Digitoil: SEO – dark art or just good marketing?

Published on the 20/04/2015 | Written by Richard Conway

Marketing strategy

In the first instalment of our new Digitoil blog on digital marketing, subject matter expert Richard Conway begins by putting search engine optimisation in context…

The SEO industry has historically been shrouded in secrecy. Much like the Masonic brotherhood, practitioners have a reputation for mysterious terminology and esoteric knowledge. Terms like ‘black hat’, ‘link bait’ and ‘link juice’ mean little to the layperson and there are sharks, villains and fly-by-nighters in the industry who take advantage of this widespread lack of specialist knowledge.

It is true that technical know-how and time-consuming research are required, but these things have a legitimate business purpose. The technical on-site aspects of SEO, for example, look at how both search engines and humans reach and interact with your website, otherwise known as the user experience, or UX.

Some examples of this are:
1. Keyword research. All too often this area is neglected, but it is hugely important to any good SEO or website strategy. How do you know what your target market is searching for without first looking at the cold, hard figures? A great free tool that will show your approximate search volume is the Google Keyword Tool (you may need an AdWords account to access it).
2. Website structure. This focuses on how easy it is for search engines to navigate your website. You need to instruct them on what to do by providing a sitemap.
3. Content. What sort of content are you displaying? Pictures are all very well, but because Google uses a predominantly semantic algorithm, the website wording must tell customers and search engines alike what the page is about.

There are lots of other things to look at (the mobile-friendliness and security of your website, for starters), but a useful free guide that details some of the basics from Google can be found here: SEO Starter Guide.

Once the on-page work has been done properly, a lot of the effort then needs to be focused on off-page SEO, which involves working with external websites. Think of it as an online popularity contest. If you create awesome content and then get people interested in consuming, linking to it and sharing it, then you are on to a winner. It’s really just good marketing.

Some content strategies that can work include:
1. Blogger outreach. Engage with those online who have a good audience or influence others. Sometimes you might have to pay for this exposure, so don’t be afraid to barter and make sure you get good value!
2. Have fun and engage with your customers. Create a real-world event, take videos, write content and encourage others to get involved and create their own content.
3. Have a blog and invite high-profile people to write guest posts (these can be promoted through your networks and other social media platforms).
4. Get some media coverage. Top-tier, high-ranking media has great reach.

My view is that for companies that operate in highly competitive niche markets, good SEO should leverage existing marketing strategy and incorporate good marketing practice. In a larger sense, general company marketing should include keeping up to date with technology and being engaged in the online world (even if it is as a ‘user’ or online consumer).

writer_Richard Conway
Richard Conway shares the good oil on all things digital marketing from SEO to Google to social media. Richard is CEO at the search engine marketing agency PureSEO and is an advisor to several online businesses. Richard is a global online citizen residing in Auckland, New Zealand.

*The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of the publisher or editor of iStart.

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