It's time for some spring cleaning. I'm not talking about our homes, but rather our thought processes.
Let's make a pact as an industry to do away with the old ways of thinking that have absolutely no place in what we do anymore. Our industry has truly grown up; there are more effective and sustainable ways to ensure long-term success for our clients.
SEO has changed and evolved, definitely for the better. It's a very enjoyable time to be working in the industry, as we're now tasked with building brands, growing communities, enchanting audiences, and flexing our creative and analytical muscles. We play integral roles in the growth of businesses. Our thinking should match the new responsibilities that have come our way.
Here are five new mantras to replace old and inefficient ways of thinking that have permeated across our industry.
Old Thinking: How do I get my content to go viral?
New Mantra: How Can I Be of Most Help to My Customers?
It's time to change our thinking from being "all about me" to being all about the customer. Long-term SEO success is – and has always been – all about providing value.
Going viral isn't a very realistic goal if that's the only way to think about the type of content to produce. Only about 0.01 percent of content put out is considered "viral." It isn't a tactic that can be relied upon or scientifically generated.
While there is certainly considerable value in receiving a lot of shares and building brand awareness, like American Greetings did with their video for "World's Toughest Job," it takes some creative thinking and a little bit of luck.
If it's a large number of shares you're after, then you need to employ a different mindset. Think instead how you can provide the most helpful and valuable content. After all, if you give people something they really need or enjoy, you can bet they will want to share it.
You can increase your odds of share-worthiness by taking the time to research the consumer's purchase path. Understand the thought process throughout and seek ways you can add a lot of value, either by being helpful or being entertaining, at a key step in the process. Segment your efforts down to relevant personas and the content will experience a much better success rate as you will be speaking with a more engaged pool of relevant audiences.
Old Thinking: What's the latest "it" tool/directory/tactic?
New Mantra: There Are No Silver Bullets
Much like socialites changing the "it" bag of the season, the industry has in the past been frenetic in its pursuit of the hottest new tool or tactic that does everything in a couple of easy steps.
Unfortunately, tempting as it may sound, there are just no SEO shortcuts that work long-term. There's no replacement for good old strategic thinking and hard work.
Certainly tools have their place and there are great ones out there, but we need to treat them just as supplemental add-ons for efficiency and not the sole basis of our efforts.
Additionally, every time a new SEO tactic is recommended, even the most well-meaning among us can overuse them to the point of devaluing them for the entire industry. Case in point: infographics and guest blogging, which often became the only tactics used and resulted in a market flooded with infographics and many relying heavily on guest blogging and then despairing when these tactics lost effectiveness.
Devise a strategy that adds value and then ensure you have a diverse array of tactics in your strategic plan, so no one tactic can ever becomes overly relied upon.
As long as you provide information that people will relate to and enjoy, then you can even put out an infographic or a guest post and still have them be successful, no matter what Google may claim.
Old Thinking: The more content I put out, the better.
New Mantra: It's All About Quality
Let's stop cluttering the Internet with average-quality content. The amount of content being published every day has reached record levels, but unfortunately quality hasn't increased at the same rate.
The Web doesn't need the one millionth article on painting a house or traveling to Spain. We need to ensure we put in the effort to publish content that really stands out and that merits its own place on the Web. Otherwise it's just a waste of resources.
Re-evaluate your content calendars. If you're dividing articles into part one and part two just so you have something to post on your blog to hit the one-post-a-day metric, then you're not being helpful or providing value. Look instead to reduce the frequency of blogging but instead focus on getting out something high-quality every time.
Even just one stellar blog post a month could make a huge impact to your bottom line - so if that is all you can manage then it's just fine. It's better that every piece of content you post is valuable and well-received by your audience than posting often and having your content be ignored.
A good example of someone who blogs infrequently (relatively speaking) is Avinash Kaushik on his Occam's Razor blog. Every post is a fantastically in-depth learning opportunity and the RSS feed of a new blog post is always a happy occasion.
Try it. Your results will improve drastically and you'll have resources freed up to work on other business initiatives.
Old Thinking: But my competitors who outrank me are still doing [insert black hat tactic].
New Mantra: Focus Only on Long-Term Sustainable Efforts
It's supremely annoying when competitors have higher positions in search but appear to employ not-so-kosher SEO tactics. It can be tempting to think "oh if we can't beat 'em, let's join 'em," but don't give in to the temptation. Google is getting really good at cracking down on dodgy tactics so really it's just a matter of time before they could get penalized.
There is no point at all in jeopardizing the long term for any quick short-term gains. Instead, look at the situation as something fortunate for you, as these "cheaters" are essentially digging their own grave and you'll have an easier time of out-ranking them in coming months once they get themselves slapped.
To be even smarter about it, don't worry overly much about rankings alone. Look at other ways to grow, such as influential sites that can send relevant traffic to your site, leveraging social media to scale link-building, and even online PR efforts.
Not only can these different strategies compensate for any traffic lost by ranking lower, but by resonating well with these other audiences you can also help your search rankings improve. Win-win.
Old Thinking: I hate Google!
New Mantra: If We Want to Play in Google's Sandbox, Let's Make Their Rules Work in Our Favor
While it can be easy to settle into a Google-bashing mindset (e.g., they favor large brands or whatever complaint du jour you may have), ultimately that type of thinking isn't entirely true. It's also won't help you reach your goals.
Google is a darn good search engine. Google processes provide tremendously relevant content for every search and they are striving to provide better experiences, so people continue to use them. That's why they have the majority market share and why we can't afford to ignore them.
If we want to play in Google's sandbox, then we'd be best served by making their rules work in our favor.
All Google wants to do is list the sites that are most relevant to the query and that people have a good experience on (i.e., within one or two clicks the searcher can have the specific question answered).
By constantly focusing on improving the customer experience, Google has been able to dominate the market. We can just take a page out of their book.
If you consistently put out high-quality work that people like, then Google will essentially want to rank it higher since they know it resonates well with searchers. Be helpful, focus on user experience, treat customers well, and you'll enjoy better conversion rates and improved rankings.
Have any additions to this list? Please do share them in the comments below.
At SES London (9-11 Feb) you'll get an overview of the latest tools, tips, and tactics in Paid, Owned, Earned, Integrated Media and Business Intelligence to streamline your marketing campaigns in 2015. Register by 31 October to take advantage of Early Bird Rates.