We started off 2013 with a massive bang, hosting none other than the SEO giant himself, Rand Fishkin, founder of SEOmoz. Rand had a lot of phenomenal content to share with our Heavy Chef audience.
To start with, Rand explains that there were 3.2 billion searches in 2012 on Google. The things driving search right now; mobile, developing countries internet adoption, and auto-complete search. We’re seeing paid search growing, but display search is lagging, along with organic. Mobile search is growing rapidly, as predicted.
Display advertising spend is growing much faster than search marketing spend. Paid search spend still gets the biggest chunk of online marketing versus display ads. Rand provided a great tool for statistical counting here.
There are 500 million Google+ enabled Google accounts but only 135 million active accounts. This still makes them the second largest social network, after Facebook. It is important to choose your channel according to your target. Accessibility to engines is still key, but impressing users will always lead to success in SEO.
“Search volume does not equal valuable visits,” Rand explained. “Content has to be great enough so that at least one out of every ten people reading it will want to share it. Content is only good when it is unique, targeted and remarkable.”
According to Rand, the most important things that make a site enjoyable to use are; targeted keywords, and content relevant to your audience. Thin, weak content affects the ranking of all your content.
Link building is dead, as a result of Penguin updates. Google is now starting to reward authentic earned links, so strategies must adapt accordingly. Schema is becoming increasingly important to stand out in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Earned links outperform link building for ranking.
YouTube is next biggest search engine after Google, and should therefore play an important role in your marketing efforts. Although Google won’t admit it, Facebook likes do seem to improve ranking. As one community member described, “Correlation doesn’t mean causation.”
Rand also suggests that Google’s algorithm shouldn’t be understood as fixed, as data can be used indirectly to influence it. Although they may say they are not using social data, Google certainly is, according to Rand. Google doesn’t favour big brands, but users do which makes them more relevant to searches. What it is doing though, is taking over chunky search terms like ‘Cape Town hotels’ for Adwords, therefore pushing out SEO.
Because Google takes the top organic spots on popular search terms, it is all the more reason to focus and invest in the middle and long-tail. Use auto-complete to find long-tail. You’ll need a lot of pages to do this. Use User Generated Content to scale this out. It seems that sharing new URLs on Google+ can help improve crawling and discovery.
Rand offers some strategic tips for SEO.
Tip #1: Get your brand’s story right, SEO is brand building.
Tip #2: Develop a content strategy that will attract customers or customer influencers.
Tip #3: Focus on inbound channels where your audience exists.
Tip #4: Set up the right KPIs, the key to measuring success. Rankings are a useless KPI but are useful to diagnose problems and monitor your efforts.
Tip #5: Devote a WebDev team to marketing. Marketers and web developers need to work together to move the needle on SEO. SEOmoz has a dedicated dev team just for their SEO. That should tell you that ranking is more than links.
Tip #6: Create an incentive for people to share.
Rand points out that you shouldn’t stop your content strategy at potential customers – include the people who influence your customers as well. Research what bloggers, journalists and influencer portals cover. Getting attention is beyond technical experience. Optimize your social timing. Know when your audience is online. He also says that people are more likely to share tweets with no username (Twitter handle) or hash tags. Putting the link in the middle of the text (in a tweet) also improves the click-through rate.
Research what works and get the best click-through rate. Track the links you share. Leverage video content and video SEO. Video is a far more engaging medium, according to Rand. He recommends using Wistia to which allows you to define the anchor text and gives you the link back when embedded. And make sure you test and optimize your CTA buttons. Multi-channel attribution is critical.
Keep all your content on one sub domain. Rand advises, “Not giving up is one of the most powerful tools for inbound. Channels where others don’t invest is where the real opportunities lie.”
At the end of the day, knowing Google’s algorithm won’t help you. Knowing how to build a brand and market remarkable content to web influencers will. Good content is still king. Basics will work, but specification will get you where you really want to be seen.
A huge thanks to Rand Fiskin for his articulate and insightful presentation, we were honoured to host you at our Heavy Chef event. Also thanks to Truth Coffee for accommodating us on a Sunday. This event would not have been possible without Backsberg, Channel Mobile, Nokia and Friends of Design.
Rand’s presentation can be found here.