Sometimes I’m forced to do a brain dump about the most important, cannot-skip, essential information about SEO in an incredibly short amount of time. I need to use that limited time to simultaneously myth-bust and set the stage for future-proof programs.. It happens fairly often… an rarely sighted executive will “pop in” to a meeting, someone will call, or I’ll encounter another pre-caffeinated entrepreneur at Starbucks wait-counter. Execution of these tasks is another matter of course, but in order to set the stage, it’s important to provide a fly-over tour – 5 minutes of what you must know in 2013.
0:00 – 1:00: Shortcuts to SEO are dead, you must deserve to rank, and search engines decide on this ranking based on many signals besides just what you’ve done to your website. Google and Bing look outside your site to see who has taken interest in the content you produce. They look at who mentioned you, who linked, and who discussed your work on social networks. They “decide” (algorithmically) which sites should appear, in what context and for which searchers through a combination of over 200 signals, attempting to emulate a smart librarian. In addition to having endorsements of your content, the website on which it resides must welcome the search engines and provide them with a clean, low-friction environment in which to do their harvesting of information. Unique, valuable content is the only content that works for SEO, and every organization needs to dedicate time to making it.
1:00 – 2:00: The sophistication of local SEO is out of this world and growing. Huge financial commitments (e.g. Google’s aquisition of Zagat) have been made by both major search engines to complete to provide local searchers with spookily appropriate results to where they are standing on Earth. While their methods of presenting results are evolving, as a business you want to be aware of which factors provide the biggest bang for your investment of time. It’s pretty clear however that you must produce localized content and embrace regional citations. Links from across the country usually provide less help than one from a local university, which provides a trusted vote for your appropriateness to local results.
2:00-3:00: Social signals are rapidly increasing as ranking signals and there are no short-cuts to success. Social network endorsements of all types are your customers and peers voting by dedicating a bit of their time to endorse what you’ve done. This can be done with shares, likes, retweets, ratings and other actions. These signals tend to be pure, honest reflections of how people feel, and thus search engines are spending a lot of effort to tap into them for search rank decisions. The content that people tend to share in this manner is not salesy material, rather, your “gifts of content” which make their lives better in some manner. Many companies are simply not in the mindset of providing this kind of free information with minimal pitch so it can take some time to adopt.
3:00-4:00: Mobile activity growth is outpacing just about every visitor behavior out there. Mobile devices are expanding in capabilities, ease of use, and their ubiquitous presence among a wide variety of demographic segments. As a result, businesses must consider how these users-in-motion are searching for and what expectations they have for results. Ranking in mobile search results is driven by mobile-readiness of the website, as well as appropriate presentation of useful on-the-go content. Search engine are working hard on their ranking algorithms for mobile so the results reflect a satisfied user with a more task-centric mindset.
4:00-5:00: The edges of websites are blurry – you must spread your effort beyond their barriers. When planning a new website, or a revision to your own, you have to carefully consider the overall information architecture and social-network context in which it will operate. Facebook pages, Google+ Business pages, LinkedIn Pages, Yelp profiles, and other “homes” for your brand exist throughout the web and need to work together. A gift of content provided via social sharing must have a place to live, and must be easy to share. Your site must join hands with each of these social networks and seamlessly inter operate because, simply that’s where your customers are. Facebook’s “Graph Search” is but a peek into the future of social network search engines which will be morphed into the mainstream with Google and Bing.
Enjoy the coffee…
I was thrilled to see this Whiteboard Friday presentation which really echoes the above, from the perspective of how many businesses perceive SEO.