It seems like every few months there’s a trendy word being thrown around the website business. Recently that word has been SEO or search engine optimization.
This past week, I noticed that I had fallen victim to the trend and was using SEO when talking about Oso Studio. During the conversation, I realized that SEO is a misleading name for what Oso Studio does.
So what’s wrong with SEO?
The name SEO assumes that all (or at least a majority) of your website traffic will come from search engines. As recently as a year ago, this assumption held true, and websites with strong SEO performed incredibly well for their owners. But recently a shift in user habits has occurred and search engines no longer have a monopoly on how users find websites. With an explosion in social media adoption across every demographic group, users are turning to Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and more as readily as they turn to Google, Yahoo, and Bing for information.
The goal in 2014 for businesses isn’t just about having their website show up on Page 1 of search engine rankings, but it is making the most of every source available. This is where inbound marketing comes in play.
Inbound marketing is the answer
Inbound marketing is the term I prefer to use to describe what Oso Studio does to website increase traffic, brand awareness, and sales for our clients. In a way, inbound marketing is similar to SEO in that it helps a website show on the first page of Google for a relevant search query, but the beauty of it is that inbound marketing doesn’t stop there. It encapsulates the whole user experience.
It’s about showing up in social network searches.
If you are looking for a new Chinese restaurant in town, it’s increasingly likely that you’ll begin your search on Facebook, Yelp, or Foursquare. What makes these social networks better than going to Google and searching for “Chinese restaurant in [city]”? You can see if any of your friends have been to the restaurant and read reviews from customers to help you decide if the restaurant is haute cuisine or a hot mess. The same process can be performed while searching for almost anything, from an accountant to a web designer.
Now think about your potential customers using this process to find your business. If you have an active social network presence, the chances of being found increase exponentially over relying only on search engines.
It’s about engaging with the audience of customers you currently have.
Being number one is always the goal for any ranking where your business appears, and search results are no different. While each social network has their own unique ranking algorithm, having an active and engaged customer base is universal at increasing your social media profile rank.
How do you grow and maintain an active, engaged social media base? You do this by creating amazing and unique content that users are moved to comment, like, and share/retweet/repin. The social media engagement cycle happens like this: the more often your users engage with your company, the more their friends see your content and the more likely they are to then engage with you. The more they engage, the more likely they are to think of you the next time they need your product or service. The best part about this process is that the cycle continues to repeat so that knowledge of your company is reaching potential customers exponentially.
But search engines aren’t going away anytime soon.
Google is still one of the largest companies in the world, Yahoo is renewing their presence in the online world, and Microsoft is committed to growing Bing’s market share, so the influence of search engines must still be considered in any inbound marketing campaign. But with each new update to their search algorithms, the major search engines are looking at much more than just each page as its own isolated silo. Now search engines factor the social media presence of a company, the number of times a blog post or website has been shared on social media, and whether the content is original, just paraphrasing, or copying another website when ranking pages.
So that’s why I don’t like the phrase Search Engine Optimization. Its name places too much emphasis on only one slice of the digital marketing pie. Ask yourself if your business is following an SEO campaign or if you are focusing on inbound marketing. It could be time to change the dynamics of your focus to allow for total customer inclusion.