The Underlying B2B Marketing Value Of 4 (Previously Successful) SEO Tactics

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I was certainly disappointed when it was announced that Google has stopped displaying authorship markup in search engine results.

Our team had spent a considerable amount of time working with clients to implement the right code and structure for enabling authorship over the past year plus, only to see the direct benefit of those efforts go away this past month.

But the rise and fall of authorship reminds B2B marketers that while tactics come and go, there is often an underlying B2B marketing objective being accomplished that we still need to pay close attention to.

In this column, I want to highlight certain SEO-related tactics we’ve had success with in the past, and how understanding their underlying objectives helps to build for long-term SEO success, even when those tactics diminish in effectiveness (or disappear) over time.

Tactic #1: Google Authorship

With Google Authorship, we were able to build an organization’s brand presence in search results by establishing individual thought leadership in line with applicable search listings.

In a recent presentation at Content Marketing World (as tweeted by Lee Odden) LinkedIn Sr. Marketing Manager Koka Sexton highlighted that purchasers are five times more likely to engage if you are known as a thought leader in your industry.

This helps validate the reasoning that building a brand is often an important objective for B2B marketers, trailing only lead generation and lead nurturing for many.

Even though Authorship is going away, we still need to recognize the relationship between thought leadership, brand awareness, and search relevance.

The Underlying B2B Marketing Value

The more important long-term value, as detailed in SEL founding editor Danny Sullivan’s follow up column on Authorship, is the idea of Author Rank.

Separately from Google Authorship is the idea of Author Rank, where if Google knows who authored a story, it might somehow alter the rankings of that story, perhaps give it a boost if authored by someone deemed trustworthy.
Danny Sullivan

Trust is the key element B2B marketers need to build long-term – trust in their brand and in the leadership of the organization.

As such, what we’ve learned from the Google Authorship program is that the search engine wants to better attribute content to creator. Both high quality content marketing assets and trusted authors may have an opportunity to influence and improve a brand’s search engine presence in the long run.

Tactic #2: Infographics

There was a time when infographics were almost guaranteed to send thousands of visits and generate dozens (if not hundreds) of inbound links.

SEO-centric social media practitioners would pitch their infographic through social bookmarking sites like Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon, and if they succeeded in getting that graphic “popular,” a massive surge in online visibility would occur. (Remember the “Digg Effect”?)

Digg Effect

Digg Effect via Brent Csutoras courtesy of n.design studio

Unfortunately (but not unexpectedly), the market for infographics grew saturated. As more vendors surfaced, the quality went down — often times very significantly.

As social bookmarking sites lost their luster and the consumer grew tired of a barrage of low-quality creative, infographics, as a mechanism for link building and SEO, lost its way.

The Underlying B2B Marketing Value

What we learned from infographics is that, in a flood of information and communication being swept across viewers’ web browsers and monitor screens, visualization plays a critical role in capturing and maintaining the reader’s attention.

Even though there are many that may groan at yet another infographic, that’s not to say there are not highly effective creative agencies out there producing them. Infographics still have their place and can be wildly successful if constructed correctly.

Design, layouts, and a sensible order for information help guide the reader to a desired call-to-action and subtly support link outreach and social sharing opportunity. Good Infographics capture the importance of good design and visualization of information in a world full of noise, disruption, and growing information.

As the premise of “big data” remains a hot topic for marketers and executives alike, being able to effectively visualize information collected will become the last mile in unlocking the “big data” potential.

Tactic #3: Guest Blog Posting

“Stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done.” That statement from Google Head of Web Spam, Matt Cutts, put guest blogging front and center in the SEO-spam spotlight.

As Google began to take a more focused look at guest blogging practices, several networks received penalties, some very questionable at best.

I’ve written about guest blogging as a recommendation here on Search Engine Land. My stance on guest blogging won’t change, because we’re not putting our clients (or ourselves) in a position where SEO is the sole reason for our efforts.

What makes Google guidelines on guest blogging difficult for B2B search engine marketers is the subjectivity in potential application. It’s hard to know what will constitute as “low quality” guest blogging.

That said, similar to the scrutiny press releases received in mid-2013, marketers shouldn’t stop using tried and true tactics for building visibility to their brand and product information, just because Google wants to limit the SEO impact.

The Underlying B2B Marketing Value

Search marketer Eric Enge’s summation of the indirect benefits of guest blogging reminds B2B SEO’s why we should be applying tactics like this in the first place:

There is nothing like building your reputation and visibility to cause people to want more of your content. You get to build up your own audience, and ultimately some of these people will find their way to your site, find great content there and link to it.
Eric Enge

Similar to Google Authorship, high quality contributions in trusted publications build authority – and hopefully inbound links and organic search engine presence as well.

Tactic #4: Twitter

Okay, Twitter isn’t really a fading SEO tactic as much as it is a tool I’ve seen misused (or abused) by “digital marketers” quite a bit, particularly for link distribution (SEO related or not).

For example: This past week, it only took a couple hours for the #Inbound14 / #FutureM conference hashtags to start seeing their fair share of spambots posting garbage links into the stream of updates. Trending topics in Twitter almost always face this experience.

While Google’s Matt Cutts has gone on record to indicate that signals from Twitter (and Facebook) do not impact search engine ranking, there is reason to believe links from Twitter (or any social media link) have an impact as Google crawls those web pages.

As such, we’ve seen everything from buying followers to artificially inflate network size to zombie Twitter profiles meant solely to share and retweet keywords and phrases.

The Underlying B2B Marketing Value

There are two key takeaways for B2B marketers leveraging Twitter for their SEO efforts.

1. Vendor Content: I’m a big fan of using Twitter as a mechanism for at least supporting, but hopefully building, good relationships with third-party publishers and site owners in an effort to get content found and published.

As detailed by MarketingProfs, report findings from the CMO Council found that 68% of respondents start their vendor-related content sourcing with search engines and portals and 25% through trusted peers.

More interesting was that fact that articles on trade publishing sites were 5th among content types found important by B2B buyers (behind research reports, technical specifications, analyst intelligence and white papers).

2. Immediate Results: The adoption of Twitter illustrates a change in how consumers demand content accessibility. We’re no longer in a position to take our time in building out our marketing plan for whatever audience we intend to market to.

As Malcolm Gladwell discussed in his Inbound 14 keynote, one of the key characteristics that successful entrepreneurs like Malcolm McLean and Steve Jobs possessed was a sense of urgency in their actions. Twitter, as a platform for communication, is a perfect example of how buyer behavior has changed to expect a faster, more timely result.

Final Thoughts

From Google Authorship to Twitter, the overarching lesson for B2B search marketers is that if you’re executing tactics with broader B2B marketing objectives in mind, and not just SEO, you have a better chance of long-term success in search, even if you have to change tactical direction from time to time.

More importantly, you’ve probably built greater equity in your organization’s’ brand by developing valuable third-party connections and quality content marketing examples to lean on as well.

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