You may have noticed a number of organisations and individuals starting to drop the use of SEO in their titles and marketing. One of the highest profile names to do this was SEOMoz which has now simply become Moz.
Even I have started to morph from SEO specialist to SEO and Online Marketing Specialist. What is going on?
Does this mean, as so many doom sayers have shouted, that SEO is now dead in the water? Not really.
At the root of the change is that companies such as mine have found ourselves increasingly called upon to do more than SEO. Ranking highly does not necessarily do you any good...
Top rankings in the Organic Search
This is, and will remain, SEO for as long as search engines use robots and algorithms to determine who should rank at the top. OK, they are now using an increasing number of signals created by user behaviour, but ultimately they are still mathematical and so it is the search engine you have to please in order to get to the top.
But there are several situations where this step may be of limited help, or even completely pointless:
- The keyword you have chosen is high volume but it is one of those phrases users search, think “those results are too wide” and then search again without ever clicking through.
- If you're selling a product an increasing number of buyers are now using shopping channels such as Google Shopping which are PPC only. You may be ranking highly on the organic results but your customers aren't looking there!
- The keyword or phrase you have chosen doesn't bring in “the right visitors”. Yes, you can see the traffic coming in but it doesn't seem to help.
- Users that will become your customers may be using other platforms such as Yelp in order to find you.
It's because of all these factors that my work has increasingly taken a role far beyond SEO. Announcing myself as an SEO specialist is only telling half the story. So what else do people like me do?
Here are a few examples:
- user behaviour analysis
- ranking locations
- conversion optimisation
- reputation management
- copywriting and keyword density (yes, keyword density)
- creating two way links (yes, two way links)
User behaviour analysis
Understanding what your visitors do when they arrive on your website is essential. Where do they go? When do they leave? Why don't they stay? Where might they be getting lost?
One of my clients had 100 visitors a day in their online store but only a dribble of sales. Today they still have around 100 visitors a day but a five figure revenue stream every month. To achieve this we changed three fundamental things:
- Made sure more of the visitors coming in were the right visitors, people actually looking for the products they sold (this is the SEO bit).
- Opened up other channels such as changing the way they used PPC. Now for every $1 they spend, they earn $10 rather than the loss making campaigns they had previously (that's not SEO, it's SEM).
- Made sure the visitors who arrived found it easy, and were persuaded, to buy (that's not SEO or SEM!).
User behaviour analysis can tell you if you are getting the wrong visitors or where the opportunities are to get more out of your current traffic. What to do once the issue has been identified does not always involve search engine optimisation.
The internet is no longer about simply ranking on Google because the resources of an internet user are so much wider today. For example:
- As a book author a full and positive profile on GoodReads.com might sell more copies of your work at a far lower cost than hitting a top stop on Google. This sort of work comes under reputation management, not SEO.
- If you have an online shop channels such as Google Shopping, ebay and shopping.com are where an increasing number of serious buyers are. It all costs so making sure you get a positive return on your expenditure is critical. This is Pay Per Click Management or SEM, not SEO.
- As a restaurant, bar or nightclub positive reviews on Google+, Yelp or Yellow Pages might do you far more good than organic rankings in Google itself because people want to see what others think … and they can. Another case of reputation management, not SEO.
- And so on
Getting a visitor is one thing. Persuading them to do what you want is another be that clicking an advertisement, signing up to a newsletter, becoming a twitter follower or buying a product.
One of my clients had a fairly good ranking for a competitive keyword and he was achieving a good click through rate but it was failing to materialise into business. In fact 80% of the people who were clicking though were clicking straight back out again – an 80% bounce rate.
The content was all there but it wasn't working. We added clear calls to action and broke down the text into smaller, easier to read, chunks. The result? The bounce rate dropped to 35%, business improved and so did the rankings.
But the root of this work was not SEO, it was about making it easier for users to do what they wanted.
Users no longer need to search the internet and take what you say on your website at face value. More often than not they can search for reviews from others who have used your business so you need to achieve two important steps: make sure your happy customers say they are happy address your unhappy customers and try to resolve their issues before they go public
There are numerous ways to do this and one of my jobs is to help clients get it right. It can help your SEO because some reviews show up in the search results but it also helps no end in other locations such as Yelp or Google+.
"Create great content and they will come" is probably a phrase you have heard over and over again but it's not that simple. Your content needs to be:
- Engaging for real people so if you don't have the gift of the gab, that's where we come in (that's not solely SEO, it's much more about marketing).
- Clear to search engine robots so they know how and where to index your pages correctly (this bit is SEO).
Both of these are highly skilled jobs and they include keyword density work. Keyword Density? Isn't that old school? Not at all but it has to be carried out correctly to be effective. It's not just about how many times a word appears, it's about where, the use of similar words, the context, etc.
If anyone tells you keyword density doesn't matter it's because they don't know how to use it.
Creating two way links
Yes, you heard it, two way links. How long have “SEO specialists” been telling you that two way links don't work any more? Dead wrong! They can be incredibly effective when you partner with the right websites in the right way.
A link to your website as a “partner” from a reputable site gives users confidence and brings you highly targeted traffic. A link from your website back saying you are recommended by said reputable site gives your visitors the confidence to convert.
Forget page rank, forget link juice, think more of the right visitors and greater user confidence and you will begin to understand the power of two way links.
One or our roles these days is to help webmasters find those sites and establish those relationships.
Perhaps this really comes under reputation management or ranking locations but for the moment many treat it separately.
With an increasing number of people spending their lives within services such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Pinterest rather than Google or Bing your presence here may (or may not) matter.
In other words you can waste an awful lot of time here or attract and be in regular contact with large pools of valuable visitors and customers. Social Media Management will determine which of the above is your fate.
You are probably beginning to see now why people like me and companies like mine don't like to be known as “SEO” alone. Not that we don't do it, not that we won't be doing it in years to come. It is just that it is simply too restrictive and no longer truly reflects the broad width of work that we do.
So if you ask me if I'm an SEO specialist these days, please excuse me while I grit my teeth!