Fathom had the opportunity to attend the 2012 SMX Advanced conference in Seattle. Each year this conference brings together the best and brightest minds in organic and paid search marketing. Fathom was able to cover all three tracks with two representatives on the organic side of things, and one on the paid. Many tweets were made and a lot of notes were taken, but I’m not going to bore you with the detailed or “hardcore” tactics.
When leaving each SMX Advanced conference I have attended, there are major themes that emerge and give me a fresh perspective on how to continue shaping our online marketing solutions and delivering the results that matter to our clients. As director of online marketing at Fathom, I’m surrounded by a phenomenal team of strategists and specialists that are constantly ahead of the game in regards to delivering on strategy and tactics. My role leading the team doesn’t always allow me dive deep in the tactics each day, but it’s my responsibility to make sure we are always doing what is in the best interest of our clients and looking ahead to the future of online marketing.
Below are my major takeaways and insights into the advanced world of SEO and online marketing.
Stop the shortcuts
Websites that were affected by Google’s Panda and Penguin updates may (or may not) know that thin content and weak inbound links in high quantity aren’t sustainable online marketing efforts. If your strategy relied on either of these tactics and you don’t have any authoritative content or links in the mix, you may be seeing drops in organic traffic, and have a lot of clean up work to do. Think sustainability. Think “less is more.” Think quality over quantity. Solve problems. Build relationships. Partner with an agency that isn’t caught up in gaming the engines with a lot of low-value content, weak links, and “spray and pray” social media tactics.
Prepare for the next major Google update
When putting the ideas above into practice with your online marketing you are essentially future proofing your on-site and off-site efforts where pending Google updates will have little to no negative impact on your visibility, traffic and conversions. If you are working on a tactic you feel won’t stand the test of time, why even bother? Don’t wait for Google to devalue your efforts when you can change your approach now and remove your weakest tactics. Make organic traffic sacrifices now to be set up better down the road for bigger and better gains.
Remove “link building” from your vocabulary
If you have the mentality of simply building links in mass quantity without a sound strategy tied to quality marketing, you won’t get very far this year and the next. Think of link building as a by-product of great marketing that involves killer content and relationship building using online PR and social media. I have said it before and I’ll say it again… SEO and link building won’t fix a sub par business model or lackluster products and services. Be bold and timely in your messaging and solve problems with sound marketing practices. Spend time catering to and learning from key influencers within your industry and social networks.
Stop the constant site fixes, and build something new
Does your website feel like it’s held together with duct tape and safety pins? Stop slapping up temporary repairs or saying “this cannot be done”, and invest in new technology. A fast-loading website with clean code, solid directory structure and logical information architecture will allow your online marketing efforts to be scalable and more effective. Does your current website accommodate blogging, mobile visitors, conversion optimization testing, schema.org, social integration, social sharing, interactive video, and user feedback tools? At Fathom we believe a strong technical back-end drives a functional front-end. Website users and search engines are demanding an upgrade to an old clunky website. Invest in your future, and if someone tells you your baby (website) is ugly… listen to them!
Organic search real estate is eroding
In the “Ask the SEO’s” session, Bruce Clay predicted that the first page of Google search results will eventually have only three organic listings. The way paid search ads and paid inclusion are heading, this is very well a possibility. Google has built their business on paid ads and other recent moves support more revenue-generating initiatives. If you don’t have an investment in paid search, now might be the time to learn the advertising channel and optimize for placement, click-thrus and conversions. If you obtain both paid and organic real estate, you can experience great click-thrus, but if you rely on just one or the other, you need to be prepared. What was once a top organic listing can easily get pushed to the bottom of the page and below the fold. Covet, maintain and improve your organic rankings, yet don’t forget about syncing your organic and paid keyword and landing page strategy.
Discover and pursue opportunities with personalized search
We heard a lot about the death of the keyword ranking report at SMX Advanced. There is still value to tracking keyword rankings, but it is not the “end all, be all.” A new wave of personalized search results continues to emerge with Google+ and the Bing/Facebook relationship—and it gets harder by the day to track personalized traffic progress even when using an SEO analysis platform. Location, wisdom of crowds and social shares within online networks can completely change the results each individual can see in the search engines. Find ways to leverage these logged in users to make your site and your managed off-site properties more visible. Schema.org, authorship, geo-targeted content, and the new knowledge graph all present opportunities to be an early adopter/optimizer and gain more focused traffic associated with personalized search.
Provide clarity and firmness on your strategic recommendations
This last takeaway is simple in theory, yet challenging to achieve. Online marketing can be as complicated as you make it out to be, or so simple a fifth grader could understand it. Trust in your judgment and experience, and share that enthusiasm with your client and/or agency partner. If you feel strategy is not going in the right direction, call it out and right the ship. Keep the above takeaways into consideration and you’ll be in good shape. Be honest and transparent with work that was done in the past to obtain rankings and results, but don’t dwell on it. Move forward and incorporate new forms of thinking and doing. The world of online marketing is accelerating at an amazing pace, and it’s all for the better of the Internet. Do your part and realize the sustainable impact your organization can make with solving peoples’ problems, and you’ll be successful. Online marketing is about doing a lot of little things well over a lengthy period of time.
Stay thirsty, my friends!