How to Build an Future Proof SEO Strategy for Your Brand We can all agree that SEO has morphed into a different beast over the past 2 years. From the non-stop changes of Google’s algorithms to the rise and possible overload of content, tech tools, mobile’s rise and social signals impacting consumer discovery. The future of SEO is not a stand-alone practice, but one that has to be integrated with other aspects of your brands marketing strategy to be successful in the years to come. The future of SEO is a mix of technical, experiential, content and strategic efforts to get discovered on the screens that our customers are using. It all starts with your customer Understanding your audience is paramount to success. Some call this audience research, persona development or consumer analysis. What matters most is the insight gleaned from deeply studying your audience, what’s important to them, the questions they ask and how they consume and share information. We do a lot of one night stands in lead generation and not enough long term relationships – Michael King This reminds me of a conversation I had with Michael Brenner, the VP of Brand Strategy at NewsCred, and he responded along a similar vein when describing how to implement a successful content strategy. Customer personas help you speak the right language and build long term relationships, if you’re not using them, start now! See a trend here? Michael King of iPullRank referrs to these as data-driven personas. Where you utilize the data from your mailing list, think ConstantContact, Hubspot and MailChimp. Augment the list data using third party tools like FullContact Pass that information through a tool like DemographicsPro to provide social and psychographic insight. Ok, I had to look this up to make sure I wasn’t mis-using the term. So here you are, the definition of psychographics — Upload your new and improved mailing list data to FaceBook’s Audience Insights. Amazing tool, a bit “big brother” like. Segment your list based upon the demographic and psychographic insight provide by FaceBook. Check against your Google Analytics to see how different users convert at different rates. Voila, deep background on your consumer personas. Consumers want more from their content This is only logical. There’s so much content on the web and consumers are downright overloaded. In fact, we’re all overloaded, accessing information using devices in every form factor imaginable during every second of the day. It was only a matter of time before content shock set in. Mark Schaefer wrote a great post on content shock back in early 2014. It’s worth reading that post, but the key thing to take away is that content marketing, like all marketing efforts, evolves with consumer behavior. As information becomes cheap our willingness to value it diminishes in direct proportion. Only the exceptional has an opportunity to rise above the noise, think Seth Godin’s book, Purple Cow. Fast forward to today and were getting consistent reports confirming consumer distraction and preference for better experiences with their content. Check out the most recent content study from Adobe. Time starved consumers wan’t more: Better design Better Content More entertainment Every screen form factor All the mediums Every platform The bar is high. Keywords still matter for discovery Just so we’re all clear, every bit traffic that comes from search engines like Google, Bing & Yahoo begins with the user typing some words into the search bar or speaking those words into SIRI or Google Voice Search. Keywords are how your content gets discovered online. Of course there are other things that come into play, but the keyword is still at the core of search discovery. The easy part is coming up with search terms relating to your industry, consider that table stakes. From there, some of the related phrases that people might use to search for your products or service are a natural progression. The creative aspect of keyword research that’s worth exploring is when you niche down into groups of “longer tail keywords” closely related to your core business. These are keyword phrases of two words or more that are often indirectly related to your product or service. The value of the niche keywords is that while they get less search traffic per keyword, they usually they have dramatically less competition. That makes them easier to rank for. My friend Brian Dean of BackLinko calls them niche clouds that he describes as simple mind maps that identify niches that are closely related to your bread and butter niche. As Brian put’s it, someone interested in buying a basketball hoop may also search for: How to shoot a better free throw Slam dunk highlights How to get recruited by college scouts Nutrition for athletes How to improve a vertical jump Each of those searches are part of a unique – but closely related – Niche Market. Here’s the illustration from Brian that highlights his Nine Clouds technique. What’s crazy is that many marketers seem to have given up on studying the keywords that their audience is using to ask questions on the web. We’ve all attempted the “build it and they will come” approach of creating content with varying degrees of failure. Listening is crucial for any relationship, especially one as hard earned as those forged on the web. Technical marketing is just the cost of doing business With the evolution of digital marketing, content, SEO and overwhelmingly big data, comes the need for technical expertise. From Jan 2014 to Jan of 2015 we’ve seen a 100% increase in the number of marketing technology vendors. 1876 vendors across 43 categories is a staggering number, but likely just the beginning. Scott Brinker, Co-Founder and CTO of Ion Interactive publishes a highly detailed infographic on the marketing technology landscape.” According to Scott – ” The real challenge is changing how firms think and behave in this hyper-connected, always-on, customer-controlled digital world. I believe Scott when he says – The bar for delivering great customer experiences is rising faster than our ability to deliver them “The good news is that most of the marketing technology innovations on this landscape are designed to help marketers conquer that revolution. They’re by no means miracle transformation pills (“instant relief, just add money!”). But when applied in the service of a well-organized, strategically-sound, executive-led digital transformation effort, these technologies are your friend. They can imbue your organization with superhero powers” Here’s just one segment of the Marketing Technology Landscape… Even with this overwhelming evidence, there’s been a lot of recent talk about modern SEO not being technical. Clearly, whoever is spreading that sentiment is not running a multifaceted business with varied lead sources, multiple products and varied customer personas. I love Rand Fishkin’s WhiteBoard Friday video “Why Effective, Modern SEO Requires Technical, Creative, and Strategic Thinking“. He tackles the subject head on, watch the video for yourself. Also, if you wan’t to know more about Rand, listen to his interview here. To further make the case, all you has to do is sit in on one of Michael King’s SEO talks to grok the enormous potential that search engine optimization has to offer any marketing organization. Take a look at Michael’s deck from Inbound titled “Technical Marketing is the Price of Admission” Set some goals and get to work It seems so simple but somehow quite illusive. Want SEO results? There’s no silver bullet, it’s a goal driven process, start there and then optimize tactics. This simple statement is at the core of what modern SEO is all about. Focusing with the end in mind, the consumer, their journey and the rules of the platforms those consumers are using. Once you have that insight, it’s all about leveraging your efforts to make discovery and consumption easier and relevant to all involved. Seth Price I’m on a mission to transform the way you think about personal branding to empower your life’s work. My keynote speeches connect me with audiences all over the world. Join me in creating ideas for bringing your brand to market.