How many times have you heard “organic content,” “ content marketing,” “it’s all about content,” or some derivation of these? A friend of mine, Jeff Sauer gave a great presentation on how SEO is changing and where it is going in the future at the last meeting of the NJ chapter of MENG (Marketing Executives Networking Group). His main point: that SEO is no longer about gaming the system with keywords and links. SEO is now about providing the best possible user experience to visitors. It’s about actually creating meaningful, relevant content that users will find interesting. It’s like what they used to say about “integrated marketing.” Make it interesting, meaningful, and consistent in multiple places (today we would say: channels).
According to Sauer, the internet gods at Google and Bing have decreed that going forward, effective SEO should focus on these five things (and in this order):
2. Social media
3. User experience
Let’s unpack that list a little bit here and see how it correlates to integrated marketing.
Content is still king—but with an important caveat: it must be great content! Create compelling content that is useful for your web visitors and you are well on your way, towards practicing good SEO 2013-style. Remember integrated marketing is about creating unified, customer-centric messaging. Great content makes for a great user experience and that is what “putting the customer first” is all about.
As if that isn’t enough of a reason to create great content, here’s another: if you don’t, your pages may be penalized by Google and slip in the search rankings (or even disappear altogether).
Next, be active on social media and make your content easily shareable on social media. An integrated marketing plan that does not incorporate social media isn’t really very integrated. A good way to ease into social media if you’re not already using it is by posting your articles on social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and especially Google+. With G+, you can claim authorship for your content, which means your photo will show up next to your articles in search results. (This really helps your content stand out from other search results).
Next on the list is user experience. In this context, user experience is all about how well your site can help visitors. Can people find what they are looking for on your site or do they go back to Google and search again after visiting you? (Google knows this!) How about page load times? Does your page load quickly, or do people tire of waiting for it before your page finishes loading? And the pièce de résistance, does your site incorporate responsive design? Integrated marketing is all about reaching people through whatever channel they are listening to, but what’s the point of all that if you direct them to a website that they can’t use?
Now we come to the more “traditional” SEO tactics (as if an industry that is barely out of middle school in people years could have “traditions”). Link building is still important—but these links must be organic and meaningful. With Google’s latest update, gone are the days of buying piles of inbound links to get high rankings. Instead, going forward, quality—not quantity—should be job one for link building.
Last on Sauer’s SEO to-do list is …SEO? Yup! Optimizing your website with keywords is still important and you should absolutely do it. It’s just not the be all and end all it used to be. Do your keyword research and use keywords on your website and social media pages that fit your marketing messages, thus integrating your SEO with your marketing plan.
Notice how the top three things on the list have nothing to do with the traditional SEO tactics of link building and keyword tagging? That’s because SEO is changing! It’s no longer just about exploiting Google’s algorithm by buying links and keyword cramming. SEO is becoming all about the user experience and as integrated marketers, we’re well positioned to take advantage of the new changes!