Search engine optimization (SEO) has become more than just a way to create additional revenue from the internet; it has become the primary source of affordable online marketing. Beyond best practices, businesses must now become creative to compete with SEO, and do so in a way that keeps costs low.
Is creative search strategy really that important?
Before you add this article to your "maybe later" stack sitting in your office, consider this: one of my clients recently earned nearly a quarter of million dollars in gross revenue online, 62% of which came from natural/organic search. Granted, they had a high ticket item, but the results were within a three month time frame.
Another client continues to recalibrate their website content and drive links through creative search strategy. Their innovative ideas have produced nearly two million dollars in sales from organic search within a twelve month time period. Once again, organic search drove the majority traffic and revenue; and in this case, responsible for three times as much revenue as the second highest producing medium.
Regardless of whether you are a Fortune 100 business or run a small mom and pop store, natural search engine traffic could be where most of your online revenue comes from. Having the right creative strategy will be the one element that stands between you and success.
Competitive creativity on a website
Most companies don't stop to think that their competitors may be watching every move they make online. Perhaps a company invested a year creating dozens of keyword rich web pages, invested time and resources acquiring keyword rich links to those pages, and possibly even invested in sponsored advertising. Thanks to online tools, within one day a competitor can find and list every single keyword the competition is targeting and each and every link they have acquired; rendering a year of hard work nearly in vain.
The same creativity could lead a business to crawl a competitor's website, index keywords in page titles, meta data, headings, HTML site maps, page nomenclature in XML site maps, and scrutinize internal linking structures. Aggregated, categorized and emulated with better content, the on-page search engine optimization playing field has just been leveled.
Creativity of a website
With tools such as Wordtracker's Link Builder and others, an advertiser can not only find and prioritize links acquired by the competition, but also catalog the keywords used within the link text and the actual pages being linked to. (Search engines prefer a diversity of activity as opposed to a pattern of influence.)
Using a bit of creativity to track keyword ranking of competitors, a business can identify changes in position and isolate the exact destinations used to earn them. In a nutshell, your competitor could begin to appear everywhere you do almost instantly after you acquire a link you may have worked hard to research and obtain.
Advanced query tools are plentiful to help you find links from relevant niche directories, associations, indexes, blog posts and articles that all start with a simple query, such as 'list of florist directories'. But is all this work in vain if the competition is hot on your trail?
Here are a few creative strategies to consider:
Produce one to two amazing pages of content per week. Use your blog, celebrity contacts, survey results, humor, downloads, videos, diagrams, controversy, joint contribution, sex (if appropriate), emotion, direct response to a hot topic, or anything that makes you confident that the reader will share, link, tweet, like, comment and drool over.
Conjure up something users can embed on their own websites. AusmedOnline.com created their CPD Organizer for nurses in Australia to track, manage and (hopefully) post how many nurse education hours they have completed (over 1,000 nurses use it now). Business Speaker Bodine Balasco offers motivational tips at motivationalspeaker.net that you can add to your website that rotate each time the page is loaded. Beneath each of these innovative ideas you'll find one of a batch of keywords that link to various pages within Ausmed's and Balasco's respective websites. Reload the 'get your code' pages to find the rotations.
We need stinking badges. Creating a set of requirements along with a badge users can embed on their website upon completion is a great way to create links. If you have a product or service that requires safety instruction, offering a quiz and a certificate of completion badge (button and link) may be something to consider. See an example of a badge by taking the SEO quiz at SEOinPractice.com.
Affiliates will rule the world. It's true. The only internet marketing industry more exciting than SEO is affiliate marketing. Websites such as BOTW.org have already caught on to this fad and are allowing affiliates to register the websites they plan to promote with; so that when they link they do so without tracking codes, which Google and other engines can detect, and many times, filter out.
Get into college, again. You may need to collaborate with your team on this one. Many colleges have earned trust with the search engines and carry with them more weight when it comes to link building. Aside from just searching for pages themed around student discounts and employee discounts, consider a creative strategy that involves getting in-context links posted willingly by teachers, faculty and students on an ongoing basis and your competition will have no idea what hit them.
Having keyword-themed content on a website will always play an important role in SEO. However, before you begin checking off a list of link building tasks written five years ago, you might want to take the team out for a day and work together on creative strategies. Campaigns you think up should not only invoke the desire to share, link, tweet, like, and comment, but may also contain features that can be embedded, syndicated, or have transparency with affiliates and partners.
Great SEO in 2011 and beyond will take creative thought and innovation. Embrace this idea and you've put your SEO strategy on autopilot, trumping anything the competition may have on their outdated checklist.
About Steve Wiideman
Although he is best known for his rank in search engine results SEO Expert Steve Wiideman is a trainer, speaker and consultant to many search marketing firms, charities and a handful of Fortune 500 companies. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in E-business management and has been featured in several publications, including Entrepreneur Magazine, CNN, and National Journal. Wiideman's popular free SEO e-book entitled SEO in a Day, has been shared by thousands of businesses who seek simple yet creative SEO strategy. Based in Los Angeles, Wiideman's firm can be reached at (562) 732-4417 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org