To understand why, you need to understand SEO today. Think you already do? Read on.
What is it that SEOs really do these days? Is it marketing? Is it creative? Is it PR? Is it search engine optimization anymore? What about “real company shit”? Not only what is it to us, the people who’ve been in the space watching it turn from technical SEO to link building to riding the coattails of content marketing, but what is it to marketing managers and CMOs at the Fortune 1000’s of the world?
As more and more SEO agencies are exploring creative and strategic content spaces, the new practices around SEO and technical marketing are evolving much faster than the industry awareness of what we actually do these days. In fact, I’d bet a lot of you reading this are still trying to figure it out. The industry has been going through a clear and evident paradigm shift and even our own industry demigods are often confused.
We see several SEO agencies ditching SEO altogether. Changing out the term “SEO” on their websites for “marketing”, calling link-building “content marketing”, etc. (while ad and marketing agencies are still eager to tack on SEO as a service). SEO is a often bad word in the US, with trust being the biggest bottleneck to adoption these days. Understandably so, after batch after batch of high-profile cases of link-building and thin content gone terribly wrong. But whether search engine optimization is frowned upon or not, it’s still very much relevant. It’s just evolved.
SEO attains a split personality
At its core, there are two main aspects to SEO:
- Site health. Search engines need to effectively and efficiently find, index and contextualize content on your site.
- Popularity. Search engines want to rank what’s popular. What is getting linked to, shared, and engaged with most often for any query or query type?
Site health: A site that’s indexable and crawlable is great, but that doesn’t mean it will inherently rank well.
Site popularity: The popularity of the pages on a site and the site overall is key. Add gobs of links, shares and overall engagement on top of a well-structured, crawlable and optimized site and your winning.
That second one is a doozy. I like to say that the best SEO is a product that doesn’t suck. A great (or at least interesting) product inherently gets linked to, shared and generates press.
For example Airbnb came is disrupting the rentals market. They create gorgeous content and tell stories that pull on your heartstrings and win over press and consumers even though VRBO has been around a lot longer and up until recently has had more listings. When Airbnb does content pieces it’s hard to miss the buzz. People at our coworking space here in San Francisco won’t stop constantly talking about Airbnb. VRBO is a site. Airbnb is a lifestyle.
Fantex is a service that lets you buy stock in an athlete. Doing linkable pieces and building links is not their focus. Disrupting the market is, and they’re getting shared, linked to and mentioned like crazy since they launched.
So who’s calling on SEOs for product strategy these days? #crickets
Marketing + Creative + PR + SEO = ________
Here’s the thing. Not everybody is a disruptive Fantex or a heartstring-pulling Airbnb. And even Airbnb misses out on SEO opportunities like the lack of links to the listings on this content piece. Most businesses need to push a little to get visibility, shares, links and press coverage. Let’s put technical SEO aside (we’ll assume we’ve already got this covered for our prospective clients or ourselves), and focus on those natural links and shares that are guiding today’s progressive SEO agencies down this new path.
What we do is different. It’s a synergy of several disciplines. It’s marketing (audience targeting, keyword research, search channel conversions), it’s creative pieces (infographics, interactives, videos, tools and other digital assets), it’s PR (outreach and placements), and it’s SEO (optimized code behind any content and links where links are due).
Creative agencies, ad agencies and digital marketing agencies do creative and they do it well. But do they continually get big name publishers to share their stuff? Do they create pieces that search engines can crawl and contextualize. Oftentimes not.
PR teams get visibility for a brand but does it get in front of big publishers? Does it get audiences excited? If the company itself is exciting, yes. Otherwise, publishing news about yourself all the time is not exactly titillating.
Progressive SEO (or ‘previously-known-as’ SEO) companies create pieces that get audiences excited (creative), get them published in places where their audiences are reading online (PR), and get people naturally sharing and linking to content and back to a site that has a clean bill of SEO health that search engines can effectively and efficiently crawl and contextualize (SEO).
We are the full package. We can bring home the bacon and cook it up in a pan. Yet our audiences in large part don’t know something this combo PR/creative/SEO/marketing thing exists.
SEOs do it better.
How do we change the mindset at scale, to go from seedy snake oil salesmen to valuable, creative, multi-talented marketers? At SEOgadget we’re constantly educating clients and potential clients. We’re working on various ways to show this synergy and highlight examples of the successes. We’re speaking on content strategy and inspiring people to build products that leave the competitors in the dust. We have clients who we do full-time content strategy and marketing for, and have more people calling for creatives and marketing, all with the idea of boosting visibility and popularity, which feels to us like people are getting the idea.
It’s something we think about on a daily basis here at SEOgadget. Let’s not abandon SEO for simply “marketing”. We’re not SapientNitro. We’re not AKQA. In ways, we’re more. We’re niche, technical marketers with unique and oh-so-valuable insights into the synergies between marketing, creative, PR and tech. Popularity is the new SEO, and we are out there helping the digital wallflower and stalwarts brands become overnight prom queens, with a big heaping pile of rankings to go along with it. Today’s progressive SEO shouldn’t be shunned, we should be the shining stars of the marketing world. We work hard to understand audiences and goals and value props and D3.js and Ruby and APIs and outreach and analytics and attribution and tie it all together in the end. Who does that? Probably not your PR agency. Probably not your creative agency. Possibly not even your digital marketing agency. Oh, that’s right – SEOs do.