In this 3-part blog series about the state of SEO, I set out to depict what real SEO is.
What strategies and aspects of SEO are important to your overall inbound strategy? Which tactics are outdated? How has SEO changed? And lastly, what will continue to be more important as the state of SEO evolves?
By now you should be aware that SEO is more than just, "link-building," and I’ve hopefully debunked a few SEO rumors such as “SEO is dead,” (part 1) and “SEO is spam” (part 2). In the third and final part of the series, we’re finally addressing the disconcerting method of link-building. The experts also weigh in on 3 over-looked aspects of SEO: digital media, web-development and e-mail marketing. Here’s what they had to say:
Dustin Heap, SEO Manager, on the state of Link-Building:
Since the beginning it’s been about links. Google became Google due to their ability to rank results in a more advanced way than meta-keywords and keyword stuffing. Despite the massive changes in the last year or two within the SEO industry, it is still all about links. But now it’s different.
No longer do manually built, low quality, perfectly matched anchor text links drive results like they once did. Rather, advances by Google and a more scalable enforcement of their guidelines means that link building has to be more strategic. For example, a mere mention of a brand combined with the context of the content may already be impacting results or will down the road (co-citation or co-occurrence), and anchor text, depending on who you ask, is either completely dead or simply more accurately used by Google. I believe the latter. Thus, the current state of link building requires that SEOs think and work like real marketers. As Wil Reynolds has put it, do real company stuff.
Your new link-building mindset should be to earn links that are relevant and high quality in places your specific audience congregates online. Examples may include: a local business listing, human curated resource list or even a legitimate guest post on a leading industry blog. On the other hand leveraging content marketing and social media will help you attract natural links and social signals that will impact your SEO efforts. You’ll also attract real customers through links that aren’t “manually” built. SEOs should focus on efforts that are designed to attract potential customers and secondarily links. Don’t worry so much about controlling anchor text or building large quantities of links but focus on creating valuable content that will get shared. Get your content (and company) in the places that your customers inhibit online. These links will, by nature, be natural and more relevant. Doing so will not only diversify your traffic sources but should future-proof your rankings from algorithm updates that go after low-quality and old-school link building tactics.
Darin Berntson, Community Manager, on the state of digital media:
It’s a digital world now, gone are the days of just building a website and visitors showing up. You need to have different inbound marketing strategies to gain a prospects attention. Digital Media is a form of content marketing, but because content marketing is synonymous with “blogging” in some minds, we needed another word. The two types of digital media content that I’ll be talking about that can help your SEO are webinars and videos:
- Videos: YouTube is your best friend. Creating compelling video, as well as optimizing your channel is key. YouTube being the second largest search engine magnifies the importance of getting on the service. Link juice from YouTube pointing to your site is gold. From here, you can embed this content on your site for additional views and context. But whatever you do, do not forget other video platforms like Vimeo.
- Webinars: If you are in the business of generating leads, webinars should be a part of your marketing toolkit. Webinars are a great way to introduce people to your product or service, continued education and lead nurturing. If you promote your webinars properly on event sites (there are many) you will get some additional links coming back to your site, and a bit of social interaction as well. After you’re webinar is over, you can re-promote the recorded webinar and slideshare on your website. This gives you more content to let prospects (and Google) know that you’re relevant, informative and timely.
Co-Marketing is a great way to promote webinars and videos. Basically co-marketing is a lot like when you were in college and worked on group projects. Two (or more) companies collaborate on a project, share the credit, and reap the benefits. Unlike college, you’re not stuck working with people you don’t want to, and get to work with people who see the great benefit in working with you.
As the Community Manager here at SEO.com we have seen a huge benefit from co-marketing our 2013 webinar series. It’s great to have a 3rd party validation on a particular subject (we’ve had presenters from Avalanche Media and Search Engine Land). Our presenters also got our name in front of who they influence, which attracted social mentions, links and new prospects. We also did a co-marketing video series with Hubspot, and in that case we helped promote their project and brought them a new audience. The best thing about co-marketing is that it’s a win-win situation, and both companies strengthen by building authority and a new audience.
Danielle Statton, Marketing Coordinator, on the state of e-mail marketing:
The connection between old-school email marketing and new-age SEO doesn’t seem obvious, other than both existing under the marketing umbrella, but can make a powerful combination. With strong strategies behind each, these tactics have the potential to strengthen each other.
SEO-generated informational queries bring visitors hungry for the specific content you offer, an incredible asset for conversion. On-page elements are important as well—naturally, visually appealing, optimized pages with low bounce rates encourage more page views and interaction.
Email marketing is the means by which the value-added content we’re all striving to develop in this new age of digital marketing is delivered to the right potential consumers at the appropriate stages of sales-readiness. Not to mention, well-executed email nurturing programs (solidified by the development of genius content) keep consumers coming back for more, giving them power to choose to continue through the sales cycle rather than alienating potential customers through more aggressive tactics.
As with everything in digital marketing, this process can only happen if you’re continuously developing compelling, targeted informational content. Continuous keyword research can help you see what queries potential consumers are performing. You can then fill the gaps with informational content in order to attract consumers. Both methods play equally important roles in a powerful content marketing strategy where the objective is to attract, nurture, and guide information-hungry prospects to become loyal customers.
Derek Perkins, Director of Technology on the State of Web Development
Search engines try to be as neutral as possible when trying to rank content in order to promote content over semantics, but they have to rely on certain signals and flags to help find the best content. A great website structure isn't going to win you great rankings on its own, but a poor structure will penalize you for years to come. If you don't have a website yet or are in the middle of a redesign, make sure to integrate the design into all of your search marketing strategies so that you aren't swimming upstream. Web development has a love/hate relationship with the world of SEO. Developers often think that they know best and resent the suggestions from SEO experts that they haven't implemented something correctly. On the flip side, many SEOs don't truly grasp the full breadth that is involved with building out a site, and something that to them appears to be an easy change has implications far greater than they realize. When they don't play nice, that can have a seriously negative impact on traffic and conversions, but when the website structure and deployment is strategically designed with SEO efforts in mind, both teams' efforts will be magnified. Here’s are some web-development tips that can help SEO:
- Site Architecture - Before deciding on a structure, first decide what content you want to have on your site. Your site is just a showplace for your content, not the other way around. Always keep the end user experience at the top of the priority list. There are always ways to try and beat the system when you try to design for search engines rather than humans, and an arms race with Google and Bing is not a solid long term strategy. Make sure to include keywords in your urls without repeating or looking spammy, and nest them in categories that make sense for a human, not a robot.
- Crawlability - With more protocol standardization, from XML sitemaps and RSS feeds to publishing services such as Ping-O-Matic and pubsubhubbub, notifying search engines that you have new content is no longer the most important thing. The most important thing is to make them believe that your deep pages matter. A great way to build credibility for both humans and robots is by establishing solid content hubs. Linking to your relevant content to these hubs lets your users find all the related resources they want quickly, plus it lets crawlers jump to deep content in just a few steps instead of many.
- Site Speed - Starting in April 2010, Google announced that site speed was going to play a role as a ranking factor, albeit a minor one. I believe that influence will continue to grow, though in more of an indirect way. QuickSprout has a good infographic on how site speed affects rankings. Slow load times will often cause users to jump back to the search results as they look for a faster answer. As Google tries to compete with Facebook Graph Search, in my opinion they will start to weight human factors more heavily, thus increasing the importance of faster load times and lower bounce rates.
- Content Scrapers - Most of us have been ripped off by a scraper site at one point or another. All search engines are doing their best to combat bad content, but it's impossible for them to be 100% accurate. Google provides some recourse by letting site owners report DMCA violations and file spam reports, and Bing offers similar resources at their infringement center. These don't provide immediate relief, but luckily their are some options for fighting back. I'll be writing a post soon with some fun tricks you can play on those sites to help you win the war.
That wraps up the 2013 state of SEO series. Is there anything at all we didn't cover? Leave us a comment about anything else you would like us to talk about more in-depth!