As the online search industry matures, SEO (search engine optimisation) has become much more than a keyword targeting tactic: it has evolved into optimising your brand presence through search. The advance of search algorithms has increased the importance of personalisation, localized search, real-time results and brand quality, requiring modern SEO strategies to provide real value to site visitors.
While previously there were potential conflicts between brand experience advocates and SEO professionals, today both mediums rely upon a quality user experience that meets visitor expectations. As a result, a proper, long run SEO strategy is about building up brand visibility through a variety of channels and building a site that is accessible, high quality and offers a comparative advantage over your competition.
While previously many companies created a silo for their search strategies independent of brand experience, today brand quality, accurate messaging and a solid reputation are the elements necessary for building long term search equity. As it becomes harder to rank sites solely through optimisation techniques, high value links, consumer citations and quality user experience become the most important factors in terms of search rankings. In order for senior marketers to effectively integrate SEO strategies into the overall marketing mix, it’s important to understand how to adapt to changing trends in the search industry.
Optimising site usability and brand value
You should start your advanced optimisation discussion by asking a traditional marketing question: What does your brand stand for? There should be a unique value proposition that truly makes your brand stand out and properly conveying that difference should be a core part of adding value in the eyes of search engines. You’re competing for search real estate against a number of established brands and start-ups, so giving your brand a unique position will help ensure you stand out when it comes to search rankings. Properly conveying this value through original content, promotions, rich media and a high quality user experience will all help drive your search rankings over time.
Rather than trying to optimise your Web site from a business perspective, try to think from a consumer’s perspective. Companies that rank near the top of competitive terms are known as the leaders in their industries. In order to grow your search presence, you need to offer unique value, quality and presentation to searches. Integrating both your product and marketing strategies online to offer a quality user experience will result in more links, citations and brand good will that result in long run search success.
Leveraging local, social and personal search trends
One major recent trend in search is the integration of personalised search results based upon location, social graph and contextual factors. For example, if you’re trying to market an upscale New York restaurant, then you have a specific target market. Personalised search aims to provide more relevant results to users based upon their preferences. In the example case you’d want to target local and regional professionals who are frequent patrons of your site. You can accomplish this is search by increasing your visibility in Web circles that matter to these individuals, such as getting your site rated by Michelin and Fodor’s, as well as writing high value content. Ranking for “New York Restaurant” may drive enquiries but finding the targeted search queries related to your niche involves creating content, authoritative links and an online presence catered to your ideal customer base.
Future directions in universal search: news and video
Another major new direction in search is the integration of universal results within the standard listings. Here’s an example of a recent search result for Google for the term “New York apparel”:
As you can clearly see, search seeks to answer the fundamental questions consumers have. When building out your search visibility strategy, it’s important to think about timely, local and high-quality information. No matter which industry you want to compete in search for, you should aim to communicate the unique values your company offers customers to build up search equity. Integrating a rich media strategy including reviews from consumers, press releases, videos and working to build positive brand trust are all factors correlated with helping to improve your search rankings over time.