SEO Fundamentals in 2012: What You Need to Know
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SEO Fundamentals in 2012: What You Need to Know

frustrated-suitLater this morning I’m giving a search marketing-related talk to the esteemed board of a major charity. Being quite a verbose individual, I’m going to have to stick to a script in order to offer them anything of real value within my allotted 15 minutes – because I could talk about search and social marketing all day. And don’t get me started on content strategy. Then again, if you’re talking about SEO in 2012 without mentioning the integral importance of a content strategy – you’re probably also still attempting to set up non-relevant reciprocal link partnerships while offering a top 10 ranking in one month guarantee for a poker website.

I have an hour to put together the aforementioned script and thought it might make a helpful and long overdue blog post. This is high-level, 10,000 foot view stuff with a focus on brevity. An exercise in being verbally taut and terse. It will contain the sort of vague generalities I normally rally against – and attempt to offer an antidote to – here on ThirstyPony’s blog. You’ve been forewarned but that’s not to say you won’t get anything out of it. And you can always click the sidebar link to request a no-obligation proposal if you’d like to collaborate officially. On we go…

2012 SEO Summary & Best Practices

  • Marketing 101 tells us (in the first ten minutes on the first day of class) to “identify your target market”.
  • The first ten minutes of SEO 101 should be spent figuring out what that target market is typing into Google.
  • This can be determined through a combination of keyword volume tools, competitive analysis and common sense.
  • A combination of offsite and onsite SEO is crucial in 2012. Long gone are the days of simply stuffing your homepage’s title tag.
  • Onsite SEO means optimizing the physical code of your website to ensure it has the highest potential to rank for your target keyword list.
  • Offsite SEO can describe any method employed in building one-way, relevant links to various pages of your website.
  • Competition will be the main deciding factor in whether it takes your site days, weeks, months or years to rank for your terms.
  • SEO is an ongoing process. Once time is spent capturing high rankings they must then be defended and nurtured via content updates and ongoing link-building.

2012 Social Media Summary & Best Practices

That’s not half bad, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t include mention of social media. It’s become so closely related to SEO (and a content strategy) that they likely grew up somewhere in the Ozarks together.

  • Any marketing effort involving a social media outpost (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Slideshare, etc.) isn’t worth it’s weight in bytes if there isn’t a clear plan behind it.
  • Goals and measures of success have to be determined beforehand. Metrics and tracking must be a big part of the ramp up process.
  • Simply building a Twitter account is a fool’s errand. I’ve written previously on the importance of a clear social media plan.
  • Rotate and test different types of posts and outreach. Identify methods (types of content) that work with your audience. Repeat.
  • Be consistent! You’ll lose friends and followers exponentially every day/week you don’t keep your feed active and engaging.
  • Cross-pollinate your social media outposts using your blog and other resources on your main website, and vice-versa.
  • Links from social media outposts to your website is good for SEO. Google’s algorithm now looks for “social signals” when ranking a site for a given keyword.
  • Social media has become a major CRM (customer relationship management) tool and many consumers have grown to expect it.
  • Many consumers have also grown to expect a social media presence, period. If you have a plan and you’re actually using the outposts effectively – even better.
  • Social media has become a major ORM (online reputation management) tool. If you’re not monitoring brand mentions online you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.
  • Social media is a great way to engage real people (potential clients) and turn folks asking a simple question – or even those with an axe to grind – into new customers in a matter of a few sentences.

2012 Content Strategy Summary & Best Practices

The final major piece of this puzzle is free, original, high-quality and objective content. Post Panda, a content strategy is what all businesses absolutely must start focusing on – but precious few are.

  • Google’s 2011 Panda update upped the ante and increased the importance of frequently updated and original content.
  • Content can be a blog post, a photo gallery, an infographic, a whitepaper – anything which can be indexed and is somehow relevant to your business.
  • Google loves frequently updated websites, high quality resources, sites with lots of pages and especially (see SEO fundamentals above) sites with lots of incoming links.
  • The more quality, original content you have, the more likely you are to attract links from relevant websites. I call this “passive” link building – and it’s the best kind.
  • Let’s not forget the human beings. Content gives you the opportunity to become a true authority on what it is you’re selling. Great for consumer confidence.
  • A frequently updated blog or forum allows potential customers to see current activity and even conversations between employees and the public. More confidence.

Reading this back, there’s no way I’ll fit it into 15 minutes unless I talk at a manic, meth-like pace like the guy from the 80s FedEx commercials. Did they even have meth in the 80s?

Still – it’s a decent, if scattered, high-level collection consisting of many points I attempt to hammer home to my clients on a daily basis. And I still have 8 minutes left before showtime. I hope you got something out of this urgent cerebral dumping, and that we can have a more leisurely conversation about some of these bullets in the comments.

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