Guest: Mike King (@iPullRank)
Mike is an SEO Engineer currently developing an enterprise SEO product at Publicis Modem. In addition to Twitter, Mike contributes his inspiring and unique brand of wit to industry blogs as SEOmoz, Unbounce, and Distilled. His primary efforts include coordinating the Creative, Strategy, Technical, and Search teams toward reaching client’s overall goals. Learn more about Mike here.
How has SEO evolved as part of the overall digital branding strategy for a business?
I’d say the issue is that overall it hasn’t. SEO has evolved in that it needs to have control over more of the marketing mix to be successful but we continue to cause disruption to the jobs of other capabilities. The thing is we typically ask for more responsibility but don’t fulfill the same basics of other digital capabilities. Far more needs to happen first before we fire up the keyword tool.
@ethanlyon: I love to see the collaboration between SEO & PR. Fantastic for linkbuilding.
@iPullRank: Exactly. When PR does the heavy lifting link building is far more scalable. I talk about that shortly.
@lyena: I think, SEO + customer service + sales is necessary. Have to understand the customer/audience. #personas
What do you suggest first when kicking off a project
The first phase is Opportunity Discovery. Everyone on the team should understand the vertical they will be optimizing in. Digital Strategists delve deep into that before the pitch even starts. One of the biggest problems and why SEO gets a bad rap for polluting the web is because we oftentimes do. Everyone on the team should be able to have a conversation on the topic because you all write optimize content for that niche. Use authentic engagement ask people on Twitter or talk to the client.
Next step is understanding business goals. Seems obvious but far too often does the client have a bad sense of what they need. Understand that rankings have never been the end goal but a means to that end goal.
Third step is audience research. People search to fulfill a need, understand those people and understand their needs. After that you can start talking about taking inventory of content assets and brand relationships, keyword research, site auditing and competitive analysis.
Finally a measurement plan should be developed at this phase to determine how effective your efforts will be.
@veezy: What’s the process when a client doesn’t understand what they need?
@iPullRank: When the client doesn’t understand the need you need to research the opportunities and TELL THEM what they need. Ultimately we want to get them the most effective traffic that fulfills the goal. For example if a client is selling TVs they may say “hey I want to rank #1 for the keyword [tv]”. That’s not helpful. You want to ultimately get to a keyword set that fits their target audience and brings qualified traffic.
@shuey03: Then you need to ask the right questions to pull it out of them.
@jasonmun: Can you give us an example of a measurement plan? Are you referring to forecasting success?
@scotttdodge: Here’s a killer one from @avinash http://t.co/F076wr2G
@iPullRank: A measurement plan is basically the statement of intent and the KPIs that we are using to determine success. Perhaps we want a certain audience to buy tvs. Some of the KPIs could be micro-conversions that tell us who visited. Basically the measurement plan gets everyone on the same page for determining how we’re doing.
@patricktigue: What if keywords that are the best fit don’t show any projected traffic? have you forgone seo setup for a ppc test first?
@iPullRank: Then those aren’t the best opportunities — keep looking
@SHOESandSEO: What techniques do you suggest for this. Buyer Personae are #Hot now but what more can be done?
@iPullRank: Suggest for what? Personas are essentially part of the discovery to determine the audience you’re optimizing for. It helps you understand what the persona is doing and will do. Use it in an aggregate sense.
@jaredmckiernan: Do you build your own rank tracking? If not, what do you use?
@iPullRank: I used to build rank checking tools but there are so many good ones out there. My favorite is @getstat. Check out Codex if you guys want to play with it : http://t.co/VYQax4Fj .
What tools do you recommend for conducting an Opportunity Analysis?
Opportunity Discovery is a cyclical process. Each portion will give you insights into one of the others and will cause you to refine your insights.
To understand the vertical simply use Google.
For understanding people use Social Listening tools such as SocialMention, Amplicate, Topsy, Spezify, Icerocket. The Facebook Ad Creator is to Audience Research what the Adwords Keyword Tool is to Keyword Research. There’s the DoubleClick AdPlanner. These are all the free tools.
Paid: Radian6, and quant tools – ComScore, Quantcast, Compete. If your client’s site is on FB’s OpenGraph use Facebook Insights as well.
Quick protip if you use followerwonk, you can also use About.Me and Zerply the same way.
I’m not just talking about keyword research with these. It’s understanding how people use and think about these keywords. It’ll help you create messaging that resonates with your target audience if you use the keywords the way they use them. Eliminates the message mismatch and/or ambiguity of keywords.
I’ve heard good thinks about ZoomRank but I’ve never personally used it.
@kmullett: and tweepi, manageflitter, twiangulate, and twendz is interesting.
@JadedTLC: I also endorse @brightedge for sites with 1mm+ pages.
@veezy: Know any tools that track when Google/Bing/Yahoo dial up/down localization a certain niche or for a certain keyword?
@scotttdodge: Try Zoomrank, or places scout. Will show what type of SERP is being displayed for any given KW.
@TheJune: Understanding the thought process that links various and related keyword give you a great advantage in seo.
@iPullRank: Absolutely. That’s the biggest takeaway from all of this I’d say. The problem with SEO is it was never people focused.
@ethanlyon: Also, have been breaking up linking audiences, finding their need states, testing, IDing best audiences, diving deep.
@iPullRank: Exactly my process. Separate your Targets from your Influencers in link prospecting get the biggest bang.
@jasonmun: Any tips on how to encourage all dept on the same page with SEO? PR, Comms, Product, Customer Service?
@iPullRank: That’s where this audience analysis comes in. It helps everyone get on the same page via the targets. That’s how strategy teams do it but I feel as though we’re better suited because we know the ins and outs of the channels. As a step by step of how I do it? I’m writing a post about Developing Personas for @seomoz soon.
How would you descibe the workflow of a successful “New SEO” project?
First Opportunity Discovery then move to a Content Strategy/Development phase which would include defining the Information Architecture, Annotating Wireframes in site builds, determing what type of content or Creative will be built and determining what portion of your audience connects with that content and how to put it in front of them.
To that point link building is partially built in Social Strategy – Link Building should not exist in a vacuum it should be coupled with other social and promo initiatives such as PR, social, contests and so on to scale and be more effective.
Finally there is measurement and optimization which is essentially no different than it ever was aside from the fact that we need to be measuring our efforts with AUDIENCE in mind rather than just keywords. Of course from there we jump around and do it all over again as needed.
@scotttdodge: A good deal of this advice seems to be focused on bigger-brand, bigger-budget projects. Any SMB/low-budget version?
@iPullRank: This can all be applied to smaller brands on a smaller scale. Just take out all of the quant analysis tools. Also if you can afford link building you can afford a PR campaign.
Looking forward, what should SEOs start investigating now to prepare for the next evolution of search?
Understanding, developing and validating personas using social media and then correlating that data with campaign efforts a la Keyword-Level Demographics.
Packaging link building efforts as part of bigger picture social-focused campaigns. Start thinking about how to become an entity and how users will become entities in the eyes of Google and how to make sure the content you create continues to be authoritative in the eyes of users so Google is ultimately forced to comply.
Social Media and SEO are essentially joined at the hip. Google has basically given up on the concept of search quality in and of itself and they are after this idea of symbiosis with the user. Basically users use search and search uses users to get better at Search.
Embrace Social or you won’t be around next year. Also getting along with the rest of the capabilities is mission critical. Speak their language and you can drive the train.
@SeoHop: I know all do it all as a package deal. But they will never understand the importance of it all. All they see is #1.
@iPullRank: Explain to them that #1’s not a goal but a means to an end. #1 gets them to the door doesn’t keep them in the house.
@lorenzocarreri: What’s entity search?
@dan_shure: JUST did a video yesterday on @iPullRank’s blog – http://t.co/7WEGqjtl . Its a pretty basic overview, but there’s links to more detailed/advanced info below the video.
@iPullRank: I’m speaking at SMX West, LinkLove London, and SES New York. If there’s any more questions feel free to hit me up here or reach out to me on email – mike@ipullrank. And thanks for having me on. Look out for my post on the New SEO Process on @seomoz on Monday.