I want to let you in on a little secret…
I really hate the term “SEO.”
This may come as a surprise to many since I constantly write about SEO, teach SEO, and am very active in the SEO community.
But for the past two years I have felt that the entire concept of SEO, while an important part of online marketing, had a very “spammy” connotation.
The term too often aligns our work with unprofessional practices like link buying and web spamming for article placement.
And with the recent issues of many high profile websites losing rank and the resulting negative impressions about SEO with the wider public, I have made it my mission for 2014 to eradicate the term SEO once and for all.
Yes, SEO is officially dead. Not the practice, but the term.
But what term should take its place?
One that more accurately defines what people really mean when they say “SEO.”
So…what do we really mean when we say “SEO”?
Talk with any professional expert in SEO and you will quickly find they rarely just spend time optimizing a site for a search engine.
In fact, most people who started out as SEO experts have morphed their services over the years to encompass the full spectrum of content marketing activity.
Make no mistake: legitimate SEO tactics still matter today as part of any content marketing campaign.
The problem is that the terms themselves — SEO and search optimization — are used when discussing what is actually the broader strategy of your overall digital marketing.
What people really mean when they say “SEO” is the idea of optimizing content for discovery and conversion across a wide spectrum of the web… not just search engines.
Think about it: When you optimize your site, is it just so that it will rank in Google, or are your goals wider than that?
Absolutely, for many sites, traffic from Google is important. But sites get traffic from a variety of sources: social media, related blogs, and so forth.
Are search engines the only source of valuable traffic? Of course not. Yet we still call the tactics of optimizing for organic traffic “SEO.”
Silly isn’t it?
Optimizing Content for Discovery and Conversion, or “OC/DC” for short, encapsulates this idea of amplifying the overall reach and results of content creation.
OC/DC defines a new role for the former SEO activities, broadening the scope and applicability to what a professional online marketer actually does.
The real rock stars of search optimization have always known that it took a lot more than just getting the top result in Google to measure the success of their work.
Now is the time for OC/DC to replace SEO in the online marketing lexicon … and leave the spammers and link buyers in the dustbin of history.
How should OC/DC be defined?
OC/DC can be thought of as two distinct areas of focus:
- External optimization
- On-site optimization
External optimization refers to traffic generated to your site, and the research and refinement necessary to improve its quantity and quality.
The external part of OC/DC includes numerous traffic sources — search engines, social media sites, blogs, as well as aggregation sites like Slideshare.net and content syndication sources like Business Insider.
On-site optimization makes the most of these external efforts. This matters because improving the quantity and quality of your traffic only helps you if visitors take the action you want when they find your site.
Load times, usefulness of content, responsive design, and ease of conversion are all encompassed within the on-site portion of OC/DC.
Once you understand the breadth of what OC/DC entails, it is easy to see how it plays a crucial role in the execution of a smart content marketing strategy.
Here’s what OC/DC looks like in practice
Armed with this new and better concept, how can we apply it to our online marketing?
Below are six tactics you can implement right now as part of your effort to optimize content discovery and conversion.
1. Improve content symmetry
All pieces of content on your site should work seamlessly together.
If you have been active in creating content, this may be a good time to stop and re-edit your existing content.
For example …
- Edit headlines — In the past, I’ve talked about the importance of headlines. On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of your title, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece. If you have under-performing articles, take some time to rethink and optimize your existing headlines. Remember, every element of compelling copy has just one purpose — to get the next sentence read. And then the sentence after that, and so on, all the way down to your call to action. So it’s fairly obvious that if people stop at the headline, you’re already dead in the water.
- Review in-links — More than likely, your earlier published content doesn’t link to the latest articles you have been publishing. Take a look through your early articles that are drawing the most traffic, and find ways to link from that content to your best recent work. (Remember: time on site matters for conversion, so the more links to other internal resources, the better to keep the user on-site.)
- Improve calls to action — Who cares if you are getting a lot of visitors if those visitors don’t take the actions you want? Take a hard look at the way you are including your calls to action. Test different wording and designs for improved conversion.
- Convert list posts into individual posts — The numbered list is a tried and true format for drawing more traffic. If you’re looking for new content ideas, consider mining your successful list posts, breaking them down and expanding them into new individual posts, and using internal links to stitch them together.
- Revamp keywords — The Google Hummingbird update placed a new emphasis on the context of keywords within your content. Once again, spend some time reviewing your old posts, then make sure you are doing a good job of building out the keyword context across your site.
2. Consider mobile responsive design a requirement
Web traffic from mobile devices keeps growing. In fact, mobile web browsing surpassed desktop web browsing for the first time ever in January.
If your site is not properly rendering for the myriad of mobile devices out there, then you are severely limiting your OC/DC efforts.
If your website is not already mobile responsive, or at least has a mobile option via redirect, then you’re already behind your competition.
3. Target a 3-second load time (max)
Good digital marketing strategists appreciate the fact that a site loading slowly equals the loss of business.
Large, non-optimized images, poor coding, and poor hosting are just a handful of the things that can contribute to slow load times.
Spend time reviewing the loading of your site using tools like WebPageTest.org and find ways to optimize your page loads.
4. Don’t ignore author attribution methods beyond Google
Google Authorship has gotten a lot of notice within the content marketing community.
But it’s also interesting to look at how Bing uses author attribution.
Bing is starting to integrate results from LinkedIn within its search results page in unique ways. If you have a LinkedIn profile, do a search at Bing.com for your name.
It is easy to surmise that Bing may be working on its own solution like Google Authorship. Here’s what Google Authorship result looks like in comparison:
5. Repurpose your existing content
One of my favorite sites to visit is Business Insider. A tactic they use is to republish existing content from other sites directly on the Business Insider site.
No, they are not stealing the content. And no, search engines do not penalize Business Insider or the original publisher for duplicate content.
What Business Insider is doing, as well as a lot of other sites, is reposting existing content from reputable sites and using the “rel=canonical” meta tag to link back to the original post (with permission of course).
If you look at the source code of the page, you will quickly see that the content originally appeared on the Buffer blog.
By syndicating its existing content to other sites, Buffer can increase its exposure online … while sites like Business Insider can serve more content to their visitors.
It’s a win-win strategy for all involved.
So if you have posts that have done well, don’t be afraid to find sites that would be willing to syndicate the content using the “rel=canonical” tag.
This is a simple tactic for optimizing content discovery if your site has authority.
6. Create your own research
Here is a unique idea to become a real rock star with OC/DC.
Most sites love to publish original research reports within their industry. In the past, creating a research report would take a lot of time and money.
The trick is how you publish the data.
Once you have your survey completed and some basic analysis done, you can repurpose that research in a variety of ways:
- Downloadable report from your site
- Infographic highlighting the key data points
- Presentation deck uploaded to sites like SlideShare.net
- Narrated presentation deck on YouTube
- Webinar discussing the results of the analysis
- Press release detailing the analysis
- Guest posts on the results of the research
- In-person speaking opportunities to present the data
For an expenditure of a few hundred dollars, you have at least eight ways to generate content … from just one piece of research.
That is true optimization of content discovery.
OC/DC is here to stay
I hope you will join me in my crusade to remove the scourge of online marketing — the term “SEO” — from our lexicon.
SEO not only has a negative connotation, it is too often used inaccurately to explain a wide breadth of services and tactics that have nothing to do with search engines.
Optimizing Content for Discovery and Conversion, OC/DC, is a more accurate term, describing exactly what a digital content marketing strategy must encompass to be successful.
If you are looking for help with your digital marketing strategy (formally known as SEO), please contact me. I can assure you that my skills and know-how are beyond that of the “big SEO companies”, and my rates are much more affordable. I will review your website and give you a free consultation and quote for getting your website to the top of the search engines.