Did you get the memo? Pandas, Penguins, and Cutts, oh my! A number of professionals are concerned about the standing Google modifications. Some are experiencing penalties and drops in rankings. My sympathy is contingent on a Web master’s understanding of the situation; if they knew they were being ‘bad,’ I say let them eat cake. If they were duped into thinking SEO does the same as PR, then I express empathy and the following sentiments.
What is SEO?
I’m not penning an SEO for beginners post here. I’m trying to set a precedent to the post’s points. We could debate on SEO, inbound marketing, and deconstructing semantics until de Saussure writes his next linguistic study. (He won’t. He passed in 1913.) However, in my limited understanding SEO is a way to build exposure, a way for more people to ‘find’ a brand’s offered goods/services. In my opinion, SEO is a means to an end, just like a billboard ad is a means to an end. The operations don’t guarantee anything except the opportunity to bring a brand closer to an end goal, usually a consumer purchase.
So, search engine optimization is a way to make URLs more visible on a respective search engine. Please accept the immediate, elementary definition.
What are the limitations of SEO?
I see its biggest limitation as being nothing more than a digital version of a billboard. In short, it’s just another marketing method; yet, the billboard is now the Web rather than a static, three-dimensional entity (There are electronic billboards; so, they are not always static.)
I can create (in my mind) the best, most clever billboard ad EVER. Does the creative, eye-catching marketing magic guarantee anything in itself? No. Even if the billboard or the SEO objectives do exactly as desired (getting attention), are observer actions a given? Of course not.
I used this argument before; I apologize for the redundancy; but, the message is so clear and powerful in this 2 Metrics that Matter post by Dr. Pete. I advise reading the post if you have not. For brevity’s sake, I will elucidate the underlying message: great rankings do not guarantee great conversions. There are more pieces to the online-success pie. The message is that simple.
This means, as a marketer or SEO specialist, I can’t guarantee brand products or services are excellent; I can only do an excellent job at giving a brand the opportunity to reach more consumers. I hope that resonates for readers. I’m a marketing-savvy, potential-matchmaker. I create opportunity, not conversions; the latter part is the client’s job entirely.
No Human Touch
Going back to the recent Google updates, many businesspeople suffered because they were optimizing for the search engines entirely. They placed too much emphasis on robotic brand relations. Don’t devote too many resources toward technical optimization; you’re doing your marketing campaign a disservice. Engines are void of human thought and passion; Google desires to supply the ‘best SERP'; but, even when this theoretical future happens, brands will still have a portion of the puzzle to complete, securing the conversion.
I do celebrate the endeavors of Matt Cutts and his zoo crew; because, the over-optimization sentiment MAKES SO MUCH SENSE. Over optimization is like over marketing, you know, going overboard, implanting overkill into a business’ endeavors. Why the radical thinking? Why the radical marketing? Tone it down, brands. No one likes engaging in a ‘super salesy’ experience. We make fun of those situations. Clever brands lampoon hyper marketing in commercials and marketing efforts.
Being first to advertise anywhere, while other brands exist in the vertical, doesn’t guarantee you a thing! If a brand is that confident in germane products/services, then I suggest relying less on questionable technical SEO practices and more on…the brand. Such a decision warrants PR and social aspects of online marketing.
I know a little bit about those aspects; that’s my side of the online marketing town… Professionals are sure to find me expressing acumen upon public relations, social media, branding, and reputation management, all of the personable aspects of marketing. I like those. If brand owners want to make impressions on people (not just engines), then they should like them too.
Has the Web Got Your Tongue?
I’m a little perplexed at the evolution of marketing at the moment. Awesome, the 2000s brought us digital technology. I now have to pay $2.50 for my printed New York Times. (C’mon Anthony, SO many advantages have come along for the ride.) A lot of benefits have come too. For one, I can make a career out of writing, something I will never stop being grateful about. Additionally, the Web is such a convenient source of information, a place to secure information on desired items and services. Bingo.
Businesses saw tons of Web opportunity. Good for them. The sentiment is absolutely accurate. However, it’s still marketing as it’s always been, just in digital form, meaning the human element is paramount and inextricable. Why did some use SEO as an excuse to get ‘people lazy’ when it comes to marketing?
Awesome. Your site is first on Google for t-shirts. When in a mall, will I certainly buy a t-shirt from a store because it’s the first threshold breached? No way, I’m a consumer with options. We all are. So, why would a brand stop there? What about the t-shirt brands that are doing things differently, engaging me, asking me questions, making reputations, building brands based on people relations? Maybe these brands don’t even have a traditional store in the mall; maybe they are doing some guerilla marketing, making contact with people rather than investing in a traditional store mortgage.
Remember the notion of word of mouth? In my elementary readings of marketing, such a free form of marketing was heralded as the “Yahtzee!” of advertising. Personable forms of marketing are more likely to help brands reach the great heights of people relations, of making impressions.
Lite on Technical Heavy on People
In conclusion, I urge brands to go lite on technical aspects. Don’t worry about ‘gaming’ Google; it’s not a good use of time. Alternatively, invest in wooing people. Invest in making better products. Invest in creating a service that competitors can’t touch. Technical SEO is simply advertising on an ever-changing digital billboard. Wooing consumers is not as inconsistent. Additionally, in my observation as a personable marketer, I’ve noticed investing resources toward relations as the better investment.
I’ve recently been trading emails with a professional. He has SEO’d his site into a Google zoo. It’s temporarily unfortunate; but, he’ll be okay. He’s starting to ‘get it.’ He’s starting to realize that optimizing his online personality and ability to connect with peers, potential consumers, and present clients is the better decision. Technical ‘games’ only get an online brand so far, resting at the brink of marketing, just as marketing has always had to do…stop at some point and face reality. The reality that a brand’s marketing efforts are only as effective as the brand’s ability to attract attention, engage consumers, and inspire relationships.
Many SEO methods are robotic, as should be; limit these notions, placing more emphasis on people relations, exploring social media and PR opportunities. Robot marketing has limitations (and penalties); personable marketing makes better moves.
Thanks for reading – Anthony Pensabene