Which areas of SEO should brands and search agencies invest in

In the last few weeks we’ve seen 2 major tooling companies announce a “re-focus” on the Search industry. Specifically, they’ve drawn a line and declared that the core business of tooling for SEO is their priority.

The entire search industry should ‘re-focus’ on SEO

I think the leadership of Moz and Raven Tools are doing the right thing. Certainly the evidence supports their decision; the tools market is highly diverse, competitive and growing. Barriers to entry are low but barriers to providing unique insight are high. In the market, there’s plenty of demand but users are fickle and will follow the trail towards the best. As we know, only the best survive.

Surely, the logical conclusion is differentiate by specialisation, innovate and therefore differentiate significantly to retain a user base.

Recently, a tsunami of new (front end) technologies and technical search methodologies has emerged that even seasoned SEO teams probably aren’t fully up to date on. Analysing some of these technologies or assessing their impact remains outside of the capabilities of even the most popular SEO tools. It’s difficult to evaluate the impact of new things without actually doing them, but getting the project budget to do new things is hard without an evaluation.

Meanwhile, Google has developed a penchant for obfuscating the useful, using lies like “privacy concerns” to cover up their true motives. All that nonsense started with “not provided”, continued with culling access to the Adwords API for Keyword Research, then the search suggest API and now, it could be well Ad Planner data that disappears. Thanks so much guys…

While these tools businesses get “focused” on SEO, so must SEO teams in agencies and in-house marketing teams. Not because of subscriber preferences or overstretched VC funding, but because of the pace of the rapidly changing environment we’re working in.

To understand your environment, you need to understand the factors that induce change. Here are the ones I spend most of my time thinking about.

The emerging technology tsunami

Front end technologies such as Angular 2, Accelerated Mobile Pages and Instant Articles, methodologies such as ASO and technical SEO implementations such as hrefLang or SSL migrations still aren’t in every SEO team’s skillsets.

When you make a list of things you’ve had to learn, understand or just become more aware of because of the impact on your day to day, you come up with quite a long list:

When Technical SEO Is in High Demand, the Supply of Experienced Consultants has Become Limited

In the recent past, the subject of technical SEO fell out of favour within the SEO industry. Quite when, exactly, isn’t clear but by 2015, much of the focus at conferences and on popular industry blogs seemed to concentrate much more on content marketing. Technical SEO was a feature on the agenda, but to a lesser extent than often I’d have liked to see. Some might argue this was simply because the topic hasn’t moved forward and they don’t want to watch the same presentations over and over; but I think that’s a very narrow minded view. Regardless of the reasoning behind it, the lack of industry focus on technical search has probably contributed to a technical skills gap in the recruitment funnel.

Today, conferences like BrightonSEO and The Inbounder are actively trying to encourage more technical sessions in their agendas.

Our very own Tom Bennet speaking on Site Speed Optimisation at BrightonSEO

Brands: invest in your technical search operations now

Technical search is evolving so rapidly. If your SEO team hasn’t supplemented its knowledge with extra curricular training or support from its incumbent agency, it will be horribly out of date.

Often you can achieve greater returns by improving things on the technical side and removing links than going for all out content marketing or link building tactics. Links are a “less is more” factor, in my opinion. By that I mean it’s potentially smarter to invest in link profile management and boost your site with lower volume, higher quality links. Removing “bad” links to domains can result in sites outranking others with link profiles 10x the size.

Where the search industry should be investing in SEO

To me, a good search business should invest in search in a number of directions: tools, training and R&D. There are many new technologies and methodologies emerging that, without experimentation, research, deployment and measurement can immediately overwhelm even a reasonably experienced agency consultant.

The training and R&D go hand in hand. We make R&D and training projects available for our clients, too – often they’re looking for answers that are outside of a typical agency services template. Leading an R&D project for a client and delivering it with any related training is a highly satisfying way to work.

Which areas of SEO should brands and search agencies invest in?

We’re entering a new time for effective SEO and it’ll be driven by your capacity to acquire SEO data, competitive insight and real experience in the latest front end technologies.

Have you planned for a different kind of R&D?

The kind that doesn’t come for free from the SEO blogs your staff read or the keyword data you used to get without cost from ad planner. Have you planned the budget for the role your agency must play to forecast traffic, carry out research to develop new data sources and measure ROI?

I think that the further into the future we get in SEO, the more important it is to have your own data sources and methodologies in development. This is going to be the cost of organic SEO performance as we move forward.

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