WTF is SEO?

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2016 is close to its end and many marketers are still confused about what SEO actually is today among seemingly endless changes. Yes, SEO has changed over the years, but Google has not. Google has always been interested in providing the best results for its users, and it’s the user / consumers who are shaping the new world of search.

Search is now a critical ingredient that helps people and companies realise this need. As search becomes more universal across services and devices, it will continue to drive a massive shift in strategy and opportunities for brands.

Search is not only becoming smarter, it’s become an increasingly critical source of consumer understanding and real-time engagement. Simply put, it’s the bridge between intent and the experiences the world has to offer.

 

SEO unravelled

Modern SEO is a complex, multifaceted collection of different sub-strategies, nearly all of which can function independently on their own as a way to boost brand visibility and build customer relationships. As a quick example, content marketing is a necessary strategy for SEO, but even without a deliberate SEO process, it can be valuable in terms of increasing customer engagement and building brand trust.

 

The constituents of SEO

On-site optimization:  This is a general term that covers all kinds of technical improvements and creative choices. Mobile optimization, site speed, site security, meta titles and descriptions, rich snippets and structured data, site architecture, site mapping, navigation structuring and content availability are just some of the ways you can optimize your site directly to be found and favoured by search engines. But almost all of these strategies are as much about improving customer / user experience as they are about making search engines happy: better structured, faster sites are easier to use.

On-site content: On-site content could be called “content marketing,” but I avoided using the term here because content marketing is sometimes associated with a blog. On-site content, on the other hand, includes all pages of a site. The quality, accuracy, conciseness, detail and uniqueness of your content can all help your search rankings (as can the frequency and consistency of your posts), but primarily, this content serves as a means of building customer loyalty.

Link building: Link building exists in a few forms. Traditional link building could be considered an SEO-exclusive strategy because that’s its primary function (and most people aren’t interested in referral traffic for these links). However, more advanced, modern link-building tactics involve guest posting and content syndication — and these have far more brand visibility benefits than just ranking higher in search engines.

Social media: Social media is often lumped into the “SEO strategy” category, but it actually doesn’t influence SEO directly at all. Instead, it’s a kind of SEO conduit. Engaging with a wider audience means more people to see and share your content, leading to more potential inbound links, which can then influence your website’s organic search rankings.

What SEO isn’t

SEO Is No Longer A Department. If SEO is not already an integrated part of your overall marketing efforts, it’s time to change your perspective. SEO success depends on an ever-increasing variety of factors, ranging from the popularity of your brand online (whether or not there are links involved) and even to the online impact of your live events.

Solid SEO teams want and need the ability to influence policy and strategies “beyond SEO” — and that can include everything from web design and development to content marketing, marketing technology, social media, branding, PR, corporate marketing and more. Integrating and coordinating these areas with SEO isn’t an overreach — it’s a necessity.

Looking ahead

Effective SEO — SEO that is working with Google instead of against it, that will withstand algorithm updates and marketing fads — is marketing, customer service, sales, PR, branding, and web development. Now is the time to take a step back, broaden the perspective, and finally get SEO really working for you.

 

By Bradley Slinger,
Senior SEO Specialist