Lee Odden

Recession Proof Search Engine Optimization Tips


In this month’s Target Marketing Magazine, a TopRank authored article on how small businesses can gain a competitive marketing advantage by leveraging content promotion, blogs, social media and universal search was featured. Recently there has been some dialog and commentary on certain SEM channels about upcoming harder economic times calling for SEO to be taken back to the basics: “Textbook SEO” as Mike Grehan would put it. I disagree with the premise that companies should stop experimenting with new tactics and stick with the fundamentals. Effective SEO in any economic environment means getting more creative, not mundane.

“As search engines evolve with features such as personalized, social and unified search, so must marketers evolve — especially those on a budget.”

What the article in Target Marketing and this post look at are creative content creation and promotion approaches to optimizing not only small business web sites, but any web site, using a holistic approach to SEO. I’ll summarize a few of the key points here:

Create a Content Promotion Plan – The base for optimization and link building is all about content. However, relying on search engines alone to find, crawl, index and rank your content in a way that will drive sales and improve brand visibility isn’t enough. More than ever, the masses are enabled to publish content on the web creating even more competition for top visibility within search. That makes it important to not only optimize your content, but to make an effort to promote it as well. Publishing great content is a waste unless you’ve developed channels of distribution outside of search engine crawlers.

Planning out content creation ahead of time much like a publisher creates an editorial calendar for a magazine will provide the search marketing team with resources in advance to creatively concept optimization, social networking and promotion ideas in advance. The effect is more robust distribution of your message to audiences that are looking as well as attracting links.

In the article at Target Marketing, there’s a practical example of this where a jewelry retailer promoted photos of their Christmas ornaments on image sharing sites to drive additional traffic as well as links.

Make It Easy to Publish and Promote New Content – One of the most common issues we run into when consulting with companies to improve their organic search marketing effectiveness is to implement a content creation and promotion plan. Many web sites are fairly static and there isn’t much “promotable content”. Even if the company wants to add content, they’re often tied down by content management system with limited functionality or having to go through an web side development firm to many any edits creating unnecessary costs.

For TopRank and it’s clients, the most effective way to add a search engine friendly content creation and management feature to a web site is to use blog software. That does not mean a blog in a journaling sense needs to be implemented, but rather leveraging blog software to manage content like an online newsroom, archiving newsletters, etc. That said, publishing a blog as we all know them is the ideal. There are additional competitive blog SEO advantages to publishing a blog as well.

The practical example given in the article references a retail fabric site that used a blog to archive its newsletters to start and then hired a person part time to write helpful tips and creative product announcements. The additional web pages and internal/inbound links generated from the blog have resulted in top 3 rankings on competitive phrases and increased sales.

“Get” Social Media – Before jumping on the bandwagon of social media promotion it’s important to understand how the various networks and communities work. Social media marketing is more about conversations and influence than it is about offers and conversions. Create accounts, make friends, comment and vote on content. See what kinds of content is going hot and getting attention and then start submitting the kind of content (others and yours) that the community responds to.

In this case, the example given from the article discussed a blog about puzzles and brain teasers that setup a Facebook group to introduce content from the blog to people who were interested in such content on Facebook. The Facebook group has grown steadily and continues to send traffic to the blog. After the article posted, a Twitter account was also set up for the puzzles site and uses it as a way to draw attention to (and links/visitors) to particularly interesting puzzles. Keep in mind, in both cases it was only people that showed some sort of interest in puzzles and that were active who were “friended”.

Unify Your Efforts With Universal Search – “Armed with a content plan, a blog to make it easier to publish search engine-friendly content and the beginning of an expanded social network, it’s now time to figure out what this all means for improved search engine visibility.” While each search engine implements the concept of universal or combined search results slightly differently and to a limited degree, the potential to gain benefit now as well as when the engines scale up the use of combined results is an opportunity.

The first step with universal search SEO is to take a step back and look at your search marketing effort from a holistic perspective. As you identify your target audience, goals and the messages to promote, take inventory of the electronic media or digital assets you have to work with. Match them up with appropriate channels of promotion. Incorporate your content promotion plan with search engine optimization efforts and implement an ongoing process of creative content creation, promotion and results measurement.

You can read the full story here: Competitive on a Budget: Promote content, socialize online and unify with universal search

If you run a small business web site or provide SEO consulting services to small businesses, what are some of the more creative online marketing tactics you’ve used? What trends do you see coming in 2008? Are you engaging in digital asset optimization?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Avatar Adam Audette says

    Awesome post. Though less about pure SEO, I would add the idea of marketing (re-marketing) to your community, customer base, etc. In-house email lists are going to be even more important if/when there’s a slowdown online.

  2. Avatar Scott Clark says

    When you scoot your feet across the carpet, and touch a doorknob, trillions of electrons transfer from one surface to the other in a flash. It hurts. I think we, in new marketing, find ourselves at the tip of that finger sometimes.

    One of the most stressful parts of my work is in trying to bridge the gaps you mention here. Seth Godin calls it the meatball sundae. I often just all it fear. Fear that they need to follow the changes in new marketing that’s underway. It’s a hard story to tell, especially to old-line businesses.

    All they know is that something hurts – and that it may be about to hurt a lot more. They want the safety of something they understand, yet I try, often unsuccessfully, to tell them that this “shelter” is more risky than they think.

  3. Lee, I use a content distribution ‘calander’ in much the same way you describe. This works to set up a cohesive plan, and it maximizes efficiency of time, budget and resources.

    (I predict that 2008 will be the year that marketers refine their Social Media tactics according to this concept.)

    In thinking about content distribution, it goes something like this:
    Step 1 – Identify audience. Step 2 – Brainstorm topics of interest among this group. Step 3- Identify appropriate channels and promotional methods. Step 4 – Gather resources for content development. Step 5 – Create a schedule of activities congruent with current key phrase focuses. Promote, track, promote, track, refine, repeat.

    That’s obviously very very vague, but you get the idea.

    For clients that *dont* have or want a blog, I do a lot of utilizing SM networks and other content hubs like Squidoo, Zimbio, Hubpages, EzineArticles (yes, this is still relevant) and then focus on promoting their feeds individually. I also do work with widgets and other viral content since no blog is available. Works great.

    PS. I know you’re a PR veteran, Lee. Are you familiar with http://www.pointer.org? Many of their journalists are starting to buzz about how to deal with rise of social media. Very VERY interesting 🙂

  4. Avatar Maria Reyes-McDavis says

    I completely agree with your perspective. The economic downturn is the worst time to downsize or return to the same old efforts. Seizing creative opportunities becomes more relevant in my book.

  5. “Create a schedule of activities congruent with current key phrase focuses. Promote, track, promote, track, refine, repeat.”

    Maria nailed it. It’s nearly impossible to run an SEO campaign with just a checklist of 1,000 todos. It helps to set monthly/weekly quotas and routines that systematically moves a campaign forward. First, a quota forces you to work against a deadline, which can increase the likelyhood of getting thins done. Second, it forces you to focus on tasks that give measurable results instead of vague goals like “build more blog subscribers” or “get more backlinks.”

  6. Thank you Lee. This post, along with the “Distribution Channel” post you link out to, is a great 1-2 punch fundamental primer…very relevant stuff. Thanks for sharing more than you need to.

  7. Avatar Hjörtur Smárason says

    Great article Lee. “Recession” (in reasonable dosis) is in my opinion one of the best things that could happen to boost SMM. And those will survive who get it, and die who don’t. Using social media will become a matter of life and death for many companies.

  8. Great thoughts, Lee! I’m going to share this post with my team on the EMP blog.

  9. Brilliant post, and backed-up with equally great comments (especially Halfdeck’s). One of the better things I’ve read today!

  10. Great post. Thanks for the thoughts. It got my team started in a good discussion today.

  11. Thank you for all the comments everyone – am glad the post was useful. Successful SEO must, at it’s core, be based on fundamental marketing. Those fundamentals in combination with staying current on trends is what will make or break agencies in the next 12 months.

  12. Lee,

    In what may become a shrinking market place,your message is an absolute rifle shot on what needs to be discussed and implemented, in order to grow during what could prove to be difficult time.
    Concise and articulate. Thank you. Drake Morton, President/CEO Drake Morton and Associates, Inc.

  13. As a pr pro myself, I try to approach blogging like publishing a magazine. I agree with the idea of creating editorial calendars. It is important to leverage built in events or holidays that people will be searching the internet for. Whether it is christmas or independence day, you have got to consider what type of posts will lead to organic traffic. If you have an action plan, you won’t miss out on “low hanging fruit” opportunities.

  14. Lee:
    Thanks for the strategic advice on this post. It’s true, you can’t create an online marketing strategy on a vacuum or focus on only one aspect of it to cut costs. In the end, those who pursue a holistic strategy and experiment to stay ahead of the curve will win.

  15. Great post. Recession is always good for business. The opportunities you mention are proving very true – content is king, and timing is queen.

    Along the lines with your jewelry merchant story, I read about retailers advertising things that would appeal to Japanese audiences on the morning of December 25th, because the western world was opening presents and the Japanese were the majority of people online at the time.

  16. Making a systematic approach keeps you from forgetting what you need to do, especially to keep things moving as efficiently as possible. While you are working on the SEO, get a tool that will help you see how well your pages will rank. Glyphius shows you how each page works and lets you tweak before you test. Its databases of ads shows what words get picked up and which ones are passed by based on data gathered over months on search engines.

  17. Some talking heads on CNBC last year said that recession will not affect Tech and particulary Internet bellweather stocks like Google and Yahoo. Obviously they were wrong in their analysis.

    As recession looms, companies will look to cut their ad spending that includes search marketing. Advertising trails the economy in a recession as advertising budgets are usually committed in advance.

    But we have very little time to observe in terms of how online advertising responds to macroeconomic shocks. Google has already lost 35% of it market capital, Yahoo laid off 10-20% of its staff.

    [Editor note: We don’t do signatures here. Thanks!]

  18. Interesting post… and now it really hits home.

    I think a key aspect is to view all marketing efforts holistically. Online marketing, and SEO being isolated from each other is inefficient, but even more so, a huge disconnect often exists between the overall market strategy and SEO in larger entities, but the same ripples into the small entity as well. Ideally the message and methods are onpoint throughout all efforts.

    As far as strategy goes, market research is key. The best SEO in the world to reach the wrong market will likely result in poor performance. The challenge is to determine the market going forward, where upon many of todays tools just look at the past. Ie basing a campaign on the prior 6 months of data without some level of projection based upon current political, social, and economic data is likely not to work out too well.


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