The internet by nature is a fast growing medium. It’s been rapidly evolving ever since it was first conceived. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a relatively young industry such as SEO is also in a constant state of evolution.
SEO constantly evolves– it has been a hot topic in the industry for a while, with SEOMoz adopting the term “inbound marketing” and creating Inbound.org, combined with rumours that will be dropping SEO from their brand, becoming simply Moz. All this hype from certain thought leaders (no names mentioned) have spread like a virus among the industry.
I can understand why someone would want to move away from the term SEO, it’s had a lot of negative connotations associated with it, maybe not so much here in the UK as it does in the US. But whatever you call it, the aim remains the same.
People tend to see inbound marketing as a replacement term for search engine optimisation. I’ve always felt inbound marketing has been a part of SEO. It’s simply creating good quality content and promoting it to pull visitors to your website organically, but that’s always been part of a comprehensive SEO strategy, working alongside other techniques.
So what hasn’t changed?
A lot hasn’t changed! But most importantly there are some fundamentals that will always apply in SEO. By focusing on these foundations you will be able to make your website and business future proof for Google and other search engines.
Below is a quick list of items any good SEOs should be focusing on, whether it’s 2012, 2013 or beyond:
Conversion optimisation – it doesn’t matter if you are bringing 10,000 visitors to your website every day, if they are not converting then you are doing something wrong. A conversion can be anything from a simple page visit, subscription or a sale. Make sure you know what your desired action is from your visitors, work to improve this. Target the right keywords, make sure your website is bringing you maximum value. Test, test and test everything again. Conversion optimisation will never die!
Technical and on-page SEO – how will Google find you and determine the context of your website if you don’t have the basic technical and on-page elements? Get this right before you start doing anything else and you will find adapting to changes a lot less headache-inducing.
Unique, quality and engaging content – you must have heard it a million times by now – content is king. So, develop good content! Write about what your customers want to read. The fact that you just repainted the walls in your office or hired a new staff member isn’t all that interesting, a post about how SEO can help a start-up is a lot more appealing.
Social engagement and outreach – get engaged on social networks, go where your customers go, some will be better suited for Pinterest, others, Twitter or Facebook. Make sure you are creating solid measurables with your social campaigns. Social is slightly different, not everything will contribute to your ROI or bottom line, but it will be measurable, for example, driving customers further down the marketing funnel or creating a positive sentiment towards your products and brand.
Link building, yes, link building – not buying links. Google has always favoured popular websites, popularity is traditionally signalled by the amount of links that are going into your content. It goes back to creating useful content that people generally want or need – this is the bases of inbound marketing. Popularity makes brands, think Wikipedia.
Brand and business – just like any business, one that relies on SEO also need to have a solid model at its core. Having a good business that solve customer or client problems is the key, and will make everything else mentioned above that much easier.
Google is always telling us that quality sites providing actual value to users is important, we keep getting hints in their update packs, take them! Make sure you follow the Google algorithm changes, you can tell a lot by them, a good source is here at SEOMoz… or just Moz.
Hmmm, but there must be some changes?
Of course there are changes! But as I mentioned before, these are more changes through evolution, rather than “SEO is dead” kind of changes. Below are some key points on how to keep your website or business up to date with this fast paced industry.
Search verticals – as search engines are evolving, so must SEO, Google is putting a lot of effect into its other search verticals such as shopping, news, images and the most recently search plus your world (a better name would be search plus Google+), are you utilising these in your SEO strategy?
Social – social is here to stay, figure out how you can use it for your business, is it customer acquisition, boost in customer satisfaction, or moving your customer service operation to social? On top of that, it’s not just a way to engage customers anymore, that all important popularity of your website is been evaluated on social signals as well as links.
New technologies – if you are not taking advantage of Google’s new technologies you are leaving a huge gap for your competitors to exploit. Expand your technical SEO with rich mark-up, geo tags and rich snippets. They will give you an edge in 2012, but please don’t stray from the basics – Meta, title, internal links, descriptive URL, alt text, etc… Build a solid foundation, then take advantage of the new.
Local – working on your local SEO in 2012 could bring you significant benefits. One of the most recent update packs contained 40 updates, three of them were related to local search. The main update was named ‘Venice’. With this update, Google is now triggering local results without a local term in the search query. Local results are triggered form the detection of your city automatically, you no longer need to search for ‘driving lessons London’ to avoid national results. Work on links from local websites and on gaining citations from your area. It might even be worth creating localised pages for your services.
Affiliate – Google has always had a love hate relationship with affiliate websites, but the recent algorithm update indicates the relationship is turning more hate than love. Affiliate websites are often built to monetise search traffic rather than monetising the users, don’t send your precious visitors off to another website! Monetise your visitors rather than search engine traffic and Google will still love you in 2012 and beyond.
The main take away I’m trying to put across is to stop focusing on the changes, or predicting them, focus on the fundamentals while adopting new techniques. What has been working for you will still work. Any major changes In the SEO industry will happen with plenty of warnings and you will get the time to adjust.
Edit: I wrote this post on Monday and so Rand may have beaten me to the punch and made another post championing Inbound Marketing – which sparked some more debates! They are all great posts and very interesting reads, I’ve listed them below, both went live in the time between me finishing my post and publishing it… It’s starting to feel like a war between the terms SEO and Inbound Marketing!!
Arnold has a broad experience in both traditional and digital marketing. His degree in Internet Engineering gives him the perfect technical expertise for SEO and PPC. He writes about his experiences in both of these topics.