Are You ‘Layering’ SEO? You Should Be.

SEO isn’t what it used to be.

Ten years ago, an SEO specialist might spend 40 hours a week on keywords, title tags and content manipulation. Nowadays, he or she must possess a much broader skill set and think far more strategically

That’s because there’s been a shift toward Search Marketing Integration (SMI) or “layering.” This concept is forcing digital marketers to become master collaborators who can effectively utilize cross-departmental initiatives to fuel a rise in organic visibility. 

Related: SEO Basics: Keyword Research Made Easy

The credit for this idea has to go to Rand Fishkin, CEO at search-software company Moz. During a conversation with Rand, I asked him whether the term SEO was still relevant. He explained that, rather than looking it as something distinct and isolated from your other business and marketing initiatives, you “need to add SEO as an important review layer on top of all of those other things.”

I think this is a really good way to conceptualize how SEO needs to be integrated into all aspects of your business to have the greatest probability of success. It really helps to visualize these concepts, let them sync in and “get it.”

In order to become a master collaborator and get the most out of your search efforts, it helps to break your collaborative efforts into four distinct areas:

1. Interaction
The first thing every successful digital marketer must do is learn to interact with the different departments within their organization. This has to be done regularly and consistently in order to produce results. The only way to discover the SEO opportunities that exist elsewhere in your organization is to communicate with your colleagues and actively undercover them. This includes attending cross-departmental meetings, happy hours and formal training sessions. You can even uncover SEO opportunities during conversations at the water cooler.

2. Persuasion
Once you’ve had a chance to interact and identify opportunities, you need to motivate your colleagues to help you achieve your goals. The best way to approach this is to find a champion within each department. I won’t bore you with tactics for motivation, but it’s vitally important to have a friend that can communicate initiatives from within their department. Having a reliable ‘point-of-contact’ can drastically help you turn ideas into actions and push your initiatives up the priority ladder.

3. Organization
This is probably the most difficult part of mastering the art of cross-department collaboration. Unless you are organized right from the start you will find yourself struggling to organize and motivate your ‘helpers’. In most cases it’s best to put the infrastructure in place right from the beginning – before you even start approaching people from other departments. There are some great tools you can use to help with this process including digital project management tools like basecamp, collaboration tools like tracky and idea organization tools like mind map. 

The simplest way to get started is to create a spreadsheet that will document all of your opportunities. You’ll want to create tasks for regular communication (weekly check-in emails with ‘helpers’), ongoing lists for all SEO opportunities, dates for timely opportunities, rating mechanisms for prioritization and a list of actions items for each new opportunity.

4. Implementation
The implementation process will vary based on the nature of each new SEO opportunity. Some things will be easy low-hanging fruit that can be accomplished quickly, like updating a press release. Other opportunities will take an incredible amount of time and effort like collaborating with your engineering department on creating an interactive site widget that can be used for link building purposes. The systems you put in place need to be designed to handle tasks at each end of this scale.

The search marketing world has changed. Content is still king and link building is still queen (debatable), but collaboration is the key to both crowns.

To make sure you publish content that delivers value to visitors at every point in the sales cycle, you need to collaborate with departmental colleagues across the organization. By approaching this ‘integration’ in a measured, organized way, you can increase the probability of success.

Related: How Google ‘Author Markup’ Can Help Protect Your Content and Build Your Brand

Brad Miller is director of business development at Fathom, a national digital-marketing agency. He currently resides in San Diego.

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