Ah, the elusive world of SEO.
For a profession and skill set that fits snugly (and beautifully, I should add) between data science and content marketing, many brands just aren’t sure how to approach SEO effectively, much less make it an integral part of their business and promotional strategies.
Yet without fail, brands have been fighting for the top position in search results for as long as SEO has been around. And why shouldn’t they? As marketing trends have come and gone, SEO has maintained its position as a battle-tested promotional juggernaut.
As much as we know that holding the top position on a quality keyword is effective for securing brand trust, delivering quality traffic and converting customers, capturing these top positions is still an enormous challenge (I sometimes miss how easy my job was back in 2009).
A lot has changed in the world of SEO since its beginnings. What hasn’t changed, however, is that many of its most fundamental concepts remain the same. By sticking to these basic SEO truths, you’ll reap the rewards for years to come.
The basics matter.
On-site optimization, a process that’s still absolutely vital for getting found in search engines, has unfortunately taken a backseat to the shiny things of present-day marketing. Influencer marketing and new paid media technologies have borrowed (and, in some cases, stolen altogether) precious resources from in-house marketing teams due to the speed, scalability and impact of these programs.
Having said that, I’ve run across numerous websites over the past year that offer incredible user experiences supported by brilliantly creative advertising, but that are still in appalling technical condition.
Let’s face it, pivoting from one shiny thing to the next should come second to implementing a strong SEO strategy. As media budgets run dry and social engagement begins to slump, organic search becomes one of your greatest passive marketing assets. It’s the gift that keeps on giving once other strategies go through their natural ebb and flow.
So, the next time website revisions and redesigns are being scoped, give attention to the elements that allow a site to be crawled, indexed and rewarded by search engines. At a bare minimum, your SEO plans should include optimized title tags, meta descriptions, proper URLs and page headers.
For further optimization, explore Schema.org’s structured data library to uncover additional opportunities for providing advanced instructions to search engines. And lastly, be sure you don’t ignore site speed on mobile and desktop in your planning and execution in order to continue laying a solid foundation. Otherwise, it’s all a pointless exercise.
Value is king.
“Content is king:” the mantra that we in the SEO world recited to ourselves and to our clients for over a decade. It’s a philosophy that still holds true today, yet it comes with the realistic expectation that simply generating content doesn’t guarantee anything in terms of traffic or engagement.
Thankfully the conversation evolved into developing content that’s designed specifically for users, not search engines – which makes a lot more sense in the consumer-centric world of brand marketing. Still, it’s created a new problem as the web has become oversaturated with content created just for users, but isn’t all that transformative.
This is precisely why SEO experts, copywriters and strategists should be brainstorming together as marketers to deliver something truly unique to your customers. As a team, think about a best-in-class tool or resource that’s a game changer for your industry. Research and address an untapped pain point, or tackle it better than anyone else has. Recruit designers, information architects and developers to bring your ideas to life on your website. The rewards come when your peers, industry influencers and customers are delighted enough to talk about (and link back to!) something unique and read-worthy you created specifically for them.
And search engines will also take notice.
The web is social.
SEO teams spent the better part of the 2000s scratching their heads, wondering when social media was going to provide the boost in keyword rankings we all anticipated. While social media profiles have helped grow search engine real estate, we’re still waiting on that direct lift.
What’s been interesting to watch, however, is how social media and influencer marketing have played a key role in building brand interest in search. In some cases, brands have launched almost entirely through social and influencers, planting the seed and subconsciously encouraging consumers to do their due diligence in search engines.
Consumers love product reviews, they trust bloggers and social networks, and they’re skeptical of advertising from brands. Massive communities exist to validate (and, on occasion, trash) your brand and products, so getting in with the right people in the social sphere is one of the best ways to elevate your brand organically. Links still help enormously, but getting people talking in the press, on blogs and in their online social communities helps even more.
SEO is marketing.
If your C-suite is still questioning how you plan to over-optimize a 75-word paragraph with keywords, it may be time for a quick heart to heart on the deadliest of SEO sins.
The days of SEO trickery are long over. Today, the only path to SEO certainty is to evolve into marketers who understand that unsurpassed experiences are a launching point for brand-related conversations, and that these conversations inevitably lead to meaningful boosts in brand equity.
The best SEO teams are integrated into marketing departments, not siloed off and treated like wizards whose sole function is to perform technical miracles. Truly good teams lean on brand strategists for vision, copywriters for voice, information architects for usability, and designers and developers for final execution of the team’s efforts.
Does this mean we need to redefine SEO in today’s marketing teams? Not necessarily. But it does mean we need to remember that SEO is just good organic marketing. Or from a business perspective, the type of marketing that goes a long way in building brand equity and driving ROI.