Even with a great website, many business owners and startups find it difficult to extend their presence online without pouring significant resources into media and PR to raise brand awareness. That’s why most of our clients come to us for SEO services – they’re looking to “earn” visibility rather than pay for it. But when the definition of “earned” authority seems to shift drastically (and painfully) every year, it’s easy to wonder if SEO is all its cracked up to be anymore.
Link building is dead and there’s a content winter coming. Guest posting and authorship building has become a delicate game. Even rich snippet (schema) markup, once heralded as the future of search, can be dangerous when used indiscriminately.
No matter what, it seems like today’s white-hat SEO strategy eventually becomes tomorrow’s manual action penalty.
So does it all come down in the end, as others have feared, to advertising budgets? Can you still benefit from devoting resources towards SEO goals? Should you be looking for “link building” services, content marketing services, or something else entirely? The answer depends in large part on your goals and your internal resources.
Link Building in 2014: It’s Classic SEO for a Reason
We all agree: paying for armies of human beings to social bookmark your pages, spewing links indiscriminately all over the web, building content farms with unrelated optimized anchor text links, and countless other artless spam tactics are out the window.
But at the heart of the practice of link building is the idea that your site should be shared where people will want to find it. This will never change, because it’s really a traditional marketing tactic. That means your site should be listed in relevant industry directories. You should take part in forum discussions if you can offer solutions. You should sponsor organizations you believe in and speak to their audiences. You should forge relationships with influencers who can represent your brand, etc. etc.
This kind of traditional link building is foundational, and requires a ton of man hours by a team of savvy web marketers to execute (just as traditional marketing requires time from a savvy product promoter). The need for this will almost certainly never go away, so “white hat” traditional link building at safe.
Content Marketing is a Long Game
Content marketing was the buzz word of 2013.
Content marketing can help you reach new customers who may not already be looking for you or your services. It builds long-term relationships, builds a brand voices, and establishes credibility in key subject matters. It also has longevity, meaning that it earns you traffic and visibility long after you’ve published it. In essence, you’re sharing a valuable knowledge asset with potential customers that they the use to evaluate you and your services. Good content can be extremely compelling.
The most common barrier to good content marketing is resources and time. Creating content (even blog content) can be time consuming, and sometimes requires input from busy subject matter experts who are hard to pin down. Content may also touch several teams, so timelines are lengthy and approvals complicated.
Rand Fishkin thinks that the next few years will bring significant content fatigue, as marketers invest more and more in content and compete for a static number of audience content consumption hours. The solution? Make “runaway incredible content” to stand out from the noise.
In short, content marketing works for businesses with high-consuming audiences, easily amplifyable content, and a dedicated content evangelist team who can spearhead the production and publishing of complex content.
The New SEO Scope of Work
When outlining an internal SEO program scope or sourcing proposals from SEO agencies, make sure you know what your short- and long-term goals are and have a realistic evaluation of your company resources. If you’re looking to break into search results from relative obscurity and have a smaller multi-tasking team, look to include traditional link building research and outreach. If you have a larger team with a more established brand and are looking to reach up-funnel, look for help building a content marketing program.
One SEO strategy that will always be worthwhile: investing in your website, your online home. We don’t see the usability, accessibility and crawlability of a website as ranking factors changing anytime soon. This is where an expert or an agency team can be helpful, whether you’re in the beginning stages of conceptualizing a new website or you’re taking a hard look at your current website’s effectiveness.
See how we can help you optimize your website for search and build a healthy SEO marketing program here.