Although for many years I have been telling people that I own and run an 'SEO and Online Marketing Agency', I really dislike the term SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Apart from the somewhat 'spammy' connotation of the word thanks largely to short-sighted SEO practitioners engaging in unacceptable practices well documented in the past, the very idea that we are doing things for the 'search engines' implied in the term, sits somewhat uncomfortably with me when the services that are really needed relate primarily to reaching a real person - a potential customer.
Admittedly, the 'search engine' as a sort of broker for the customers queries, still warrants some specific needs fulfilment, but the conversation between the SEO Agency provider and business owner is not helped by putting the search engine front and centre in the initial conversation.
If I had the power, I would ban the use of the SEO term altogether, but the reality of the situation is that we are going to have to live with it for a good while yet. So as soon as we can all recognise that it has become a bit of a misnomer and start changing the perception of what SEO really is today, as professionally delivered, the better.
The reality is that most SEO providers, if they are any good, have evolved their services into something much broader than the original definition or concept of SEO. Over the last two years, at the very least, they would be providing 'content marketing' services, a term that has become somewhat trendy in the online media lately.
"Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience - with the objective of driving profitable customer action." Source: Content Marketing Institute
What Do We Really Want From Search?
Think about it carefully. When you 'optimise' your website, do you really just want search engine 'rankings'? For the more discerning site owners I believe they should be wanting much more. They should be wanting, click throughs, quality engagement, and conversions. This relates to quality, optimised, content. After all, 'content is king'!
But even beyond that, is this organic search and conversion really enough? Surely we get so called traffic and engagement from more than just the search engines? We get visits and engagement from other sites and social media and such traffic may originally involve search engines and other forms of media including paid advertising. And surely no individual marketing channel happens in a vacuum these days, does it? So why would we want an 'SEO' provider to operate in a vacuum and only do things to your website, or do things that influence only search engine rankings?
Surely what you really want to do is create abundant, informative, and engaging content, both on and off your corporate website and have that content easily discoverable across multiple channels with a broad set a relevant search phrases, ultimately all with brand influencing and sales conversion pulling power. In short, we need a more holistic approach to search and online marketing.
Marketers Moving Budgets to Digital
Over the next five years, Australia's total entertainment and media market is expected to reach $39 billion.
A recent article from the Weekend West based on PwC's annual Entertainment and Media Outlook report has shown the advertising industry is going through major changes. Moving away from traditional advertising, the majority of Australian marketing departments have now shifted their expenditure towards 'owned' channels.
The report specifically notes that "digital and social media channels have driven this trend" with two-thirds of marketers that have moved up to 30% of their budgets away from print, radio and TV into social media, responsive websites and content marketing. To support this growing investment, companies are increasingly creating their own content in order to get their brand in the forefront of consumer's minds.
Search engine marketing has become the fastest growing item in Australian ad spend. By 2018, internet advertising is expected to be the largest advertising sector, reaching $5.7 billion.
You would thing by now, given this trend, we could get the terminology right, or at least the perceptions of those terms consistent. Perhaps we should start a new acronym that better emphasises what is really going on? Perhaps it should be something more like Search and Content Marketing (SCM)? Or maybe name the particular service Searchable Content Optimising (SCO) if we want it a little closer to the current SEO service offered?
How Should SCO or SCM Be Defined?
I believe SCM as a service should be defined by the services offered in two broad areas, namely:
1. On-site Technical SEO and Content Optimisation & Promotion
2. Off-site Content Optimisation & Promotion
On-site Optimisation refers to site structural and content audits that reveal better ways to make content navigable, index-able and meaningful for both search engines and users alike. This includes things like load speed, useful engaging content, call to actions and responsive design for multi-platform users.
Off-site optimisation refers to external (i.e. to your corporate website) content development, optimisation and placement to build brand and reputation. This should facilitate traffic and connections to related content on the corporate website. This may include social media, blogs, news and other industry related sites.
Creating great content is half the battle. Businesses and agencies need to work together to develop strategies to promote their content, be it on-site or off-site. A 'build it and they will come' approach is not often a successful one.
Four Things You Can Do To Optimise Your Searchable Content (SCO)
1. Improve you content synergy and symmetry: linking great editorial or blog articles to great relevant resources on your corporate website;
2. Improve site load speeds (3 to 6 seconds): such that when those external visitors get to your great content resources they can read them before they click the back button;
3. Make your site(s) are responsive to mobile platforms: for similar reasons as stated above and in response to changing ways users experience the Internet;
4. Consider repurposing existing content: such as video into transcripts, stills, blogs, SlideShares, and so on.