Meandering Thoughts of Amanda King

SEO Strategy in a (Relatively) New Landscape

It takes a lot of coordination to run an SEO strategy successfully. (Say that five times fast).

I’m not going to comment on the recent slam of My Blog Guest or anything else that Google has done (or not done) in the past few weeks.

What I am going to say is that we need to treat our SEO strategies like we treat our wardrobe. Unless you have a whole hell of a lot of money to throw around – don’t follow trends. Stick with a few classic pieces and throw in a pop of color in an accessory when you need a pick-me-up.

I didn’t actually think about that metaphor much, but re-reading it in the two seconds that have elapsed since I’ve typed it, I’m realizing it’s pretty perfect. A good SEO strategy is built on the classics – long term, low risk elements that are supporting, and supported by, other marketing elements be they traditional marketing or some other form of native advertising – and then have a few more surprising tactics that have a lower probability of being successful, but if they do, could be absolutely amazing. Unfortunately not everyone can be the Dollar Shave Club, but we can aspire to be, in smaller ways.

Even the colorful choices we make are not straight guesses, but should be educated guesses. That is, tactics and choices that have been researched and vetted in some way or another for their viability. For traditional marketers that means market research and focus groups. For larger online initiatives, those research elements still have their place, but for the not-million-dollar-budget clients, this can be as simple as:

  • sending 10 emails to influencers in the potential audience for said tactic (tool, infographic, gif, contest, giveaway, etc), giving them a sneak peek of your thought process and asking them if it’s something they’d be interested in
  • advanced search operators are your new BFF (if they aren’t already)
  • Google Trends
  • Google Think Insights
  • BuzzSumo

….and that’s all the research tactics I’m giving you. But, TL;DR – remember to think long-term and conservatively in your strategies, make sure tactics align with the client and don’t make stupid guesses.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”

– Simon Sinek –

All Old Ideas are New Agian

I have been a writer for a long time, and a reader longer. One of the things that I took away from my years of study is that when it comes to story arcs, nothing is new. That plot twist you had in mind? Somebody else has done it already, and probably better. It’s not about creating a new idea, it’s about how well you hide your sources (and recognize them if the opportunity presents itself organically) and how well you actually tell the story.

The Internet has a content problem but people are – at least to my eyes – slow to recognize the fallacy in pretending that our ideas are new. They aren’t. Wil openly admits that RCS is not a new concept. And SEO’s and websites in general are starting to see that problem – with more than 13 billion pages indexed you’d have think we ran into it sooner.

We did see and recognize the crap content to an extent when Google took an axe to content farms, but we’re also seeing it now with large publications. How does your content add value when there are 500 other posts about the “Top x things to do in y place”? Not very well, even if you are the New York Times.

Where is the value in your content, what are you offering to people that differentiates you from the billion other sites out there in your niche? Do you have unique research? First hand experience? I’m not sure which direction web content is going – we’re definitely heading towards more long form content, but I can see us swinging the pendulum either to more research based or more personalized, and I can see it going both ways dependent on the industry. It’s hard to be personal about accounting, but it’s easy to be personal about travel.

Where do you see the value in content being created now and in the future?

Link Building With Relationships

Couple holding hands in snow

So everyone already knows how I feel about the (lack of) maturity in the language of the SEO industry, and how important I think relationship building is, but this is a little bit of both and a little bit of something else.

There is often client education that needs to happen when it comes to SEO and the transition to more of a consulting role (as well as a more integrated strategy). Unfortunately, a lot of people and a lot of companies started off, unknowingly, on the wrong foot in the industry. Now SEO is moving towards a more mature and broader understanding what the term “internet marketing” encompasses. Sometimes it’s hard for everyone, even Internet marketers, to catch up.

Now we’re asking with more regularity for vision statements and long term goals, shot term internal projects, advertising campaigns and editorial calendars, so that we are more informed and better representative of the brand. We’re working with industry leaders and making connections – in many ways SEO and PR are intersecting.

But SEO and the SEO industry still has a massive stigma to it, and for those who connect on their clients behalf as themselves working for such-and-such agency run the risk of being outed and dealing with a flame war and a massive reputation problem for both themselves, their agency and the client in the SERPs. But those who connect with prospective relationships as a persona run the opposite risk of not being taken seriously enough or being brushed off as a spammer. Rock and a hard place, indeed.

We are not at the point where the PR industry is, and a professional is weighed and measured by the number of business cards in his Rolodex – and honestly I don’t know if we want to get to that point.

But online and offline worlds are converging more and more, as are the marketing campaigns. Look at Coke, or Audi, integrating campaigns and message across all platforms and being able to be agile with it. It’s the future of marketing, and we need to get used to  seeing the big picture and working SEO into campaigns that we may not directly be managing, but train the brand to be able to properly function with SEO in all facets.

image courtesy of flickr user allyaubry

SEO and Writing

I just finished reading John Doherty’s post about writing, practice, SEO and blogs. Like John, I’ve always written. The writing that I’ve done was pretty long form through college. I started three different novels, even though the longest I wrote was about 300 handwritten pages (you could tell when I was searching for inspiration by how many Juicy Fruit gum wrappers were stuck to the front of the notebook). In college I started writing short stories, but blog posts weren’t something that I ventured into, really, until the SEO industry.

I know my flaws and where my weaknesses are (like my fondness for em dashes and commas), but like John I insist on writing daily. If I don’t write a blog post here I  write longhand. I have probably 10 Molskine journals, filled with various observations on life; I have over 1,000 pages written. It really does help me think.

Writing without purpose may seem fruitless on occasion  but sometimes just writing out or framing your ideas helps you understand them better and makes you realize the line of thought you want to follow.

How do you incorporate writing into your brainstorming and thought-processes?

get out of your head

There is an interesting balance in link building between form and function, in the sense that you have to know what you’re doing enough to let go and just get it done. As a type-A personality, I find it hard to relinquish control. Which makes link building a longer process than it should be for me, because I need to take the time to get out of my own head; I need to remind myself to loosen up. Here’s to success and letting go.

Moving into 2013

I’ve realized that I have sorely neglected my online presence in all forms. I won’t make a New Year’s resolution because people tend to break resolutions. So, instead I’m going to say that this is what I hope to do before the end of the first quarter of 2013:

  • -A new website design
  • -Using the blog here for more than just SEO and Internet marketing talk, so maybe then I’ll actually post (New categories: reading, (maybe) travel, creativity)

A sneak peek at the website design… (of course, this is probably going to change, too)new website design preview

Happy Mothers Day Slash I’m a Bad Blogger

Well, it’s almost the end of May and I have yet to take the time and clean up my “notes” from the Linklove conference back in the beginning of April, nor have I written anything new since then. Soooo…I know I’m probably not going to get it done today, either. But just thought I’d stop in and say yes, hello, I’m alive.

Tom Critchlow: Good to Great | Linklove Boston

Good SEO is grit. and is hard. It’s about real results in the long term. Slow, steady.

Tom’s case study. 2009 – buying a lot of links. Because their competitors were. This is a case study. You can’t just turn off paid links, it’s about risk management. Reduced budget to 2010.
They purchased data sets – they don’t have anything that makes them unique. The data sets that they bought – they started building out good content. They built their own CMS to manage their content production.

Nothing earthshattering happened in 2010 – they had growth, but more importantly they realized they could live without paid links. In 2011, they launched a full redesign.They start to gain credibility – and they started to reduce ads on site. And they had a small drop in conversion, which was justifed by an increase in links.

They hired a great blogger. (brilliant!) Apparently the blogger isn’t really that brilliant. Oops.
Began building permission marketing assets (ie facebook and twitter) but it didn’t do anything for them. Nothing happened except for the slow steady and boring growth of followers. 2011 showed stable growth.

In 2012 they reached the “tipping point” of social media and the engagement started to pay off – but in and of itself it’s not the only thing. It’s a combination of everything that happened.

They also did CRO. They started doing PPC. They got a return on running ads. Which turbo-charges their flywheel. They did paid SU campaign that drove over 60,000 free visits. The post that went crazy was an “infograpnic” – 500 words of text with a good headline and an excel graph. It didn’t look fancy, but it was interesting. People were engaging with it. Blogging actually started paying off. They were being referenced in the industry as the go-to, as the authority. They were ever so slightly ahead of the curve, but they didn’t try to do something that they weren’t equipped to do because they thought that they had to do it and it would get them links.

What can we learn?

Build permission assets: Facebook, Twitter, DistilledU, build people that you can spread content to “without people noticing” – earned media here.
Nail the basics: Have good imagery. The web is visual. What is the Boston Big Picture? Look it up. Post high-res images!

Google rolled out Google Customer surveys. Gets instant feedback – get data if you don’t have it.

Be exceptional and be prepared to fail. Use influencers! You’re not going to get there if you don’t try. Go for the big guys and get better results.

Focus on niche-relevant hyper-engaged audience for your influencer.
Remember – long term work needs a vision pitch.

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