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A Strategic View of Search Engine Optimization – Where Does SEO Fit in Your Content Strategy?

Posted on Nov 19th, 2012
Written by Lee Odden
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    strategic search engine optimizationCompanies large and small, in industries from retail to manufacturing, publish content online with an expectation that a certain audience of people will find, read and act on that content.  While most Search Engine Optimization efforts are rightly focused on marketing goals like acquiring more customers and increasing revenue, making purchases is not the only reason consumers use search or ask for referrals through social networks.

    There’s a lot of tactical advice online about search, social media and content marketing for companies that want to better connect with customers but that advice doesn’t always consider the differences between types of companies or even content within companies. For the best return on marketing investment, it’s important to understand that there are notable differences in tactics for effective optimization depending on who the audience is, how they prefer to discover, consume and act on information.  The very nature of B2C vs. B2B or small company vs. large company content, audience and outcomes can be different, so the approach to optimizing content for search and social media must be tailored accordingly.

    As a marketer, you’re charged with assessing internal resources, overall business goals, customer buying cycle and time-frame in order to make the best decisions possible with your resources. If you can better understand the opportunities for holistic search and social media optimization of content: Internal departments such as Public Relations, Customer Service and HR/Recruiting then you’ll be able to extend the value and impact of your optimization investment.  The bonus: A holistic view brings the value of search discovery to all corporate digital content and provides the added benefit of increasing online marketing performance too.

    Optimization and the Enterprise

    Large and complex organizations have many more considerations with coordinated optimization, social media and content marketing efforts. Many effective SEO and Social Media Marketing consultants have had difficulty making an impact because of their inability to win internal client support amongst interdepartmental teams needed for implementation.  Competent SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing expertise is moot if a consultant doesn’t understand how to navigate large and complex organizational structures. Success is as dependent on political and organizational savvy as it is on digital marketing mastery.

    Operational Efficiency = Search Engine Confusion – A very large company in the Healthcare Technology field that generates tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue amongst more than 20 different companies decided to roll all of the disparate company brands and websites under the corporate content management system.  Customers visiting the old website addresses were redirected to the new home of the company under the main company website.  The new CMS allowed centralized management of website resources and a common brand identity.

    What the company soon realized was that while the combined website presented a unified brand and redirected requests for old pages to new destinations, the methods were not as easy for search engines to understand as for people. Website traffic was affected and a SEO Audit was completed to identify the issues. Working with over 20 different business and operating units as well as corporate IT, the migration issues were identified and recommendations implemented.

    Seeing an even bigger opportunity, the company decided to further leverage search as an effective method for relevant discovery and engagement with their B2B prospects. A SEO program was rolled out amongst individual business units, with the corporate website and Public Relations content.  Ongoing SEO implementation, content creation, link building, formal and informal training resulted in significant increases in search traffic and online leads across the portfolio of companies.

    As one of the largest companies in the world, change isn’t always easy to implement, but the SEO consulting and training initiatives grew confidence in online marketing programs and the company has been implementing more social media components into their online marketing mix along with content and optimization.

    Public Relations Optimization

    When social media participation by brands became more popular, companies often began with marketing and sales outcomes in mind but soon discovered that people use social tools for many types of communications ranging from customer service to public relations to recruiting.  The same opportunity exists with optimizing content for easy and relevant discovery through search engines.

    Marketing is not the only type of content to be optimized – Other areas of the organization publish content online that has an intended audience and set of outcomes. The public relations function within a company often produces nearly as much content as marketing in the form of a corporate newsroom with media coverage, press releases, images, video, case studies, white papers and other resources that would be useful to journalists. Each of those assets is an opportunity for journalists to discover the brand story through search engines or social referrals.

    PRWeb is a press release distribution service (and a longtime TopRank Marketing client) that publishes thousands of press releases for PR practitioners and small business marketers every month. As a pioneer in the area of optimized press release distribution, PRWeb has been relied upon by the SEO and PR industries to deliver outcomes like high ranking press releases on Google and Yahoo News, website traffic and links for over 10 years.  Companies that optimize and socialize their press releases give new life and extended reach to their news by making it easy for bloggers and end consumers to find and share press release content.

    Within the Public Relations department arsenal of content, there’s a mix of optimization opportunities beyond the press release including from the corporate newsroom to video and images to social media content and even contributed articles to publications and blogs. The unique opportunity for PR content optimization is that it serves the information needs of the media as well as consumers.

    Customer Service Optimization

    While much of the optimization and social media efforts of companies is focused on content related to customer acquisition, there’s tremendous value in making sure content that serves existing customers is easy to find. That means optimizing frequently asked questions and other support material for easy and relevant discovery through search.

    From a social media perspective, it means being aware of what support related search queries are most popular so topical social media monitoring efforts can uncover service opportunities on platforms like Twitter, in forums or in comments on blogs.  It also affects social content creation so answers are easily discovered and shared within social channels by social media community managers, customer service staff and brand advocates.

    Optimization works for internal search engines too – Optimization of content for customer discovery can happen with public information that’s accessed via search engines like Google or Bing as well as internal repositories of information behind a login.   One large company faced the need to optimize post-sale content for customers. Feedback from usability studies showed that customers were having trouble locating information in the customer portal, such as frequently asked questions and user information.

    Optimize by Lee OddenTo help provide a better customer experience, SEO best practices were applied to existing content to create better content architecture and ensure relevant results were served via the internal search functionality.  The project began with identifying customer segments and working with client-side marketers and customer service reps to identify the information customers were most likely to search for.

    Next, a separate keyword glossary was researched and created for the customer portal content. Following the development of the keyword glossary, best practice optimization was applied including editing titles of documents, headings, copy and cross linking within copy.

    The end result was more organized, easier to find content to help serve customer needs across multiple post-sale stages.

    Making customer content easier to navigate and find quickly can lead to increases in customer satisfaction, frequency of which customer portals were accessed as a resource and ultimately cost savings for related call center volume.

    If search engines like Google and Bing are imperfect, then the search function within company websites are by far from perfect. That means optimizing content for internal use can help employees (like customers) find answers more quickly and efficiently.  I’m sure many people reading this have used Google or Bing to search for content on their own company website. That experience goes to show the power of a search engine for surfacing content that’s important for performing one’s job. It also reveals the importance of making any kind of content with a purpose and an expected audience to be optimized for discovery through search.

    Whether your small or large business is focused on B2B or B2C markets, the overall opportunity to optimize content to aid in the connection with intended audiences is essential. Further, being able to discern the uniqueness of different customer expectations for how brand content is discovered, consumed and acted on will help marketers better plan their content optimization efforts for the benefit of customers and brands alike.

    Excerpt with permission from Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing, published by Wiley.

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