Search strategy versus SEO tactics
Spoiler: The end of this column will reveal the darkest secret of search strategy for publishers. Don’t cheat. Read the whole thing.
Now the column: I’m a tournament chessplayer. (They say admitting it is the first step toward recovery.) Here’s something chess has taught me that is equally applicable to football and in search/SEO for media companies and every other complex team endeavor:
- Without a guiding strategy, tactics are at best inefficient. And possibly counterproductive.
- Likewise, if you can’t translate your strategy into sharp tactics, the strategy is worthless.
I’ll spare you the full chess analogy and skip to football. Good tactics without strategy would equate to having an excellent athlete at cornerback, who is often in the wrong coverage scheme. He can’t use his skills because the offense simply throws the ball to a different part of the field. Conversely, strategy without tactics is like having a great football coach directing a bunch of clumsy nebbishes. The scheme might be brilliant, but the players can’t execute it.
In SEO, just as in football, tactics are very important. But I have heard editors dismiss the whole field of search as purely tactical, and that is a mistake. Instead of my usual detailed (i.e. longwinded) rambling on SEO tactics, let’s take a timeout to make explicit a very simple, very important point that tends to be merely implicit in this column. If you do not have a search strategy, as they say on the Internet, “UR DOING IT WRONG!” Happily the correct SEO strategy is the same for everyone. And this is it:
>>> Use search to listen to your audience. <<<
That is the correct search strategy for B2B publishers. It is YOUR correct search strategy.
Many SEO tactics are described in terms of your output. Good SEO-ified output should be par for the course by now. Your writers and editors should be using clear labeling (headlines, decks, subheads) to consistently express the key topics of each article. Your site should be constructed with correct use of h1, h2, h3 tags, breadcrumbs that support your key content topics, good page loads, canonical tags, rich landing pages, and intelligent internal links. Your whole organization (not just editorial) should understand good and consistent linkbuilding methods.
B2B media sites should be past the point of wrestling to implement those tactics in their output. Your search strategy must take the next evolutionary step and focus on listening.
- Listen to what people are searching for. When you execute this strategy, your tactics will involve using tools such as Google Insights for Search, WordTracker, and a keyword matrix.
- Listen to how incoming searchers react to your content. When you execute this strategy, your tactics will involve looking at your bounce rates and page-per-view stats for individual articles and landing pages. I’m hinting at some really good stuff here - tactics I haven’t written up on emediavitals. But you can figure them out on your own. Study pages such as these covering Retail security and social engineering.
Now the dark secret promised up top has probably already occurred to you, but again let’s make it explicit rather than implied. “Listen to your readers” is the same strategy that applies to everything you do in B2B media, as it has for decades. If you’ve been in the field for a few years, it’s most likely been the guiding principle underlying all your success thus far. Listening to the audience made print publications successful, and it makes online publications successful.
Hope the content marketers never catch on! (Joke - just kicking the hornets’ nest for fun.)
Derek Slater is editor in chief of CSOonline.com and CSO magazine. He’s also currently studying the analytics of his wife’s newly launched consumer website MyFreshLocal.com. He’s on Twitter as @derekcslater.