The Changing Landscape of SEO
With an ever changing landscape, SEO in 2012 has seen a significant shift in dynamics. We have seen the rise of content marketing and inbound marketing agencies, the decreasing influence of affiliates on the organic search landscape.
As such there are a number of things that we can no longer take for granted.
Quick results don’t come without risks
Lets be brutally honest, there used to be a time when we as SEO’s could be fairly adventurous in how we optimised. Google were not particularly good at picking up many of the SEO tactics such as paid linkage patterns, scaled link networks and other techniques against Google guidelines.
Those days on the whole are coming to an end. Google have unleashed a number of updates over recent years which have had a profound impact on the search landscape. No longer are there high volumes of low quality sites dominating the search landscape (although there is still work to do), and iterative updates such as Penguin and Panda are keeping many SEO’s on their toes – and if rumours are to be believed the forthcoming updates are likely to ruffle more feathers still.
Agencies are under pressure to deliver results for clients on increasingly aggressive timescales and clients are under pressure to make channels invested in pay for themselves. As such the timescales associated with bedding in many commercial ventures can often come with unrealistic expectations in terms of when these may return on investment.
Going for quick results though should come with a warning. Yes it is possible to get results particularly in the short term however if you are looking for more sustained reliance on organic search channel utilising safer optimisation techniques is – particularly in the long term – a better way to go. Thats not to say you can’t scale what you do – but as SEO’s we are going to increasingly need to think like marketeers, act like PR’s and negotiate like media buyers to deliver those sustained results.
You get out what you put in
I have seen – and even worked on campaigns where clients have decided to venture into the world of SEO. They have undergone huge procurement processes to find potential partners, hired them – and with some organisations (and I should add with the vast majority this is not the case) thats it job done. Its amazing how many SEO campaigns don’t reach their full potential due to the priority of SEO in the process. This is not just an instance that could be applied to new campaigns. Site migrations are another area where a lack of focus on organic search in particular can have a significant effect on rankings – and as a net result both traffic and conversions.
The best SEO campaigns come when client and specialist work hand in hand. Bottlenecks are not seen as obstacles that can’t be overcome – but something that a solution has to be found for – together. I am a great believer that in SEO in particular – the more that you can put in – the more you can get out in terms of impact. Time and effort does often have a corraletive effect on performance.
In particular, common bottlenecks can occur particularly round the link acquisition side of things. Signoff of content and/or placement of links can often lead to delays in procurement of new placements. My advice particularly in these circumstances is to have an open dialogue from day 1 – and get your processes in place as early as possible. A client who understands the why, wheres and whatfors is more likely to be more flexible in terms of approach than one blissfully unaware of your activity or intent.
Learn to measure
With Google having already made significant changes to the way queries are referred to analytics solutions, many organisations are already reviewing how they measure the success of organic search campaigns. This is however not a new issue – the issue of metrics has been around since year dot with many other channels particularly offline having to find ways to measure cause and effect of their work via other less tangible means. However at the core of things measurement and understanding impact remains a fundamental part of every SEO campaign.
As SEO’s we should be benchmarking every part of our activity such as keyword coverage, share of voice, share of traffic, sales, conversions – and the wider channel attribution framework. Analytics tools are increasingly allowing us to blend together activity (such as social and SEO through GA) – and allowing us to measure channels side by side. SEO shouldn’t work in isolation as a channel – and nor should it be measured as such.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
This is more the case now than it ever was. Recent updates have seen swaithes of traffic disappear at the touch of a Google update button due ironically do over optimisation/targeting/reliance on single terms for link building purposes. Now more than ever, I would suggest the requirement for a multi channel online marketing framework is bigger than ever. With rising CPC prices, uncertainty in organic search spreading risk across the channels can provide a greater degree of coverage – and greater cost effectiveness – however it doesn’t come without a lot of hard work – and you guessed it processes.
The concept of spreading risk again is something that could be applied to SEO in isolation. What Penguin in particular taught us is that a one size fits all approach isn’t the best idea. The concept of targeting a single term, relying on a single way of acquiring links or optimising only for text based content doesn’t make sense (and nor should it) in the new landscape – and we as SEO’s need to learn to embrace that as soon as possible.
The ideal of what is going to happen should be core to each campaign. Yes Google+ isn’t massive now – but who reading this doesn’t think Google are going to turn to that data they would acquired in a couple of years – and using that information to yet further refine their search results – or better educate their retargeting. Google is building a giant jigsaw – and slotting all the pieces slowly but surely together – and social will fit into that jigsaw more prominently at some point in the future.