Andy Beal on Search Engine Optimization

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Jennifer Jones interviews Search Engine Marketerer Guru Andy Beal, who’s a bud of mine. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is lately under a lot of scrutiny and is a very interesting topic. I listened in and took some show notes, as well as have additional questions for Andy to answer at the end. I would love to hear a in depth conversation between SEO marketers on the topic of Social Media, a controversial topic, but still important and an impact to Corporate Web Strategy.

I recommend you listen in to soak in all the details, however the following are my high level notes:

Definition: Search Engine Optimization

  • SEO is about removing any barriers from Search Engines from finding and indexing your content.
  • Next, it’s to demonstrate to these engines how your content is the most relevant and important. Of course, some would argue that because the company is ranking the information and not customers, there’s some unfairness in prioritization.
  • Here’s some things to do in your SEO campaign

  • Have a good site structure
  • Make sure the content (in text) is in good shape
  • Is content targeted to your audience?

  • SEO programs at Corporations

  • Not every company has internal SEO specialists, often most companies hire firms to assist with this.
  • Often the person responsible for technical content on web teams are put in charge. I’ve noticed that some editors are getting SEO experience myself.
  • Makes a comparison between SEO campaigns and PR campaigns.
  • If you compare SEO vs Direct Mail, SEO is more efficient use of resources than direct mail.
  • SEO is becoming a line item.

  • What impacts do customer and prospect social media have on corporate SEO programs? Are they a disruptions or compliments?

  • Blogs have shown to be a great resource to SEO, as it brings great content, additional content for engines to fine, content is refined and focused (just like the requirements stated above)
  • When you tie into MySpace, Digg, or Reddit you can gain additional benefits.
  • Let alone the viral benefits that occur afterwards

  • Additional Questions for Andy from Jeremiah:

    Andy, here’s a few burning questions that I have, I respect your opinion and those of other Search Marketers, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the following.

    Question 1) Because blogs score high in Google Search results, how does this impact corporations who spend resources on SEO campaigns for their websites?

    Question 2)
    If Social Media is an effective way to gain in SEO (as well as engage an audience), should we increase Social Media Program budgets and reduce SEO budgets?

    Question 3) The word of mouth network is becoming more and more efficient. Communities are forming and networks are formalizing, these networks allow users to share info about products and services without using search. (Twitter, blogs, myspace are good examples). update: If these word of mouth networks become so efficient and content is shared amongst a common group, will this reduce the need for searches?

    Question 4) I state that Web Marketing is not on Two (corporate and google) domains only. Some savvy companies are realizing the Web Marketing battle isn’t on the corporate domain only, as the word of mouth effect becomes more important, do companies really want visitors to come to their site? Or will the savvy company realize that the most effective web marketing is using advocate customers to turn cold and warm prospects. How does this impact the SEO industry?

    Feedback wanted

    If you’re in the Search Marketing business, I would love to hear your answers, as well as your demonstration of thought leadership. Jennifer, thanks for bringing us yet another interesting Web Marketing leader for us to learn from.

    • A few thoughts, as I can’t resist. Andy’s also one of my favorite search marketing gurus out there.

      Some answers:

      1) Natural search results are always changing. Google keeps giving greater preference to more timely material, so it’s not just blogs – it’s also news stories, videos, and other content. It’s nothing new for companies investing in SEO; it’s never a one-off process. Yet reviewing what ranks well in Google will give those investing in SEO more opportunities. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Or, when you’re in the Google River, don’t swim upstream.

      2) Social media and SEO need not be mutually exclusive; in fact, any SEO strategy these days would strongly benefit from social media elements. As a bonus, the two are often getting budgets from different sources, so social media and SEO budgets can grow without cutting into each other (they might erode budgets of traditional media though).

      3) Not a question. But, correct. 🙂

      4) I agree with your take on this, but I don’t think it’s anything new. Consider all the offline channels where consumers are – the water cooler, the supermarket, the dinner table, the car. And consider all the media they consume at different points. It’s never just about the corporate site and Google. Yet with search marketing, you’re capturing all the demand created in all those other channels.

    • wow, not sure what happened to number 3, the last sentence is missing, with the question, I will update.

      Andy is out of town and will be back to answer soon.

    • We need to have the SEO vs. Blog throw down! David and I have volunteered. 😉

    • interesting article here on how blog readers find blogs:

    • The SEO industry is always one to watch, because at its core it is trying to bring people to a website. This is why Blog Marketing, RSS Marketing, Online PR and Social Media Marketing are all championed by people who do SEO. I would also say that SEO practitioners are always on the look out for ways to extend a clients’ reach beyond simply their website (because in the end this generates links back to the main website).

      Search results are not static. Search engines are always looking for the next way to bring the most relevant, timely and accurate result to a search query which is why SEO must be part of a long term web presence strategy. It wasn’t too long ago that Blogs didn’t rank well in search results. Simply because they rank well today does not mean that this will always be the case. Should a corporation simply focus on a Blog marketing strategy as a means to rank well in search results without an SEO strategy is short-sighted. Because should the day that Blogs don’t rank well (let’s pray that doesn’t happen) come, those corporations will then have to play catch up to those companies who do have a long term SEO strategy and could see the change of the algorithm tides and prepare accordingly. The same can be said in regards to your question about Social Media programs budgets and SEO.

      I don’t think the efficiency of social networks will reduce the need for search – hence why search engines have made deals with social networks. People will always need a way to FIND the information within a network about a product or service.

    • Natasha,

      Great points. Please realize there’s some web marketers that actually don’t want users coming to their website, they prefer the ‘word of mouth’ effect and customer references and testimonials to do the work for them,

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    • Jeremiah – I have been following your blog for a few months now and you have some really great insights. Realizing that I am a tad late to the conversation, I thought I would chime in anyway, considering that I work in house managing SEO and Social Media for a decent size company.

      1. Not all blogs rank well in the search engines. In fact, I would argue that a fully optimized web page complete with substantial inbound links would ranks just as well as a blog. Additionally, I would say that major corporations are developing blogs not necessarily for the SEO benefit; but rather to start engaging in real-time conversations with their target consumers. The increase in the natural search results is just the cherry on top.

      2. Yes, social media is a great way to gain natural back links (a fundamental element of SEO); and, is the most cost effective strategy to generate targeted, relevant web traffic. Not to mention the ROI is phenomenal compared to other marketing strategies. The trend that I see is that companies are reducing their traditional marketing spend and moving it over to support other, interactive marketing initiatives (whether it be SEO, Paid Search, Social Media, etc.)

      3. This will not reduce the need to searches. Because of the rise of social media and community driven conversations, companies not only have to create more engaging content (fully optimized from an SEO point of view) but they must also ensure that their content can easily and conveniently travel across the internet using other distribution channels (i.e. myspace, twitter, mybloglog, etc.). I would also add that because of this SEO is even more vital, in that when users see specific messaging from Company A somewhere online in a conversation, searches will undoubtedly increase as a result. The goal, as I see it, is for companies to achieve "omnipresence"; meaning that when users search on Google and Yahoo, they are present (both paid and natural); and likewise, when they search in Digg, Myspace, and every other social media site, they are also present in some fashion.

      4. I think I also answered some of this in question 3. Let me just add that this would depend on the objectives of the company. If I am selling iPod accessories online and my only distribution channel is my e-commerce site, then yes, I would need visitors to come directly to my site. If I am a major brand with hundreds of distribution channels, then it wouldn’t be as important. It would be important, however, to understand the power of community driven conversations as way to achieve and maximize effective viral marketing (word of mouth) initiatives.

      All the best,