For many marketers, search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are thorns in their side; it is something they know they need to do, but often they are unsure exactly how to implement these strategies and outsource the task to someone else with greater expertise. But for small business owners and ‘solopreneurs’, time, budget and resources may not make outsourcing a possibility.
So, what are the basics that every marketer and entrepreneur really needs to know?
To find out, I spoke with two experts in the search and marketing landscape–Damien Bianchi, a digital strategy executive with more than a decade of experience who is currently helping IBM to tap organic search opportunities; and Geoffrey Colon, a futurist and recognized industry thought leader currently spearheading new technology initiatives for Bing Ads.
Below are five ways to make your approach to search more strategic from my conversation with Damien.
#1 – Get started with free tools.
Getting started with search optimization research doesn’t have to cost money. Several fantastic free tools exist that can help you get started today identifying search insights. In a recent blog post, I sang the virtues of Google Trends, but Bianchi would add Google AdWords to the toolkit. AdWords is a great way to begin testing your keyphrase hypotheses. And don’t overlook competitor websites. Bianchi suggests you ask yourself: “What’s the language they use to describe what they do? What are the terms and content themes they’re putting on their site? How can we leverage that by embarking on a similar strategy?” Or, if you see a gap where your competition is not offering something, “how can you offer to address that gap through search and content optimizations to your own page?”
#2 – Instead of high demand, look for high opportunity.
The temptation with search key phrase optimization is to try to ‘own’ results for the phrase with the highest volume. But Bianchi cautions that that can often be a mistake: “The odds that you’re going to outrank what’s already in Google right now for a very competitive keyword is slim to none.” But ranking in the top 5 search results is nonetheless critical as companies that rank below the top 5 in search results essentially become “invisible” to customers. If you’re trying to identify leads for your business, he says, “you’re much better off looking at long-tail words, so instead of ‘baseball hats’ it’d be ‘baseball hats in Syracuse new york.’ It won’t have as high a keyword demand but your potential to convert that into a sale or transaction becomes a lot higher.”
#3 – Commit to the process.
The reality of marketing today means mastering the art of change. Bianchi recommends marketers assume that “you’re never going to check that box. Keywords can change, things can happen in the market.” Search is therefore not an ‘optimize it and leave it’ tactic but rather an ongoing, continuously monitored and updated process.
#4 – Use search to fuel your content strategy.
Gone are the days when search optimization was as simple as burying a few keywords in your html code and adding a metatags to your files. Now, for each keyphrase you’ve chosen, Damien reminded me, you must have a page on your site entirely dedicated to that theme. Marketers must take an “all in” approach to search, using it as the fuel that drives your content strategy and integrating it into your entire paid, owned and earned ecosystem. One off tactics don’t cut it in a an era of radical integration.
#5 – Speed up your content production.
The social web and ubiquity of content is being taken into account by search engine algorithms. “Google loves fresh content and links,” Bianchi points out. “We’re starting to see…anything that’s rapidly produced is displaying in the search results a lot faster than it typically would.” To respond to this change, many companies are creating exclusive content creation teams to focus on deliver the almost insatiable demand for fresh content to keep websites ranking and relevant.
What’s next for search?
In my conversation with Geoffrey Colon at Bing, we shifted to a view of the future, and what business leaders should be thinking about when it comes to search in the next 5 years.
Focus on creating more visual content.
The future of search is in visual content, according to Geoffrey Colon. He points out that the tremendous rise of mobile search–which Business Insider confirms is “quickly becoming the main way in which consumers find everything they need”–has an often overlooked implication: the smaller the screen through which users search for information, the more search will depend on the visual experience. That means seamless UX and mobile-optimized design will determine how easily your customers will be able to find your business and how much attention they’re willing to give it. So, plan ahead by building simplified online experiences with seamless UX, mobile-optimized design and heavy emphasis on visual and video content.
Location, location, location.
Into the next few years, Colon sees search becoming even further integrated into our lives: In addition to social graph-based searches customizing our results, “we have to think about how search will change in public environments,” he says. “Eventually you’ll have search on Google glass and on big public screens in public forums.” And that means search results will have to update based on context and location. Location based apps currently provide some of those contextual search recommendations, but we may soon see a day when applications can connect directly into search engines for more deeply personalized, relevant search results. (For more of Colon’s thoughts on the future of technology and business, read his blog, Futurist Lab.)
Both Bianchi and Colon agreed–search is going to continue to be a complex, interwoven and continuously shifting area for marketers to explore. While mastery may not be attainable, staying strategic and focused on the future will enable you to keep your marketing on solid ground.
If you have any questions about search or want to add your two cents, please leave a comment, or feel free to tweet me @TheRealCherylM
This post originally appeared at http://creativestratcomm.blogspot.com/2013/08/5-tips-for-building-seo-strategy-now.html