Since rants by long haired kids about how schools don't teach us the right stuff in the right way seem to go viral, I thought I'd show Jeff Bliss' teacher how teaching should be done. And I think SEO professionals can learn a thing or two from this kid when we consider what I call "island think", but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
First things first: some people DO try to teach others the right stuff. And I'll try doing that today by giving you all a freaking history lesson you'll remember! Here we go...
Ooga booga time
Men were hunter/gatherers and women were caretakers and food makers (and sometimes also gatherers). At some point during this ooga booga time, a couple of people realized that larger and larger groups of people could achieve bigger and bigger goals together and the first civilizations were born. All of a sudden, some men didn't have to hunt or gather anymore and could focus on other stuff like herding sheep, baking bread, blacksmithing, and so on. In other words: as time progressed, more and more specialization took place and yet people kept working together because it was necessary for survival.
Now let's do an epic fast forward to the birth of online marketing. At first, it wasn't even called online marketing: you just had "that geeky web guy" that could build you a site and post stuff on forums and that was it. As time progressed, more and more specialization took place and SEO specialists, UI designers, conversion optimization experts, and so on were born. This time around, though, working together or not wasn't a live or die decision.
And that brings me to the moral of the story: so much specialization has taken place that lots of SEO specialists (and other kinds of specialists too btw) seem to suffer from what I call "island think".
What the heck is "island think!?"
Welcome to the island called SEO. Here, 99% of the inhabitants care about rankings, links, and website traffic... and most of us don't give a damn about other islands. We're all just settling for less, settling for the packets (rankings, links, and bla bla bla) we're given just like Jeff Bliss' teacher seems to be doing.
Result: most people overlook a lot of opportunities to improve their SEO performance by not collaborating with other islands (specializations). Now, unfortunately, for most businesses in competitive industries not thinking about any other islands IS a live or die decision in the long run but they just don't know it (yet, but they will!)
To make a long story short: I want to share some best practices with you for improving your SEO performance with a little help from other marketing channels.
Know that A.S.S. (AdWords supports SEO)
Did that subheader grab your attention? Good, because it's time to get down to business and see how AdWords can support SEO...
1) If you're using Google AdWords and are tracking conversions, then you'd better start using that data for SEO as well: you need to start ranking organically for keywords that are generating conversions. I mean, why pay to sit in the front row when you can do it for free? Be smart about it too: if you see certain keywords are generating conversions but don't have a page yet or are only a synonym/variation/secondary keyword on a certain page optimized for another keyword, try giving the converting keyword its own page and see what happens. Put simply, AdWords tells you where the money's at. Follow the money!
Tip: start using AdWords conversion funnel reports if you haven't been using them already. These reports will tell you which keywords assisted with generating conversions. You see, some keywords are part of someone's purchase decision but aren't the last thing he or she searched for right before buying. You need to improve the organic rankings of the keywords that assist with conversions as well, because they may help you get that sale further down the line with SEO just like they did with AdWords.
2) Anyone who has been doing SEO long enough knows that you can't rank in the top 3 on Google in a day. With some keywords it may take weeks, months or even years. It can be very frustrating to NOT rank high with a keyword while you know it will get you lots of sales. What you can do in those cases is use AdWords as a crutch: advertise for that keyword so your site still has a presence on the first page of the search results until the page you want to rank with is strong enough to rank for the keyword organically. In other words: you pay to play until you're strong enough to rank organically.
3) Let's take things one step further, because AdWords can be more than a crutch for SEO. Contrary to popular belief, AdWords and SEO are not mutually exclusive. Let me rephrase that: just because you're ranking #1 in the organic search results with a certain keyword doesn't mean it's pointless to also advertise for it. You see, some people click on ads without ever looking at the organic results because the paid result(s) they clicked on helped them get what they want. Other people hate ads so much that they ignore them and only click on organic search results. So, if you can afford it then use both AdWords and SEO. Be smart about it, though: if a certain keyword you're advertising on isn't converting or the cost per conversion is way too high then of course you should stop advertising on it at some point. What I'm saying is: always combine AdWords and SEO as long as you can do so in a profitable way.
4) The following has, to my knowledge, not been proven but it's a good educated guess. AdWords could directly help your SEO performance if you're landing page is the same page as the page you're trying to rank with organically. And now in layman's terms: let's say I have a page about "dog toys" that I want to rank high with. If I start advertising on the same keyword with AdWords and send them to the same dog toys page I'm trying to rank with, then a bunch of stuff could happen. If people like that page, it's likely that they'll Pin, Like, Share, +1 or Tweet it and it's also likely that some people will link to it. I could also safely say that the longer you keep advertising, the more social signals and links you're likely to get. Hmm, could social signals and links improve your organic ranking? Yes. Result: AdWords can help you rank higher. This is another reason why AdWords and SEO should be BFF's instead of separate islands that ignore each other.
Email marketing as an internal linking strategy
Another overlooked strategy is the one the subheader suggests: using the emails you're sending to the subscribers of your email list(s) as a way to build internal links to pages you're trying to rank with. Here's how that's done:
1) Email marketing best practices suggest that it's smart to offer people a web version of your email to read if they have trouble opening or seeing everything in the email you sent them. Basically, whenever someone sees anything weird in an email you've sent them they can click a link which says "read this online" and they're taken to a page on your site.
2) As an SEO, all I can think when I'm reading the paragraph above is that every newsletter I'm sending is a piece of high quality content. Well, every newsletter you're sending should be! Why not repurpose that content? You can do that by placing any and all newsletters of a decent length (in my opinion, that's any newsletter with 600+ words) on your site.
3) Now you have all (lengthy) newsletters on your site, compare their topics/content with the content you're trying to rank with. Logically, any newsletter which covers a topic related to (or the same topic as) a page you're trying to rank with should then internally link to that ranking page.
4) Finishing touch: you may want to optimize the newsletters that are internally linking to ranking pages a little more, i.e. put the keyword in the title, h1/h2 tags, bold/italic/underlined text, keyword density, etc. Put simply, do some solid on-page SEO. It will make the internal links more valuable.
5) Afterburner: just like you would write AdWords landing pages with making money and SEO in mind (because of that annoying phenomenon known as "Quality Score"), start writing newsletters with SEO in mind and then put them in your newsletter archive or whatever you want to call the beast you've just created. If that sounds complicated, then look at it this way: see your newsletters as pages that will support the pages you're trying to rank with. Newsletter = page which internally links to ranking page = your email marketing efforts will improve your SEO performance one newsletter at a time!
Because of all the specialization that has been going on in the online marketing world, tomorrow's winners will be the marketers that try to combine their knowledge of different specializations into their own version of the Grand Unified Theory (for online marketing).
That's why I regularly look at all the different marketing channels I'm using and ask myself: is it possible for them to support SEO? Can Facebook advertising support SEO (when thinking of Bing's collaboration with Facebook hint hint)?
I want to find ways in which every marketing channel I'm using can support every other marketing channel I'm using (if possible), because you know what? A small advantage over your competitors will grow into a huge one over time, so, I want to find any small gain I can.
Now ask yourself: what are you doing to gain an edge over your competitors? Have you ever seriously considered how your business can benefit from a "meta" perspective (multi-channel approach)? I'd love to hear your thoughts!