From Old School to New School: SEO in Transition

SEO is growing up. For more than a decade SEO was filled with get rich quick schemes where the connection between the business and the customer was not a material part of the strategy to get more traffic to a web site. The two things were divorced from each other.

Even the so-called “white hat” SEO practitioners were focused on a variety of tactics. These may have been closer to Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines than what the “black hat” SEO crowd did, but for the most part, they were still tactics.

The historical job of the SEO could be reduced to two areas of effort:

  • Twiddle some bits on the site and make it more search engine friendly.
  • Go obtain links to the site, but we’re too busy to interact with you, so you don’t need to know where we’re getting them from.

Where SEO Happens

Much of this was all akin to a form of voodoo and the actions being taken by the SEO weren’t understood by the rest of the organization. There was no need. It was all tactics.

Thankfully, this is all changing! Here’s a summary of some of the transitions that are taking place:


Integrating With the Rest of the Organization

As you read through the above table you may be struck by the fact that SEO can no longer operate in a silo. SEO professionals need to be concerned about factors such as brand, reputation, user satisfaction, usability, and have a more holistic view of the world in general.

In addition, the rest of the organization now needs to view SEO as an integral part of what they do as well. Search engines still need help:

  • Finding all the pages of your site (Discovery). This is why XML sitemaps exist, and there are many other aspects to this as well.
  • Understanding what the pages of your site are about (Relevance). This is why Schema exists, and why there still remains a need to think about the content you place on the pages of your site.
  • Deciding where to rank your page (Importance). Link building was always focused on this aspect of SEO, and in its new more holistic guises of branding, reputation, and content marketing you are still helping search engines understand that your page is one of the best on a given topic.

These three areas of Discovery, Relevance, and Importance are still an art and science that are the domain of SEO, and the rest of the organization needs that expertise. This impacts PR, marketing, development, product marketing, and yes, executive management. All of these disciplines need SEO guidance, and the SEO team needs guidance from all of these areas as well.

Successful SEO efforts will be one component of a larger marketing plan, but an important and integrated component of that plan.

Social Media and SEO

These are really twins separated at birth. They are both involved in raising the visibility of a site, and a brand, and they both can help each other in substantial ways. I have a slide I use in all my various presentations I do about content marketing that captures the basics of how this works:

The SEO Synergy We're Looking For

As you can see great content helps feed social success as does SEO visibility. On the other hand, a strong social media presence allows you to create powerful visibility for that great content, driving links back to that content. Finally, the work you do with building relationships with influencers (in social media, PR, marketing, and executive networking) helps accelerate the entire process.

Seems like one large integrated process doesn’t it? You bet.

The Role of Google+

Why do we need Google+? It’s a ghost town, isn’t it? Facebook and Twitter are awesome, they are enough aren’t they? There are three major points that I want to make about that, which are:

  1. Google Plus is a fantastic network for making connections and sharing content.
  2. Google Plus is vibrant with activity, so those who are saying it is a ghost town aren’t looking very closely.
  3. (As I said above) Google Plus is a layer across all of Google’s services, so ignore it at your peril.

You can read in detail about how Google+ impacts search results in my column from last month. One aspect that I highlighted in that post was how Google will show Google+ results directly in search results, even when you search in Incognito mode. Martin Shervington, who operates a site to help businesses engage with Google+ called Plus Your Business, recently sent me a great example of such a search, which you can see here:

What is Google Plus

You can also narrow this search to [what is Google?] and it still shows up number 1.

What is Google

It’s fascinating that Google seems to be equating the [what is Google] search result with the [what is Google Plus] search result. Make of that what you will, but Google has stated for a long time now that Google+ is an integral part of Google, and is in fact a layer across all of their products and services. This is quite different from what they did with Google Buzz, Google Wave, and other earlier social media experiments.


The new school SEO professional is part of a larger team, a part of an integrated marketing team. Yes, there are technical aspects to SEO too, so close coordination with the development team is also a must. There is no separation, no dark room where they work in isolation, any more.

In addition, the successful marketing team recognizes that both social media and SEO are part of the broader marketing plan. You need to be in many places at once if you are trying to build a larger business. Put simply, you need to be where your potential customers are. If you aren’t there, your competition will be there by themselves, without you to keep them honest.

We have a long journey before this vision of an integrated approach to digital marketing is broadly understood by most businesses out there. But, that makes this an opportunity for most of you. There still remains an opportunity to grab an edge on many of your competitors. Carpe diem!

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