SEO & Web Best Practices
Ryan Smith
by Ryan Smith
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SEO Expertise & Search Marketing Integration - A New Sheriff In Town

09/23/2013
SEO Expertise & Search Marketing Integration - A New Sheriff In Town

When I was interviewing at Dirigo, one of the things that stood out to me was the remarkable amount of up-to-date SEO knowledge the staff already had in-house.

Aside from the basic on-page optimizations like titles and metas, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I didn't have to explain the difference between Panda and Penguin, why and when to return status code 301 or 503, or what sort of problems the canonical tag is intended to solve. Dirigo was already there, and it wasn't just from David either – I found the entire culture was already infused with respect for modern SEO considerations. So as far as SEO evangelism is concerned, the heavy lifting had already been done.

Even still, I've had the opportunity since coming onboard to identify and correct a variety of somewhat obscure technical optimization concerns with a few key projects, and fill some SEO knowledge gaps pretty much across the spectrum.

I've had the good fortune of holding a front-row seat as the industry's best practices have unfolded over the last decade, and in some ways even to shape its progress. Probably the most important thing I've come to realize over the years is that "SEO" is not a job description; it's an operational philosophy. From the business plan, to the design and architecture, to coding and hosting, to content creation and promotion, the concerns of search visitors – both fleshy and mechanized – are of paramount importance to the success of any online venture.

As web user behavior has evolved over time, so have SEO professionals. In addition to keywords and links, we're watching likes, +1's, follows, views, shares, retweets and check-ins. In addition to link-building and paid-search strategy, we're now driving content strategy and cross-channel messaging, developing social media strategy in a variety of networks and formats, directing and influencing corporate structure and policy, branding and rebranding, product development and release cycles, and even federal and international laws. In the words of Vanessa Fox, one of my cherished industry mentors, "Your online strategy IS your business strategy."

It's coming to a point where the term "SEO" fails to describe the scope of our practice and profession, and so it's becoming increasingly common to refer to this holistic discipline more broadly as "Search Marketing Integration" (or "SMI"), a useful term that aptly describes all of the above, including SEO.

With the advent of personalized search results based on search history, geography and the preferences of your social circles, we have seen a dramatic and long-anticipated shift away from the tired old rankings report as a means of gauging the effectiveness of search marketing efforts. Rankings can vary to such a degree that it renders meaningless even the average rank position as an accurate performance indicator. Intelligence isn't actionable unless it's as close as possible to the action, so in place of ranking trends the modern search marketing strategist reports on KPI's such as conversion rates for search-attributable sales/leads/goals, unique visits from search, and keyword performance reports that surface those terms which actually drive the most revenue per click, regardless of who sees them in which search result positions how often.

This is a most exciting time to be a marketer, an interactive experience developer, or a business owner. No longer limited to the cost-inefficient legacy methods of pushing our messages to market with brute force and measuring its success in aggregate with what amounts to gypsy fortune-telling, we now have the tools to simply help our prospects find us from within their comfort zone, on their own terms, listen to what they're asking for, and convert them into customers at their own pace by giving them precisely what they tell us they want, all with an unparalleled and previously-unthinkable ROI.

In addition to the innovative, beautiful, cutting-edge, device-agnostic interactive experience platforms for which it has become known, Dirigo has the resources to provide clients with world-class SEO/SMI strategy, technical audits, competitive analysis, tactical execution and training like never before, and I'm proud to be a part of such an extremely-talented, high-caliber team.

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