In The Long Run, Balance Wins The Race
One of the main issues I encounter in search is how to balance approaches with other areas of the online marketing swarm, namely content development, public relations, social media and networks, and Web development. Each has its own critical importance to natural search performance, and depending on who is in charge, search can either enhance each respective discipline, or it could also come at the expense of that discipline. The best option is to balance all considerations in such a way that everyone wins. And the good news is that it can be done.
It's worth stepping back and assessing whether or not SEO strategy is complementing the overall strategy, or running over it. A sustainable search program shouldn't have to come at the expense of any other discipline to provide incredible benefits to businesses and marketers, and the ideal output is an experience that considers the findability of content across all disciplines, in addition to meeting the search demands of those who are trying to find something.
But overzealousness on any side can create a mess. Slopping in SEO purely for search gain sucks, particularly when it comes at the expense of forming intelligible copy, usable aesthetics, and talking like a real person (not a robot). In the same way, developing a site purely in Flash, conducting public relations efforts without understanding digital media or search strategies, and talking metaphorically all the time can create the same kind of disconnect with your audience.
Here are some considerations that have a direct impact on findability for search marketers to use when working with other disciplines:
Don't sell out your credibility for links or publicity. It can be easy to want to get aggressive with linking. Sure, you could tell the biggest lie in the world and get an incredible amount of links, but at some point you have to determine if that's the kind of attention you want, because that is how your brand will be known in both search and social media.
Balance visual elements and rich apps with textual depth. Search and RIAs don't have to mix like oil and water. The best answer for creative, development, and search teams involved in this process (or dilemma, if you prefer), is how to balance it all together, considering usability for direct site users, and those coming from search engines.
Don't always trade off keyword popularity for opportunities to directly engage with your audience. I have discussions all the time about content strategy, and whether or not a highly searched keyword must always have to be in the title of the article or theme. No, it does not. Certainly it's a good thing to include most of the time, but if you are producing a high volume of content on a regular basis, then it is OK to simply create an engaging headline. Engagement is the new SEO, and by staying in tune with your audience, the benefits of social signals on search relevancy and authority often follow.
Don't come off as impersonal or spammy to humans, in order to appeal to robots. This may be the most common sin of SEO folk, who often go overboard in areas like linking, architecture, copywriting, social conversations and social network visibility, so it seems as if they're only talking to search engines, not people. Again, engaging human beings with search signals can work - but turning those humans off with a pure SEO play can backfire in the long-term.
Respect "best practices" and common sense when engaging in social media. There is no question that social signals are playing a greater role in how content is crawled, indexed, and retrieved. I regularly engage in social media as a search tactic, but I do so with strategies of social engagement taking the lead, created and executed by the best social strategists I know. If you don't address people in a sincere and meaningful way in social, then it does no good for a long-term sustainable strategy.
Here are some considerations for marketers on using search to get more from what you are already doing in public relations, Web development, creative, social media, and other areas.:
Don't ignore your search consultants. A consultant with a balanced view of search can extend the opportunities for what you are currently doing in many other areas of digital marketing. In turn, what you are doing could help lift other efforts as well, including search.
Remember that engagement translates to findability at a very core level. In addition to engaging with your target audience at the content and conversation level, keep in mind that there is an opportunity to engage with your core target in areas other than where you keep your core assets. Searchers may be seeking the content you already have, but they can only find it if core search optimization principle are used.
In the long run, a careful balance wins the race.