SEO involves getting lots of moving pieces coming together in the right way to form a perfect storm of sorts, which equates to better search results for a Web site. Beyond SEO best practices, I polled our SEO team to come up with the top five "non-SEO" tasks that can help support the SEO process and get Web sites consistently ranked for relevant desired terms within the results.
1. Enhance Web Site Usability
Dr. Jakob Nielsen is considered to be a foremost authority of Web site usability factors, and he also has a knack for SEO. In his book "Designing Web Usability" (which many consider to be the "Bible" of usability), he writes that "site design must be aimed with simplicity above all else, with as few distractions as possible and with very clear information architecture and matching navigation tools." From an SEO perspective, this is preaching to the choir. If sites aren't human-friendly, they are usually even more unfriendly to search engine spiders.
Typically, enhancing usability also involves improving the information architecture of a site, which of course will help the site to be more easily spidered, and will often increase the potential for solid anchor text-rich internal linking. As SEW Expert Carrie Hill said last year: SEO and Usability: Use 'em or Lose 'em.
2. Work with Other Marketing Teams
Many SEO projects fall victim to "marketing-in-a-vacuum." SEO teams should work together with other marketing teams to ensure the same message being delivered offline is incorporating its way into the site's visible text. Also, not combining efforts with the paid search team is a top way to miss out on search ranking opportunities.
It often takes extra "pushing" to become involved in other marketing efforts, or at least well informed of future planning. Fortunately, many of our clients have bought into the idea that we're their partners in a mutual effort to gain visibility and traffic. Typically, the stronger the in-house SEO team is, the more clout they already have in their organizations, which certainly helps this effort. Every year, Super Bowl advertising gives us insight into how many top companies are combining these two forms of marketing.
3. Incorporate Traditional PR Efforts into the SEO Plan
Press releases should be optimized to help the company Web site(s) perform better within search results. Again, this calls for involvement by the SEO team, especially in the distribution of the article and in the placement of properly structured hypertext links within the article to relevant pages on the Web site.
We recently enhanced our SEO team by hiring an expert with more than 18 years of traditional public relations experience. Other leading SEO firms are doing the same thing, as the importance of this tactic is increasingly apparent. At SES New York, Sally Falkow and Lee Odden both spoke to this during the Beyond Linkbait panel, when they described case studies of how PR and SEO work together.
4. Monitoring and Leveraging Communities
Every industry has an online community of some size. Some industries -- such as travel in particular -- have literally thousands of forums and blogs talking about deals and experiences. Savvy marketers can leverage these platforms by becoming an active participant -- without being "spammy" or invasive -- and gain traction within rankings as a direct result of this community participation strategy. Additionally, there's lots of user-generated content about products and services in these communities, providing both invaluable feedback for refinement of current offerings and services, as well as an excellent base for R&D efforts.
5. Keep Content Fresh by Updating it Regularly
For some organizations, content is hard to update on a regular basis. For example, a company that sells one type of widget that never becomes obsolete may seemingly have no reason to update its content. However, the majority of sites on the Internet could benefit from occasionally "sprucing up the place." Bottom line: if the content seems like it's "getting stale" from your human perspective, imagine what a search engine that crawls it every month may feel.
Even if you've never done SEO, chances are that improving and updating your content can help you to gain rankings for terms that will drive traffic. Although this can be argued -- especially for competitive industries -- the core of the belief is certainly sound. There are sites out there that have simply followed best practices by including important content in tags, and maintained rankings and traffic simply due to keeping the content fresh.
Keeping these five factors in mind when thinking beyond traditional SEO best practices will likely yield long-term success in terms of driving organic traffic.
Frank Watson Fires Back
I guess social media isn't your thing, Chris -- I would have Twittered you a reply, but I haven't seen you on there, and your Facebook action is pretty idle...
Using social media would have been in my top five. Apart from that, there's a need for site developers to keep the non-SEO aspects of the job.
Picking a good domain name is crucial. Get one that can be branded, and you're a step ahead. Making sure you're associated with the domain if you run a service is also a good include.
After the last SES in NY, I'm a big fan of the T-Shirt promotion. BOTW is the king of this, but even Brian Prince's kid thought the kangaroo shirts were cool.
Developing a full set of Web marketing tools is important, and your article hopefully gave some useful tips. I know it focused my thoughts in one of them.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!