By Meriel Lesseig
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds, cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw
Ok, marketers, I’m about to hit you with some truth here. If you’re doing the same thing you were a year ago today, you’re going to fail. Actually, you’ve already failed.
To oversimplify the heck out of it, because no one, including everyone in your potential customer or client base, is the same as they were last year. People change. They adapt to their experiences and they adjust their daily lives to the changing world around them.
And if you think I’m just talking about the under-35 set, consider this: The fastest growing demographic on Twitter is the 55-64 year old age bracket, a demographic that has grown 79 percent since 2012.
Last year also was the year Google rolled out some pretty big algorithm changes, each one of them intended to better the user experience, and ultimately – duh – make Google money.
And with these changes, sites were penalized for unnatural links, and many businesses who had been skating by on the old-school concept that flooding your site with keywords and building thousands of grey-area links and half-baked blog posts would get you rankings saw those rankings drop.
They cried, “SEO is dead!” and “Google is killing my business” and stomped their feet and huffed and puffed when they called me.
I told them, “No, there is no magic SEO button that we can push to get them number one for rankings they never really earned in the first place.”
Now, kids, you have to work for it.
So how do we approach SEO now?
How do we adjust our own thinking to create strategies that have staying power and measurable benefit?
Here are two fundamentals you need to let reshape your way of thinking (and optimizing).
Look Beyond the Keyword
I am frequently asked by prospective clients how many keywords come with our SEO package.
They ask this because they have been trained by SEO companies (including, years ago, our own) that the number of keywords you target = cost. We need to throw out this model altogether.
Because with the launch of the Google semantic search algorithm (something they had arguably been moving toward for some time), the search engine is doing a better job of connecting the dots and recognizing the natural relationships between search phrases and topics.
When you do your keyword research, focus not just on the five key search phrases that you want to rank for.
Focus on how your target market is searching and how you can add value to their search experience.
Tutorials, better images, cleaner navigation — work on making every bit of your website the most relevant it can possibly be to the overall keyword theme, which should naturally fall in line with your content.
If you’re worried about how many keywords you are targeting, you are missing the point.
Social Media and SEO are Bosom Buddies
This needs to be your new mantra when you approach any SEO strategy. We’ve all known for some time now that social media would play an increased role in SEO. With the latest Google algorithm change, this is no longer up for speculation.
Hummingbird gives Google the power to measure social signals as it pertains to how a site should be ranked.
Just as we used to preach that on-site SEO wasn’t effective without quality link building, we now need to recognize optimization is not complete without a truly engaged (and engaging) social presence.
Social media relationships can also build valuable connections that can lead to the natural dissemination of your content, and valuable, authentic links that enrich the search experience as well as your rankings.
If your SEO strategy doesn’t include a social media strategy, you don’t have an SEO strategy.
In marketing, stagnation is death. Stay relevant by keeping it real, educating your clients, and listening – like, really listening – to your customers. Trash your old strategies and take a fresh approach, one that isn’t focused on the #1 ranking, but rather on the overall experience and connections.
And for the love of all that is digital, stop with the “Google ate my rankings” excuses, and produce something of quality. Quality and authenticity will never, ever go out of style.