Thursday, May 30, 2013

Take two: What is SEO?

SEO is not dead. It’s evolved. More importantly, most of the industry now accepts it has evolved.

Modern SEO requires agencies and in-house teams to do more than just ensure their sites are technically perfect and have links pointing to them. Modern SEO requires sites to have many different quality signals, earned naturally and high up the quality scale. I talk about a multi-signal approach. I talk about how modern SEO straddles all of paid, owned and earned media but place the emphasis on earned media.

An earned approach to SEO has led to significant changes in tactics, in strategies and even how agencies position themselves. We’ve seen companies become content marketing agencies, blogger relationship experts or even a willing supporting part of Hubspot’s impressive marketing efforts and adopt the phrase “inbound marketing”.

This is all good. Evolution is good. At times SEOs can be surprisingly stubborn when it comes to accepting or embracing change. The next generation of SEOs might be more flexible.

The strategies may have evolved but the objective has, largely, remained the same; do better in the search engines.

Clients are not being behind the times when they want to improve their SEO. When a brand calls for an SEO pitch they’re looking for an agency which is best placed to solve the problems of traffic, conversions and sales from search. Brands don’t call a pitch on tactics or strategies, brands appoint agencies to solve problems and neither content nor outreach are problems; they’re solutions.

Where does that leave S.E.O. then?

Once SEO stood for [search engine optimization]. It’s the phrase Google still uses. It even also managed to stand for [search engine optimisation] too; with the very busy and thoroughly excellent UK SEO scene having content coverage and generating enough searches to override the automatic American spelling suggestion back when that rarely happened.

I tend to think of SEO as standing for something slightly different these days. SEO, to me, stands for ‘search engine objective’.

“Help with our SEO” means “Help with our search engine objectives”. “We need to improve our SEO” means “We need to improve performance against our search engine objective”.

I hope SEO continues to evolve. I want to see the industry embrace change and work on campaigns that transform brands digital marketing into earned media strategies that add value and win engagement from communities (yes, those communities with the ability to generate signals; like links). I predict that it will.

I also predict that we’ll continue to see requests for “SEO” for a good few years yet.

What is SEO? SEO is your search engine objective.

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