Mike Walker is a digital marketing geek who currently leads the SEO and onsite search efforts for America’s oldest clothier, Brooks Brothers. The opinions expressed here, of course, are his own.
The Evolution of the SEO Role
For years, the SEO role primarily focused on technical aspects of the job: choosing the right keyword, optimizing meta tags and markup, and linkbuilding. But there’s been a real shift in that dynamic.
Today, SEOs are more than technicians and keyword gurus. We provide information across departments that guide business strategy, and in many cases we’re leaders in our organizations. Instead of being asked, in hindsight, to fix or resolve an issue, we’re a central part of crafting that strategy and providing the insight that gives our marketing strategies the best chance of success.
"Today, SEOs are more than technicians and keyword gurus. We provide information across departments that guide business strategy, and in many cases we’re leaders in our organizations."
Understanding the Consumer Journey
How is that we, as SEOs, have become integral to our brand’s strategies? For one, we have special insight into the customer journey.
In all aspects of online advertising, understanding and catering to all points of the consumer journey is paramount to attracting and converting customers. More and more, the buying process is happening online, and SEO gives invaluable insight.
If you have done intent modeling keyword research, you already have a good understanding of customer behavior and natural language. This is the same if you are using a platform like Searchlight to cultivate these types of insights.
My advice: Don’t just focus on conversion-centric keywords. If all you do is care about converting now, and avoid early stage content, educational content, and brand-awareness content, your business on the web will not grow and may not be sustainable in the long term (Read about how REI uses early stage content to outrank Wikipedia for an example of a powerful use of the customer journey.)
Using this valuable pool of data and insight for SEO is fantastic, but sharing your bonanza of knowledge with stakeholders is the first step to having a large, well-managed presence on the web.
"If all you do is care about converting now, and avoid early stage content, educational content, and brand-awareness content, your business on the web will not grow and may not be sustainable in the long term."
SEO and Content Strategy Are Now Deeply Intertwined
It’s true that there are new challenges. Google has encrypted keyword level data. We no longer have the insights of the past. We are seeing a smarter consumer with more expectations. The consumer is in control. Direction is needed beyond one vertical. Ultimately, though, this gives the SEO role more of a vital position in an organization. The consumer insights harvested in SEO can provide the basis for a content strategy for your business and your brand.
It is vital to build the foundation for the future of your brand on the web, and sharing your data and expertise through content is the start. Content has always been important on the web, but all too often there is a lack of strategy. The days of just creating content to fill a keyword gap or with the thought that this is what a user may want are over.
"It is vital to build the foundation for the future of your brand on the web, and sharing your data and expertise through content is the start."
Today, content strategy and SEO work in concert. Good content strategy is about segmenting content for each step of the consumer journey and for consumer personas. It is about testing, tracking, optimizing content. It is about showing growth. Not just in visits, revenue, and conversion rate, but ROI and business impact well beyond search engine optimization. It’s about blending science, strategy, and creativity to cater to the needs of new and existing consumers while driving revenue and expanding your brand’s web presence.
The SEO role has evolved and will continue to evolve. We are no longer just SEOs. We are content strategists. We are web presence managers.