SEO as Website Positioning Strategy? – Updated

Emergence-Media's Community by
Emergence-Media’s Community by

Update: Fixed MS Word HTML issue. Thanks to Jake for letting me know.
Search Engine Optimization or Strategic Website Positioning?

Search marketing veterans have seen the shift of SEO tactics moving from keyword density and page title optimization to the leveraging of PR-like tactics to conduct link-building (building rankings by having others link to your website) and to now even more complex strategies. At this point is SEO still SEO or has it outgrown that name? Maybe it is time to look at the idea of “Strategic Website Positioning”?

The maturing of the SEO industry has resulted in many changes. The top four has been 1) the further integration of PR-ish tactics like “linkbaiting”; 2) the embrace of social media in social media marketing; 3) changing the metrics from rankings and to relevant traffic and conversion; and 4) thinking about usability and conversion optimization, not just search traffic generation.

All of these new changes will be unfamiliar to someone from the early days of SEO, which mostly concerned itself with placing important keyword on the webpages.

What Does Strategic Website Positioning Mean?

The Working Definition

The idea behind “Strategic Website Positioning” is not original. Businesses create websites with considerations of what the website should be to their targeted audience.

The idea of Strategic Website Positioning is to think of search marketing (organic SEO and PPC), social media marketing and website development as an integrated approach, by asking questions centered around:

  • How is your website’s content, structure and usability fit with the intent of your audience?
  • How does your website “fit” in how people search (one-box searches on Google/Yahoo, Technorati, Oodle, vertical search engines)?
  • How is your website positioned in Social Media Community? How do you want to participate?

From this we can build further questions…

Community Positioning

  • “What are similar people tagging (or perhaps tagging with similar words) – and Google Search History” (SEOBook)
  • “What are similar people reading? (Via My Yahoo! or Google Reader or MyBlogLog) – Graywolf recently highlighted how MyBlogLog can use your readers to show what community your site is in” (SEOBook)
  • “What words are associated with your brand or site? What sites are associated with those words? What searcher intent is associated with those words? What else are they searching for?” (SEOBook)
  • What Terms Are Your Competitors Using? On their website, on their copy, on their AdWords campaigns?

Content Building based on Community Positioning

Building on the above, but including:

  • Content Funneling (See Emergence-Media on “Building Content for Branded and Non-Branded Search“)
    How is your website catering to your target audience in general product research, comparative shopping and purchasing mode? How can you be considered an authoritative source for each?
  • What is the approach on new sources on online content like blogs and widgets?

Social Media Assessment

  • How Visible are You in Social Media Websites?
    How “popular” are you online? Do reputation management? See how communities, blogs, reviews and describe your website?
  • How do you want to Participate in Social Media Websites?
    Do video promotions? Community building? Virals? Podcasting?

Search Engine Positioning

  • Getting on One-Box Search (See Google on Travel searches, Website Searches)
    Are you using Google Base to get listed on Google’s Real-Estate Seach?
  • Getting on Vertical Search like Technorati, Oodle, Kayak, *Shopping Search Engines*
    Beyond the big search engines Google/Yahoo/MSN/Ask, what about the specialized vertical search engines?

Greater Marketing/MarComm/PR Integration

  • Sharing “Keywords” Knowledge:
    Does some department have consumer studies on what words people use to describe your product?
  • Integrating Offline Ads with Search:
    What’s your slogan, hook, that song playing in the background of your commercial. Is that integrated into your search strategy?

Conclusion: SEO Needs a Conceptual Reset and Reboot

I could go on and on, on the list above. They are not hard and fast categories, but they are the type of questions that need to be asked. They maybe best laid out in a mindmap (see Emergence Media’s SEO Mindmap from last year).

There are many folks trying to tackle what the new SEO exactly is. Todd Mailcoat has placed it forward as “New School SEO”, pointing to various other tactics that beyond traditional SEO: Social Media Marketing, Video Promotion, Community Participation et cetera. Aaron Wall has looked at the community (a more precise type of link authority and PageRank) as the next possible area where more search engines will determine relevancy.

Whatever it is, conceptual we need to rethink how we think of SEO. It’s not just about using WordTracker to do keyword research anymore, so our frame of thought has to change too. “Strategic Website Positioning” is an attempt to reset that thought. Once we figure what exactly SEO will be, there comes the next step: How do we explain it to our clients?




16 responses to “SEO as Website Positioning Strategy? – Updated”

  1. Jake Lockley Avatar
    Jake Lockley

    Control code problem

  2. Stephanie Avatar

    Very interesting perspective. Even sounds good to me. There are so many ways now to promote a website that the options can be rather overwhelming. But if you take the time to learn them one at a time, it’s not too bad.

  3. Daniel R Avatar
    Daniel R

    @Jake: Thanks again for emailing me about the coding issue.

    @Stephanie: Thanks for your comment. I think just about everyone can agree on the tactics and the tools, but SEO and online marketing has changed so much in the past 2-3 years that it requires a whole new perspective of things, to rethink things in a new way.

  4. […] What Emergence Media has put together here is a great starting point for a new definition of SEO, and it’s one of the first elaborate and systematic attempts I’ve seen thus far. […]

  5. Richard Burckhardt Avatar

    Right on the money. I do SEO for a company whose CEO was doing their optimization before I was brought on board. It is taking a herculean effort to get the development team caught up with the fact that SEO is no longer just tweaking titles and getting backlinks. Accepting social networking has been the hardest for them. They don’t understand it, so don’t see why we need it. They understand the need for press releases and shopping site feeds, but not Digg and the rest.

    After a year of working to get one going, we’re just now getting the site a blog up and running. Once that’s up, we’ll tackle social networking.

    SEO is now marketing, communications, public relations, web development, publishing, branding and more.

  6. Brian Laks Avatar

    I agree that the tactics and strategies involved in SEO have changed considerably over the last few years. I think success will come from a combination of those strategies, rather than a strict adherence to one particular methodology. The successful websites will be those who embrace these changes as they arise instead of fighting the progress.

  7. Daniel R Avatar
    Daniel R

    @ Richard:
    Tackling client education will be the biggest factor for SEO as it evolves into the next level. Add to this technical issues like AJAX/FLEX, and you have a big hairy thing to deal with it.

    And unfortunately, as long as SEO is called just that, it will be very difficult to explain why something called “Search Engine Optimization” needs blogs, social media, usability studies etc.

    I know I’ve been facing that issue more and more with our clients that require more sophisticated SEO strategies to succeed.

    @ Brian:

    “The successful websites will be those who embrace these changes as they arise instead of fighting the progress.”

    True, but many do not see the need. Some of these companies have been slow to adopt SEO in the first place, then when they go for it – its baby steps. Even the simple steps like keyword research requires feedback from the client, coordination with their copywriter, approval on brand etc.

    SEO is a lot of work. I’ve seen clients push for very aggressive launch dates, then bulk when they see the schedule – half of the deliverables are from their side to us. That is always shocking to see.

  8. Brian Laks Avatar

    Your right, it’s hard to explain to them why they really need that sharp stick in the eye… Everybody wants the world until they realize what it’s gonna take… But baby steps are steps nonetheless, and you have to learn to walk before you can run… I guess it’s good there are SEO “physical therapists” like us that can help them out along the way…

  9. […] “Question 2) If Social Media is an effective way to gain in SEO (as well as engage an audience), should we increase Social Media Program budgets and reduce SEO budgets?” Cutting edge SEO is already incorporating website usability, widget creation, RSS feeds and linkbait (PR tactic to try to get people to link to your website) as part of the “SEO Tactics Toolbox”. Indeed, I’d say SEO people are one of the leaders pushing Social Media Marketing. SEO will not compete with Social Media, but will eventually merge with it. SEO will be about Website Positioning Strategy. As I’ve mentioned in my post “SEO as Website Positioning Strategy“: The idea of Strategic Website Positioning is to think of search marketing (organic SEO and PPC), social media marketing and website development as an integrated approach, by asking questions centered around: […]

  10. […] In their article “SEO as Website Positioning Strategy? – Updated” Emergence Media observes the same. But, they have a different name in mind… Website Positioning Strategy. The great article goes in depth on the types of strategies involved in orchestrating and manipulating your website’s positioning online. […]

  11. Zach Katkin Avatar

    Great points. I completely agree that SEO as a blanket term needs to be readdressed.

  12. Natasha Robinson Avatar

    WOW – Excellent piece – Where the hell have I been, that I’ve been missing pieces like this!? The Strategy group at the last agency that I worked for developed a great white paper (written by Doug Klein) that covers this as well. It’s the one named Internet Marketing Best Practices here – However as per my last comment, selling the integrated approach is difficult when clients are not used to thinking about the STRATEGY of internet marketing. Especially when you have specialist firms claiming that you only need one and not the other.

  13. […] SEO as Website Positioning Strategy? – Updated […]

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  15. […] I’ve written about in the past, SEO is no longer SEO. It is Website Positioning Strategy. As noted in the Google Webmaster Blog and Google Guidelines, high rankings in Google comes from […]

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