I attended Distilled LinkLove this year, and toward the end of the day, Will Critchlow announced that it would actually be the last LinkLove – not because links are dead, but because the things we do should be worth more than a link. Increasingly, he added, LinkLove is more like “Content and Social Love’ because that’s what we’re doing.
SEO is now part of the growing online marketing ecosystem of “inbound marketing.” Inbound marketing tactics include:
- Content marketing through blogging, video, news articles, and copywriting
- Search engine marketing through organic channels including local, mobile and vertical search
- Social media marketing on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and in forums
- Community engagement, outreach and customer service
- Building links and non-social external traffic referrals
- Brand marketing to capitalize on direct traffic and branded search, including news and PR
- Email marketing
- Conversion rate optimization
- User experience through design and interface improvements and page speed
- Customer retention and lifecycle management
- A boat load of other activities
However, there are very few companies who have one person per bullet point. After all, you can’t build links without content to point them to. You can’t engage with a community without building it through social media marketing. Things like site speed, information architecture and page design are just as important to designers and UX specialists as they are to SEOs. Even brand marketing is no longer the sole purview of “traditional” marketers, now that search engines are so invested in entities and brand authority as quality signals.
Image credit: “To Do List by steakpinball, on Flickr”
Who Does Inbound Marketing?
Different teams are going to have different solutions for who does what when it comes to inbound marketing. At a smaller company, inbound marketing strategy may fall entirely to one person to create and execute. A larger team may have more specialized positions in content, social, brand, etc. or really any combination of the above tasks among any number of people, depending on the company’s needs an the team’s strengths.
So where does SEO fit in to all of this? Is search engine optimization as we know it being absorbed into other marketers’ jobs?
Rather than being threatened by other disciplines’ encroaching on our territory, or overwhelmed by the volume of tasks that go into a robust inbound marketing strategy, modern SEOs should be embracing the rise of inbound as a holistic approach since it allows us to do better marketing. The days of being handed a blog post and told to add keywords to it are coming to an end, and that’s a good thing!
What happens when a company has a lot of employees with SEO knowledge, but no SEO? I learned what that looked like when I started at SEOmoz. Obviously, lots of folks at SEOmoz understand SEO strategy and why it’s important, but it had been several months since an official SEO had worked at the company.
The result? A lot of elements that were important to SEO had fallen through the cracks or been back-burnered. Content producers knew that keywords were important, but didn’t know which ones to be using and where. New features had been added to the website in ways that were great for users, but created unnecessary headaches for search engines. Even though a lot of people on the marketing team understood the basic tenets of SEO, it was nobody’s job to make sure SEO was taken into account; they all had their own jobs to do. It’s one thing to know that SEO is important – it’s another to know what to pay attention to and look for, especially if your core competency is in another field.
The SEO as Inbound Marketer
Even at a company whose internal education around SEO is top-notch, it’s still
vital to have someone to be a steward of the site’s online presence and search
performance. SEOs need to take a “the buck stops here” attitude toward ensuring
that our designers, content creators, social media managers, PR representatives and
the like are working together on a search-engine-friendly strategy that encompasses
all of their efforts.
Image link: “Buck Stops Here by akasped, on Flickr”
An SEO should be continually helping a larger inbound marketing team do better
marketing in the following ways:
- Analyzing keyword data and trends, and tracking traffic and links per content piece, to help the content manager create compelling, keyword-rich, linkworthy content.
- Working with the dev team to keep the site fast, crawlable, error-free and trackable.
- Building relationships with influencers in the space, and leveraging those relationships for links and shares.
- Syncing with the Director of Marketing and PR contacts to enact a solid, consistent brand strategy, then making sure it’s seeded to the right places for maximum authority and impact.
- Diving into analytics to support conversion rates; sharing analytics data with business development and account management teams to aid retention of search-driven customers.
- Collaborating with the UX and design teams to make sure a site that’s a lovely experience for users is also a useful experience for search engines.
- Consistently evangelizing SEO internally through ongoing education, and being a staunch advocate for SEO best practices in every meeting – the buck stops with you.
By starting to view SEO as a series of collaborations with more specialized colleagues, we can build inbound marketing programs as a team effort.
From Keywords to Sessions
One thing I’ve heard Duane Forrester from Bing speak on several times recently is the search session: the idea that people aren’t using search engines to make one-and-done searches, but rather to make a series of searches over a period of time that could be anywhere from several minutes to several days, before arriving at a decision that might result in a conversion. An example might be a user who starts with “honeymoon destinations” and searches for “beach honeymoon,” “romantic beaches Hawaii” and “Maui vacation packages” before finally searching on “cheap flights to Maui.” That keyword might be the one that gets the conversion, but each search is an opportunity to build brand relationships and influence the final purchase.
Even when consumers aren’t actively searching for things, they’re still building opinions about and relationships with brands via social media – not only through the conversations they’re having, but also through the content they consume. People spend a ton of time on the internet, and most of it isn’t on Google.
A robust, marketing-team-wide inbound marketing strategy is perfectly positioned to market to this new breed of searchers. In order to really start some next-level, better-than-ever organic search marketing, SEOs need to be cognizant of the fact that organic search is just part of a larger experience. To ignore inbound marketing in favor of tunnel-vision focus on SEO means fewer opportunities to engage with customers (not to mention fewer opportunities for links, shares, and other awesome SEO benefits).
We’re all in this together. Let’s get out there and make inbound marketing better.