Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, August 27, 2012

Have You Forgotten About SEO?

The Challenge: Marketers have grown obsessed with building "engagement" on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Are they neglecting old-fashioned SEO in the process?


For years, tech pundits have depicted an "epic battle" between Facebook and Google, one that has only heated up with Facebook's IPO in May. But for marketers, Facebook and Google fulfill very different functions and represent different stages in the conversion funnel.

While Facebook is a platform for driving social engagement, organic Google results are still one of the best ways to create demand for your products and services. SEO captures users who are trying to solve a problem, but don't know that you offer a solution. Appear high in the search results, and they won't remain ignorant for long.

Before discussing ways to do this right, let's review a couple ways to do it wrong.


In the early days of Google, tech-saavy marketers tried to improve their search ranking by "gaming" the system, regardless of how relevant - or irrelevant - their content was to the terms a user was searching. These tactics included:

» Transparent-Pixel ALT Tags

One early tactic was to hide keywords in an ALT tag. The only problem is that ALT tags require images. The solution? a transparent, single-pixel image with a "keyword rich" ALT tag. The search engine response? Devaluing ALT tags.


Next, optimizers tried filling their META-KEYWORDS tags with ... you probably know where this is going.

In every case above, marketers and developers tried to drive organic traffic to their sites by fooling the search engines. Nobody was fooled: the search engines responded by adjusting their algorithms to better track the single most valuable aspect of SEO: relevance.


» Create Relevant Content

The open secret of SEO is that there are only a limited number of things marketers can do on their sites to affect search rankings. The major factor in search rankings is links from other sites: i.e., other human beings who think your content is relevant. It’s not something you can game, but it’s something you can assure by creating a steady stream of high-quality content—especially on your official blog. Google demonstrates this fact with their own official blog, which often ranks as a top tech blog—not just a high-quality "corporate" blog.

» Maintain a Consistent Voice
While keyword-heavy content might help search engine algorithms, it's likely to decrease organic, human links to your site. Maintain a consistent voice, rather than setting a minimum number of keywords per sentence, as Dropbox does on their corporate blog.

» Practice Tagging Best Practices on Every Page of Your Site
All of that said, don't neglect basic tagging best practices like concise META-DESCRIPTION tags and relevant TITLE and H1 tags. (SEOmoz offers a great tutorial on tagging basics.) There isn't much you can do on your site to affect SEO, but don't neglect the factors that are in your control.


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