Search engine optimization (SEO) as we (at least in the trenches) have known is over. It’s not dead, but it’s evolving. Those white hat, but passé, tactics of directory listings and link building, in mass, are gone; as is mass content syndication, and these are good things. Google is trying to do its job of providing the best search results based on what people are looking for, and while they want the user to explore more options based on their search, they are still committed to providing the best options.

So while Google is doing its job, we in the SEO trenches need to do ours. While SEO used to be a series of on- and off-page tactics that worked somewhat independently from other marketing efforts, these efforts now needs to play nicely with content development efforts, mobile marketing initiatives, and more than ever, social media marketing.

Content Marketing

Developing interesting, engaging content that can help users make decisions is still paramount to successful search ranking. But the emphasis is still – and should always be – writing for the user and not the search engine. Don’t follow any formula for keyword density, just use them as you would in speech, and try and add some level of value to what you develop. You don’t have to be on the cutting edge of your industry to add value. As I pointed out in a recent post there are four basic steps to building content marketing success:

  1. Learn to write – You don’t need to be a published author or even have an English degree, but you need to be able to articulate a point and write well-enough to be engaging
  2. Content isn’t always written – There are a ton of forms that content can take, so think outside the blog
  3. Find out what prospects and customers want (see below on using social media to listen)
  4. Share your content (again… refer below on the importance of sharing socially)

Mobile Search

The PC or desktop is slowly losing ground, or disappearing, in favor of mobile devices, with the most important mobile device that SEOs need to consider is the smartphone. Now more than ever people on the go are looking for things, exploring options, and making purchasing decisions (at least in the consumer space) on their phones. The mobile experience has to be rich and it has to be fast. In fact, Google recently announced that they will begin demoting search results for mobile sites that don’t provide a quality experience.

Analyze your Google Analytics and see which devices are driving traffic to your site today. Chart that traffic against the same month last year and the year before that. See a trend? If you’re in B2B that trend may be growing slowly and depending on the cost of your product or solution, and the length of your sales cycle, you may have some time before mobile becomes an imperative (though it likely still will). If you’re a retail establishment or a consumer products company you’ll likely see the trend line growing more aggressively. Use this as a barometer for when you’ll need to take mobile site development and SEO seriously. Of course you could always take it seriously now and beat some of your competition to the punch, but then I’ll let you make that decision.

Social Media Marketing

Simply put… social shares, content interaction on social platforms, and ‘likes’ and its equivalent, are driving search engine results success. Google + followers and interaction is helping companies increase their rankings on Google and likewise Facebook is doing the same for these companies on Bing. It’s the new reality that SEO and social are forever linked and in fact more and more people are using the term ‘social SEO’ to define this link.

Social SEO goes beyond just sharing and interacting; rather it’s a hotbed of conversation that brands need to listen to. Listening to what people are saying about your brand, industry, the buzz can inform decisions on what content to create, how to adjust your website, your social media contribution and more.

Here are some statistics from combination of the Global Web Index Study and Gigaom that make the social media marketing argument pretty compelling:

  • Facebook has 1.1 billion monthly active users, with 751 million of them using a mobile device
  • Twitter has the fastest active user growth, with 288 million monthly users
  • YouTube users now watch 6 billion hours of videos a month
  • Google Plus should be taken seriously, with 359 million active monthly users, making it the second largest social media network

So what does all this mean? Well if you’re an SEO provider it’s time to change the way you think, strategize, and implement your SEO plan. If you’re an organization that is trying to broaden your search share, then it’s time to start thinking beyond your main website to mobile and social platforms to build success.