At one time, search engine optimization was a narrowly defined profession, tinkering under the online hood to up page rankings in search engines, particularly Google. But SEO has made the transition from link building to brand building – from specialty supplier to essential digital marketing partner.
In the past year, I have served as senior writer on a number of projects with Toronto SEO/digital marketing agency Above the Fold Media, run by David Sahly. The work has included content marketing plans, specialized landing pages, pay-per-click campaigns and sales personas for lawyer, bankruptcy trustee, real estate and other clients, as well as site writing and blogging for ATF itself.
The growth of SEO has been driven by hard-won online marketing experience – it’s not enough to get people to visit a company’s or organization’s site; you must also provide a rich online experience that engages them, builds strong relationships and finally leads to sales or measurable results.
You must create true connection.
As ATF points out in a blog post, “Ten SEO Commandments for 2016,” SEO strategies are constantly striving to hit a moving target. Google makes more than 500 changes to its search algorithms each year, so what worked yesterday might not do well today.
A few years ago (eons in SEO terms), it was very important to have the right keywords in place to get noticed by search engines. This led to practices such as keyword stuffing. While keywords are still needed – in headlines, for example – Google and crew have gotten smarter, giving increasing weight to sentence structure and semantic keywords. Search engines now care more about natural language and how people talk about things, whether it is a product, service or a brand.
Rather than playing games with technology, marketers need to provide their target audiences with real value. Often this is original content (text, images, video) that establishes authority and shows visitors you understand their needs and pain points, and addresses these with compelling, rewarding solutions.
Marketers also need to have a conversion strategy in place – to turn interest and goodwill into actual sales. An effective SEO agency will not only use Google Analytics to measure how well a digital marketing campaign works, it will provide conversion rate audits, studying traffic flow and behaviour as visitors consume content and offers on a site. This intelligence can be used to improve content and user experience to boost conversions and sales.
Yes, a good SEO agency is holistic in its approach, developing complete digital marketing plans and not just focusing on search engine optimization, thought they do that too. It will take care of everything from research and strategy to implementation and tracking.
Today search engines reward companies who put in place high-level digital marketing efforts that build trust among their target. In other words, businesses that clearly define their advantages over competitors and have a strong sense of who they are – their brands – are far more likely to be successful online. Just as they are in the real world.