6 Degrees of SEO Separation – From Data to Content Performance

Something significant has been happening in the world of SEO for some years. Most of us are aware of the shift, even if we’re not able to quite put it in words. As the SEO discipline grows, the borders and gaps between other disciplines grow smaller.

In fact, if we were to look at SEO in terms of the “six degrees of separation” (for example, how far away SEO is from another marketing discipline) we’d likely find that it’s very closely tied with each and every marketing and business goal in some way.

In this post, I’ll show you how as marketers, we’re all just six degrees of separation away from a fully integrated SEO marketing program that includes:

  1. Gathering and understanding data
  2. Structuring data
  3. Targeting demand
  4. Optimizing content
  5. Integrating with other channels
  6. Measuring performance

Let’s look at each of these steps in closer detail…

Degree 1: Gather and Understand Data

All data from all channels in your marketing program is relevant to SEO, and can connect the dots and inform in some way. The amount of data at marketer’s fingertips is quite staggering. This illustrates how much data is being generated right now:

Click the animation to open the full version (via http://pennystocks.la/).

It is essential that you choose the right KPIs for your SEO initiatives that will help you measure how your SEO program is performing for your business goals. Doing so will help you find your way through the maze of big data by having a clear path of what data to follow, and what to cut.

This year, SEOs should also make finding the right data analytics a priority. No longer can we remain leading edge by stitching a bunch of tools together on our own. We need technology that can integrate multiple data points into one language that makes sense of it all.

You can find out more about making sense of big data in this article at SEW.

Degree 2: Structure Data

In the same way that SEOs are looking to make sense of all the data that’s being created online, so are search engines. As SEOs, we need to help those search engines better understand what our Web pages and content is about in 2015.

Schema.org will be four years old this year, and is still the gold standard for marking up our Web pages for search engines. Taking unstructured data and structuring it through Schema markup can help search engines better make a determination that your Web page is a relevant option for a user’s query. It can also provide a more engaging experience for the user in the SERPs, and can increase click-through rate.

Google’s Matt Cutts way back in 2012 said not to count on markup for a better chance of ranking (but if you understand how algorithms work, you can read between the lines), and gives specific scenarios where it can be very helpful to have markup in this video from Google Webmasters on YouTube:

Degree 3: Match Audience Demand With Content Creation

When we lost keyword data through secure search, we found new ways of segmenting our audiences, and understanding what they want. Fortunately, data still exists about what topics are driving search demand, and we can still understand how our Web pages are performing as a whole.

SEOs need to work with creatives – be it writers or more traditional marketing strategists on the team – to take the search volume data and turn that into content the target audience wants to read, and finds useful.

We know algorithms like Panda exist to put the kibosh on poor-quality content aka bad “experiences,” but we want to rise above even that. We want our brands and our websites to provide a meaningful experience that keeps people coming back for more.

This can only be accomplished through the marriage of the technical and creative.

Degree 4: Optimize Content

Building on that relationship between the technical and creative is the optimization of content to help it be found. This includes the concepts discussed in degree two – structured data – and also includes things like best practices for on-page optimization.

One of the first things that needs to be established is how the creative and technical people will work together to accomplish optimized content. Often – especially in larger organizations – there’s a large gap between the organic search opportunity and the optimization of content.


You can start chipping away at this by establishing a workflow for the process, and determine who is in charge of:

  • Creating the actual Web page
  • Deciding the direction of the topic for the keyword phrase
  • Updating and maintaining the Meta information
  • Optimizing the body content with keywords as appropriate
  • Inserting the appropriate links
  • Selecting and optimizing images
  • Ensuring the proper Heading tags are being used
  • Reviewing, editing, publishing, and promoting

Finally, do any opportunities exist to train staff members of either team on the other’s job to streamline the process? Sometimes being efficient means letting go of control.

Degree 5: Integrate Your SEO

To truly close the gap between SEO and other marketing channels, campaigns should be forged in a concerted effort. If your business has something to promote, and you’re going to use organic search, paid search, and social media to cast a wider net for your content, why not plan the timeline, promotions, tracking, and analysis together?

Data from one channel almost always informs the other, for example:

  • What conversations on social can lend insight into research for the topics driving search demand?
  • What keywords are driving conversions from your paid search ads that can inform your SEO efforts?
  • What SEO tweaks to your landing pages can you make to better convert the PPC traffic?
  • What topics driving demand can you share on social to get in front of the target audience right away?

Degree 6: Measure Performance

Not too long ago, I discussed that we were reaching an end point with the idea of content “marketing,” and that we’d soon need to shift our focus to content performance marketing.

Many SEOs are already measuring the success of their website’s content through various means, yet many still are unsure how their efforts are impacting the big picture.

This directly ties into the idea of degree one – understanding data. Can you think of a handful of KPIs that will measure the control SEO has on big-picture items like your share of voice online, your company’s branding, your ability to bring in targeted traffic, keep your visitors engaged, aid in important conversions, and impact your revenue?

If so, you’re no longer one degree away from true SEO marketing success – you’ve realized it. This year, try to make small steps in each of the degrees mentioned in this article. As with the “six degrees of separation” theory, everything in SEO is merely six steps away from a successful and efficient program.

Related reading

A screenshot of visual search on Pinterest. On the left is a picture of a copper angle-poise lamp, with the words 'Visually similar results' above it. Down the right-hand side are a number of pins showing similar lamps.
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