Why media strategists are working hard to improve their organic search skills.
Interactive marketers with a mandate to manage their companies' or clients' search efforts are increasingly ubiquitous. One need only look to this week's Search Engine Strategies conference in New York to find evidence of this trend. Attendees at such specialized SEM (define) events are no longer limited to search engine specialists. They're teeming with media strategists and buyers eager to improve their search skills.
For many of these multitasking folk, the focus is on paid search for its ability to delivery immediate and assured results. Others strive to understand organic SEO (define), which requires a minimal investment and continues to deliver results over time.
As I contended at the event, there are other ways marketers can improve their search engine rankings. Many of you practice them already.
Blogs have evolved from an expressly consumer-generated medium to one of the most popular and effective weapons in an online marketer's arsenal. We're coming up with new uses for them almost daily, from helping to humanize formerly faceless corporations to educating consumers about one's services or cause in an entertaining fashion.
There's another benefit to blogs marketers often overlook: they can significantly boost a company's search rankings.
Last week, I discussed GM and its groundbreaking effort to align itself with Google, a brand that for consumers is synonymous with credibility. GM is also known for its corporate blog, FastLane, from which it's garnered significant search results since the launch last year.
"We realized the blog was working its way up the search rankings incredibly quickly," says Michael Wiley, Detroit-based director of new media with GM. "The blog is above Web sites that have been online for 10 years."
Wiley affirms Google gives sites higher value based on the frequency with which they are linked to from other sites. Such is the power of inbound links. "There's a viral aspect to blogs," he says. "FastLane is linked to so many different blogs and the search results receive a lot of clicks, so the search engine moves it up the hierarchy quickly."
Because search engines look upon blogs so favorably due to such factors as link popularity (along with HTML content and frequent updates), marketers have an opportunity to harness that traffic and redirect it to their corporate or brand sites. Dairy company Stonyfield Farms, for example, has fully integrated its blogs into its brand site with significant results.
In addition to securing high search rankings, its Baby Babble blog also features the same menu bar that greets consumers on the rest of the brand site. This familiarizes them with the site navigation, as well as funnels blog visitors into the company's most valued site sections.
Though search rankings may not be on most marketers' radars when they consider developing a viral piece, viral campaigns can complement existing search programs. Like blogs, applications such as videos and games that lend themselves to being shared online can generate a surfeit of incoming links to the site at which they're hosted.
The degree to which viral applications can achieve top rankings is a testament to the importance of link popularity. Unlike blogs, most feature little (if any) HTML content, yet they've been know to easily top HTML sites in search listings.
Applications that become truly viral can result in media coverage in trade publications, the mainstream press, and blogs, all of which can drive search traffic back to your viral piece. The ultimate goal, though, is to increase your product's or brand's exposure. Concentrate on incorporating the apps into the piece without detracting from its entertainment value. A high search ranking is icing on the cake.
Improving one's knowledge of paid and organic search practices is absolutely critical. The more media buyers understand the big picture, the better they'll become at producing effective campaigns. While you study and struggle to learn it all, however, keep in mind there are other ways to improve your search presence as well.
You just have to know where to look.
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Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.
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