Good news, content marketers: SEO hasn’t really changed! Columnist Nate Dame explains how to get the most bang from your SEO buck in 2015.
The year 2015 is nearly upon us, and every marketing department is forecasting and planning how to make a new splash next year. How is your SEO strategy looking?
Now is a good time to dust off your (possibly outdated) SEO strategy and get it ready for the new year. Make sure it’s pointed at the right goal, and make sure that goal is understood and adopted across the entire organization: Google says the user is in charge, so — yep, you guessed it — the user is in charge!
Google’s Destination Hasn’t Changed
Many content marketers are confused about what SEO actually is today among seemingly endless changes.
Yes, SEO has changed over the years, but Google has not. Google has always been interested in providing the best results for its users. Period. SEO has only “changed” because too many internet marketers have been looking for the short-term win.
The problem is, all those quick wins (from keyword stuffing to spammy link building) went against Google’s goal of delighting the user, actually making Google.com less appealing to the general public. Bad search results = users go to other search engines. And that hurts Google’s bottom line.
How has Google responded? Panda, Penguin, manual penalties… and the list goes on. As a result, marketers have now developed a healthy fear of going against the Google.
As 2014 draws to a close, even the most stubborn SEO professionals are being forced to recognize that there is no quick win. Google wants to provide the best user experience possible, and you can’t get that by cheating.
SEO Is No Longer A Department (Neither Is Link-Building)
If SEO is not already an integrated part of your overall marketing efforts, it’s time to change your perspective. SEO success depends on an ever-increasing variety of factors, ranging from the popularity of your brand online (whether or not there are links involved) and even to the online impact of your live events.
Solid SEO teams want and need the ability to influence policy and strategies “beyond SEO” — and that can include everything from web design and development to content marketing, marketing technology, social media, branding, PR, corporate marketing and more. Integrating and coordinating these areas with SEO isn’t an overreach – it’s a necessity.
Put True Marketers In Charge Of SEO
The best SEO professionals aren’t necessarily deeply technical or wildly advanced in their understanding of detailed technical algorithms. The SEOs of the future are… marketers! Plain and simple. If you are making a change with your SEO team, hiring an SEO team member, or bringing in an SEO consultant/agency/firm, you must look for that spark of marketing genius.
The best SEO team member is a well-rounded marketer that can connect with audiences in a meaningful way, validate assumptions with real-world tests, and build a rich and engaging sales funnel experience. The SEO expert that will rock 2015 is focused on long-term big wins and steadily building your brand’s audience, not short-term quick tricks or gimmicks.
If your SEO team is made up of strong marketers, encourage them to use their marketing instincts and avoid getting caught up in SEO formulas.
For example, many SEO projects still invest countless hours in discussions of keyword placement and keyword density. But if SEOs spend that same energy on delighting the user (increasing clicks, decreasing the bounce rate), they will be able to realize a significantly greater impact with their SEO campaign.
The biggest risk to your SEO campaign is forgetting about the user and overthinking SEO as a lock-step, formulaic task.
All SEO Formulas Break (Some Sooner Than Later)
The only processes that don’t break are:
- Processes that offer a tangible benefit to the user. For example, editorial teams that regularly produce content assets, each more valuable than the last.
- Processes that deliver multiple benefits, not just SEO benefits. This may include activities such as securing a regular executive column in a popular publication. This can lead to direct SEO benefits such as new inbound links as well as numerous other benefits including increased brand exposure, engaging a new audience, thought leadership, etc.
It’s All About The User: What Does That Mean?!
All about the user is a paradigm to listen and watch for. Are your SEO team members and/or consultants making recommendations to improve the user experience? Are they monitoring metrics which quantify the “delight” users experience on your website?
Recommendations that are very technical in nature, with no metric attached to prove their value to the user, are red flags. Cater to the user, not the Googlebot.
Creating an engaging, resourceful, helpful website that allows users to complete the tasks they came for is the foundation of a strategy that attracts Google’s attention.
If your SEO is going to work, it can’t be a small silo near the marketing department (or the IT department or wherever it’s been stashed in your organization), and it can’t be about quick-wins and cheap shots.
Effective SEO — SEO that is working with Google instead of against it, that will withstand algorithm updates and marketing fads — is marketing, customer service, sales, PR, branding, and web development. 2015 is the year to take a step back, broaden the perspective, and finally get SEO really working for you.