SEO Isn’t What You Think It Is

With the recent updates to Google’s algorithm, many businesses are still reeling from the shock of losing their hard-earned top positions. These latest changes, code named Panda and Penguin, have begun to place less importance on standard keyword based SEO techniques and a greater importance on social engagement.

Just as many of us have been predicting – SEO is becoming user driven.

FastCompany.com published an excellent article by Veronica Fielding explaining how businesses can take advantage of these changes and continue to dominate in the world of search marketing.

Both the Panda and Penguin updates contained very clear messages for marketers: stop focusing on technology and tricks and start focusing on people. If your website appeals to people, it will appeal to Google’s algorithms too.

But the Panda and Penguin messages go deeper. With them, the search engines are openly acknowledging that a website isn’t the only place on the Web that a brand needs to maintain a strong presence. The interactive exchanges that people have with each other and with the brand–online–are happening in the social media channel, and the search engines are placing an increasing importance on how these conversations influence their views on brands and how their websites should rank.

The transition to a more user driven Internet experience has been happening for years. We’ve already seen Google+ change your search results based your +1 clicks, and they are now take your personal preferences into consideration when displaying your search results in order to give you a more accurate, personalized experience. This was bound to start effecting the basic natural search results eventually.

Veronica’s article goes on to explain several basic techniques that a business must do to stay ahead of the SEO game.

Facilitate conversations with fans on your Facebook page.
Simply announcing what your company is up to isn’t going to get fans engaging with your brand. Post information that is relevant to your brand and of interest to your stakeholders. Invite questions, suggest other reading, provide links, curate other content. The point is to have dynamic conversations between your brand and your fans.
Parmesan is a delicious example.

Share tweets about topics of interest (again–not self-serving announcements but follower-serving news) via Twitter.
The search engines are all looking at Twitter activity, at the keyword and brand-name level, as signals for which brands deserve top rankings. No one is going to be interested in miles and miles of one-way tweets about how great your brand is. Know your stakeholders: provide information that will be of use to them and they will not only follow you, they’ll retweet what you share.
Whole Foods gets it.

Uploading shareable videos to your YouTube channel optimizes your brand as well as your website.
How? When the content is engaging, people what to share it. When they share it, they often add a link to your website. Encourage more sharing and engagement with people who leave comments by responding to their comments. Remember, Google owns YouTube. Enough said.
Home Depot has a quality YouTube channel.

Pin and Repin interesting visuals on Pinterest.
Pinterest may not be right for every brand, but if you market to consumers and have a brand with visual attributes or messaging that can be supported by photos, images, and infographics, Pinterest is another option to leverage for brand optimization.
Real Simple and West Elm pin well.

Participate in groups, answer questions, and post company updates on LinkedIn.
This is less about SEO and more about putting your brand where the buyers are. Whether you are a B2B or B2C marketer, having a strong LinkedIn profile for your company, complete with referrals from customers and strategic partners, is a strong component in the brand optimization mix. While LinkedIn groups tend to be “closed” and therefore not accessible to the search engines, some are public, and therefore search engine crawlable and the conversations in those groups where your brand is referenced with links to your website can help with SEO and brand optimization too. And don’t forget, Company Pages are public and now feature status updates.
Voices.com is a resource on LinkedIn.

Share information on Google+.
There is widespread belief that as Google+ gains in popularity, the conversations there will help with brand and search engine optimization. People have been somewhat slow to add yet another social media profile to their online presence, and brands have been slow to adopt Google+ too, but some brands are making smart use of Google+ now.
See what the New York Times is doing with it.

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