SEO 2.0 - Focus on Outreach
By Peter Prestipino, Editor-In-Chief
There are no two ways about it - inbound links are influential in achieving top placement on the search results (arguably, they remain the single most important element today). Search engines, however, are not making it easy for Internet professionals to acquire the citations they need to place in competitive positions.
The search optimization process has changed dramatically in the 15-20 years since search engines first emerged in the digital landscape. In the past, the secrets of high rankings were straightforward - the heavy use of anchor text, paying for placement of links, directory submissions (regardless of relevance), sculpting on-site links and focusing on density-based keyword content, among others. The process was haphazard at best, but couple those methods with a keyword-rich domain and it was possible to rank competitively on the search engines (and with relative ease and simplicity). Again, things have changed – and changed dramatically.
SEO today requires that citations be earned – and what’s more, earned through a useful and remarkable contribution of content to the Web and the conversations happening within it. But publishing content is only half the digital battle. Today’s best SEOs are not just skilled at developing content (and optimizing on-page elements), but skilled at building relationships through outreach. It’s a new day – it’s SEO 2.0, and the time to start aligning content development with outreach has arrived.
Webmaster Tools 101
wsm.co/googwebtools - The most powerful weapon in your digital fight to top the search results is Google’s Webmaster Tools, which offers up insights into areas of potential improvement – none more so than the information it provides about meta descriptions and title tags.
Without taking outreach as seriously as content development, search engine optimization efforts will likely wallow in digital mediocrity – a few qualified visitors will arrive over time, of course, but not nearly enough to fuel (or sustain) digital marketing efforts. Links are an important element in search engine’s site-ranking algorithms and that won’t change in the foreseeable future. (Don’t Miss: SEO Without Links - wsm.co/seowithoutlinks).
Outreach is the only way to build relationships capable of providing linked citations, the only way to become established as an authority or build a following of influential advocates, and maximize the amplification of a message (and content) through social media. This, in essence, is SEO 2.0; taking advantage of relationships that are methodically culled and leveraging content that is both useful and remarkable. Search engine optimization professionals, those ultimately responsible for building links, must engage in outreach if their aim is to rank in competitive positions on Google and Bing.
Consider the following outreach plan to acquire the ‘Net citations your enterprise needs to place on popular search engines.
STRATEGIZE: The purpose of outreach is for SEOs to create a network of prospects capable of bestowing digital citations. The focus should be to acquire as many potential link partners as possible, but marketers must first understand the actual strategy that has been set in place by the brand. If the goal is to generate more leads, for example, the strategy might focus more on educational or informational content (in a thought-leadership manner), whereas if the aim is to increase awareness and page views, a strategy could focus more rigorously on producing regular, fresh and timely content (like a blog article commenting on a trending news item) to maximize the available marketing opportunities.
RESEARCH: Just as you wouldn’t depart on a cross-country trip without the necessary provisions, neither should you engage in an SEO campaign without the necessary information – information that will fuel the outreach initiative. The first step is to identify the verticals, niches or categories that carry the potential to ultimately provide a relevant citation. That means engaging in research that reveals relevant bloggers, potential partnerships and perhaps even competitors (direct and indirect). Don’t stop there however – there’s more information to collect than you might think. Discover five data points to start collecting for your SEO Research at wsm.co5seoresearch.
SEO Data With MozBar
wsm.co/mozbarseo – SEO software solution Moz has released a new version of its browser extension MozBar. The extension provides on-page access to Moz’s link metrics and website analysis tools, focusing on SERP and link profile analysis, and site and competitor research.
PRIORITIZE: Many of the link targets identified in the research phase will be valuable – and others, well, not so much. When you prioritize prospects, you’re gaining more value with less work. Working top down, from the most influential to the least, optimizing outreach time carries the potential to yield the greatest result as one link from an authority site in almost every case, for example, will outweigh the value provided by 10-20 sites with little or no value. Consider using a CRM database to keep track of link prospects, or one of the many SEO software solutions referenced in Website Magazine’s June ‘14 issue - wsm.co/4seosoftware.
DELIVER: After becoming familiar with whom it is you’ll be in contact with, and are following the outreach prioritization principle you’ll be one step closer to acquiring links – but only one step. The next phase is to actually deliver the messages that will ultimately earn your website the citation it needs to compete. Most often the outreach comes in the form of an email. Since there are so many different ways to reach out to prospective link partners, Website Magazine has put together a guide to writing the ultimate direct link request (for various scenarios) at wsm.co/ask4links.
MAINTAIN: Once you have a connection with an influential information publisher or customer advocate, it’s absolutely necessary to maintain the relationship – and sometimes, that can be exceedingly difficult. The time and attention of those capable of bestowing a link/citation is often limited so relationship maintenance ensures that the opportunity remains viable in the future as new opportunities emerge.
ANALYZE: It’s possible that your strategy (and all the succeeding phases) will be misguided – e.g. you might have had better luck publishing informational, thought-leadership style content over short-form briefs on trending news items. Ideally, digital marketers will be tracking their performance and determining if the strategy that was put in place is meeting expectations. If not, don’t be afraid to pivot.
SEO 2.0 has arrived and the savviest digital enterprises are signing on to the power of content and relationships. Don’t be left behind – start reaching out today.