Much has changed in the SEO landscape and the practice of search optimization over the past year – from the ongoing Panda and Freshness updates to the introduction of Google+ and Search Plus Your World. Then Google started encrypting a vast majority of keywords referred from organic search, and now Google has indicated that websites guilty of “over optimization” are on their radar.
If you’re a marketer you must be thinking, “How do I know if we are maximizing our SEO investment given all the changes Google has introduced?” If you’re an SEO or marketing consultant, you’re probably asking yourself, “How do I sell my services and prove value to my clients?”
Although a lot has changed, two aspects of SEO remain certain:
- SEO isn't dead, nor will it die in the foreseeable future. Billions of marketing dollars are invested every year into “being found” organically in the search engines and this trend will continue. With more than a billion Google searches performed worldwide every day, SEO isn’t going away.
- The way we perform and measure SEO has to change and is changing. Blatantly building out backlinks and optimizing on-site content isn't enough. Measuring only rank and position isn’t enough either. Today organic search is about fresh, relevant, findable, optimized content that generates leads.
A New Theory: The Hierarchy of Web Presence Optimization
The idea of building out a hierarchy of web presence optimization (WPO) comes from the belief that basic fundamentals are required before organic search success can be achieved. The purpose is to visualize how the execution of SEO and the services required to perform SEO have evolved due to Google’s algorithm enhancements, and to maximize your SEO efforts and investment.
There are five different tiers in The Hierarchy of Web Presence Optimization:
1. Technical SEO Fundamentals & Foundation
If you're serious about being found in Google and optimizing your entire web presence, it's important to start with a strong baseline or foundation. A strong base layer will accelerate your efforts in the higher tiers by ensuring your web presence has a strong infrastructure, can be effectively indexed, and is identifiable.
Technical SEO Fundamentals & Foundation accounts for approximately 10 percent of the SEO efforts often consisting of one-time tasks such as:
- Setting up robots.txt, 301 redirects, sitemap, title tags, etc.
- Configuration and cross referencing of a blog presence and social accounts including: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+ and any other industry-specific social media or sharing sites.
- Implementation of social sharing icons throughout the main web and blog sites.
- Backlinking from respected industry and local directories.
- Setting up Google Places listings.
- Understanding web page load time and server details that may affect rankings.
This isn't an exhaustive list and is bound to change as Google continues to tweak its algorithm to serve up the most relevant search results.
2. Keyword and Competitive Research
At the core of every organic search strategy are keywords. Coincidentally, at the core of Google’s organic search algorithm is relevance for keywords. There will be constant competition for every keyword you are trying to rank for – guaranteed.
The Keyword and Competitive Research tier is an on-going process that will expand and evolve as you venture deeper into your organic optimization strategy. It is important to understand that the keyword phrases your prospects use will change as they progress through the buying cycle.
Approximately 25 percent of your SEO efforts should be focused on continually understanding the keyword phrases that drive targeted traffic and conversions.
Before advancing any further up the WPO pyramid, become very focused on your keywords and your competition for those keywords. To get started, determine a shortlist of (two to four) unbranded keyword phrases your prospects are actually searching for to find the products and services you are selling. Only after you develop a keyword list should you scale your efforts into the next tier.
3. Optimized Content Marketing Plan
Content marketing is experiencing a lot of buzz lately, and it should be! Content marketing isn't new, but “optimized content marketing” is.
Optimized content marketing is at the intersection of organic search optimization, social media, all the recent Google algorithm changes, and content marketing. Planning and creating your optimized content accounts for the majority of your SEO efforts - approximately 55 percent.
The Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs interviewed 1,092 B2B marketers in August 2011 and found that 60 percent plan to increase their content marketing budgets in 2012. Also, 40 percent are using SEO rankings as a measurement of the success of their content marketing campaigns.
So what would the impact be to your organic search rankings, impressions and clickthroughs if you optimized your next major piece of content for the keyword discovered in the previous tier?
An optimized content marketing plan addresses four major Google algorithm changes from the past year:
- Freshness Updates – Google favors fresh, relevant content in the form of press releases, blogs, case studies, news and events.
- Panda Updates – Optimized content distributed to valid, reliable sources will assist in building strong backlinks that are less likely to be penalized.
- Google+ – Social networks and social media are about relationships and relationships prove relevance. Google’s social network, Google+, is indeed factored into its search algorithm. Build your Google+ presence and circles and start sharing your content today.
- Search Plus Your World – Most importantly, when you share your content publicly in Google+ it has a broader reach and a longer life than any other social network including Facebook and Twitter.
Additionally, an optimized content marketing plan will provide you with sustenance for other lead generation techniques such as paid search campaigns (i.e. Google AdWords and banner ads) and email marketing. And you need content to be successful at generating social signals, which is the fourth tier.
4. Publish, Socialize & Share Content
Now that you have effective, optimized content that your prospects want, you need to tell them about it. Distributing your content effectively and frequently should occupy about 5 percent of your SEO effort. Here’s where to publish your content:
- Corporate website and blog site
- If a blog post, then to industry specific blog sites that your prospects will visit
- If a press release, then through a newswire such as PRWeb or Marketwire
- Social channels including: LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Facebook (with Twitter the content should be tweeted multiple times over a specified period of time)
- Subscribers and client base via email marketing
The distribution of your optimized content marketing is key because it accomplishes the following goals for your SEO campaign:
- Backlink building
- Indexing by Google so it can ultimately be found
- Social signals creation (Tweets, Retweets, Likes, Shares, Views)
- Beginnings of a sales conversation with prospects
5. Measure & Improve
In order to improve a content marketing campaign for further execution, not only must you master the previous tiers, but you must measure, benchmark, tweak and repeat. This is the final and ultimate tier – the remaining 5 percent of your SEO effort.
But how do you measure the success of an SEO campaign? Compare the following metrics to other marketing campaigns (i.e., Google AdWords, email marketing, banner ads):
- Social signals
- Keyword rank
As organic optimization and the services required to “get found” evolve, so too must our tools, techniques and tactics. The Hierarchy of Web Presence Optimization can be used by marketers to guide their in-house SEO efforts, as well as by agencies in their sales conversations and implementation processes.