The Best SEO Advice I’ve Seen in a Long Time…Relevance is the new PR

This morning’s thought: “I now need to go back and look at all my recent SEO work.”

I like the competition of search. Every day is different and you have the ability and or the chance to “win” so to speak.  It’ similar to watching the standings in Major League Baseball. Some days you may gain on the competition, other days you lose ground, and still others, nothing changes.

That’s the nature of competing against Google and it’s algorithm changes.  It’s cat and mouse. The pursuer and the pursued.  That’s why any article or blog post that talks about Google and search engine optimization has to be paid attention to. Sometimes, and I mean sometimes, there can be nuggets or threads of truth that can help you get a leg up on two targets  that are constantly moving in the digital space.  The customer and Google search.

How fun and frustrating can it get? Well, to the extent that after reading a post from Search Engine Land that Google would neither affirm no refute titled Ex-Googler: “To Please Google With Your SEO, Forget About SEO”, I started this post with that opening thought.

It’s OK, it happens all the time and actually as an “SEO’er” you should of kind of always be thinking that way anway-How can you improve organic search rankings?  When you’re done reading the Search Engine Land post, go over to Forbes and read a pretty good article as well on SEO titled, The 6 Basic Components Of A Strong SEO Strategy For Online Retailers.  It ties and supports the other post better and as recent as I’ve seen in quite a while in regards to what you need to think about when it comes to SEO.

It’s all good though. All of it keeps you on your toes. With that said, go read both posts in their entirety.  Below are some of the soundbites  that got me thinking.

At this stage a webmaster is out of his mind to still rely on techniques that were common practice 8 months ago.”

…don’t dismiss directories completely.

and the best one of all…

Relevance is the new PR.”

Information versus Opinion and Search versus Social

Information versus opinion. Whats the difference? Is there one? What matters to you when you are on the verge of buying something? What is your go to process for vetting a new product, service, or company? Does the process change depending on the type of purchase?  So here’s the scenario, I want to buy a new big screen TV. So I do research. My research consists of what?

A) Typing in “big screen TV’s in Google

B) Typing in a specific brand into Google

C) Going into a social network and letting 500 of my most intimate friends know that I’m thinking of buying a TV

D) Going to Yelp

E) Going to Google and typing in “product review sites” into the search box because Yelp didn’t work.

F) Going into a forum and looking up the product name to see what others have to say

G) Asking my neighbor, my co-worker, my college roommate, or the father of my son’s best friend.

H) All of the above

Some of you probably would do all of the above. I see a problem with every single option above with the exception of option G. Here’s why.

Option A)  is probably the most confusing. Why? Simply because a lot of consumers do not know what types of web results they are looking at. They don’t understand what can be bought, i.e. PPC versus a gamed organic result. Either way, the consumer may be in for a lot of hard work trying to find some information-thus this may be a case where they decide to forgo doing research and just go straight to Best Buy and get the deal.

B) Typing in a brand name lends itself to resellers bombarding you with “their” deal. At the least, when has doing research on a brand lent itself to a highly ranked result of a brand reporting that it’s product sucks? Not going to happen? So the results will always positively skew in their favor.

Option C)  has some potential just because more and more consumers are turning to social media for help with purchase decisions. According to Cone Inc.’s recent research,  consumers are seeking out product information and reviews; they’re interested in both the good and the bad since 80 percent of respondents look at negative comments and 87 percent of respondents look at positive comments with the biggest growth area for purchasing decision information being blogs. The only problem? Blogs can be gamed.

D) Let’s say I never went to Yelp before, my first thought is “Oh cool, this is handy”. Next thing I know, its been 2 hours and I have not been doing any research and I realize that Yelp is not the site for product research.

E) My first thought is, do I really want to go down this path?

F) This one has potential, provided the forum that I use has people in it that are genuine and are not cloaking themselves as regular people, but really are trying to promote their product. Don’t think that happens? Think again.

Option G) Probably my best bet, at least I get a real answer. Funny thing is, it’s not a web based derived result and decision, though the process of purchase may actually happen through the web. But then when I know what I want, finding it at the best price, is completely different than deciding what’s is the best performing brand . See the challenge foe the brand?

Look at how brands  have to compete and win against you, your friends and relatives, against gamed search, gamed social and everything else, in just trying to get a message out that says, “Hey our product is good trust us”-

Even better, the company that says “Hey our product is good, but don’t just trust us, trust the people thst bought from us-That’s the gold! But the larger question is how can a brand simplify the process of aligning it’s existing customers with potential new customers while still trying to maintain some type of objectivity thats not clouded by reward systems and incentives? Tough to do isn’t it? Are we now on the precipice of the Infopinion?

Search Drives the Purchase, Social Influences it… A Little

The impact that search and social media have on a consumer’s purchase has never been disputed. I have always maintained that they were always joined at the hip. In a recent GroupM Search and comScore study this has pretty much been verified. Search drives the intent or consideration to buy, and social locks up or seals the intent and turns it into a conversion.

Interestingly, the research show that search alone is still a powerful tool in online buying intent, behavior and research. Always will be IMO, but what really caught my eye though was how little online buyers relied on social alone as the primary driver to a purchase. The internet is too broad and delivers too much information in regards to research on a buying decision to just rely on a social recommendation. Why? Because we still want the best deal possible. Relying on one piece of info, i.e. a recommendation from Twitter or Facebook isn’t enough for today’s savvy online customer. We start with search, we add social in there and then we finish with search.

The results from the survey/study revealed the following.

What does this really mean? Ignore the power of search at your own peril and relying solely on social to drive consideration and conversions is a risky proposition.

SEO and Social Media are Inextricably Joined at the Hip.

Is it reputation management, perception management? Or search management?

I was recently directed by Tom Martin to read an updated post by Rohit Bhargava on Social Media Optimization and while it did get me thinking again about something I had not given much thought to in a while, it, like many other blog posts, opened up another footlocker of thoughts.

As I’m wont to do oh so frequently, I started thinking about the term reputation management and what that really meant. Literally defined for us in the digital world, it’s the practice of managing your orgs reputation online.

For most of us lay people, reputation management means trying to control or do something about the bad comments that show up on Google’s first page of search results about our brand.  That something is usually defined as using social media and search techniques to make it go away or… Could we say that might be… Social Media Optimization?

Don’t get me wrong, I love Rohit’s definition or ” new rules” of SMO

  • Create shareable content
  • Make sharing easy
  • Reward engagement
  • Proactively share content
  • Encourage the mashup

But you see, at the end of the day the number of  social interactions/engagements you have, and the number of social profiles you have, and the number of social platforms you play on, all to a certain degree will be reflective in higher search rankings. So essentially Rohit’s 5 new rules contribute to better search results.

# of social interactions + # of social platforms + # of profiles = Better search results

Which means the reality is the sum total of all of this activity will alternately end up driving perception. So given that SEO is a key component, ancillary as it might be to contributing to social media, it still is the key determining factor in driving perception of people and brands.

I will say it again.

SEO and Social Media are inextricably joined at the hip.

So is managing your reputation via search and social also include your ability to understand the key components of search?

You bet it is.

Which means that bad companies ( poor customer service, bad products, etc.) could be very adept at SEO, and given that your perception may be controlled or driven by a manipulated or “gamed” search hierarchy, you would never know they suck.

Your perception of their reputation is skewed by a high search ranking and a search result that may have also been manipulated or influenced by surface level social media participation as well.

Which means that the algorithm is flawed.

Given that most of us are intent on putting our best foot forward and are hell bent on quelling or snuffing out negative press-it would seem to me that a full understanding of the implications of search along with a full understanding about the power of how all of your social interactions influence reputation management would be a sound business decision.

So here’s your takeaways.

  • Know that search and social media are tied to each other.
  • Do not treat the fact that you can control these things lightly.
  • Search can be your friend as much as it can be your enemy.
  • Understand that everyone has the ability to game the system.
  • Do not want to wait to address negative search results after the fact.
  • Dive deeper when doing your homework on companies and people.
  • Create meaningful social profiles
  • Participate in social media because you want to, not because of the SEO benefits.

A word to the wise is sufficient.

SEO Forums. It’s like a Jungle Out there…

It’s like a jungle out there it makes me wonder, how I keep from going under …

So in the search results I found pages and pages of results for seo forums. Places where I can go and share and learn SEO/SEM information. In a fit of,”what was I thinking”, I decided to step out of the comfy confines of my home base. The site where I feel most at ease. (time for the shameless  plug V7N)

I went into another forum which will go nameless, where it seemed to be rich with information and content and contributors. I started to post a few comments to impress the readers with my knowledge and began to notice something. Unlike the group/forum that I was accustomed to, the sharing and aknowledging of information in this forum was somewhat different.

It was less about the topic and more about bashing the poster for their ignorance. More about attacking and shaming. One person in particular who had posted over 6,000 comments was particularly bad. In my mind, all I could think of was the drunk stepfather, who was passed out, and the rest of the family tip-toed around in fear of awaking him. For if he awoke, he’d get his belt and beat anything that moved for no reason. I felt I had been virtually beaten with a belt by Mister 6,000 Posts because I dared question his authority. Guess I was letting my freak flag fly…

This is how I felt when I had crossed the evil poster. I quickly developed a complex and had immediately felt the need to lash out. To fight back. To tell him where he can stick it. This never works in these situations because, it’s a computer people. If you have a problem, just exit, just walk away, turn it off, and walk away. Never go back. But I wanted to kick his ass.  See—>Me (in my mind) beating someone up and saving the world from the evil computer genius with the large ears…and droopy eyelids

Easier said than done. I tried to think of something to fire back at him but figured, what’s the point, he’ll just say something even more hurtful, and then what have I accomplished? Nothing.  The best I might be able to say is, “I know you are, but what am I”?

In the end I realized there is a reason that some people are called lurkers and there is a reason that some people hide behind computers. Both for different but similar reasons. The former because they got abused by the latter and the latter because they have some serious socialization issues that they choose not to deal with. The rest of us? We are in the middle.

If that’s the way it has to be, then I’m just going to head back to the people that I know. No matter  how messed up my group is, my forum works for me, it’s my niche. I think we all just need our niche, where we feel comfortable. When we go check out the other sites, other groups etc., where we venture where we’ve never been, it’s foreign and there are certain ways to do certain things. You better be prepared for how they operate and how things “work”. Because the warm and fuzzy greeting and the open arm invitation is not what you will get. Or maybe just a matter of identifying who the a@!#’s are and thats it, you avoid them.

Building a website? Don’t forget about the user!

In the golden age of SEO and SEM often websites are built with the search engines in mind. This is not necessarily a bad thing its just that sometimes one of the key elements is forgotten. The user. The person who brings revenue and eyeballs to your site in the first place.

We know that content is king, always has and always will be. We also know that content is one of the keys to a search engine friendly site. But when the content does not speak to the user and is geared more towards the SE’s. Then we have a problem. As a Search engine marketer, you have to be intrinsically aware of what you are trying to achieve.  Simply put, you want…web nirvana. That happy place where you have achieved the goal of creating a search engine friendly site with a user friendly design.

It can be done, but remember that it has to be built from the inside out. That means your pages have to have ample room for content. Sure Flash is cool but really, what does flash do for a site? It makes it sexy and it’s visually appealing but the SE’s are not too wild about it. But… “What about my user? They like it!” And there my friend is the Catch-22. What’s good for the user is not necessarily good for the search engines. Thus the thinking that has to go into any and all web deployments. You have to straddle the beam like an olympian. Balancing between the users needs and expectations and the SE’s criteria.

Keep the flash to a minimum if you must use it, and spare the flash/splash as some organizations are wont to do. I would say that most users skip the intro anyway. Once you get past the flash, crank copy that you as a user would want to read and that is relevent to the site. After a rough draft, you can then go back and possibly tweak with some of your key words.

After you have crafted the content, then you can work on the structure, site maps, alt tags, metas and linking, all which speak to the SE’s and really won’t affect the user too much. Lastly once you have the site done, go back and see if it flows; and if you the user think the content is relevent to you, the user! While you’re at it, I would highly recommend one of the few Naples based seo companies