I’ve been doing SEO for as long as I can remember. I rarely stop to look at the distance I’ve made since I started; more notably, the change in the SEO space and the change in my own philosophies. But when I do stop and look, I realize that I’m even more excited about SEO today than ever before.
I believe heavily in the significance of social media. Even though the blogosphere blows up with “SEO is dead” posts at least three times a year, I don’t think it is. On the contrary, I think it’s merging with social media. From TrustRank to editorial content to personalization, there’s so much in social media that Google adores. It’s just the way Google is going, and it’s far bigger than integrating Twitter for real-time searches. I believe Google is coming out with ‘Google Me’ for more control in the semantic web – that’s a pretty bold move into the social sphere.
New Content Marketing vs. Old Technical Recommendations
For me, content marketing as an SEO concentration is the largest slice of the pie. I still think about link building, and respect the specific values it brings. I still perform technical audits, but I really don’t get as gritty as some SEOs still do. I see many agency audits as part of my day job, and can’t help wondering if those SEOs believe in the value of what they’re recommending, or just making the recommendations because it’s routine, easy, and profitable. I think SEO matured past the order of keywords in a title tag, or some bloated code.
Google knows it’s their burden to overcome bad code, poorly crawlable navigations, and all the other traditional obstacles. They know that even the worse sites (to a limit) can have the best content for a user. If Google can’t figure out how to serve this content, the users will lose faith in Google’s results. Justified or not, Google made their own bed. Sometimes spending dozens of expensive hours with a design team or web platform just doesn’t make sense to me anymore. If it’s something I can change quickly on a WordPress platform, then I have no problem erring on the side of caution. But if it’s deflating the code of an entire platform for a hopeful benefit, I just don’t feel comfortable doing that. I don’t like making recommendations and dropping them in the lap of non-technical executives. Just feels cruel. I don’t feel I created any real value.
Creating Value Through A Social Media Approach
SEO for me is about optimizing for engines on behalf of the users. SEO is creating value for everyone involved. In my case, my niche is in ecommerce. I optimize for customers. I turn sites into authoritative hubs. I write and publish with a face. I’m not afraid to publically admit to a mistake if I cross the line. I communicate with customers like I would if I were working in a brick and mortar store, and provide a forum for conversation wherever possible. I don’t try to beat my audience – I meet the interested customers in the middle. In other words, I don’t run around with a megaphone like a carnival worker verbally assaulting passerbys. Instead I engage them on their own terms.
This includes a lot of day-to-day marketing, trust building, and value promotion. The “give to get” model really seems to bring power to an online store, just as long as that store is more than a thin vending machine. Direct conversions? Not always. But it’s not that easy anymore. There is still a long term reward, from branding to optimizing your other marketing channels, that helps websites survive this online climate. It’s old school marketing, really. The first version of the web isolated traditional marketing. Now in Web 2010, it’s obviously back with a vengeance. SEO needs to continue accepting that.