Sunday, March 29, 2009

SES: SEO - Where to Next?

This was one of my favorites of the entire conference, but before I get to the details, I want to clear up a few things.

The acronym SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. This geeky term was coined in the day when we were trying to figure out how Google algorithms where working upon our websites and placing them thusly in the rankings. The acronym, SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing, which at least is a little bit more descriptive what we are thinking about these days. I prefer the much more generic term, Internet Marketing because that at least casts a large net over the topics which are tackled within the subset.

Okay, on to “SEO: Where to Next.” These sessions are the reason why I go to these conferences because I am interested in what is coming down the road in this field. New changes come up fast, so I want to be working towards what is up ahead, not what is happening now.

This session did not disappoint. My favorite panelist, Jill Whalen spoke about the necessity of developers “baking” good SEO basics right into the CSS of websites. CSS means Cascading Style Sheets. If you aren’t a developer, you have no reason to know what this is except to be sure that your website is being designed with this type of format and with XHTML standards. Just ask your web designer if this is the case. If not, fire them and find somebody else who does it that way. It’s really important.

Jill’s point was to drive home the need for web coding standards across the board, so that websites can be found via all kinds of searches. This could be mobile, geo-targeted, vertical, blended, whatever. It was here where I first heard that “rankings are dead.” They just don’t add up to quality traffic anymore. The panel stated that analytics are the new rankings and I think they are right. This means that you must know who is coming to your website, how, why, and when. Know how long they stay, where they are lingering, and even know where they are clicking on each of your pages. We are now much more interested in the performance of the website itself rather than driving the masses to a so-so site.

So, what about driving traffic to the website? The thinking is that now we drive highly targeted traffic to our websites via social media and much less through casting wide nets via search engines. So the shift is towards UNDERSTANDING WHO YOUR CUSTOMER IS (I will always capitalize that most important point) and knowing what they want and how to get it to them. Find customers where they hang out already. Start a dialogue, give them something they need or something of value. Use your analytics to measure success, and then shift accordingly.

Figure out what your client is worth to you. What is the chain of events to the purchase? (Does this sound just like old fashioned marketing? Say, “Hell yeah it does!”) Universal and blended searches along with geo-targeted searches will deliver people to your door. Will you be there to greet them in the manner upon which they demand?

Become an authority. Make sure your links have contextual relevance. Think local. Think quality connections. Think conversations. And all of this doesn’t cost anything to do.

We see that the future holds this truism ”The best Social Marketer and the spiffiest websites get the prize.” Back to basic Marketing 101, but with spicy technological tools and gadgets.

One other thought from me. I've never really understood why Traditional Marketing and Internet Marketing can't share the same bed. They really are the same thing aren't they? They have the same goal after all, right? Just a thought.

This was a conceptual session. There are more how-to’s lurking for later on.

Jennifer Bunker

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