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Building a Search-Aware Organization

by Andrew Delamarter, HUGE / September 12, 2011

Note: This blog entry is available in English only.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is going through an identity crisis. The old ways, while still practiced, are not a good fit for most companies or clients. What used to be a series of evolving hacks to get a page to the top of the search engine results is now more of a way of doing business. The new method requires a holistic approach to building businesses that perform well in search.

And that’s good. The bad news? Many traditional outside SEO agencies are not well positioned for this new world. They are not part of your business, not in your hallways, not talking to your designers, developers, and content strategists. They don’t understand your industry, people, or your business processes. Smart businesses appreciate this and are taking ownership of incorporating SEO into everything they do.

The iced tea metaphor.

Have you ever added a packet of sugar to a glass of iced tea, only to watch it settle at the bottom of the glass? Well, if you take sugar and boil it in water first, making simple syrup, it mixes readily with the tea. Much smarter. Much more cohesive. Get the metaphor? SEO is the sugar and the iced tea is your business. Smart companies are finding ways to better integrate the two, creating a new breed of businesses that are consequently search-aware.

OK, but what does that mean in practice? It means search becomes incorporated into all of the digital areas of expertise;

  • SEO-friendly design
  • SEO-friendly coding
  • Keyword-informed architecture
  • Search-aware content strategy
  • Keyword-aligned social media

The end result is a new type of company that effectively incorporates search at a fundamental level. Fewer SEO audits and recommendations decks gathering dust – more happy users and great business results. Essentially a better glass of tea.

SEO. Don’t pour it on – mix it in.

Building or re-launching a web site involves a number of things, including creating a content plan, structuring the navigation, and conceiving information taxonomy. Search-aware organizations make sure SEO is mixed into this process from the beginning, such that site navigation and content aligns with keyword strategy – a crucial step. This is where developing and committing to a keyword strategy pays off. You know exactly what keywords to target, what content to create, what links to create, and what URLs to use.

Search-aware organizations don’t just focus on content. They code so that engines index pages easily. They align their social media editorial calendar with their search keyword strategy. They make UX and design choices that lead to people enjoying, sharing, and linking to their site. They don’t focus on search, they focus on users and use search as another way to meet users needs.

Regarding the proper placement of cart & horses.

Unless you are an SEO firm, doing SEO is not your real line of business. SEO is important to your work but it shouldn’t consume your organization’s resources. The point is to understand what it takes to rock in search, mix it into your business, and then go focus on the important things.

Is your business search-aware?

90% of what used to be done in SEO – cloaking, buying links, keyword stuffing – is now off limits according to the engines, and such practices are unacceptably high-risk. That means for most businesses, SEO is no longer a series of outsourced tactics, it’s a strategic effort to build equity in the engines over the long term. Therefore if you are working with an outside SEO agency that is phoning it in you are going to lose to competitors that are doing SEO right.

So what can you do? Go find an agency partner that gets SEO. That mixes it into the work they do. Then get on with the business of creating great web experiences for your customers. And if your business or agency isn’t doing this yet you can be assured your competitors are. Just look for them above you in the rankings.

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