I was asked a few questions recently as part of an influencer blog series by Captora. You can read the final version of the blog post, but I figured I would post the expanded answers here on my blog as well.
Captora: What will a successful SEO program look like in 2016?
For me, a successful SEO Program starts with focusing on getting the Technical SEO basics right and then producing great content about your business and more importantly for your website. To earn links and build your brand, you need to promote yourself organically through social media channels, content amplification, and reaching out to partners, vendors, and industry leaders.
SEO will content to evolve as a marketing channel, and we all need to be mindful of mobile devices, algorithm updates, WordPress hacking, social search, local business lists, structured data, and a whole bunch of other stuff when we think about SEO in 2016.
I chuckle when I see people think SEO is about keyword density and inbound anchor text as this stuff is so ‘old school’. SEO in its advanced form is an analytical science full of abstract concepts that continuously change. Google’s announcement of BrainRank is a sign of their advanced thought processes as they bring machine learning to algorithm development.
Captora: What hard and soft skills do SEO specialists need today?
We think about this question a lot at Volume Nine. The hard skills are much easier to identify and we interview, train, and develop the hard skill sets for all of our employees. Some of these include Target Audience Development, Keyword Research, Content Optimization, Copywriting, Technical SEO Audits, HTML coding (just went old school again). Last year, we had a whole bunch of SEO Specialists get Google Analytics Certified. We also bring in Lunch & Learn speakers to learn things like PR to expand out their professional skill set.
As it relates to soft skills, we focus on competencies like analytical thinking and building collaborative relationships for example. I could go for hours on why just these two soft skills are important to ensure that V9 team members can work on project initiatives in a way that inspire the larger team to work together for optimal client results. This is easier said than done, but we have to build great relationships with other team members that develop the website, work on the brand, manage the brand, or set the business direction for the website.
Captora: How does SEO fit into an effective content marketing program?
Wow – great question. For us, great SEO and content marketing should go ‘hand-in-hand’. One example initiative in an effective content marketing program would be to produce TOFU (Top of the Funnel) that creates awareness of the issue long before the search seeks a solution. This TOFU content is often an infographic, a video, or more commonly a blog post that needs visibility. Of course, it should be distributed and amplified on social media platforms, but it can also be optimized to rank highly in Search Engine Results to be found by either your target customer or an industry leader.
One example of this type of TOFU content is this research article I wrote on The 6 Biggest Website Fails from 100+ Audits which generated interest in Volume Nine’s SEO Audit Service. By combining SEO and content marketing strategies, the article was noticed by SEMRush, and we were invited to participate in a SEO Audit Twitter Chat that resulted in a lot of earned links and additional exposure we would not have seen otherwise.
We develop similar Content Marketing Campaigns for our clients that combine SEO, Blogging, and Social Media tactics into a 90 day strategy. These programs show great results for both Social and SEO objectives, and my question would be how can SEO not be part of an effective content marketing program?
Captora: What’s the most important digital marketing trend you think we’ll see in 2016?
There are a lot of important digital marketing trends that I am following in 2016. The first is structured data, and we are having a lot of internal conversations about JSON-LD and Google’s support for it. Structured Data can help Google find the data it is looking for on your website (e.g. Ratings & Reviews), but Google also has to crack down on structured data abuse.
I am interested to see how social media users are going to use platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to find what they’re looking for online. I assume Facebook will continue to develop their search function to show more meaningful results to its users as well as try to keep users inside the Facebook ecosystem. Businesses will have to start optimizing and publishing content directly on their social media profiles to be found within social media search engines on not only Facebook but Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, et al.