This April will be my 10th year in the search field. TEN YEARS! I know it’s hard to believe with how young I look (*cough), but it’s true. And in those 10 years, I have learned something new every year. Actually, I’ve probably learned something new every month. It’s why I love this industry.
So, as 2014 comes to a close and I look back on the year, here are a few things I learned about search, the industry, our business, and more.
1. Education is Still Needed
First and foremost, I often have to remind myself that just because I’ve been in the SEO world for ten years, it doesn’t mean that everyone else has. There are still people just learning about the concept of SEO and it’s important that they are learning the right things.
In my last Search Engine Land column, I looked at some of the challenges we face as SEO managers. One of these challenges was mismanaged expectations. Often a new client will come to us looking for services, or a person within a client’s business will come to us with a question, and unfortunately, what they want is the SEO that we no longer offer.
SEO isn’t about guaranteed rankings or a thousand links. It’s not simply adding 100 pieces of content to the site and it can’t be a tiny compartment of your marketing department. SEO is about much more and it’s up to everyone in the industry (and online marketing in general), to educate themselves and others, on what truly makes up a successful SEO program.
2. Google Will Inevitably Make Me Look Stupid
Remember when we spent time building out Google+ pages, forcing our clients to not just create a page, but ensuring that every one of their authors also created a page? Oh, and remember when we told them “Authorship is important. Make sure you are implementing it on your site” only for August to come around and Google to tell us they decided not to use it anymore? Yeah…me too.
3. Content Marketing Must Have Marketing
This was a theme I saw throughout the year that I really loved – Content marketing must have marketing. We can’t simply create content and hope it succeeds. There has to be a marketing plan to go along with it.
Here on the KoMarketing blog, our Content Marketing Specialist Ryan Young gave us 8 Tools to Get Your Content Buzzing Across Networks, and BuzzSumo did a great round-up post, 13 Experts on How To Promote Content Before Hitting Publish, which showed how various people in the industry promote their content.
They key with both of these posts is they are talking about how to market your content.
For businesses, creating good content takes planning, time, resources, and of course money. So if you are going to spend money, time, and resources, you had better make sure you are getting the most of out if.
Here are a few additional resources on how to craft a content marketing strategy:
- Developing a Content Strategy – Content Marketing Institute
- The Advanced Guide to Content Marketing – QuickSprout
4. Link Building is Here to Stay
Don’t guest blog. Don’t trade links. Don’t buy links. Just don’t do anything.
Link building took a hard hit the past couple years with Penguin updates and all the “Don’ts” from Google. While I’m the first to admit that some of the link building practices that were penalized should’ve been penalized, the scare tactic approach to link building is no good for anyone.
Why? Because now when we provide what amounts to a good recommendation, we will often hear “Didn’t Google say that’s bad?”
Yes, yes, I know I was just talking about education in point one but stick with me. When you create a blanket statement like “Stop Guest Blogging,” you scare people away from all guest blogging when all guest blogging isn’t bad.
When I write on Search Engine Land or Derek writes on Content Marketing Institute, those are technically guest blog posts. But those are REALLY GOOD SITES! They are relevant to each of us, to our business, and they drive a ton of traffic to KoMarketing.
Link building isn’t going away but it does need to evolve. When we think about links, we can’t simply think about getting as many links as possible. We need to think about getting the best links – those that are relevant, drive traffic, and help a brand/site overall.
Guest posts still work. Partner links still work. Niche directories can still work. Link building should not be scary. It should however be done to help reach your target audience and build brand awareness…not just to improve your rankings.
5. Social Media & SEO Must Work Together
Earlier this year I wrote a post, 3 Things Your Social Media Team Should Know About SEO, in which I looked at how social impacts search performance and how the integration of the two channels can benefit both parties and the site in general. The main point being, there’s a lot of overlap and there’s a lot of knowledge that needs to be shared between the two teams. Break down those walls!
When you think SEO, you probably think keywords. Well, for the social team, it’s important to understand what keywords they should be monitoring. After all, people are out there asking questions on social and it turns out, 71% of people are more likely to make a purchase based on those social media referrals.
Ensure your social media team knows which keywords buyers are using to search and is monitoring and responding.
As for the social team, they know what content does the best. They know what the audience responds to, what types of questions are being asked about the product or service, and they should be sharing this information with the content and SEO teams.
If you’re teams aren’t currently working together, make sure they start. Create weekly meetings, share spreadsheets and reports, and make sure goals are aligned.
6. Facebook Wants Your Money
Every Facebook update this year revolved around reducing non-sponsored posts from businesses. Fewer organic posts, fewer promotional posts, fewer click bait headlines, fewer everything!
Why? Because if you’re a business, Facebook wants you to pay to be there. Of course they use the guise of making user feeds better but you know how I know that’s not true? Because every 5th post on my feed looks like this:
That is not an exaggeration. I just went and pulled those right now.
Facebook tells us they are concerned about users, but I can tell you that if that were true, my feed would not be filled with ads.
What does this mean for businesses?
It means you have to really work hard to engage your audience or simply must pay. This is a much longer discussion but here are a few posts worth reading:
- Goodbye Promotional Posts – Preparing for Facebook’s News Feed Update
- The Facebook News Feed Challenge: Learnings From #SMX Social
7. SEOs Have the Best Resources
I heard a discussion recently that SEOs don’t share as much as they used to. That the secret strategies and behind the scenes tactics that were once published to the world, are now only shared in secret groups or at conference parties. You know what I thought? Man, if that’s the case, we are really lucky!
There are so many great blogs out there and so many smart people who are constantly sharing their strategies, success stories, and learnings. Maybe they aren’t giving us the secret tactics but who cares!?!
We are so fortunate as an industry to have what we do. When I need a question answered, I simply search for it. Because I know it’s probably been written. That’s kind of amazing.
Here are a few of my favorite resources (aside from KoMarketing of course):
- Marketing Land / Search Engine Land
- Blind Five Year Old
- SEO By the Sea
- SEO Theory
These are just a few and I’m sure you have your own so feel free to leave them in the comments.
8. Building an SEO Team isn’t Easy
One of the things I’ve learned over the past few years, and especially this year, is building a good SEO team can be difficult. It turns out people are hot commodities in this business!
On top of that, finding people that fit the company culture, are driven to learn, and mesh with overall needs and goals, isn’t that easy. We have been very fortunate at KoMarketing to find some amazing people but in some cases, it took a lot of time, a lot of interviewing, and a lot of figuring out what it is we really needed as a company.
I am very thankful for all of the people we’ve met, all the friends who have sent referrals our way, and especially for the talented team we now have.
9. Mobile Isn’t the Future. Mobile is Now
It seems as if every year we talk about mobile as the future. We talk about preparing for mobile and preparing for mobile search but mobile search is here. We are all mobile. There are nearly 7 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide and we are searching things!
For businesses, it’s time to stop talking about what you’re going to do in the future and start talking about what you are going to do right now.
Here are a few resources on optimizing for mobile:
- Mobile Optimization – Moz
- 10 Best Practices for Mobile Optimized Websites – SEJ
- Webmaster’s Mobile Guide – Google Developers
10. SEO Will Always Be Challenging
While this isn’t something I just learned this year (nor are many of the other things listed above), this year was a good reminder. Despite seeing some really great results, both for clients and internally, there were also challenges and lessons I had to learn.
One of the things I’ve always loved about this profession is that I am always learning, both personally and professionally. This year I learned a lot about managing expectations and how I can do a better job keeping campaigns organized and moving in the right direction when challenges arise.
I also was reminded that the search engines will never make this easy, which is why it’s our job to think beyond the search engines. When I think of search, I think of all the places people are searching. We must be optimizing for where our customers are, not just Google/Yahoo/Bing.
Overall, this has been a fantastic year and I’m looking forward to 2015…where I’m sure I’ll learn plenty more.