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One of the things I love about SEO is that it touches upon so many aspects of digital marketing from analytics to paid search to social media. It’s really a holistic way of approaching marketing that involves creating a strategy, rather than focusing on tactics. Working in search necessitates mastering a variety of skill sets in different digital marketing tracks, and then having that overhead view, to know how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together to create the perfect picture. It’s not for the faint of heart, nor is it for those who are not thirsty for the pursuit of knowledge. With Google making 500 algorithm changes a year, what you know now as a search marketer, is pretty much only valid for a year. If you’re not constantly updating yourself on the latest updates, you’ll find yourself phased out of the industry, sooner rather than later.

Now a huge perk of living in London and San Francisco is having access to the most experienced search marketers in the world, brilliant minds and individuals who are on the cutting edge of search. It means that after a long day of work, I can head down to a pub in the neighbourhood, or local start-up, grab a pint and learn from the best during regular networking events. Most recently, I attended a talk by Jonah Stein, founder of ItsTheROI.com, held at AirBnB HQ and hosted by Dennis Goedegebuure, Head of SEO at AirBnB. And as is what seems to have become a hobby for me, I bring to you, dear reader, precious nuggets of information from those top minds today.

Mobile currently accounts for half the traffic that Google receives, and it is the most disruptive force in Google’s history. Mobile was definitely a factor in the creation of Knowledge Graph and having mobile in mind when you work on your search strategy is imperative. By the end of 2014, one billion Android smartphones will be sold. Now, with all that data in hand, Google’s goal is to facilitate user search. In fact, Google considers any refinement of search query a failure. One of the ways to highlight your brand in search results is to implement the rel=publisher markup.

Content Assets Are The Strategy

In search, the most powerful signal that Google can have about your brand, is to have people search for your brand name. And the best way to get found, is to create quality content assets. In fact, Jonah goes as far as to say that content assets are the strategy. Traditional tactics like keyword research still have their own parts to play, but they are not the be all and end all of SEO, just a vital part of the puzzle. The once all important linkbuilding should now be viewed as developing an audience. Creating content assets is just the first step though. Brands need to market content assets like a publisher. Someone in the C-suite needs to be heading the content asset charge rather than the lowest paid person with no power to say no. (It’s disappointing, but I’ve heard even C-level marketers refer to SEO as “arcane dark arts”, so getting that level of understanding from them can be an uphill challenge.) It is necessary for your brand to own its content or it will not be future proof.

Live By Your Analytics

All too often, I hear of companies making decisions based on what they feel, decisions that blatantly fly in the face of data that advise a different course of action. Jonah’s counsel on living by analytics really hit home, as a topic close to my heart, and a reminder for all brands to enforce data driven marketing. Instead of getting hung up on how your keywords are ranking, look instead, at whether the traffic from search is converting. Visit duration, for example, is a good metric for engagement. To Google, it’s a really bad sign if visitors land on your page, only to hit the back button almost immediately and click the second search result. It’s important to make content for users and honour their search intent.

Of course one of the ways to entice users to your site and content is by using engaging headlines. Now this is where it all comes together. Jonah describes paid ads in Adwords, Twitter as Facebook as great headline laboratories. So test those headlines, find out what works best and repurpose them for content asset titles! Paid ads drive organic search in fact, and Jonah cites a case study where a business saw organic search dip by 40% after stopping paid search. I’ll chip in here to say that social data, can also be mined for search intent, and it works the other way too.

Social Media Users Have The Attention Span Of A Lit Match

During the Q&A, one of the questions posed to Jonah, was whether his talk highlighted more B2C industries rather than B2B ones (It was a 50-50 split). Jonah mentioned that social media users have a short attention span and it is really hard to drive social behavior within the B2B world. One good strategy is to create customer case studies. Hey, if nothing else, at least that one customer will retweet your content asset! I can personally attest to that particular challenge, as well as that particular solution. While I’ve found it harder to promote content assets for B2B on social media (perhaps because it’s harder to gain a quick understanding of complex B2B content at a glance), creating quality content assets has still proven to be successful in driving search. After all, at the end of the day, you’re creating content that your visitor wants. And that’s perfectly aligned with Google’s goal of serving up content that visitors are looking for.

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