As we launch into 2014, the biggest opportunity we still see for companies seeking to build their businesses through inbound marketing is optimizing their websites and content assets. Why do we think this?
Every new client engagement we begin includes a competitive analysis. I have yet to compare how a client's competitors are optimizing their sites without discovering that my client has the potential to leapfrog the competition -- large and small -- by better optimizing their sites to improve their search engine rankings.
SEO according to best practices is still critical to attracting qualified Web traffic. However, what's changed in the past year is how you must go about doing that. Although search and SEO practices have been evolving continuously, prior to 2013 we still focused primarily on keyword research to determine what search terms were generating search volume, i.e. people actually searching for those terms, and which we had a chance to rank for.
We made sure that our chosen search term for a given page or piece of content appeared in certain places on the page and in the page source code in accordance with Google's stated preferences of the moment. That's about all it took to start ranking for a variety of search terms.
No longer is that true. In 2013, Google made a number of changes to both its search algorithms and its overall strategy. The end goal is its march towards contextual search, where the search engine better understands the user's needs and delivers ever more meaningful results.
I recently read an article from The Financial Post that gives a terrific wrap-up of the most significant of Google's changes. It's reprinted with permission at the end of this blog post. Please read it if you want a good understanding of the topic.
Here's the big take-away: SEO is no longer a stand-alone keyword and coding operation.
Search rankings now depend on:
- A strong focus on content, i.e. creating content that is truly useful to your audience/s. It helps if your content is diverse -- blog posts, whitepapers, ebooks, related images with alt text, video (Google owns YouTube, remember), webinars.
- Having social proof of your credibility as a thought leader and content creator, i.e. followers on social media, 'Likes' and '+1s' on your content
Although what a prospect types into a search field is still at the heart of online connection, today companies must move way beyond a keyword mentality. I believe that 2014 is the year that inbound marketing will come into its own. It's the year when companies are beginning to wake up from their tactical approach -- put up a Facebook page, write a blog targeted to who knows who, call in an SEO expert to 'solve their problems'.
Google -- rightfully so, in my evolving opinion -- is making changes that will force us to become more strategic and successful online marketers.
By the way, for those of us who suffer from a lack of time to focus on our content creation duties, the Financial Post article reprinted here is an example of a new tool for content creators. A client of mine iCopyright.com has launched a new service called repubHub where you can get free, fully licensed content to embed on your website like you would embed a YouTube video. Check it out for yourself at www.repubhub.com
Sharing this article is a way to provide you with great additional information, as part of this brief piece of original content that explains my take on the evolution of SEO. And you don't have to leave my blog to read it. It's a tool that I intend to use for myself and my clients to provide more content.
I would love to hear about your SEO and content strategies for 2014 in the comments. Of course, feel free to ask your questions, too.
Enjoy the article. BTW...It's ad supported. The ads being served are supposed to be relevant to the content, so please let me know if any ads are served that you find distracting or offensive and I'll feed the info back to my client. If you scroll down, you'll see that you also have the option to reprint the article on your own website.