How to Practice Integrated SEO

search marketing integrated approach to search engine optimization

What is Integrated SEO?

You have your content marketing team, your PPC team, business operations, and sales team. Are these departments working together toward common goals? SEO is one way to build your brand’s visibility on the web, and bringing everyone into the loop can help you accomplish that in ways you might not expect.

An integrated SEO program is one that is intertwined with broad organizational goals as well as synchronized with the individual activities of other departments. It requires understanding that on-site elements—such as content and the website’s technical focus—need reinforcement through off-site components, such as social signals, link signals, and user signals. Here are some steps you can take to implement an integrated SEO program across all departments.

Define Your Goals

What are the business goals of the organization? What are the goals of the marketing department? How do marketing goals relate to the larger business goals? Before beginning any program, you must know the goals and how you will measure them. For an integrated SEO program, understanding the overall goals of the organization will help you make informed decisions. This understanding is crucial in helping you determine the specific operational goals of the SEO program. By defining goals from the outset, you can make sure your SEO program is enhancing an overarching marketing strategy rather than becoming a separate (and potentially misunderstood) component of it. Since this is an integrated approach, all initiatives must be working together.

Another point to consider during this preliminary process is how the success of the SEO program will be measured. Defining success metrics can help you choose the best tools to operate and track your program and manage expectations for the program as it evolves. Building shared metrics or KPIs is a great way to ensure collaboration and integration from the beginning.

Enable Success

It is important to keep your team informed about SEO objectives and how those efforts connect to the overall marketing goals. In addition, it may be beneficial to equip other departments with resources to help them incorporate SEO best practices into their routines. For example, a list of the top 20 keywords can help the marketing department, PR, and other teams better focus their efforts and message when working on their initiatives. Building shared resources and project plans make it easier to work together for success and maximize results. Open lines of communication and education about SEO can help keep everyone on that same path toward success.

Measure Results

A well-executed SEO program will require the use of various on-and off-website tools. Defining goals and metrics early on can streamline the tool selection process.

Competitive situations, business goals, and marketing goals all play a part in the selection of keywords, so it may be wise to invest in a keyword research tool. Other tools will analyze content and suggest changes in structure or verbiage. Integrating SEO with an overarching marketing program also requires providing an education on best practices and reinforcing them through the reporting process. In addition to research tools, you may want to acquire reporting tools that will help you effectively analyze and present the results of your optimization efforts.

With the right tools, you can track the success of your program and compare your program to your competitors over time. It is a best practice to examine comparative data month over month, as well as year over year, to properly account for the impact of seasonality.

Bring Everyone to the Table

SEO is a changing and evolving tactic that is often misunderstood. Instead of practicing SEO as a stand-alone service, integrate SEO wherever possible. It is a best practice to include all company departments involved in marketing initiatives, especially those responsible for content creation and website design. Keeping everyone in the loop helps connect the dots between individual departments. It also helps the organization capture every opportunity for optimization, such as time-sensitive or impromptu campaigns, partnerships, and promotions. In some companies, keyword research also impacts product research teams, as users’ needs may be expressed through queries and also through the words they use to describe products.

Key Takeaways

The results of an SEO program will vary depending on the specifics of your organization. Understanding goals, agreeing on metrics, and involving everyone in the process makes it easier to discuss objectives and how to achieve them as the program evolves. By understanding where SEO fits, setting realistic expectations, and fully integrating the idea of SEO into your organization, you will establish the foundation required to produce measurable results.

Does your organization practice an integrated approach to SEO? Share your tips in the comments!

Investing in SEO: Factors to Consider

SEO, SEM, digital marketingWhen it comes to implementing an SEO program, there are many factors a company needs to consider. What are your goals? What resources are available internally? What areas should you invest in to be successful? The best option for your company will depend on a complete assessment of what you want to accomplish with an SEO program, the internal time and budget resources available, the level of expertise required, and how SEO will fit into your integrated marketing mix.

Establish Goals

Before diving into the logistics, it is important to understand what it takes to perform SEO correctly and effectively. An assessment of expectations should be completed before determining how and where resources will be allocated. Is traffic or sales more important? Is there a geographic set of goals? What are the business outcomes and the interim milestone goals? What does a solid SEO program look like? Do you have the time and expertise necessary to carry out such a program? Once you have established goals, you can better determine whether or not you have the manpower, time, and level of expertise required to deliver success.

Experience and Expertise

Once goals are established, your company will have to determine a budget. Setting a budget helps to properly strategize how your program will operate. One of the primary questions to consider for a budget is whether or not staff is available to manage an SEO program, or if hiring a dedicated in-house SEO expert is a realistic option. It is important to keep in mind that a well-maintained SEO program requires a significant time commitment— 50 – 100 hours per month could be expected. If neither option is feasible, finding an SEO agency may be a worthwhile alternative. Even with an agency, though, you’ll need to designate an employee who will own the program and help ensure success.

There are many educational resources available to help users learn about SEO, as well as tools that can maintain various components of an SEO program. Choosing to remain in-house may help absorb some costs, but it may become necessary to invest money in tools necessary to implement and maintain an SEO program. Total costs for a complete suite of on- and off-website resources should also be factored into your budget. Remember that a correctly executed SEO program can take an average of 4 – 6 months to deliver real results. Your company should decide whether it has the time and money to experiment with various tools.

Another factor to consider is the level of knowledge at hand in comparison to the knowledge required to carry out SEO. An effective SEO program is multifaceted; it is imperative to understand how various components—such as content writing, link signals, page-load factors, platforms, and more—work together to drive results. While someone in-house may have enough time to dedicate to SEO efforts, you should consider whether or not they have the level of foundational knowledge needed as well as the extra time required to stay up to date with important changes in a fast-paced industry.  Agencies that specialize in SEO are committed to keeping up with the latest industry news, trends, resources, and best practices. In addition, agencies usually have experience managing SEO for a wide range of clients. By investing in an agency, your company essentially purchases a level of reliability, experience, and accountability that is not always attainable internally.

Overall Marketing Integration

After considering internal resources and capabilities, you should determine how SEO will fit with other marketing efforts. Companies that already work with agencies for other marketing tactics may choose to take the same route with SEO. Many agencies also provide a full range of services to help integrate SEO with overall marketing efforts to boost its effectiveness. If your company decides that working with an agency is the most cost-effective option, it is critical to define what the agency’s unique role will be within or in conjunction with your existing marketing structure.

A decision on how to invest in an SEO program will ultimately depend on your company’s goals and resources. With all these considerations taken into account, your company should be able to easily determine how and where to allocate resources in order to implement an SEO program and find success with it.

Have you decided to keep SEO in-house? Stay tuned. In a later post, we’ll discuss how to implement and manage an in-house SEO program.

How does your company manage SEO efforts? Do you work with an agency? Let us know in the comments.



Poll Results: Net Neutrality


Net Neutrality Debate The conversation over Net Neutrality has been highly debated over the past few months, with players in both the public and private sectors weighing in on the idea of Internet regulation. What is the sentiment surrounding the topic within the SEMPO community? We conducted a poll to find out.

Our data indicates 77% of the SEMPO community supports the concept of Net Neutrality, while 17% opposes it. Although polls from other sources indicate a majority of Americans support Net Neutrality as well, it is typically by a much slimmer margin. A recent Google Consumer Survey revealed most people don’t know or care much about the issue. In the survey results, 26.8% support Net Neutrality, and 14.3% oppose it. A full 60% of survey participants declined to specify support or opposition and instead indicated they simply do not know enough about the issue.

The SEMPO community is comprised of digital marketers invested in utilizing the Internet to support their clients, brands, and e-commerce initiatives. As an audience that spends much of its time leveraging the Internet for marketing purposes, it’s not surprising the SEMPO community demonstrated strong support for Net Neutrality in our poll.

Dan Shewan of Wordstream warns of some of the dangers of net neutrality for digital marketers.  He expresses concern over ISPs providing advantageous treatment to media companies that have a “preferential service agreement.”  Smaller businesses may not be able to compete with blogs of bigger companies even if they are offering quality, specialized content. Loading times of landing pages affect quality score rankings, so paid advertisers could also be harmed if bandwidth is restricted on their sites.

Do you have an opinion on the issue of Net Neutrality? Participate in the poll that is still open here on our blog, and/or let us know in the comments.


It’s back – the SEMPO State of Search Survey

SEMPO State of Search Marketing Survey Research StateofSearch Research

Yes, it’s that time of year again – when marketers assess what went right (and wrong) as well as look forward to fresh beginnings.  This time of reflection is also the perfect opportunity to take a few moments to participate in SEMPO’s 10th annual State of Search Survey.  The survey continues our well-established template of capturing and segmenting data relevant for both marketers/clients and agencies so it is open to all digital marketers, whether they are SEMPO members or not.

We are also pleased to announce that this year we are partnering with Third Door Media (publisher of Search Engine Land and Marketing Land) to field the survey and report the results.  This edition includes focus on digital marketing trends including Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click Advertising, Social Media Marketing and other digital channels in the following areas:

-Channels being utilized and changes in investment by channel/property

-Ability to measure return-on-investment (ROI) by channel/property

-Technology and tools utilized to manage channels/properties

-Resource/Personnel allocation and/or fees paid to third parties to manage channels/properties

-Prioritization of challenges in managing channels/properties

As always, in return for your time and participation in the survey, you will receive access to a free, advance copy of the in-depth report, normally worth $400, when it is published. You will also be eligible to win a new iPad 3, courtesy of SEMPO, or a FREE All-access pass to SMX West in San Jose, CA, March 3-5, 2015, courtesy of Third Door Media.

So now that you’ve read this far, why not take the few extra minutes to take the survey now by clicking here:

E-commerce and Social Media Advertising Part 1

Social media advertising is an important and evolving facet of digital marketing, and especially valuable in the E-commerce buying cycle. Because the E-commerce buying experience is less defined than the experience of shopping at a brick-and-mortar business, there are unique opportunities for digital marketers to reach out to consumers at various points in the buying cycle.

At retail locations, attention-grabbing signs, sales information, and other elements can be employed to influence consumers. The avenues of influence are less obvious in the digital space, so it’s important for marketers to leverage social media advertising as part of an integrated marketing mix to drive traffic and sales.shoppping cart icons on tablet 492 x 348 px  6.83 x 4.83 in  72 dpi

At brick-and-mortar businesses, consumers engage in “Search & Discover” by walking through the aisles, picking up products, reading labels, or asking questions. In E-commerce, there is no direct interaction between the product and the consumer, so marketers use other tools to achieve the same benefit as physical interaction with the product, bright signs, sales people, and displays found in stores.

With targeted social media advertising, marketers can reach consumers who are already in the Search & Discover process of the buying cycle, which means they may be more likely to ultimately purchase a product. A study performed by AOL Platforms found that using paid social media advertising leads to a 25% increase in conversions compared to organic social media.

Every piece of social media content is a chance to convert, so it is imperative to capture consumers who are already searching for the product.

Although investing in social media advertising is important, content does not always gain the level of organic traction marketers were able to capitalize upon in the past due to Facebook’s algorithm changes. With social media advertising, businesses can reach and influence consumers in the buying cycle.

Promoted Posts, a subset of social media advertising, can also be utilized to increase brand awareness. Unlike social advertising which has a lot to do with an individual user’s search behavior, promoted posts help reach consumers whose extended social networks (i.e. their “friends” on Facebook) are already connected to your brand. Although marketers should not expect a promoted post to have a direct influence on E-commerce, the tool can be used as part of an aggregate digital marketing strategy.

Promoted posts can raise awareness for a product or brand outside the Search & Discover process as well. Because there are fewer clear distinctions between the different steps of the buying cycle in the digital space, marketers can take advantage of the rich data left over by consumers who have completed the buyer’s journey or aren’t even in it yet.

Even after consumers complete purchases, they remain connected to social channels. Marketers can use social advertising to connect to consumers and foster brand loyalty even when they aren’t actively looking to purchase something. Consumers who frequently purchase products online may visit other E-commerce sites for similar products, and they may potentially purchase those kinds of products again. Social advertising can be used to target those consumers and attract others in their extended networks.

There are many avenues of influence marketers can use to drive consumers to a particular destination or goal. In the case of E-commerce, social advertising is an effective way to communicate with consumers at various points in the buying cycle. It can be an important component of a targeted digital marketing campaign and an overall aggregate strategy to drive sales. Social advertising can help marketers fill the strategic gaps that arise from the absence of a physical connection between the consumer and the product.

How is your business using social media advertising to drive E-commerce?


Multi-Cultural and International Search: Trends and Opportunities

search keys 478x359As the world becomes increasingly globalized, the roles of multi-cultural and international search in search engine marketing are shifting as well. What trends and opportunities do marketers anticipate?

SEMPO asked industry insiders what trend they think will have the biggest impact on international search within the next year. Jose Saldaña, Elena MacGurn, and Daniel Hucks provide their insights.

Daniel Hucks of Digital Strategies, Inc., thinks mobile-friendly sites and content will drive the greatest impact on international search.

Jose Saldaña of Covario agrees. According to Jose, it will definitely be mobile consumption.

“Search is becoming more specialized,” adds Elena MacGurn of Covario.

“A successful search campaign in this maturing market now requires a multi-channel network of seasoned subject-matter professionals, e.g., mobile, usability, UI, local, social, and content marketing experts who specialize in the variety of marketing verticals,” MacGurn says. “With so many facets and opportunities for your brand’s presence on Google, there’s a lot more we now have to take into consideration.”

The opportunity to capitalize exists, but how do global search engine updates affect international budgets?

“It keeps the budgets shifting at a much faster pace through the different specialty areas,” says Saldaña.

MacGurn notes that several big international search engines, including Google, Baidu and Yandex, have recently implemented a number of anti-spam measures targeting poor quality backlinks, link farms, and excessive use of links to game ranking algorithms.

“These anti-spam measures caused a natural shift in the amount typically invested in link building and content marketing for those markets,” she adds.

MacGurn anticipates an increase in the importance of multi-cultural and international search.

“Our analytics, attribution, and local targeting options are becoming more sophisticated to allow for additional customization and localized approach, creating the type of content that can better meet local demand,” states MacGurn.

According to Saldaña, cultural embracement helps build trust in consumers.

“I see [multi-cultural and international search] of critical importance, especially as the purchasing journey continues to integrate new and emerging touch points outside of search that empower consumers to have more information and options,” shares Saldaña.

Daniel Hucks isn’t quite as convinced.

“Maybe on the B2B side,” he states.

What trends and opportunities do you see in multi-cultural and international search in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Multi-Cultural and International Search: Research and Strategy Q&A

As the world becomes increasingly globalized, multi-cultural and international search are becoming an integral component in search engine marketing. What are the best international search campaign tactics and how are marketers implementing them? SEMPO asked its members for their insights.

1. How do you conduct research for international search campaigns? Can you share any tools or tricks?

Jose Saldaña of Covario:
“First, I understand the market by researching demographics, general interests, and whereabouts. Secondly, I investigate preferences and search behaviors and patterns, and lastly I integrate emerging topics and opportunities.

Common tools:
1. Market & Demographics – Display Planner, Hitwise, ComScore, SimilarWeb
2. Target Audience – Keyword Planner, Bing Keyword Tool, YouTube Keyword Tool, Google related results
3. Trends & Insights – Google Trends, Trendsmap, Google News, Google Alerts

I use Google advanced operators to narrow down to various criteria and to discover geographically relevant terminology that I then combine with a list of purchase oriented (or other categories) terms to ID highly refined keywords.”

Elena MacGurn of Covario:
“Covario’s strategy for international search campaigns relies on proprietary technology, as well as local search engine platform services. When researching local markets’ organic demand, we also look at local paid campaign insights, user-generated content from local social activity, product reviews, competitive data, internal search results, and related data.”

Daniel Hucks of Digital Strategies, Inc.:
“Generally, the research is industry specific first and country and culture more secondary.”

2. In what ways do you accommodate international holidays and events into your search efforts?

Jose Saldaña:
“We celebrate local culture and incorporate seasonal campaigns, exclusive offerings, and semantically-related content for broader non-brand coverage.”

Elena MacGurn:
“Seasonality and local search patterns are very important factors in understanding local demand for most verticals. Accommodating international holidays, seasonal events, and any ongoing marketing efforts already targeting local markets is a significant component of our international search campaigns.”

Daniel Hucks:
“Only if they are relevant to a campaign.”

3. What search tactics do you feel are the most beneficial to reach a multi-cultural audience?

Jose Saldaña:
“1. Cross-referencing between content languages for awareness
2. Finding emotional connections to invite reviews and user generated content 3. FAQs for broader content coverage”

Elena MacGurn:
“When dealing with multiple cultures and international search, I believe it is important to go a step beyond geo-targeting in order to accommodate any blended search needs of the local consumers. At Covario, we work closely with local trending topics, localized content, local social networks and search engine tools to boost engagement and capture search demand within multi-cultural markets.”

Daniel Hucks:
“Have content written by one who is native to the language and culture.”

4. In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge in multi-cultural and international search?

Jose Saldaña:
“1. Acculturation – Understanding the different marketing languages of the target audience.
2. Cannibalization – Competition between various geographic areas of the same brand competing in one same area and impacting customer journey to purchase. 3. Scalable process for managing href language annotations.
4. Regional search engine updates. Centralize frameworks that make regional adoption a long or impossible process.”

Elena MacGurn:
“The biggest challenge in multi-cultural and international search is understanding real-time local demand and making the most out of those insights to target new and existing content. Scaling this effort across multiple countries or regions often results in missed targeting opportunities at a local level.”

Daniel Hucks:
“Understanding cultural nuances and regulatory environment.”

5. Do you find you are more likely to run ads globally or by country? What factors drive your media strategies?

Jose Saldaña:
1. Total market opportunity
2. Cost to reach audience
3. Brand affinity
4. Competition”

Daniel Hucks:
“By country; culture, language and regulatory.”

SEMPO thanks the contributors to this blog post and invites you to share your approach to multi-cultural and international marketing in our comments section. Also, come back soon as our contributors continue the discussion on multi-cultural search trends and opportunities.

Has Blogging Outlived its Usefulness in SEO?

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.

Does your website have a blog? Why or why not?


State of Search Marketing Infographic – Measuring Performance

SEMPO is excited to present the State of Search Marketing Infographic on Measuring Performance. This infographic shows the ability to measure ROI continues to be a struggle for social and mobile marketing. While marketers are confident in their ability to measure paid search and email, more needs to be done to improve the ability to calculate overall ROI of all digital marketing programs separately and in an integrated fashion.

The State of Search Marketing Report showcases changes from 2012 and offers insights into what to expect in 2014. This annual report is a critical touchstone for digital marketers looking to assess where they stand today and where they should be looking for success tomorrow.

The infographic is a visual representation of the 9th Annual State of Search Marketing Report, which was fielded by the SEMPO Research Committee in conjunction with Econsultancy.

(Click to Enlarge)

SEMPO_State of Search_Measuring Performance



















SEMPO members can download the State of Search Marketing Report here.

If you would like to become a SEMPO member, please click here.

Past State of Search Marketing reports can be viewed here.

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The Half-Year Update: Standout Social Media Changes That Have Impacted The Search Industry So Far In 2014

It’s hard to believe but six months of 2014 have already passed. As important as check-ins and analysis are for any program, it’s equally important to take a step back and look at the broad picture of what’s happened in the first six months of 2014. As search and social become more intertwined, it’s key to note where the social media industry currently stands and where it is moving. Here are a few of the social media developments that will likely impact search and other digital initiatives as the year moves forward.

Pinterest Web Analytics

Pinterest introduced Pinterest Web Analytics, which allow site owners to see insights about how people are interacting with pins from their website. Users can get information on how many people:

1. pinned from their website
2. have seen these pins
3. visited their site from Pinterest

The most repinned, most clicked, and most recent pins features give users insights into the most popular pins. This change signifies the upward movement of Pinterest as a key player in the social space. Offering analytics demonstrates the impact social media plays in website traffic.

Facebook Algorithm Changes

Facebook rolled out a new algorithm to the News Feed that removes what Facebook considers “spammy” posts. Like-inducing posts, links that lead to a website full of ads, and frequently circulated content have been reduced on Facebook’s News Feed in order to combat spam behavior.

Facebook is concentrating on making quality posts, such as status updates, legitimate articles, and links appear in the News Feed. Businesses and brands must now focus on generating a quality conversation on posts to improve their appearance in the News Feed. Content that includes comments and conversations will appear on fans’ feeds more frequently.

With algorithm changes and increased brand competition, there is less space on the News Feed resulting in declined organic reach. As the algorithm moves forward, brands will need to adapt to these changes and consider implementing social media ad budgets to focus on engaging fans and making the most out of social media marketing.

Twitter Profile Updates

Not to be outdone by Facebook changes, Twitter introduced a new profile redesign in the first half of 2014. The design features a larger header image and more dynamic features, like pinning tweets to the top and larger tweets for higher engagement. As Twitter’s first major overhaul in years, this change was a big move for the established Twitter.

Google+ Business Pages

Google enabled Google+ business pages to connect their page to their local business listing on Google Maps. Business owners will no longer have two independent Google properties to maintain, creating a more streamlined Google experience. This change demonstrates the continued integration of all Google properties and features.

What changes have you seen make an impact in the first half of 2014?