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Why Winning the “SEO Game” is About Your Content

Topic: Entrepreneur Evangelist,Marketing | Comments (1)

Posted on December 10, 2009 by admin

Letter BlocksAs a content strategist one of the things I spend a great deal of time discussing with entrepreneurs is SEO.  As I’ve written here before, my first goal in any SEO discussion with someone is to help educate them on what SEO is and isn’t, and what it really can do versus what it really can’t.  (Can: help people who know what they are looking for find you; Can’t: wash your dog, change your oil or solve all of your sales and marketing problems.)  And then from there, we can discuss what a reasonable SEO strategy would look like for a small business.

In the end, though, I always end up advocating one thing: valuable content.   And while I often get a lot of ‘yes ma’am’ head nodding around that topic, there is a single critical reason that I continue to make that point: the world of search is on a roller coaster at the moment, and trying to play the SEO game with the current set of rules is only going to get you a short-term win (if that) without putting your focus on strong, valuable content. This is a great untapped opportunity for entrepreneurs, because they are better equipped to move faster than large businesses, full of teams of people whose job would be in danger if they were not longer perceived as critical.

People who are unfamiliar with the online search space often do not understand what I mean when I talk about the imminent changes to the the industry.  Today I’ll cover a few examples, thanks to some new releases that Google has just made. (Examples from Google’s official blog.)

  • Personalized search
  • Real time search

What is “personalized search“?

For example, since I always search for [recipes] and often click on results from, Google might rank higher on the results page the next time I look for recipes. Other times, when I’m looking for news about Cornell University’s sports teams, I search for [big red]. Because I frequently click on, Google might show me this result first, instead of the Big Red soda company or others.

What is “real time search“?

Now, immediately after conducting a search, you can see live updates from people on popular sites like Twitter and FriendFeed, as well as headlines from news and blog posts published just seconds before. When they are relevant, we’ll rank these latest results to show the freshest information right on the search results page.

These are two great examples, because they demonstrate why having relevant content on your website is important.  Focusing your SEO energy (and budget) on building link-backs and fine-tuning your keywords has limited value in the long-term, because search engines are going to increasingly focus on other things to establish relevancy.

Just these two changes alone mean that two different people can type in the same keywords but get different results, depending on their personal search history and when they look.  And, if you factor in the increasingly popular localized search, what city those users are in could also impact their results.

What excites me most about these changes is that it further helps in taking the focus off the means and onto the end: your web presence should be about engaging your customers in a meaningful way, finding new customers and enhancing your existing relationship.  Far too many people focus on jockeying for a good SEO position in spite of their content, instead of focusing on the content first and using it as a foundation for successful SEO.

The tidal wave of changes in the search space is going to make it increasingly hard to duck the real question for all businesses on the web: are you saying anything worth paying attention to?  If you are, then these updated techniques will only help you.  If you are not and have been playing SEO-peek-a-boo, then these changes are going to expose that.

I see far too many entrepreneurs who have been taken to the cleaners by unscrupulous “SEO consultants,” and one of my chief missions is to help prevent that wherever possible. So before you look to hire SEO help, ask yourself if you are prepared to actually create (or pay for) good content for your website.

In the modern web-based business world, there is an updated version to your grandmother’s old saying:  “If you don’t have anything relevant to say, don’t say anything at all.”  These new changes by Google will continue to make that point.

Alora Chistiakoff is an entrepreneur, content strategist and project manager who has been developing online business and technology for startups for more than a decade.  She co-owns The Indigo Heron Group, Inc., a content strategy firm in Austin, Texas.