In an ever-changing industry like digital marketing, it’s important to stay current and implement practices that will give your business an advantage over the competition. With close to a billion blogs on the Internet, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. With so much competition, has blogging outlived its usefulness in SEO? The answer depends on a few factors.
The Importance of Content
Whether or not blogging for SEO is useful anymore is a complicated question. No matter what your goal, a blog post needs to be compelling to both readers and search engines in order to be effective.
Long gone are the days of writing blog posts stuffed with keywords for “SEO.” Now, blogs should focus on great, sharable content. An initial focus on blog content rather than intent can ultimately increase SEO value through the result of engaging content. Blog posts that are useful to readers are more likely to have a positive impact on overall traffic than those written with the intent to lure visitors to your website. Engaging blog posts shared on social media drive traffic back to your website, improving social signals picked up by search engines.
Search engines have become sensitive to the content itself, so a blog lacking rich content can be counterproductive. Search engines’ complex algorithms pick on up on the content as a whole. A blog with well-developed content can help leverage your business or brand as an informed thought leader in the industry, fostering an engaged online community. This thought leadership sparks engagement in the social space, resulting in improved SEO value.
Additionally, consistent blog posting helps keep websites fresh and up-to-date, something search engines like to see. Many business owners struggle with keeping their website pages updated. Sharing blog posts on your website provides a solution to keep the website fresh.
How SEO Can Help
But is great content enough? SEO best practices should always be utilized to leverage your content. Conducting comprehensive keyword research can help you write an effective headline, develop proper meta tags, and contribute to on-page SEO. An SEO-friendly blog post should also include internal links to relevant content, descriptive image tags, and more. While these steps are no longer the only thing needed to maximize a blog’s reach in modern times, they are still an important foundation.
Proper search engine optimization on your blog posts can help drive high quality traffic to your site. Good SEO practices attract links, general social signals, and allow search engines to pick up on more keywords.
Harmony is Key
So has blogging outlived its usefulness in SEO? Not at all! Blogging and SEO are integral and interactive parts of a successful digital strategy. Today, it’s less about blogging for SEO and more about learning how to blog with SEO.
Engaging content combined with good SEO practices is still a great way to enhance your digital presence. Be sure to anchor your blog on high-quality content, but increase the reach of that content by incorporating SEO tactics on select blog posts. Once that foundation is in place, social signals can maximize SEO value. Blogs are still a critical component in a comprehensive digital strategy, but it is important to make sure great content, smart SEO strategies, and social media all work in harmony with one another in order to make the effort worthwhile.
Recently, a respected veteran of the search engine marketing world – who also happens to be the head of search engine marketing for one of the largest and fastest-growing companies on the planet – asked something on his Facebook account that surprised me. I won’t give a direct quote, but the gist of the question was: What should I call my department?
Few would think that the head of SEO at one of the world’s largest companies would have such a basic identity crisis. After all, this search engine optimization thing has been around for a long time. I started doing “SEO” 15 years ago in 1998. There are others who I know who were in the profession well before then. And, very few people would argue that Search Engine Marketing is not important to most companies.
However, my friend’s identity crisis was real. In fact, I think it is a real crisis for many of us who are members of SEMPO and members of the search marketing community worldwide. It’s very rare that I meet a search marketer who describes the whole of their job as “getting stuff to rank in Google.”
We’re asked to be analytics experts, coding experts, content marketing consultants, conversion rate optimization specialists, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention that we are the ones responsible for knowing about that latest thing that Google did, or the new mark-up language requirements that need to be followed, or how Bing and Yahoo! will react to the new website. Then there’s also the fact that many of us end up being business consultants, guiding our clients and employers on basic business principles – the same principles that, if presented without an online component, they would have no trouble understanding. But, put a piece of HTML code in the mix … well, you get where I’m coming from.
What do you do when your job description doesn’t adequately describe your job anymore? In the real world, most ask for a promotion. I think that’s exactly what many of us need to do. I believe that the company website should be the center of the marketing universe for most companies. Everything a marketer does should aim to drive consumers to properties you own and control. This has been a controversial opinion in some circles. Why not just convert the visitor on Facebook or Twitter? That’s great if you can, but those conversions should be considered gravy instead of the main course.
Sustainable and scalable marketing comes from a consistent flow of customers through a variety of channels. Over-dependence on any channel is a recipe for long-term disaster. Those of us in search have realized this earlier than many other marketers. We learned because we have a harsh teacher. Google has taught us that what works today may very well not work tomorrow. Those who survive in the ranks of search engine marketers don’t just expect change – they embrace it. Most SEOs I know have a near obsession with solving problems, and that is what makes them more valuable every year.
That’s why I think search marketers need more than just a seat at the table. We need to run the table. The time is right. No, Mashable, SEO is not dead. We’re just switching to the big, comfy marketing chair at the head of the table.
Here at SEMPO we’ve been thinking a lot this month about how digital has evolved so far this year and how we expect it to continue to evolve over the second half of 2014. There are many angles from which we could write about the topic—from Matt Cutts’ statements on the changing nature of guest posting, to Google’s de-emphasis of Google +, to the penalization of content networks and more.
With this article I want to focus on one specific way in which digital is changing, specifically, how we target and address our audiences.
The graphic below is from SEMPO’s State of Search research study. The ‘peaks’ in each section represent where marketers are developing a keyword strategy based on the position in the buying cycle of their audience. Although the degrees to which this is occurring vary widely based on the activity, the presence of the peaks—and the inclusion of the question in SEMPO’s annual report for the first time—reflect a mindset shift for marketers towards a more targeted approach in addressing their audience.
In 2014, what we are witnessing is the next step in the maturation of digital marketing. Carried by the renewed focus on content marketing, digital is evolving from the old ‘cast one wide net and see what lands’ to the new ‘cast multiple focused nets’ with a clearer expectation of not only what will land, but what will drive the prospect to the next step in the buying cycle, culminating in a conversion event.
The ‘multiple nets’ approach applies not only to content focused on speaking to your audience based on their specific needs based on their position in the buying cycle, but it applies to evolving from speaking to a broad ‘audience,’ to speaking to individual personas who each have their own unique pain points, desires, and motivations for evaluating your product or service.
Oracle Study Foreshadows the Future
In the same way the ‘peaks’ in the graphic above portend the writing on the wall when it comes to a shift from ‘broad’ targeting to ‘specific’ targeting, the chart below from an Oracle/Eloqua study foreshadows a coming shift to specific targeting.
Nearly half of marketers surveyed say they are in the process of learning to align content with strategy and better map it to the buyer’s journey. The fact that this group–those ‘learning to align content’–is the largest group of all respondents shows that change is one that is occurring now. Yes, respondents to an Oracle survey likely skew to the enterprise, but changes in the enterprise often foreshadow coming to mid-market and SMB’s and this is a case where all digital marketers should be aware of what’s coming.
What Does it Mean for You?
Certainly there’s no expectation that you transition overnight from broad to targeted digital marketing. But you can start thinking about who the personas are that you are addressing, what their pain points are, and how you might better map your content and SEO efforts to target them. If you do so, you are likely to find that better targeted content results in higher click-through, consumption, and conversions.