Today I’ll be speaking at ad:tech San Francisco with one of my favorite people in the Search Marketing industry, Melanie Mitchell, who is a Senior VP of Search Strategy at Digitas. She’s tasked a panel including Simon Heseltine, Rob Snell and myself to talk about “Modern Search Engine Optimization”.
While SEO is a billion dollar industry, many companies focused on advertising are quite new to how SEO might fit within an online marketing strategy. With plenty of outdated and mis-information online amidst a fast changing industry, it can be a challenge to have confidence in what’s true and best practices. Few marketers want to invest in something they don’t quite understand. Or at least not understand where it fits for connecting the brand and customers to drive revenue.
So part of the education process is a framing of what SEO is and more importantly where it fits within a digital marketing mix. While there may be appreciation for what SEO could do, there’s plenty of opportunity to clarify Search strategy, applications, business value, workflow and essentially where SEO might fit within the marketing mix. To that end, here are few tips:
1. What are a few best practices for getting your content out in front of the competition on today’s search engines?
Companies are creating content in many forms, whether it’s editorial or advertising. One of the ways to ensure engagement and value from that content is to make sure it’s findable. SEO is the primary method consumers use to discover new products and services that they then go and purchase. It only makes sense to be where your customers are looking. If you’re not there, then your competition certainly is.
SEO isn’t some wild animal that’s never been seen in real life. It’s a perfectly reasonable complement to web design, content strategy, social media, public relations, recruiting, customer service and any other function that publishes content online. If you have content that should be found online, it should be optimized. For marketers new to search engine optimization, here are the essentials:
- Pages and digital assets are “findable” by search engines that copy the web
- Keywords are incorporated into page copy and links between pages (on and off site)
- Content is promoted via social channels and attracts links from other, topically relevant websites
Focusing on those three things in your Content Marketing Strategy takes care of the essential blocking and tackling of SEO. Incorporate successful execution of those tasks throughout your organization. That means, anyone in a position to create and promote content is aware of the potential SEO impact of their actions. Keyword glossaries are shared with content creators, copywriters promote the content they create through social networks and marketers analyze performance data to continuously improve content creation, optimization and promotion in ways that are most relevant to the target audience.
2. What information for your brand and your Web site matters most to search engines?
Content designed to sell products and services is the low hanging fruit for SEO. Marketing is usually the department that funds investment in outside consultants or internal SEO staff. The drive for marketing to increase search traffic and online sales and leads is strong, so increasing revenue takes priority over other functions.
I would challenge marketers to think a little more about their customer’s information needs and how they can add value to the ongoing relationship. The information discovery needs for marketing and customer acquisition are the focus of most SEO efforts, but there are many other reasons prospects and customers use search. There are also other types of content besides products and services published by brands online that can affect the bottom line if easily discovered through search.
Of course marketing content should have the emphasis, but consider applying SEO best practices to improve the search discovery of other online content that will help advance business goals. News and public relations content for example. Journalists are working in bare bones newsrooms and increasingly using technology to make up for a lack of research resources. They use search to find news sources, releases, information about people and companies. Make your news content more “findable” and you can increase unsolicited media coverage.
A similar principle applies to job listings. It costs companies money to pay recruiters and certainly it costs to not have key positions filled. Make it easy for candidates to find job listings and you may increase the number of candidates for hire and positively affecting meeting talent acquisition goals.
Yet another opportunity for the application of holistic SEO is optimizing FAQ and knowledge base information. Think of the things customers most often ask about and not only compile those questions and answers, but make sure they are easy to find via search. Reducing the number of calls made to customer support reps can lower costs for the company but it can also lower the frustration and increase customer satisfaction because the answers to what they’re looking for are so easily found – via search.
Bottom line, focus on content that will be meaningful for your customers first and foremost. Then apply SEO best practices to ensure it’s easily discovered when and where they’re searching. That might start with marketing and extend holistically across other departments and businesses within the corporation.
3. What are some takeaway tools for building your SEO roadmap?
Marketers LOVE tools. Actually, it’s a little scary how much people will gravitate towards a flashy new SEO tool that either does nothing meaningful but does it in style or simply repackages what existing tools can do. With that in mind, the following tools can be quite useful for advertisers that want to get their feet wet with practical SEO.
- Google Keyword Tools – Great way to research keywords
- Scribe SEO – Analyzes pages and suggests keyword optimization edits
- Hubspot Page Grader – Rates your site’s pages according to SEO criteria
- SEMRush – Competitive Google ranking information and keyword valuation
- Majestic SEO – Link analysis
- Open Site Explorer – Link Analysis
- Google Analytics – Measure just about anything on your website or coming to your website
Other useful tools for auditing, managing and researching for a little more savvy SEO enthusiast include:
- SEOmoz Tools
- Raven Tools
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider
- Wordtracker – Wordstream – Keyword Discovery
- Ontolo Link Building Tools
- Xenu Link Sleuth
- SEO for Firefox
Thanks to my Twitter network for suggesting some of these tools they most often recommend for marketers that are new to SEO.
Clearly, there are many, many other SEO tools out there but a tool is really only as good as the exertise and intentions of the person using it, so I recommend trying a few of the basics out before seeking outside help. Then you can decide the right approach and mix of tools according to someone with experience and that can understand your individual situation.
Advertisers looking at SEO as a channel for driving relevant traffic should gain some fundamental understanding, test, seek outside advice if necessary and be patient. This isn’t renting traffic, it’s growing traffic organically with a flat rate investment in time, resources and budget. The longer good SEO practices are in place the better the performance. Not only is a holistic SEO approach a great complement to paid advertising, it provides additional benefits in terms of cost deflection and increased effectiveness of other business communications.
Update: Here’s an embed of the presentation I gave to complement this blog post. Enjoy!
(Feedback is greatly welcomed)