The smart business owners and the savvy operators of eCommerce stores know that the free traffic delivered by search engines is worth gold to a business.
Research shows that ranking first on Google produces over 40 percent of all clicks to websites. Listing on the first page of a search, results in over 90 percent of all clicks. Now that is important in a digital economy!
Also a Google search can produce a negative or positive impression about a brand depending on what content and links appear in the search results. So online reputation management is also an important activity.
For a long time, Search Engine Optimization and Online Reputation Management have been looked upon as two parallel services. Google recently has changed how it performs its search. These updates to the search engine algorithms were titled “Panda” and the most recent changes were called “Penguin“.
So with these changes where does the future of both these services lie?
Let’s breakdown each of the services.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
When SEO started, it was easy to do. There were guaranteed success methods and approaches such as the following produced great results.
- Keyword density
- Meta tags
There were sites which went up overnight by acquiring links from questionable sources. Spamming an important keyword on the page was a very likely affair. People posted articles on blog networks, with each topic as unrelated as chalk and cheese!
The creation of low-quality, thin content was an easy option for a lot of people who were trying to gain success overnight! This list can go on and on!
Anything that is abused over time is likely to burn out. And so did these practices!
Google Wants Quality Content
Google’s Panda update was aimed at providing more relevant and quality content to users. This update was rolled out in the USA in February 2011, with various refreshes and updates over the course of the next 16 months. Panda 3.8 was released in the end of June 2012. While webmasters were still trying to come to terms with the Panda update (about 11.8% of all searches were affected with the first update.)
Google recently rolled out the Penguin update (about 3.1% of all search queries were affected). This update was aimed at keeping a check on
- Link schemes
- Exact anchor text linking
- Blog networks
- Duplicate content etc
Here is a great infographic comparing Google’s Panda and Penguin updates and how they affect your Brand’s visibility to the Google search engine.
Infographic by Reload Media – Difference between Google Penguin & Panda
Content Marketing is Vital to SEO
Post these two updates, the SEO world has started viewing the terms ‘content’ and ‘links’ differently. For an SEO guy, content started focusing more on pieces that were not only unique and engaging but also something that a user could associate with!
Content Marketing became a term that every SEO expert started relating with more closely!
SEO agencies have started rolling out extensive content marketing plans for their clients, focusing on the creation of detailed content plans including the following
- PDF documents
- Image syndication
You name a medium, and they have targeted it! SEO started focusing strongly on content marketing, wherein content marketing has become the crux of any SEO campaign.
Online Reputation Management (ORM)
ORM is one of the most dynamic activities online and one of the most difficult too. It is the only activity where you have little or no control over different situations and/or circumstances which can completely turn around all the hard work invested into a campaign!
An outsider speaking about your brand, the brand’s offline activities, and the actions of an important entity associated with the brand, all these can completely change the statistics of your campaign overnight! Positive mentions, neutral mentions and negative mentions! These more or less rule the life of that person who is trying to protect your online reputation.
Let’s run through the aim of any ORM campaign:
- Ensure that the client get as much positive exposure as possible. Try and get as many positive mentions up in the top 10/20/30 results!
- If it isn’t positive, ensure that you have neutral content about your brand!
- Neutralize the NEGATIVE content pieces!!!!
The easiest way to go about doing this is to ensure that you have positive/neutral content online talking about your brand. (Not that it is easy to do that!)
Also, since you work closely with the brand, you become the official channel of sorts, responsible for creating content and syndication across mediums and platforms! The content creation involves having an exhaustive content plan in place and using various mediums including videos, blogs, articles, etc.
Does this Sound Similar to SEO?
The lines distinguishing both these services are becoming less distinct by each passing day. The objective of both SEO and ORM now align towards the creation of good, unique and engaging content. Content marketing remains the focus of both services. Reaching out to new people, gaining greater visibility and creating a stronger brand presence are extremely important. The principle of SEO is now to ensure that not only is your brand reaching out to more people but also focus on creating a strong brand presence online.
SEO is Now Part of Brand Building
Brand building is becoming a more integral part of SEO activity! ORM has by principle always concentrated on promoting the brand!
It seems that a new service package offering Branding + SEO + ORM is the call of the hour. Anyone who has an online store, not only wants to increase their presence and standing, but also wants to ensure that their brand is being recognized by their target audience. It is essentially the first step to become a major player and stand out in a many player market! I can guarantee that this will not only be used by the big fish who are well established and will rely more on the monitoring and the reputation side of things but also by the small startups looking for a strong branding campaign to promote themselves and garner greater visibility!