Two of the main components of a strong SEO strategy are the same as they has always been: to publish high-quality content that gets read and linked to by as many people as possible (ie, quality content and inbound links)
But in 2014, a third key element will join the ranks of these two elements: social media. I touted social media as one of the three key elements of SEO for 2013, but over the course of the year, my experience has been that most business owners still haven’t gotten the message.
I’m still constantly asked why and how social media benefits an online marketing campaign, which leads me to believe that social media, while definitely a buzzword recognized by most business owners, hasn’t yet been adopted to the extent that it needs to be.
While social media has been a factor in the ranking algorithm for years, the community has been reluctant to officially adopt social media as a key role within SEO campaigns.
Social media wasn’t around when SEO first developed into an industry, but it’s now pervasive across all industries and our culture; and it provides the means to increase shareability, distribution, and reach. This, in turn, provides readers and search engines alike with new metrics by which to measure quality (ie, quantity of shares and mentions in each social media channel, which are both easily measurable). As a result, “social signals” are now the fastest-rising search engine ranking factor, and business owners that fail to recognize this will be left in the dust by their competitors that do.
So, in 2014, the three pillars of SEO remain the same as they were in 2013; but I predict (and hope) that social media will come to be fully adopted as the third pillar by previously-skeptical business owners and marketers. Content strategy, inbound links, and social media strategy are the three key elements to building a strong, successful SEO campaign, regardless of the industry. Let’s explore each element in more detail so you can craft a winning SEO strategy.
Content strategy is being touted by experts as “the new SEO,” and for good reason. In the wake of Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, many of the once-popular tactics that used to work no longer do. These algorithm updates have forced many online marketing strategists to rethink their SEO campaigns from tactically-focused to strategically-focused, with a heavy emphasis on quality content publication
But content strategy goes beyond simply publishing great content. It also encompasses the existing content on your website, and ensuring that it’s optimized from a technical SEO perspective, while also ensuring future published content abides by these technical best practices as well. For an excellent guide to technical on-site SEO elements, see this on-site SEO guide.
Once you’ve got the technical elements covered, you can focus on your content publication strategy, which begins with keyword research. Before you can begin publishing content strategically, you need to understand your target market as well as what words and phrases (keywords) they’re searching for in the search engines.
The best use of keyword data is to look for places that fill holes in a website’s overall content. Are users within your target market looking for a certain phrase or answer for which there isn’t an applicable article or blog post? Create a blog post, e-book, article, or white paper about it. Start by performing keyword research, then using that research to build your content strategy. Here are some helpful resources for exactly how to do that:
- The Definitive Guide to Using Google’s Keyword Planner Tool for Keyword Research
- Why Your Keyword Strategy Is Incomplete Without User Intent
- How to Build a Kickass Content Strategy
- 7 Ways to Find What Your Target Audience Wants and Create Epic Content
Besides understanding what real users are actually looking for, great content also shapes the user experience and the way they see and feel about a company. A regularly updated company blog with well-written, insightful blog posts will garner a reputation for publishing great content, which will attract more inbound links, social media buzz, positive branding, traffic, leads, and sales.
Compare that to a company blog that simply communicates mundane company news or events without offering insight or value to its readers.
Thinking in the mindset of the customer should always been the framework from which content is created and published. An organic vitamin company can safely assume that their customers are going to be interested in content that discusses overall health and wellness. So, an interview blog post with a start-up company that offers organic produce delivery will be more engaging than a marketing-driven post on what types of vitamins are for sale. Content should always provide a benefit or value to the reader.
Link building is a set of SEO tactics that results in the creation of hyperlinks from other websites to your own, for the purpose of introducing external readers to your company’s content. The quantity and quality of inbound links is also a major factor in the organic search ranking algorithms. Guest blogging is exploding in popularity, and is my personal favorite method of building inbound links. There are many benefits of guest blogging beyond just building inbound links. For a summary of benefits, see my article, “The Top 5 Benefits of Guest Blogging.” Ready to get started with guest blogging? See my article, “The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging.”
However, as with any legitimate link building strategy, it requires significant time and effort to get exposure for your website on other sites that are relevant and provide actual benefit.
This means that when it comes to links, especially in the age of smarter search engine algorithms, quality always trumps quantity. If you aren’t ready to jump into guest blogging, here are 8 Ways to Build Links When Guest Blogging isn’t Possible.
Many SEO traditionalists have taken a while to understand the true benefits of social media as it relates to an organic search marketing strategy, but social media does far more than simply ensuring your company is keeping up with the competition. Social media gives companies an additional platform to interact with customers, build their brand, and create a community, all while also driving traffic to their website. For more on the benefits of social media and exactly what it is, see “What is Social Media Marketing, and How Can it Help My Business?”
Social media strategy is different for each company, depending on its target market and what they are interested in. Because of this, not all available social media channels can be a benefit to every company. It’s important to find where your target audience is hanging out online, and to concentrate efforts on those social networks. For help with this, see “How to Determine which Social Media Network Fits Your Business.”
Optimizing and engaging within social networks has not always been a goal of SEO, but should be in 2014. While SEO campaigns are mainly performed to attract new customers and raise awareness of a business within organic search results, social media focuses on maintaining customers and strengthening relationships with them through strategic engagement.
It’s no longer enough to only focus on only one or two of these pillars to craft a successful SEO strategy in 2014. Each of these three elements benefits the other, and without all three elements, your “structure” (ie, your SEO campaign) can’t stand.