SMX West 2014 in San Jose presented by Search Engine Land is the complete Search Engine Marketing and Optimizing conference for both experienced and middle of the road online marketers. This conference is specifically targeted for the SEO and SEM community. We can see that there is a fantastic change occurring where the focus for marketing towards what search engines want is now completely shifted to where it should be: focusing on what your target audience wants.
Get some BUZZ coffee, I’ve got some great info for you to digest!
The theme for SMX West centered on the drastically changing name and role for SEOs. What SEOs were doing in 2012 and 2013 to succeed has either rolled into a category of expected default web practices, or is no longer an applicable set of activities to succeed. All webmasters are now expected to know and set up basic and default good SEO sites. Traditional link building is no longer what it was.
The term SEO has been beaten and bruised so badly that many of us are ready for a fresh new start. Just like abandoning an old domain that has too many spammy links to salvage, SEOs are on the verge of abandoning the term SEO and morphing into something fresh and new. Something that focuses more on marketing, publishing, and promoting fantastic content of all types and promoting and enfusing social engagement.
1. Is the Role of SEO Dead or Diminishing?
First off, no, the SEO role is not dead. High quality SEOs are more important than ever. In fact, high quality content marketers and publishers (soon to be formerly known as SEOs) are growing in their ranking hierarchy. As businesses are placing greater and greater emphasis on how much traffic is coming to their website, consistency across their marketing channels is becoming paramount. In order to be consistent, SEOs must be connected with each part of the PR process.
Your SEO Must Be a Connected Part of Your Business
As Google consistently is placing importance on brand and brand authority, businesses have to be more and more conscious about all aspects of their brand identity and to make sure they jive with one another across all channels on the Web.
What this means is as you create marketing content for publishing on your website, you are going to be presenting the same brand identity that the social media group is displaying. To be consistent, the shift has become that all marketing channels should be connected and working through your SEO team. It now is even more important for SEO consultants to get to know the social media and PR consulting firms working with their clients. If they expect to get results, the entire picture has to be in focus with the same vision.
2. If you are not thinking about mobile, you better.
Data shows that in 2014 only 60% of people are connecting to the Internet via desktop as compared to more than 20% for mobile. Not only is the trend increased, but all the major platforms are making extreme pushes to make sure that they giving the best user experience on mobile that is possible. If your website is not mobile friendly (responsive design, web app, mobile subdomain version), then you are falling behind.
In particular, you do not want your site to send mobile user a redirect to your home page. Matt Cutts explicitly said that this is going to cause your site to lose ranking in mobile searches.
It is a consistent message from speaker to speaker that mobile is going to be the biggest SEO trend in the coming years. Maybe in 3 years we will not even be discussing what to do with mobile because everyone will be doing it. Just like during this session, talking about on page optimization was hardly discussed because it is thought that everyone is already doing it.
Analysis on multiple user touch points shows that users are getting less and less forgiving if a website does not have a friendly mobile website. One year ago, a user might try a few times to see if pages will work from a particular domain on their mobile device. By next year, users will hardly give second or third chances to your brand if they have a failed experience from a mobile device.
3. Avoid Being Part of the Noise
To be successful in marketing and generating buzz, it has always been to push something that stands out to your audience. Something different from the typical advertisements or noise they are used to seeing. For years SEOs had found much success completely avoiding even worrying about this. No longer.
While focusing on content publishing, we should all be focusing on sticking out. Providing something new and original. Something outstanding. Content is no longer about getting as much as you can out or getting it out on a certain schedule. Instead, we are at a state where content has to be not only unique in the text that is written, but also unique in the content and ideas it is presenting.
If your business and your content is simply the same as what is already out there, chances are you are not going to gain any results for search ranking. But if you are looking to compete, be sure offer new and original content.
Perform case studies, do detailed research and analysis and provide rich information based on your results. Offer unique viewpoints that are founded and backed by a variety of sources of content. And keep on topic. If you are a company that offers dog food, keep your discussion relevant to dog food rather than talking about the latest buzz topic.
Cleaning and refining your old and dated content is a must. Here is a sample of our latest checklist thanks to SMX West.
4. SEOs are the New Publishers
Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Marketing had a ton of great points during his evening forum at SMX West. One of my favorite points he mentioned was that the term SEO has developed such a bad rap that Google and even businesses and general see it and immediately think bad thoughts. With this shift, Danny much prefers to think of the SEO’s activity as publishers. Google loves publishers. Publishers are known for thinking outside the box. Publishers make great headlines, great content, and focus on their target audience. All things an SEO should now be expected to do.
Google cannot get rid of publishers. Publishers are the bread and butter of what Google is trying to connect its users to. In addition, SEOs are forced to spend such a high amount of time in the publishing realm, it is hard to avoid the fact that they are in fact publishers.
5. Link Building is On Its Way Out the Door
This topic is probably the most indecisive part of the current SEO scene. Sessions offered great tips for gaining new links. But if you reveal behind the curtains of how important link building really is with regards to theirs SEO efforts as a whole, the plans are drastically diminished as compared to a few months ago.
Jon Ball form Page One Power had a fantastic presentation full of humor and wit while unfortunately avoiding a few truths. Link Building is inherently changing forever. His company is noted as having 100 employees devoted to link building for many different clients around the world. At this time, there is no signs that what they do is dead, but there are certainly sign pointing towards the fact that the way links are built is extremely different than it was 5 years and even 5 months ago.
Developing only niche and targeted links like Page One Power does is still valuable, but really only for a small amount of businesses, and is not a major part of a long lasting SEO effort.
Rae Hoffman @Sugarrae mentioned in passing that research shows the trends in searches for “link building” went from a huge number to a much smaller number, and instead people are searching for “Content Marketing”.
With SEOs migrating to the publisher role, the link building side of things is becoming less and less important. Sure, there are may be 10 or so links that all businesses should get when starting out just to get them on the map. But once they are correctly connected with the initial few backlinks, obtaining new backlinks should shift to a much lower priority on their SEO strategy list.
If you had a list of all your SEO activities, your list will certainly include back linking, but the percentage is much lower.
In the past, if link building and focusing on keyword research was not at least 60% of your activity, you were not going to make any headway.
If you find that you are not naturally moving up in your authority, you might want to reanalyze your website content. Are you in fact offering something that you are proud of?
Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting gave a ton of fantastic tips throughout the sessions, but one in particular was nice when thinking about link building. He mentioned with regards to guest posting is that you should move your way up in the authority hierarchy. As you get some street cred with level 1 areas, try stepping up to the theoretical level 2 in your niche to connect and potentially share knowledge. As you get accepted in level 2 for a while, then progress further to level 3, and so forth. This is a great way to think and can completely fall within a set of actionable steps your publishers can follow.
It was also stated by Matt Cutts that Google internally attempted to see what results would look like if the value that links provided for website rankings was turned off. In the video, Matt states that the results were terrible. But the interesting part is that Google thought they were getting close enough to collecting enough data to actually try to turn off the backlink signal. How might their algorithm grow brand authority without knowledge of backlink data. Well, with the knowledge graph, Google can do a fairly good job at figuring out what people are talking about even when they do not mention specific names or reference specific sources.
You can see that video here:
What this might mean is Google is smart enough to know that SMX West deserves some credit for me referencing them in this article whether I give them a link back or not. With that knowledge, SMX West and any others I spoke about in this article would gain some authority and reputation from my domain by the shear fact that I mentioned them in this article.
As of now, this does not appear to be what Google is doing or able to do. Although Google members are extremely tight lipped about this and many other topics, we do get signs that they are looking for ways to minimize potential for spam and continue to reward companies that consistently produce high quality content time and time again.
The bad news for black hat SEOs, your days are not only tougher today than they were months ago, but white hat SEOs are finally excited again. What they actually love to do is now being properly rewarded.
My Thoughts on This SMX West Session
The truth is, I was extremely shocked at the way the attendees in general treats this type of experience. Why? I expected the scene to be filled with reporter types, journalists, those looking to capture the moments and the content in high end ways. Recording interviews with cameramen. Using audio to record sound bites. The shift is here. We are at the point where people want information, and they want it in high-end formats. We as SEOs or publishers need to shift to what the rest of the world of marketers and journalists are doing.
Journalists are carrying around high end cameras and recorders at all times because they know people not only want news, but they want accurate and complete news. Watching blurry iPhone photos is simply not capturing news.
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