Has SEO Lost Its Mojo?
After 10 years in B2B marketing, I know what it means to put your back into both design and SEO.
I’ve experienced the highs and the lows of making ground, losing ground and taking shots on the frontline as the industry evolves.
As an aspiring agency owner navigating the years following the DotCom wave, I remember being inspired by a video of Wil Reynolds from Seer Interactive explaining ways to measure Google’s rankings. Wil’s sharp thinking and passion for this business helped to establish benchmarks for best practices in both paid search and SEO marketing that I soon found myself emulating.
But what did a top ranking really mean, even back then? It meant eyeballs on pages and eyeballs converted to buyers. Buyers became advocates and advocates became loyal customers. While B2B slowly caught on, some organizations embraced the power of search a bit faster than others. The smarter tech companies gained early traction, but those organizations with more traditional sales and marketing models and struggled to embrace the impact of SEO on their marketing efforts.
Of course, my imagination was in overdrive. How could we help our B2B clients embrace this thing called SEO?
To arm our clients, we built helpful tools they could benefit from in their roles as marketers. These tools included collaborative keyword discovery portals and analytics dashboards that showed organic search rankings and performance metrics. These tools sparked many conversations and provided unique opportunities to talk about keywords and create strategies surrounding them. As time went on and these conversations evolved, our biggest goal became striking the right balance between brand, design and keywords - and it quickly became our niche.
Since those early days, Google has undergone a number of changes.
From social influence on rankings to major upgrades in the form of Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, the landscape was changing. By making these updates, Google took back the reins when it came to SEO. With that in mind, how were we, as marketers, expected to effectively improve our optimization efforts?
Firstly, it’s important to keep in mind how ahead of the game Google was. They realized that a customer’s decision to purchase is made through a persona buying journey that includes knowing the stages of engagement leading up to a final commitment. Google was investing in the marketing community by guiding us toward best practices that would create success further down the line, beyond just SEO.
Keywords and being replaced by conversations.
Currently, these best practices are embodied in the form of Content Marketing and it's ability to connect with prospects early in the awareness stage. With an emphasis on search and social channels to build relationships digitally, we’ve now witnessed an explosion of client-generated content. This demand is forcing marketers to invest in developing structured content strategies that are based on identifying new opportunities across business and industry channels to ultimately increase the rightkinds of traffic.
Nowadays, SEO is no longer about optimizing for search. It’s about building relationships using informed content so that people can make better purchasing decisions. For B2B, successful marketing requires being focused around the customers needs and solving their problems first.
While I’m not likely to give up using the term ‘SEO’ anytime soon, its days as a standalone marketing practice are definitely numbered.