If you’ve been ignoring SEO in favor of other marketing efforts, it may be time to change your strategy. In its annual report, out this week, Forrester Research stated that more survey respondents found websites by organic means then any other method — up 4% from 50% in 2011 to 54% in 2012. In other words, the importance of SEO continues to grow.
The report also indicates the growing influence of social media marketing, as its own numbers climbed 7% from last year to 32%.
While this doesn’t mean you should dump your Adwords budget in favor of SEO, it does mean that it’s time to take an “all in” approach to internet marketing — combining SEO, Social and PPC marketing — for a powerful cocktail that creates the kind of ubiquity needed to build brand recognition and drive conversions.
How Do You Get Started?
SEO is a complex combination of technical configurations, on- and offsite keyword optimized (and user-friendly) content, and website popularity.
Before you do anything with content, it’s extremely important to make sure that there are no technical configurations standing in the way of having your content seen — and crawled — by the search engines. Then, it’s time to determine how your users are searching — and what they want to know.
Then and only then should you begin creating content. This content should live on your site and on other relevant sites, including social networks.
While time consuming, SEO is an extremely rewarding marketing method. Should you ever again doubt the importance of SEO, just look at the numbers. And ask yourself: How important is it that the majority of your potential customers find your website?
How do you stack up against your competitors? Request a FREE Search Engine Visibility Report.
Blogs are a wonderful way to provide your customers with a great resource while also keeping your website stocked with fresh, SEO-optimized content. Blogs can also be pretty daunting. Once you create a blog, you’ve got yet another demand on your time — and your creativity.
But take heart — every webmaster or content editor runs out of ideas eventually. When you do, there are some tried and true methods for kick-starting the brainstorming process. When you’re out of blogging ideas, take a step back and remember why you’re writing, and who you’re writing for.
What Do Your Customers Want?
You should be engaging with your customers on a regular basis. Otherwise — how will you ever know what they want and need? The best way to do this is on social media. Look, for example, at which posts your customers respond to the most, and how they respond. You can also ask your customers what they want. Feeling shy? You can always run a Facebook Poll.
Another great way to find out what your customers want is to do some quick keyword research. This will tell you not only what your customers are searching for, but how they’re searching.
What Do Your Customers Love?
Another method for deciding what you should do today is looking at what you’ve done in the past. Do some quick research within Google Webmaster Tools (or on Opensite Explorer, if you’re not using GWT) to find your site’s most popular content by looking at your inbound link data. Your inbound link data should provide you with a quick snapshot of the web pages, and blog posts, that your customers have found most useful.
Once you have your data, look beyond your site’s main pages to find the interior (or blog) pages with the highest number of inbound links. Once you’ve got that, you can start to brainstorm topical “jumping off points” — looking for topics that are similar to your popular content, but that provide a fresh perspective or new approach. You never want to cover the same ground, but you can do something similar while staying fresh and relevant.
What Are Your Competitors Doing?
It’s a good idea to follow your competitors on social media in order to keep tabs on what they’re doing. Specifically, take a look to see where they’re gaining traction with your audience:
For information on this last point, you can use Opensite Explorer for a quick look at your competitor’s most popular pages. (Kind of cool, huh?)
As SEO awareness has grown over the years, more companies from all walks of industry have striven to address it in some capacity in their marketing programs. Unfortunately, they sometimes turn to strategies that are outdated and/or do more harm than good. These are some common “strategies” we’ve seen from clients and around the web that your company should avoid:
Content spinning — “Content is king” has been a rallying cry in the SEO world for years, but the phrase should be revised to “original content is king.” Content or article spinning involves taking an article about a topic related to your business, creating multiple, slightly different versions of that article, then distributing them across the web. This was a popular technique for fledgling SEO programs years ago. But as data shows, such shady strategies aren’t effective for very long. Google and other search engines have consistently gotten better and better and recognizing and penalizing spun content. It may take more time and effort, but the payoff is much better when you write original content that is posted to relevant websites. This is important to remember when starting a link building program.
Commenting on blogs — Everyday, millions of bots spam the comment section of blogs across the web. Most blog platforms enable “no follow” links in the comment section by default. So, not only are such spam posts quickly deleted/filtered by site moderators, but they’re not even effective while visible. It’s possible for blog commenting to be an effective form of marketing, but the process is beyond the scope of any spam bot. Write a thoughtful, in-depth response to a blog that includes a relevant link to your site. By doing so, you establish credibility and interest for other readers, who are then more likely to click on your link.
Outsourcing your SEO to the wrong talent — SEO is a complex field with lots of variables that contribute to success. If you decide to outsource your SEO, make sure to vet your vendor carefully. Talk about the goals you have for your website, ask about the kind of campaign you could run to achieve those goals, and of course, check the vendor’s previous experience and clientele.