to qualified prospects and customers.
However, when people think of SEO, a lot of times they seem to have the impression that it's a switch that can be "turned on" for a website, or that it involves sprinkling the right keywords all over certain pages.
There are some misconceptions about SEO and especially about how it functions today that I would like to address.
The Google factor
Google (and other search engines, but who uses other search engines?) changes its algorithm just about every day, as explained in this video from Matt Cutts (head of the webspam team at Google). This may seem like a lot, but often these changes are minor so don't fret.
However, sometimes Google makes significant changes. You may have heard of the recent "Panda" update released on February of 2011 which aimed to increase the quality of search results by putting more weight on quality content over link-building techniques. Then, at the end of 2011, Google released its "freshness" update (described in this article from Entrepreneur Magazine) which placed more weight on fresh content.
Then, as if that weren't enough, Google made another significant change in early 2012 called "Search Plus Your World" which more heavily integrates signals from social media into search results, most notably focusing on Google+ as explained in this video from SEOmoz.
Is your head spinning yet? So what does all this mean to you as a business owner, marketing director, or communications manager?
Greater focus on content
It means that the game has changed. Many of the old techniques and practices use to boost search rankings are no longer as relevant. So what do we need to focus on to get noticed? Content. High quality, socially-distributed, frequently updated content.
Google is paying close attention to content and, while it's always been important, is now even more significant to your promotional efforts. Bloggers, content creators, and copywriters rejoice! It also means that SEO has more closely converged with content marketing - in a big way. For a primer on content marketing, check out this video: Strategic Content Marketing, in our Learning Center.
Bottom line: SEO is not just about building a well-structured website and getting lots of inbound links. Google has clearly warned us that well-optimized websites will contain lots of great relevant content that is fresh and frequently updated, and will also have a social media presence with a heavy emphasis on Google properties like Google+ and YouTube.
Social signals play a big part
Other social properties are also important since SEO is not the entire package. Content marketing tells us that multiple channels of content are important when creating a system for lead generation. Some prospects may find your organization through Google, but others may connect with you through other channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. And how does your message get shared and seen by more people? By being interesting, useful, or relevant enough to get shared.
As you can see, the game has dramatically changed even in the last year. SEO, while once thought of as "king" by many, is still significant but looks different than it used to. It's not just about the old methods of link-building and structure. It's a more interconnected world of social networks, content, and behavioral signals from the people who use these networks.
It also means stepping out from behind your brand and showing your face (and the face of your CEO, your customer service people, your sales team, etc.) online. More weight is being placed on personal social profiles and it's easier to get engagement from your prospects as a person as opposed to a brand. Brand properties are important and are a great way to plant seed of information and content. However, CEOs and marketing people that hide behind logos and brand pages will have a harder time achieving their goals than those who engage as people.
How to market in the new digital world
So what can you do to ensure a prominent place in this new game? One of the best ways to stay ahead is to create and execute a content marketing plan (also known as a digital marketing plan at SpinWeb). This plan will likely include tactics such as blogging, ongoing videos, press releases, active social media engagement, and relevant onsite content (case studies, knowledge bases, etc.) And as you can see, it's time to stop ignoring Google+. Not sure where to get started? Sign up, circle me, and I'll help you out.
Business and non-profits alike will benefit from a strong content marketing plan that includes multiple channels and a relevant story. It's not just about "sprinkling some SEO" on your site. It's about creating and connecting. Organizations that embrace this mindset will be very successful at marketing their organizations.
How about you? Are you ready?