Search Engine Optimization is a changing field. At any given moment in time, companies that rely on the web for new business or customer communications will consume information about SEO and then rely on that snapshot for months or even years.
In the marketing mix, SEO is only one slice and company marketers are tasked with many other responsibilities. Wearing many hats does not leave much time to stay on top of SEO current best practices, let alone being able to test and experiment to uncover competitive advantages.
The snapshot of SEO knowledge taken months or years ago starts as a well intentioned premise, but without current information and best practices, can become outdated. Client side marketers and agencies that don’t specialize in search that rely on infrequent snapshots of information can end up unitentionally sabotaging the SEO effort.
Some companies rely on the web and search specifically, enough to warrant full time or part time SEO staff. However, what often happens with in-house SEOs is that they become tasked with many other responsibilities besides content optimization, link building and ongoing analysis. Educating and evangelizing SEO within companies can take a significant amount of time. Coordinating cross functional teams and reporting can also take away from core SEO implementation and oversight efforts.
With so much time spent on SEO tasks as well as ancillary activities, there’s not much time for experimentation and testing of new tactics. Without innovation, competitive advantage decreases and search based revenues can fall to competitors.
Other companies forego hiring an internal SEO professional and either task web developers, marketing and/or PR with SEO tasks. Each person performs their duties based on a different snapshot of SEO knowledge and experience, causing differences in implementation or a focus on things that are no longer impactful. This is where you hear arguments about the importance of toolbar PageRank, keyword meta tags and latent semantic indexing silliness. Hell, some people still bring up “Florida Update“.
I hate to say it, but hiring an outside SEO firm is not always the answer either. Some SEO consultants are structured to follow established processes with their own snapshot of SEO knowledge. Being accountable to increasing revenues puts an emphasis on efficiency and automating as many redundant processes as possible. Some SEO companies develop software for much of their solution to improve efficiency and ability to scale.
The problem with relying entirely on software based solutions to solve SEO problems is that it’s tough to innovate and stay current when your SEO expertise is based mostly on predefined checklists. Round pegs into round holes is great, but how do those programs deal with square pegs, triangles, rhombuses and trapezoids akin to some of the algorithmic, user interface and social media developments? The focus on efficiency and profitablity leaves little time to innovate SEO knowledge, at least not quickly.
The solution to staying current with search marketing isn’t a magic pill or silver bullet software solution. It’s not adding more SEO staff in-house or outside vendors. The answer is organizational and strategic. The environment in which a company web site serves as a tool to grow the business via new customer acquisition, product sales, lead generation, communicating with existing customers, marketing partners, the media, potential employees and industry influentials must allocate time for and reward innovation.
A common and shared purpose and goal that is understood by all in the organization that is then translated uniquely to each department and person helps build a framework for the kind of innovation that not only affects SEO, but marketing, customer service, media relations and human resources.
Call it content strategy or just call it marketing, but don’t ignore the need for a holistic approach to making digital content available and easy for intended audiences to discover, interact with and share. SEO of digital assets and text content improves sales for marketing, reduces customer service costs, can increase media coverage with news content and can improve job placement performance, among many other benefits.
As I like to say, “If it can be searched on, it can be optimized”. People are searching for products, solutions, jobs, support info, news – you name it, it’s being searched on. The key is to leverage internal and external resources towards commonly understood goals, having a plan and the tools/support/education to execute on reaching those goals as well as the analytics/reporting to provide feedback on progress.
It’s not enough to easily be found, web marketers need to understand how to make their content social media friendly just as they would make it search engine friendly. Consumers increasingly expect to interact with what they find in search. The impact of search and social media on each other is just beginning.
Continuous focus on improvement on content marketing efforts leads to testing and innovation that creates an ongoing competitive advantage whether it’s search, social media or any other digital marketing channel. The question is, are companies and agencies willing to invest in making those strategic changes or will they be satisfied with status quo snapshots of old and possibly outdated (yet seemingly safe) tactics?