It seems that just when search engine optimization (SEO) is finally gaining mainstream mindshare, the game has changed in such a way that might make the industry designation a misnomer.
There’s no doubt that optimization for better search engine rankings will always be a huge part of the online marketing equation. However, it may be that the top SEO players are finding that pigeonholing themselves with that narrow acronym is not in their best interest.
I’m banking on the notion that the future of successful optimization is focused on the creative, not the technical aspects [of] search marketing. SEO in the early days had more to do with code manipulation than content. Today we have offline to online integration, social search, viral search marketing (link baiting), tagging, new media public relations and so forth.
While that’s worth reading twice in itself, what really caught my eye was Lee’s attempt to re-brand “link baiting” as “viral search marketing.” Let’s face it — I’m sure he’d rather use his term in a professional setting.
Readers of my free report on viral marketing techniques for bloggers know that I find the term “linkbaiting” a bit inelegant. What’s worse, many long-term bloggers equate it with controversial and aggressive tactics, rather than simply a sobriquet for content that tends to attract links.
The thing about the term “viral search marketing” is that it also is way too limited in scope to actually replace the true value of link bait, a/k/a extremely compelling content. Why? Because extremely compelling content scores non-search traffic well before it (or the main domain) ranks high in the search engines due to the resulting links.
So isn’t “linkbaiting” really just viral marketing — period? The links, Diggs and social bookmarks that result from carefully-crafted, compelling content (which in turn lead to even more links, Diggs and bookmarks) can drive huge traffic, only to later result in longer-term traffic from high placement in the search engine results. After all, your rank in those results is yet again just another highly relevant link, right?
As Lee and the rest of the best and brightest in search engine marketing add an adapted form of traditional copywriting to their formidable skill set, they find themselves ultimately in the general business of traffic. The main skill set necessary to achieve high search engine rankings (attracting high-quality links) is the skill set that also results in valuable referral traffic from a multitude of other sources.
And why stop with traffic?
If you’re going to take the time as an SEO to learn copywriting (or incur the expense of hiring staff copywriters), why not also help clients convert that traffic, whether that be for direct sales, lead generation, or advertising-supported subscriptions? That’s what direct-response copywriting has traditionally been all about, and there seems to be a unique opportunity to create a one-stop-shop solution delivering work product that not only drives traffic, but also translates that traffic directly into revenue.
Compare that with your typical old school advertising agency that still hangs its hat on the 30-second television commercial and pricey print ads. I know which model I’d bet on.
The SEO industry may have a temporary branding problem. But the solution to that problem may well result in the powerhouse advertising agencies of the future.
The really good news is, smart small business bloggers can learn to do it all for themselves.
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