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A Newbies Guide to State of Search Conference 2017

A Newbies Guide to State of Search Conference 2017

So, I’ll start out with a bit of a clarification. I’m not a newbie to internet marketing by most standards. But this was the first time I ever attended the State of Search conference (now concluding its fourth year) or any conference that hyper-focused on SEO and PPC. And it was great! There were numerous different sessions, both keynote and breakout sessions. I couldn’t go to all of them, as there aren’t four of me. And to be honest there wasn’t really a “theme”. I mean that in a good way. The breakout sessions were about widely varying topics. Some touched on some relatively in-depth JavaScript fixes (as JS and SEO aren’t known to be besties). Others talked about video marketing and social media. Being the SEO-er of our group, I tended toward likeminded sessions. There were two common threads that stood out to me: quality content is DIFFICULT but IMPERATIVE and local search is increasingly difficult, but we’re learning more about it every day.

(Quality) Content is STILL King

I’m pretty big on content. So, to me, words are a big deal. SEO content in the past has gotten kind of a bad rap, not blamelessly either. That doesn’t mean that all SEO content is bad, nor is it impossible to truly be a content leader. The real trick is not overextending yourself so you can truly produce consistent content. There’s a few different ways you can accomplish this.

  • Hire a Content Marketing Firm (we utilize some of the methods listed below as well)
    • Check online forums for industries you serve for topic ideas
    • Try finding paid contributors
  • Bloggers (if your audience is large enough, they MAY write for free)
  • Friends/colleagues in the industry
  • Freelancing websites, such as:
    • FlexJobs
    • Upwork

Of course, the easiest, most basic option is just to write the content yourself or work with a trusted copywriter. Also, imperative to your content strategy is the content calendar. This is very important to ensure you’re posting regularly, consistently, and discussing relevant topics.

Keys to Content: Useful, Aligned, & Unique

You have to make sure your content meets certain criteria. Because you have to find the balance between content that your readers care about and content that can actually move your bottom line/get sales. So, for each piece of content, ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. Is it useful?
  2. Is it aligned?
  3. Is it unique?

You need to ensure the content you’re sharing is useful to your readers. You must also confirm that your content is aligned with your overall brand and marketing strategy. This doesn’t mean every article has to be about a specific service offering. It can be peripheral to your immediate capabilities. But it should be related closely enough that it makes sense for readers to be coming to your company for the information. And finally, don’t just write the same stuff everyone else is putting out. There is no need for another “Best SEO Strategies” post that rehashes the same techniques we’ve all been discussing for the past 10+ years.

Ultimately, content is and will continue to be a cornerstone of an effective internet marketing strategy. Most companies don’t have the bandwidth to handle this content creation themselves, at least not to scale and with regularity. That is why this focus is usually best left to internet marketing firms who have the time and experience to utilize some of the above techniques and more along with other SEO knowledge to help find and exploit the many content opportunities out there.

Local Search Struggles, We’ve Got ‘Em Too

The local search algorithm has been updated pretty significantly in the past year. The importance of location is more important than ever before. Personally, I don’t know how long this particular component is going to retain this level of importance. It doesn’t always offer the best user experience, as it’s being applied to many searches where proximity is NOT that important. In the meantime, it would seem there are few workarounds. One of the most frustrating, but also relatively fool proof ways to overcome the proximity bias is to get an office in a ‘better’ location. Yes, really. It would seem if you’re losing business because you’re too far from your customer base, you’re going to need to rectify that. Typically, it is recommended to get a cheap, small office in a central location. BUT, and this is important, it MUST actually be manned during business hours. You cannot just have virtual location, or a post office box. There has to be a person there that a potential customer could come meet with if needed.

The Best Offense is a Good Defense

The idea of a virtual office leads to the second tactic for optimizing a company for local search, and it doesn’t involve optimizing your site or listing at all. The rules of Google My Business are many, but finite. It’s somewhat easy to spam GMB, but it’s also fairly easy to spot these cheaters and submit them to Google for removal. For instance, there are many companies that have tried the virtual office route, only to have their listings removed after being flagged by competitors. It could serve you very well to review your competitors’ listings online and submit any that seem to be breaking guidelines.

Looking to the Future

In addition to the discussions on content and local search, there was plenty of discussion around AI (artificial intelligence) and voice search and the ever-evolving nature of our jobs/industry. Artificial intelligence is being seen more and more in chat bots for a wide range of companies. Voice search is becoming more and more prevalent with the “internet of things” taking over many American households. The general thoughts were that we cannot afford to become stagnant in our thinking or pigeon-hole ourselves into just one aspect of internet marketing. We must take a more wide-angle view for our customers’ sakes as well as our own.

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