Smarter SEO with Smarter Content

Russ Mann, CEO, Covario and Rio SEO

Is your content as “dumb as a box of rocks,” or is it deliberately designed to be smarter – to be found, friended, followed and forwarded all around the web.

In this new renaissance of content marketing, much of the content being generated is being treated like basic ammunition.  Articles, interviews, websites, brochures, coupons, TV shows, images and other communications – are like the projectiles that were loaded onto catapults behind castle walls in the olden days. The largest boulder or flaming ball of sticks is hurled over the wall to try and impact as many people as possible, with very poor targeting and little in the way of control or measurement of results.

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With the advent of digital marketing and advertising technologies, there has been more innovation in making paid digital advertising smarter in the past 10 years than all the content creation of the previous 50 years.   With the estimated $100 billion annually going into mostly display and search media, there has been a huge emphasis on cookies and pixels, technology and analytics, tracking and attribution and optimization – all in an effort to try and figure out which banner or search ads, on what publishing platforms, and in what sequence convinced the consumer or business buyer to take action.

Because of the focus on paid advertising, most of the content launched by brands to this day is still poorly researched and planned.  It’s barely targeted, manually created, and provides limited if any metrics on who saw or shared it, where it was passed along, and where it ended up. But is it really the banner ads and search ads that drive the action?   This seems to be a huge conceit of the media buyers, who are missing a key point:  What about all the owned and earned content that brand marketers, advocates, influencers and consumers create on their own?  What influence does brand and content have on the end action of consumers?

Consumers have made their preferences clear.  The major search engines have acknowledged the value of compelling social signals when it comes to organic search page visibility.  Smarter search strategies and strong SEO results require a smarter approach to content that is timely, relevant, and responds to a consumer’s particular need at a given moment. The kind of content I’m talking about identifies with specific topics, trends and target personas in real time.

With the right tools, this smarter content can be generated through automation, or manually created content can be augmented for the author or blogger with suggested insertions, images, videos and links – all of which add value in both the eyes of consumers and the algorithms of search engines.

Really smart content identifies the best place and time to launch itself.  Post-launch it can continue to adapt and optimize itself – its languages, images and other attributes in real time.   Smarter SEO through Smarter Content includes analytics that report back to the person or brand marketer who created the content.  This includes letting its originators know where it’s been and in what context, plus how it is being found, who is seeing it, sharing it, and acting upon it.  With this smart content, you’ll also know whether it’s been copied or modified, and ultimately where it and its modified versions ended up.

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Instead of a big dumb rock on a catapult, imagine that your content is like the Mars rovers Curiosity and Opportunity – deliberately researched and planned, precisely targeted, machine-engineered and launched to go further, be self-energizing, and report back everything it finds and experiences.

That’s how to turn your content from a dumb box of rocks to smarter SEO and discovery marketing.

Growing the Search Marketing Ecosystem

This post comes to us from Scott Smigler, Chair of the SEMPO Boston Working Group, and CEO of e-commerce marketing firm Exclusive Concepts, Inc.

Last summer, Andrea Wasik and I met with Googlers Seth van der Swaagh and Katherine Allan to propose a crazy idea. We pitched a series of one-day “Search Summits” at local Universities throughout the country that would encourage its best and brightest students to consider pursuing careers in search.

Our logic was simple.

On one hand, the Search industry is composed of technology companies and agencies of all sizes that are starved for talent. On the other hand, the unemployment rate amongst millennials (Americans aged 18 to 29) is over 13%.

We suggested that by bringing these two groups together for a day of learning and networking, we could help grow the search marketing ecosystem while empowering young people to discover meaningful career paths.

We later summarized the grander mission as follows:

Grow and strengthen the “search” ecosystem by advocating “search” to the best and brightest college students throughout the country.

Seth and Katherine didn’t need much convincing, and began helping us to flesh out what would become our first Search Summit at Boston University (watch the video).

Seth helped marshal resources from Google (including both dollars and many volunteers including Whitney Moskowitz who project-managed the event), and we proceeded to sign on Microsoft and Yahoo! as joint sponsors of the event.

We then recruited speakers for sessions that included:
– Search industry overview (both Google’s and Bing’s perspective)
– Career panel discussions from recent grads
– SEO – “Designing and Delivering Great Content”
– SEM – “Effective Marketing Strategies”
– Social Media

In one breakout session, students were given an overview of search marketing strategies, and then asked to create an impromptu presentation for their imaginary CEO. I was amazed how quickly they picked up what seemed to me to be esoteric jargon and relatively complex concepts!

We also signed on 6 local agencies (Digitas, AMP Agency, Gupta Media, RKG, iProspect, and my company Exclusive Concepts), which participated in a networking lunch that connected students with 45 open internships.

130 students in total registered to attend the event, which surpassed my expectations. That was thanks, in large part, to the incredible support we received from the Boston University School of Management, its Dean (Kenneth W. Freeman), and Tony Tristani.

I believe the event went incredibly well, and that it could easily be scaled to cater to students and businesses throughout the country, but don’t take my word for it. Here’s what the students told us in the post-event survey:

- Attendee likeliness to recommend the event to peers: 8.56 (avg from 1-10 scale)
- 92.3% of attendees “more likely to pursue a career in search marketing”
- 76.9% of attendees pursuing an internship with a company they met at the summit
- 100% at least somewhat likely to join SEMPO

SEMPO Working Group leaders from other cities who would like to organize a similar event can feel free to email me with questions, or for the planning materials we used. My e-mail address is

Once again, I would like to thank Google for its incredible support. They provided a lion-share of the resources that made this event possible, in addition to the SEMPO Boston Working Group members Michael Flint (Metropolis Creative), Seth van der Swaagh (Google), Andrea Wasik (Skyword, Inc.), and Pavel Khaykin (AMP Agency).

Again, you may watch a recap of the event below:

Scott Smigler
Chair of SEMPO Boston Working Group
President of Exclusive Concepts, Inc.

Opportunities in Global Search Engine Marketing

Before search engine marketing developed, when companies would go global, they would try to understand the target market of the foreign nation and position their service or product to suit their requirements. But in the chaos of excessive information and competition, this very principle seems to be lost in the background, when addressing global search engine marketing.

Anthony Burgess once said, “Translation is not a matter of words only: it is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture.” However when we look at most companies search engine marketing practices in global terms, they seem to have missed the obvious.

The gap in global search engine marketing is possibly because of two false impressions that most companies have:

1. Google is the search engine.

2. English is a universal language.

This can be because 63% of the searches done on Google are in English. But here are a few facts which explain why the previously stated two impressions are perhaps less than accurate.

1. 70% of the queries generated on search engines across the world are not in English.
2. In foreign nations, especially Asia, Google does not hold the same commanding position as it does in some western countries. In fact, Google’s share in China, South Korea, Russia and Japan is 16%, 10%, 25% and 40% respectively.

Many companies have tried to address this problem by translating their websites in the foreign country language, and choosing keywords which are almost literal translations of the keywords used in the parent country. If dealing with Global search engine marketing was as simple as that, you wouldn’t be reading this.

When translations are concerned, a literal translation can be rendered useless even when the same language is spoken in two different countries. For example let’s see the difference in Spanish words when comparing Spain with Latin America where Spanish is spoken.

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There are many things which need to be taken care of when considering Global search engine marketing, because it’s not just Global but multilingual search engine marketing and translation is not even close to enough.Different words are spoken for the same thing. Similarly in Japan 3 different languages, Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji, are used for the same word. Within US, Soda, Coke and Pop are used to refer to the same product but simply in different parts. Another sample of a miss is the word handy (slang) for mobile phones; this is used widely in the German speaking world and actually has more search volume than the direct (correct) translation of the word.

Using the correct keyword for the foreign country rather than a translation of the correct keyword from the native country

Use local translators and tools to monitor which keywords are most relevant to your product/service in the foreign country where you are planning to expand. The local translator will know which words refer to what; take for example the difference discussed in the above example of Spanish words in Spain and Latin America. Similar will be the case with French in French Canada and France.

Use Google’s free keyword tools to choose keywords by language/country. Google provides you with a list of ideas for the keywords and also displays volumes associated with each keyword.

Optimizing websites to cater to different languages

While there is more than one method available, choosing the best will determine your SEO strength and user friendliness for the foreign users. Among the methods, URL parameters such as or ?country=Indonesia are least recommended. It becomes difficult for the users to associate the URL with geo-targeting as well as for SEO purposes.

Few popular ways to deal with this are:

1. Using ccTLDs. In this case a separate website is created with a local extension. An example of this would be, and similar. The geotargeting becomes very clear and sometimes it even serves the legal requirements of the country.
2. Using gTLDs is another option. It becomes more efficient if you associate subdomains with gTLDs rather than subdirectories. It is easy for the webmasters, creates clear separation of websites and is excellent for geotargeting.
3. Create a domain/directory structure which will offer content in different languages. Small signs on top of the web pages offering different language for the content can make it very user friendly.

Optimizing the website for the search engine most relevant to the target country

While Google takes care of searches in most countries, choosing a more country specific search engine will go a long way, then simply sticking with the global option. For example if your target market is China, then Baidu is your best option. This is where separate domains come in handy; the structure of the domain can now be optimized for the more suitable search engine.

Also the language will not just be a translated copy of content from the main website but rather structured to the relevant local keywords. It will be more focused on meeting the requirements of the target consumers through the products/services offered by the company.

Focusing on the content structure based on the target demographics

Understanding how your target demographics receive content may be more valuable than translated language itself. For example while in most western countries, consumers are more oriented towards rich media text in the form of infographics, images and videos, the eastern consumers such as in Japan are more text oriented. The local websites are a reflection of these differences. In most European and North American countries you find websites trying to reduce text and replace them with graphical representations. However in Japan the websites are rather text heavy.

The culture of the country would have a significant impact on how the language is interpreted. What is considered open and frank discussions in the west will be considered rude in many eastern countries.

In the end, while the basic principles remain the same, their application will be different in different scenarios varying as per target country. If two countries speaking the same language can still differ in the use of language, then countries miles apart will differ in many ways. It is not just language translation but language interpretation that should be the focus of companies today in global search engine marketing.

Kristjan Mar Hauksson
SEMPO Board Member
Director Search/ Owner | Nordic eMarketing