Hey SEO Community, Adapt or Die! Google Branding Update

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It’s time to reconsider a lot of what we do.  In the wake of Vince, the recent Google update that rewards big brands with better rankings for competitive keywords, we all need to think about the future of SEO.

Sure, it wasn’t as big as Florida, but it showed that Google is hellbent on making our jobs redundant.  Between the near constant algorithm changes (Not just Google… Yahoo recently became much more sensitive to internal linking) and the expansive growth of what Eric Schmidt called a “cesspool” of spam, rankings for money keywords are becoming more and more difficult, if not near impossible, to achieve.  Generally, gaining and maintaining a #1 ranking for one of these uber-competitive keywords is no longer cost-effective.

The future of SEO is not in developing rankings for keywords based on traffic, but creating traffic for keywords.  SEO as a means, not an end.

Two Cases of Integration

Here are two examples from 2008 that I think illustrate the most obvious and the most ingenious uses of search engines as part of an integrated ad campaign.

The National Guard’s campaign featuring a Kid Rock music video and a call to action to search for “National Guard Warrior” on Yahoo to download the track is the most obvious extension of search to a traditional ad campaign.  The ads played predominantly in movie theatres and giving people an easy-to-remember search term seems a much better strategy than providing a url.

This method is easily replicated for nearly any product.  All it takes is a brand name and long tail modifier.  I’m surprised more people aren’t using it.  However, it’s a relatively simple strategy and doesn’t utilize search to its fullest potential.

To promote their new scent Swagger, Old Spice created a microsite where users could input their interests, upload a picture and give their email address and the system would generate fake blog articles about how manly they are. These articles would populate search results for users’ names within a week or so.  The system would also dynamically create paid search ads for users while their blog content was being indexed.

This truly integrated campaign was cross-promoted using television ads and standard online media buys.  Search technology played an integral part, but wasn’t the end goal.

What Happens When You Don’t Integrate

Burger King (c/o Crispin Porter + Bogusky) learned the hard way that search trend analysis, keyword research and on-page optimization should be a part of any new product/campaign launch online.  After launching the Whopper Virgins campaign online they realized that roughly half of searchers were omitting the plural… the microsite was on page 3 for “Whopper Virgin”.

When working on a new product/campaign launch, it’s important to look at keyword trends and traffic within the market.  If you can anticipate keyword demand, you’ll be able to establish rankings before the market catches on.  You should also collaborate with copywriters to create copy that will inform people about how they should search for your product.  This tactic is particularly effective if you are working with a competitive keyword set.

The Future

I’m not saying SEO as we know it is going to disappear anytime soon, but we need to start thinking ahead.  I like to think that SEO’s future lies in redefining the traditional advertising team of art director and copywriter to include a digital strategist.

The digital strategist’s role is exploring fully the potential of search, both paid and organic, and social media marketing integration. In most agencies, SEO is an afterthought or a panicked solution to a problem, but some are starting to get on the right page.

If we all step up and present novel strategies that utilize our skills in a more global sense, clients and agencies will start to realize our value, which means more work and more creative work at that.

The guest article is by Josh Millrod who is a New York City based SEO consultant and blogger.  He blogs whenever he can about SEO strategy and theory on Positive Vibes SEO. You can keep up with Josh on his personal site, Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.  Also, if you’re looking for fresh SEO/SEM/SMO talent, you can check out his SEO resume… he would love to talk to you.

Josh Millrod
Josh Millrod is a digital strategist at Wieden+Kennedy, a full-service, creatively driven advertising agency based in Portland, Oregon with offices in Amsterdam, London, New York,... Read Full Bio
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