S.E. Oh!


On a number of occasions in the last 12 months, existing and prospective clients have approached us with questions about Search Engine Optimization ("SEO").

The frequency with which it has been coming up and the importance people are placing on it as part of decision-making criteria for which agency to work with tells me that this is something that has recently become more top-of-mind for marketing professionals and executive leadership.

The really interesting thing about it is that when we've tried to explain the realities of SEO today - that positive search results are more dependent on good, relevant content than keywords - people have seemed to balk. They just can't seem to believe that their site content has that much to do with it. To be clear, keywords and Meta data are still necessary, but content optimization and inbound/outbound links are far more important and have a far greater impact on your rankings.

I believe that people struggle with what we're trying to tell them for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. It's possible that they've been influenced by SEO firms that haven't been able to adjust to the new reality of SEO. Those firms try to validate their services by not telling the whole story.
  2. Keyword effectiveness measurement and optimization is easier to understand and more tangible so people gravitate towards it.
  3. Content optimization requires a pretty fundamental shift in approach, which could be scary for some firms because:
    • It requires a change to the core of how a business communicates
    • It has to do with the very product/service the organization offers
    • It’s based on good brand communications and people sometimes shrug that off as too soft a science to be legitimate

The reality, however, is that Google themselves have been speaking clearly to this issue and with almost 67% of the desktop-based search market, they carry a pretty big stick.

The key thought from that video that I want to draw your attention to is that, around 2005, firms that specialize in Search Engine Optimization ("SEO's") lost focus. They got caught trying to 'game' the system. They tried to figure out how to work within Google's algorithms in order to achieve positive rankings. But Google has always, from day one, been focused on the user and providing them a good search experience. Their methods (algorithms) to achieve that goal will constantly change, but their primary goal will not. Their perfect world is when a user logs on to google.com, runs a search for something they want (with whatever search phrases/terms that that user deems best), and arrives at content that is meaningful and valuable for them.

Strategically, therefore, the answer is to follow Google's lead and chase the user, not the search engine algorithm. Strive to offer a valuable product or service and to communicate its value well. If you do that, not only will you get positive SEO results, but it will also help you stay current. The issue with many SEO's is that they lost sight of the bigger picture of what Google is about and when they did that, they were open to get off track, eventually becoming obsolete – they couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

So what's the lesson?

Good branding wins again!

We here at Bark preach Honesty and Quality as fundamental pillars of a healthy brand. You need to honestly communicate who you are - your advertising & marketing should not be a massive effort to game the system. If you've been communicating honestly and you are providing a quality product or service that benefits your audience, then 'gaming' strategies won't fit your brand. In fact, there's no reason to game the system at that point - your work will speak for itself and Google will find it.

Again, I'm not saying that you shouldn't optimize your site structure, code, keywords and Meta data - these are fundamental things to do on your site. But you don't just want fundamental. You don't just want to do what everyone else does. You want to do something outstanding. Something that your customers will notice. So that they, and Google, have a great reason to talk about you

Be about excellence. Be about your audience. We say this all the time and SEO is one practical example of why!

Andrew VanderPloeg
Andrew VanderPloeg Guest Blogger, Consultant

Andrew served at Bark for over 20 years before recently taking over the role of Vice President of Marketing & Communications at ShareWord, one of our favorite organizations.