The last twelve months have been challenging for companies marketing their brand online as well as the SEO specialists who are advising them. With the introduction of the Panda and Penguin updates Google has effectively deleted a range of previously respectable “white hat” SEO tactics and rendered them at best useless (and in some cases even damaging).

For the last six months people have been running around in a state of panic in the belief that SEO is finished, trying to come terms with exactly what Google has done with its algorithm and how it has affected them. The same people who paid third parties for “dodgy” links are now paying to have them removed in reaction to plummeting rankings.

SEO or Paid Search?

Enough has been written on the subject of algorithm changes, including a lot of scare mongering from vested interests (why wouldn’t they? Online advertising is big business). What we are going to talk about today is a marketing campaign using SEO tactics that will last into the future whilst enhancing the web experience for your customers.

Vintage microscopeKeyword Research

Let’s get the basics of our SEO campaign in clear focus first. Yes you still need to find keywords and yes you’ll still need to optimise your site. The major difference here is volume, I would suggest a greater variety of longer tailed keywords, targeted across your site and the on-page elements need to be more subtly conveyed. If your keywords have not been revisited in some time, now would be a great time to see how search volumes have changed as well as ensuring your are targeting phrases relevant to your business.

 

Photo: Elsie Esq

On Page Optimisation

It’s not too long ago that some people were recommending a keyword density of 5% for on-page optimisation, this just looks crass. We’ve championed the benefits of writing for people and not search engines for some time, it will improve your customer’s experience and signal to Google that this is an important factor to your organisation. Plain easy to understand English combined with a subtle use of keywords is the way forward. If you are still employing SEO 2009 tactics your site will definitely benefit from being de-optimised (thin out those keywords to an acceptable level).

Link Building

You are still going to actively build links back to your site but this should only be done carefully so relevance and variety are your watch words, this means variety in where the links are coming from as well as your brand/anchor text mix. You also need to think about niche specific relevance for these links, this takes planning and relationship building to get right (putting great content on your site to use as link-bait is the future proof path).

One major lesson that this year’s developments have underlined is it pays to keep an eye on your link profile, Open Site Explorer is a great source of help. You can check for unhealthy weighting towards exact match anchor text and take steps to re-address the balance mixing up brand, URL and less formularised versions of your keywords to create a natural pattern.

Whilst you have OSE open you might want to check which pages your external links are going to, again you are looking for patterns that heavily saturate one or two pages as landing pages. You can make it part of your on-going campaign to spread the link love around your site and avoid possible issues in the future.

See?Other Parts of the Puzzle

To come up with a campaign that is ready for the rigors of 2013 you need to embrace the following concepts:

  • Guest blogging – This works both ways with you writing quality content for other relevant sites as well as inviting industry thought leaders to post for you.
  • Create great content – It does not matter where the content is being published, the days of throwing together thin, poorly crafted content are over!
  • Have a content distribution plan – where, how, when and to who you are going to release content to? A careful plan and everyone aware of it will ensure you get maximum exposure.
  • Social media – Raise your own profile, get involved with your industry and get in front of the movers and shakers to build your brand. These people will also form part of your content distribution plan if you invest enough time here.

Fighting Fit

There isn’t enough time to go into all of these points in detail but you should now be able to review your own SEO campaign and decide whether some housekeeping is in order, ready to face the challenges of 2013.