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Technology & InternetDebunking SEO: Lisa Barone
A look at SEO tactics, content marketing and community engagement from young marketing influencer, Lisa Barone.
Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development company, where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions. When she doesn’t have her head buried at Overit, you can find her tweeting hilarious nothings at @LisaBarone.
1. What was your first experience with SEO? How have you seen SEO tactics evolve since this time?
LB: My first experience with SEO came as a Technical Writer for Bruce Clay, Inc. back in 2006 (another lifetime ago!) where my main responsibility was the company blog.
The biggest evolution in tactic and thought, for me, has been around the type of content that brands have to create to differentiate themselves online. We’ve seen a shift away from creating “unique content” to creating “purposeful content” that will contribute value and benefit customers for years. I remember having to try to strategically place keywords in old blog posts where now I’m more focused on the lifelong value of what I’m creating. Personally, that’s an evolution I really appreciate.
Content has always had the crown, but now it’s got the respect to go with it.
2. Can you tell us a little bit about how you have worked with SEO, within Overit and on your own?
LB: My SEO experiences come from a content, social and brand point of view. I’m not a technical person so you’re not going to find me structurally building a Web site any time soon. But you will find me building an audience and a customer base. For me, I’ve enjoyed the shift SEO has taken from technical-based to marketing-based because I think it puts the focus on the right party – customers, not the search engines. It’s about understanding who your audience is, what they want, and then setting your business up to be the answer. SEO is about increasing conversions on your Web site. End of story.
3. Google’s Penguin and Panda updates have put an emphasis on producing high-quality content. Is SEO as effective as before these updates were implemented?
LB: The Penguin and Panda updates reaffirmed what most marketers should have already known – that producing high-quality content needs to be part of your SEO efforts. It’s not enough to create a technically sound site and fill it with meaningless pages. Your site has to mean something and your content is what you use to tell people who you are, give them a reason to care and what, ultimately, converts. Hopefully that’s been the biggest takeaway to site owners this past summer – you exist to serve and attract your customers. Content is simply one of the biggest (and most cost effective) ways to do that.
4. How can entrepreneurs and businesses best adapt to Google’s updates? What are the greatest SEO/SEM challenges we currently face?
LB: I think the biggest challenge for most business is prioritization, especially if you’re a small business. There’s so much to do and so much that you COULD do that it’s easy to get lost in the possibilities (or go broke trying everything). Everything you do to your site should be done with purpose and with a clear benefit in mind. Map out your site and business goals and work backwards to how you’re going to get there. If you’re doing something that doesn’t have a fat line leading back to its purpose, don’t do it.
5. Do you see a difference between SEO and content marketers? Is there a need to specify between the two?
LB: There’s certainly a difference. Content marketing is part of any SEO strategy. It has to be. But that doesn’t mean that content marketing is all that goes into being a great SEO, because that’s not the case. You still need to build technically sound Web sites, you need to understand your audience, there are usability concerns – a site with great content but a broken checkout button isn’t going to make you any money.
6. The old black hat SEOs argued that white hat SEO only worked when you had interesting content/products/services to write about. How do professionals trying to market something “unglamorous” adjust to this shift towards pure, high-quality content?
LB: Complaining your industry isn’t “glamorous” enough for high-quality content instantly tells me two things about you:
- You don’t fully understand your customer’s needs/pain points/wants.
- You’re boring.
The opportunity to create high-quality content is there, regardless of what industry you serve. High-quality content doesn’t mean creating something that is laugh-out-loud funny or something Oatmeal worthy. It means designing content to bring value to your consumer. That interactive comparison chart on different toilet models may not be sexy to you, but you can bet it’s pretty sexy to someone in the middle of a remodel and unsure of what to buy, what the difference is between products, and why one model is priced differently than another.
It’s also worth noting that just because your topic is toilets (or insurance, or telecom, or stained glass windows) doesn’t mean your content has to be 100-percent toilet focused. Find those interesting periphery topics or the topics that your customers are passionate about and create content around them.
In many cases it’s not the topic that’s boring or unglamorous, it’s the mind creating content around it.
7. What role do blogs and publishing platforms play in SEO?
LB: Blogs and social publishing platforms are access points to your customers. From a consumer standpoint, they allow you to get your message out, connect in more personal ways, and have buying conversations in real-time. From an SEO standpoint, blogs and publishing platforms lend themselves to important social signals (tweets, shares, comments), fresh content, links, authority in the search engine result pages (SERPs) and other benefits. And that’s really just the beginning.
If you’re not blogging, you should be. And you should have started yesterday.
8. Who are exemplary marketers? How do they utilize SEO/SEM tactics?
LB: We’re lucky to have a lot of great marketing examples in our industry. Some who immediately come to mind:
Mike King - Mike King rocks link building and technical SEO like it’s nobody’s business. I’m glad the industry has him because he’s brought a certain level of excitement and hustle that I really respect (and that I think has been missing).
Chris Winfield - Chris is not only one of the smartest marketing minds around; he’s also one of the nicest people. The latter has made him a power networker, which in turn, has made him dangerously scary in the world of social media.
Rand Fishkin - It takes a special marketer to grow an SEO agency to the size and power that Rand has grown SEOmoz. He can leverage community like no one else.
9. How important is it to grow a social media following and engage with this community? Is community involvement a necessary element in today’s optimal marketing strategy?
LB: It’s absolutely necessary. We know that Google is using social signals as part of its ranking algorithm. That means that the number of tweets your content receives, the number of shares, the activity happening on your blog – it’s all being taken into account when Google is deciding what to do with your content and where it should rank. Growing a community and a healthy social media following is something that businesses of all sizes need to worry about.
10. What is the best way to market the content that has been optimized through social networks?
LB: The content you’ve created and optimized needs a home. Ideally, you know where that home is before you’ve created it. Otherwise, oops? ;)
Seriously though, where you want to share your content depends on where your particular network is hanging out – what sites do they use for news? Where do they go to talk to their friends? Which sites make up their watering holes? Once you identify these sites, you need to develop a real presence there. Don’t go in spamming the community. Become a member. Show an interest in the community. And develop an audience that actually cares about what you have to say (by saying stuff that actually matters). You make yourself stand out by developing relationships. Once you have those intact, you can go to your community with your content and ask them to share it for you. Build the right network and you won’t even have to ask.
Absolutely fantastic article and very nice to see that SEO is being looked at from a pure marketing point of view rather than a tech point of view.
SEO has been unfairly branded as a 'dark art' and it is high time that the practioners of White Hat SEO are given the credit that they deserve for bringing great content, and intelligent social media strategies into the open.
Intelligent content and media outreach will always outweigh black hat numbers.
Any SEO professional worth their salt knows that quality over quantity will work every time.
Once again, a great article with a professional who clearly knows her stuff.
High five and hats off.Reply