SEO Is Dead! Long Live the Latest Trend!
SEO is not dead, despite what a lot of people have been saying recently.
You still need to ensure that you're using best on-site SEO practices. If your competitors are optimizing their Web pages effectively through strategic use of keywords, internal linking, and image optimization—and you aren't—then you'll perform poorly in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
That poor performance will have an impact on everything from traffic to conversions to ROI. You still need to do the basics.
However, although SEO may not be dead, it has been evolving.
A Few Major Google Algorithm Updates
- Panda: Designed to stop sites with low-quality content from working their way into Google's top search results
- Penguin: Designed to stop websites that employ spammy link-building tactics from getting to the top of the search results
- Hummingbird: Designed to return the most relevant website for a search term by better understanding the language that searchers use
Those recent major Google algorithm updates all indicate that Google wants you to create an interesting website that is both relevant to your target audience's search terms and has a natural-looking link profile.
So how do you achieve those requirements?
Content Isn't King. Customers Are!
If you read any SEO blog you'll likely find someone claiming that content is king. That you should start a blog with interesting things to say about your sector. That you should strive to become a thought leader. And that by doing so the links will start to flow naturally.
All that may be relatively easy to do if you're writing about SEO: There's always something new and interesting to talk about, after all. But not all of us sell SEO software or SEO services...
If, for example, your business is e-commerce and you sell several products (or even just one product), then "content marketing," as most people talk about it, may not be for you.
There are alternatives, however. If you manage an e-commerce website, then your products and your customer are your content, and you can use them to succeed in the search rankings.
How? You make them happy.
How to Make Your Customers Happy
- Listen: Find out what customers are saying.
- Act: Act on what they are saying.
- Respond: Let them know what you've done.
The best way to make your customers happy is to engage with them and make them think that they matter (and they should... they are your customers after all!).
That allows you to start building a relationship, which is the key factor in transforming your customers into your brand's advocates.
Why Brand Advocates Matter
Brand advocates take the message of your company and products and deliver it for you—online and offline. They'll tell their friends, colleagues, and family about how great you are.
Informing their social circles can come in many forms, but for SEO the one that matters is links. Luckily, brand advocates are more likely than anyone else to link to your website and give you the SEO boost you need.
How Do You Engage Customers to Convert Them to Brand Advocates?
Traditionally, people trying to create brand advocates have used social media to engage their customer base. Doing so can be very effective, but it has limitations.
Social media is temporary. Updates and tweets are fleeting. They vanish quickly into people's social media timelines and news feeds. Which means while you're building a relationship with one person, others can't see how great you are.
Also, social media targets only those who are already engaged: If someone is following you on social media, they are already on the road to becoming a brand advocate. If you're engaging only with those people, you're missing on reaching others.
There are other ways to reach out—beyond your social media following. One of the best is to use a review platform.
Why Reviews and Review Platforms?
Like social networks, review platforms allow you to listen to, respond to, and act on what your customers are saying.
These platforms are independent, neutral, third parties; accordingly, reviews posted on your profile page on those platforms are far more valuable to shoppers than undated, unverifiable testimonials on your website. (Although, not all review communities allow anyone to make their voice heard, and some fail to crack down on fake reviews, or reviews from people who didn't actually buy the product.)
Unlike social media, review platforms offer a permanent legacy of your interactions, and reviews can be used to talk to all your potential customers, not just social media followers. Moreover, you have an easily accessible historical record of interactions with all of the customers who have reviewed you.
Furthermore, by strategically placing reviews across your site (via widgets or otherwise) you can start to build a relationship with customers before they even make a purchase. You'll show that you're one step ahead of your competition in valuing and caring about what your customers have to say.
Positive reviews can increase the chance of someone's making a purchase by as much as 58%, research has shown.
By strategically placing reviews on key pages of your site, such as the checkout, you can provide the customer with the social proof and security they need to make the purchase.
Moreover, Google uses review platforms' rating systems to calculate the Google Seller Ratings of websites you see in the SERPs, and those ratings can drive more traffic to your website.
- You still need to ensure that you're using the best SEO practices—but that's not enough to stay ahead of the competition.
- Google loves the fresh content in reviews, and it uses that data to compile its Google Seller Ratings.
- Social media can be very effective in reaching out to customers, but an online review platform may do more to turn them into brand advocates.