Tuesday, 12 November 2013

SEO is bigger than SEO

Process of SEO

When prominent search engine resource SEOmoz retired their name, it struck me as a sign of the times. Moz, as they are now known, had built their reputation around the importance of SEO techniques and analysis. So why did they amend their title?

Though a number of reasons have been cited, the association of 'search engine optimisation' with a narrow set of ageing practices is clearly something they wanted to avoid.

The times they are a-changin' (sang Dylan, on the subject of online marketing. He was so progressive...) and it's becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a high web-ranking, or at least high end-user engagement, based on traditional link building alone.

The SEO practices of old are still viable, to some extent. (Although search engines have curbed blatant exploitation of their algorithms, they are yet to safeguard against lack of integrity.) I suspect there are countless examples of articles created solely to boost search rankings that offer more interesting content than those without such an intention. But how long can we continue in this vein?

As of the last few years, ranking factors have come to be less concerned with keyword, domain and link data and more with "offline data potential". "User and usage data". "Brand and social graph signals".

Search engines are forever becoming more sophisticated. All the keywords, tags and headings that were once oh-so-important can lose value against our will. This is the transformative landscape marketing agencies stand upon. To survive this evolution, marketing and PR companies are having to rely less on keyword research, and more on audience research.

Ask yourself "who is our market?" And "where are they consuming content?" Target your material at them and their influencers with more than just links and text alone. Produce webinars, podcasts and videos. Offer free tools and resources. Create appealing content which will attract an authentic audience, and then connect with that audience. Generate the kind of material that consumers want to link and share organically.

The (admittedly brief) content marketing ideas outlined above are easier to suggest than to implement, and will not befit all businesses or marketing strategies. Tried and tested SEO remains a foundation that should not be overlooked. But as time moves on, it is growing more important that this remains a foundation, and not an end goal.

Moz weren't casting aside SEO when they removed it from their name as much as they were accepting it as part of a larger set of practices. "SEO is bigger than SEO", they said. It's just one aspect of effective online marketing that now encompasses a whole range of services. Services which can escape the clutches of restricting engine algorithms.

Change is coming, and the result of this inevitable development of the search engine will be greater writing, higher customer satisfaction, and more traffic to creative businesses. Change is coming, but why wait for it?