An Approach to Holistic SEO

The search engine optimization industry has few constants, but the one we can all count on is the persistent effort by search engines to improve quality and user experience. These innovations affect how content is discovered, indexed, and sorted in search results. As smart marketers, we pay attention to every opportunity these changes present, in our efforts to gain a competitive advantage.

In 2007, Google and other search engines made some of the most significant changes ever, affecting search results by including more sources such as images, maps, books, video, and news for certain queries. In an effort to capitalize on these opportunities for improved search visibility, concepts like Digital Asset Optimization were introduced. But they didn’t really take hold until Mike Grehan’s post in 2008 about “The Future of SEO.”

Fast forward to 2010 and the innovation in search results from 10 blue links to mixed media results continues with the addition of real-time search and the incorporation of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook into Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

Google says its mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Marketers need to understand the opportunities to make information – including various types of digital assets – easy for search engines to find, index, and sort in search results. Structured data in the form of microformats and rich snippets, as well as feeds and sitemaps, all play an increasingly important role in helping Google achieve this goal. At the same time, so does understanding myriad data sources and file types that can be included in search results. By understanding these opportunities, marketers can inventory their digital assets and deploy a better, more holistic SEO (define) strategy, which realizes the benefit of inclusion and visibility where customers are looking.

Many search marketers already optimize holistically under the premise of, “What can be searched on can be optimized.” Until recently, most companies avoided entering the content marketing business. SEO consultants have typically been left to deal with whatever content they could to optimize and promote for link building.

Now, we’re more informed. When we examine the search results page of targeted keyword phrases on a regular basis and conduct search analytics and social media monitoring, we can gain a deeper sense of what new sources can be leveraged for better search visibility. For example, while the inclusion of Twitter and Facebook in Google search results has received a lot of buzz, search results monitoring might show that the keyword terms being targeted do not trigger real-time results. They might be prone to triggering images and video, and that information can be considered when allocating optimization resources.

In essence, the weight given to content optimization versus digital asset optimization should clearly match the opportunities presented by an ever-changing search results page.

This all sounds fine and good, but the reality is that it can be very difficult and complex to implement with a mid to large sized organization. Substantial changes may be necessary with content creation, approval, and publishing processes along with the need for ongoing education. However, the upside is that a substantial increase in the media types indexed and linking to a company Web site will provide the kind of advantage standard SEO no longer offers.

As long as there are search engines, there will be some kind of optimization for improving search engine visibility. What companies need to consider are all the digital assets they have to work with to give both search engines and customers the information they’re looking for in the formats they’ll respond to.

Meet Lee Odden at SES New York, March 22-26, 2010 at the Hilton New York, where he is participating on the panel, “Digital Asset Optimization.” SES and ClickZ are both part of Incisive Media.

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