Before you set out on a road trip or holiday, you check the weather forecast to see how things are going to be. An SEO forecast is equally important while you plan your marketing strategy, because things evolve quickly in this area thanks to Google’s frequent algorithm changes.
This article will probe and provoke – with the intention of saving you time and adding value, as it delivers an important message – that even if you’re great at SEO, coding, communication or any other area, that by itself isn’t enough to help your business (or clients) survive and thrive over the long term.
Not The Icing, But The Cake!
Effective SEO and PR firms know that successful SEO tactics (like planting a good article on authority sites) are not the icing on a cake that’s added right at the end of an SEO campaign. They are aware that it’s an important essential ingredient that needs to be mixed in with others right from the beginning, before you even put the cake into the oven to bake!
That’s because SEO that works today and will be future-proof tomorrow is centered around “audience building”. Not just buying packages that build links, get shares and offer similar ‘solutions’.
Those tactics will end up limiting business opportunities because the technology and methods used to get higher rankings will indirectly affect more desirable actions – like shopping, decision making, and generating trust.
This matters especially at the tender developmental stage of your marketing campaign when you’re competing against companies pitching the same prospective clients, aiming to guide what journalists, bloggers and opinion leaders say about you.
It’s important because it influences what many others read, think and do – such as make a buying decision, spread the message further among their circles and networks, write about it, link to it, mention it on social networks and more. One ‘sneezer’ can reach a huge audience through their network.
Dancing To Google’s Tune – Now Optional
In the past, whenever Google snapped its fingers, SEOs jumped, adopted quick fix solutions, and tried to scramble back to the top.
Today, extremely frequent tweaks to the algorithm make it harder to beat these changes consistently. Soon, we’ll have to bypass these ‘quick fix’ SEO tactics altogether and focus on whatpeople need.
Coincidentally, that’s what Google (and any other search marketing service) wants, too. Better value for their users.
If you fail at this, your search marketing will grow extremely expensive because your “secondary objectives” risk becoming obsolete all of a sudden because of an algorithm adjustment.
Sadly, some companies are mis-reading the signals to infer that links are this year’s ‘quick fix’ and turning to services that promise affordable link building. Sure, links are an important ranking signal today – but that could change. Also, buying SEO services that focus exclusively on links and ignore your brand and longevity is unwise strategically.
An opportunity is lost to create and reap synergies when strategic SEO is done properly and effectively.
Strategic SEO Is More Effective
Planning a strategic SEO campaign doesn’t have to be more expensive. And even if it is, the results make it worth the extra investment. Wouldn’t you agree that paying more to get to your business goals faster and more cost efficiently is worth doing?
A truly strategic long-term SEO plan will integrate a company’s overall objectives into each step. A purely tactical approach is the equivalent, in today’s competitive battlefield, of going to war with your guns firing blanks!
Winning the war becomes costly, time consuming, and messy. The alternative of investing a bigger budget to load your marketing arsenal with powerful weapons reveals your commitment to a quick and decisive fight, in a more humane and cost effective manner, minimizing losses and casualties.
That doesn’t mean you must waste hours and hours writing blogs, building linking profiles, or chasing content exchanges, which is like going on a fishing expedition for more visitors of doubtful quality and value to your business. You can use marketing that’s as effective as a laser-guided smart missile, targeting only your ideal prospects and never missing its mark.
One strike, bang on target, and your mission is accomplished!
This style of search marketing is efficient and impressive, building respect and authority in the marketplace. But… how to accomplish this effect?
The Power Of Distributed Content
A regular column or guest blog at an authority site in your niche can serve this purpose well. You save time and effort, maybe even money, by going where your market is. You’re sending your audience clear message with a deliberate intent. “I’m an expert. I’m the best. You can trust me.”
And trust you they will – because you are featured on the highest profile website in your niche.
Your presence will impress and attract head hunters looking for qualified people to hire. Companies you may find impossible to contact on your own suddenly become more accessible. Influential people reach out to network with you.
When prospects research your fledgling company, they will find your name mentioned on the top industry resources online – and that gives you an unbeatable advantage over your competition.
In addition, when you dominate the SERPs for business critical keywords, you more or less control people who are in the research process – your prospective clients, journalists, bloggers or opinion leaders, who in turn will influence others.
A single high quality contribution to the right site can help you dominate your market for years. Third party recommendations or positive mentions will influence decisions far better than self-serving advertising can ever hope to. You don’t even need to own the properties that are marketing you, or struggle to sell anything directly. It all happens sub-subliminally, automatically, naturally.
The Future Of SEO Is Strategy
Yet most businesses are tactical in their approach, placing undue emphasis on tools and techniques. Bullets don’t win a war. Neither does a formidable arsenal of machine guns, tanks and Apache helicopters. What’s more important is the right intelligence, planning and the experts to co-ordinate, measure and act.
Winning, then, becomes a strategic effort. If you won’t win the war fighting the enemy out in the streets, then take it to the negotiating table – or courtroom. Your victory may be achieved through political intrigue, or a well-timed military offensive. You don’t care which strike creates the breakthrough… as long as it works.
You could spend hours soliciting speaking engagements locally, blogging, commenting on other blogs hoping for back links, engage on discussion forums, all with the hope of ranking on some target keywords for a short period of time. Or you could take a step back, plan your strategy, and then make your move.
Your article, published on top industry sites like Search Engine Land, or on top sites in your own industry, will seal your position as an expert.
Maybe all you’ll get in return is one back link from the “About Author” text. But that’s not what this is about. It’s about something bigger. Your article at an authority site can do much more for you and your business than even improving the ranking of your site. Your name and brand recognition, coupled with the longevity of this impact, make it well worth taking the time and effort to consistently make good contributions that deliver outstanding value.
Each individual marketing effort – branding, SEO, social marketing, sales – is effective by itself, and explosive in combination. Just like mixing together various antibiotics or medicines can eliminate the most resistant infection, your multi-pronged search marketing strategy will break down barriers and rocket you to the top.
All of these efforts are directed, not at “link building”, but at people and audience building.
SEO Is About Reaching & Impacting People
As Google evolves, we must evolve in our SEO approach too. Without bringing more relevance and value to its users, Google’s economy is doomed. That’s what strategic SEO should aim for.
Over the coming months and into 2013, I predict the following will happen (call it my SEO weather forecast!):
1. Link Building Will Change
Traditional ‘budget’ link building that’s obsessed with link numbers, Page Rank and such conventional “recommendations” will shift to creating value-focused content and activities. I think we will see more guest posting, and columnists working hard at different business models, rather than SEOs selling “packages” with xx do follow links from blog comments, forum profiles, article marketing, social bookmarking and more.
2. Audience Building Will Dominate
This will become the equivalent of e-mail list building, but for services which influence the people engaged in a buying and decision-making cycle.
3. Social Voting Will Gain Traction
Likes in the SERPS which we see in Google+, Twitter, Facebook and other social media or networks.
4. Greater ‘Outward’ Focus
Less emphasis on “me”, less desire to “own everything”, meaning less effort to publish everything on our own sites and greater willingness to publish on authority sites.
By working hard, delivering on your promises over time, and being seen as trustworthy, you can use authority sites to:
- Reach your audience when it matters.
- Build more trust. Being published on an authority resource like Forbes.com and thereby ranked in the SERPS, you can achieve something even more important – your “Agent Rank”, brand and authority will go through the roof! Forget about conventional SEO here. No more keyword stuffing. Just a laser focus on reaching your audience – not the search engine bots.
- While growing your Google+ (or other) presence, you’re automatically building an audience that will find your articles through Google organic search more easily, because they’re already following you on Google+. This is a “high speed highway” to get onto their radar. Whenever your ideal prospects search on business critical keywords and phrases, you’ll achieve good rankings and be prominent through the use of “rel author”, images and more.
5. SEO Copywriting Will Be Impact-Oriented
We will see more SEO Copywriters who’ll write less content, and be measured not on ‘rankings’ but on the combination of ‘impact’ and ‘social influence’ and ‘search metrics’; not on simple counts of tweets, ‘Likes’ and others, but on tracking how the message affected target audiences and how they reacted to it.
- Did they share the message with their followers?
- Did the link go viral?
- Did it attract new users to the business or brand?
Making an investment into crafting quality content (even if you only publish infrequently) can boost your company’s name recognition beyond compare. Journalists who use search and social media for their research will be influenced by it, and may feature it in a story that’s published on another domain – one with a newer, broader, bigger audience of people.
Crafting quality content takes time and resources. Experts may need weeks to come up with top-notch content – and there’s no guarantee that it will work, that your audience will feel it is good enough to get them to follow you, share the link, tweet it to their own audience, or eventually give you access to their personal “closed” network and friends who trust the “influencer”.
But when the pay-off comes through, it can transform your business magically. That’s the real power of strategic SEO, and I forecast it becoming very popular in the near future!
Image credit: Crestock.com
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.