What has become of SEO?
SEO used to work in its own silo and didn’t mix with any of the other marketing channels. What are now recognised to be highly questionable tactics were used every day to boost rankings. Automated services were used to “spin” articles and build links (article spinning is a method to generate multiple variations of the same article and to fool Google into thinking this was original content).
To be effective, SEO professionals now need to work together with content producers, PR, social and the broader marketing teams.
SEO is touching on so many other marketing disciplines that some people have gone as far to say it’s no longer a technical role. This is not completely true. The introduction of Schema.org now enables webmasters to structure data on the internet and gives search engines context about what they are indexing. If websites are operating internationally then they also need the right geo-mark ups and to be able to send the appropriate signals to rank in the countries they are servicing. There is more happening now with search engine developments that mean SEOs need to keep on top of these updates and make sure that best practice is being applied.
With this in mind, it is now common to see an SEO strategist working alongside data analysts within large organisations. They will be feeding key insight in to the content and PR teams. The SEO strategist will often sit in the middle of these teams and joins the dots.
As a result of SEO we’ve seen marketing disciplines, such as PR, change and alter their tactics. When a PR professional gets coverage they will now also ask for a link to their client’s website. They know that over time these links will boost visibility on search engines and awareness of the brand they represent.
SEO activity is also helping to amplify other marketing efforts. Where an SEO professional would have only concerned themselves with content on a company’s main landing page – probably a product page – they are now looking at content that targets customers at the research stage or content that drives awareness and engagement of the brand.
They are also using their skills to improve the chance that a company’s target audience will engage with that content. They do this by identifying what content is trending, what types of content are proving popular on social media, what’s topical or likely to generate an emotional response.
From a marketing perspective, this is helping to create much stickier, more engaging content that is likely to drive the right behaviour from customers – and drive successful returns from content.
What businesses need to be aware of?
For brands to improve visibility on search engines and be successful, SEO really needs to integrate with other marketing channels. Not all businesses are ready to hear this - many are still looking for SEO in a box. This is requiring SEO agencies to explain the benefit of them working with other marketing channels in order to win them over to this way of thinking.
When it comes to their websites, businesses also need to realise there is a correlation between a good user experience and better visibility. Websites which display the characteristics of bad user experience (i.e. high bounce rates, and low conversion rates) are less likely to receive natural links, or see content shared socially. All of this ultimately results in competitors growing market share.
Businesses can address this by doing more usability testing. Likewise, businesses need to monitor how visitors are viewing their website. If conversion rates are lower on mobile vs desktop, then this could indicate a problem.
It is also important for businesses to realise that you don’t need to be number one on Google for SEO to have a value. There are other ways that SEO can help companies improve click through rates from search engines. For example, including review scores in search engine results.
Is an SEO strategy as important as it once was?
SEO strategies are still very important, but they look very different from their 2010 versions. Today, an SEO strategy will include working closely with other disciplines, such as the paid search teams, to help them plug any keyword visibility gaps. It may include helping the content team to leverage its content better to amplify results.
SEO goals have also changed considerably. Whereas previously a goal may have been to gain 20 to 30 links per month and ensure a first page ranking on Google, SEO goals are now much more closely aligned to business objectives. As such SEO results are measured by metrics more associated with marketing, such as growing customer acquisition by 10%
Is good content more important?
It is true that content now carries a lot more value than it did in the past. It has also become more diverse. We are no longer just looking at the text of a web page - we need to consider video, imagery, infographics, podcasts and more.
This does not mean, however, than we can sacrifice SEO for content. You can have the best content in the world but if you are not promoting it through the right channels, and if you are not doing the right things to make it available to search engines, then your target audience will be less likely to read, view or hear it. You cannot substitute good content for good SEO, and vice versa.