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Archive for September 2011

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Sep

The Guide To Building Strong Cores For Optimization

Focusing On Core ElementsWhat’s a sexier topic today than researching and leveraging the social graph and social media marketing strategies or link building strategies? In a world with complex, sophisticated online marketing strategies, who would believe that mastery of foundational tradecraft can still make all the difference? A lot of online marketers.  Traditional marketers, true to their nature, are more interested in harpooning the next big wave and riding it out to the next big wave. It’s not that these big waves have to no effect or place, it is simply that they are tangential, or extensions, from a core foundation. To steal a phrase from Adam Audette, the idea behind Core online marketing strategy is to create it in a “sustainable” fashion. I feel like I write about this all the time, but I’m going to make it definitive by putting together, what I consider, all the core principles in one place.

Unsustainable Online Strategy?

“Sustainable” begs the point, what’s unsustainable? In a nutshell, it’s anything doesn’t remain solid over a long period of time. In a way, think of unsustainable as unstable; it’s an explosive mixture. In relation to online marketing, it’s a “churn and burn” methodology and an algorithm-chasing methodology; using techniques and methods that provide initial lifts and acceleration, but doesn’t necessarily stand the test of time. It is not intended to be ever-present and yield gains for the long run. In essence, unsustainable ignores the bottom-line user-experience in the equation of online marketing.
To bring back the “big wave marketing” metaphor, hitching a ride on the wave is what you do during the gold rush. It’s what you’re doing between the waves that amplifies what is sustainable foundation and structure, because this exists as a constant no matter the wave that’s rushing by.

Core Online Marketing Strategy?

Core-focused, as you can probably guess, is strategic optimization methods that focus on creating a sustainable, solid foundation to websites. That’s it. Like a house needs a rock-solid foundation to sustain development, like the body needs a strong core to harness its strength from, to be powerful and stable, so too does a website. Think of it in the following way:
A house without a strong foundation is simply a disaster waiting to happen. Everything you build on that foundation is susceptible to collapsing. Every addition you add on, every story you build, only further adds stress on a weak foundation. You’re building a house of cards. And, certainly, there are ways to shore up a busted foundation, but the end result is a procedure that will cost you more in the long-term.
A Core mindset doesn’t mean you have to shun online strategies that don’t relate to it, far from it. The Core strategy makes those complex strategies more inviting and easier to optimize for once you engage them. That’s the real secret to a Core focus. A strong core aids in creating tighter, more succinct content, better link building opportunities, and help to prevent the “Frankensteining” of your website.

The Core Elements To Building a StrategyThe Elements of Core

The WHY Conversation(s)
We all conversations with our clients (at least I hope you do). But are you having the right kinds of conversation with your client? If you’re going to build a solid core and a carefully orchestrated online marketing strategy, you need to have the “WHY” conversations.
It goes beyond just talking about where they are today and what you can fix to make today better. It goes beyond finding out the objectives and goals with an optimization and marketing strategy, and making sure expectations are set. The WHY conversations are intended to get to the vision of the company for three to five years from now. After all, how can you build a foundation for tomorrow based on today?

Site Audit(s)
In order to optimize and strategize for tomorrow, you need to know what it looks like today. I’m of the opinion that this is one of those lynch pin activities, peeling the site like an onion. Looking at the site from technical perspectives, looking at it from site optimization perspectives, and looking at the market place perspective (i.e. competition). You have to put all the pieces of the puzzle together in order to create a view of what tomorrow looks like.

Site Architecture
This is a topic I harp on often because I believe it’s one of the single most important factors of strategy and optimization that plenty of people don’t take seriously.  You’ve got to take your time building this, ensuring that you’re putting the focus-points of the site out front. That you use information for your conversations and audits to leverage how you’re building thematic silos of information around products/services. You want the architecture set up so you don’t cannibalize specific keywords and phrases. You want to visualize, possibly even map out, how you can cross-link throughout the site to flatten architecture and escape the block-level trap.

Content
It goes without saying that this is the life-blood of any website. Content, while always having been an important factor, has had a reemergence in the past six to seven months as a cornerstone element. Many have Panda to thank for that. In the past, content has simply been another way to manipulate by “stuffing” business-centric keywords and phrases. If you subscribe that document level classifying is used (which I do, and seems to be at the heart of Panda), then stuffing is of a bygone era.

Therefore, writing content in a way that serves the user as well as engines is key. Content, in my opinion should be functional, informative, and actionable; it should tie in temporal and semantic relevance to targeted keywords. It should be structurally sound and should take advantage of internal body content linking. Moreover, your site content should be looking to build in the best usability and user-experience possible, up front (i.e. making clear calls to action through text and design).

Additionally, you need to think about how to keep content fresh and relevant. Whether that’s through blogging, gamification, articles/infographics/user-stories, or simply working on cultivating UGC (user-generated content).

Push/Pull Marketing and Optimization
Clearly, having roots deep-seeded in SEO, I consider this a must-have for any website. Applying great keyword research and user search trends to HEAD fields, creating optimized site content that helps to reinforce the message while making it appetizing for engines, are not optional in my opinion. Working on link building tactics, building exact match anchors, building semantic and temporal variations on business-centric keyword anchors. The list goes on and on. Ultimately, if you want to stay competitive in any market place online, you have to do it to maintain a strong, solid core.

But, equally as important, is defining the overall online marketing strategy. Do you engage in PPC (paid search)? Does it make sense to utilize location-based marketing (i.e. Foursquare, Google Express, etc)? Do you make social media marketing tactics a central piece, and if so, are taking into account how SEO can help you leverage this? Are you thinking about how mobile plays a part in the strategy going forward?

The success of many of these endeavors relates directly back to how strong your overall site core is. Is your architecture built in a way that it can accommodate these things easily (i.e. is it flexible to incorporate)? Is the content targeted enough, optimized well-enough to lend a helping hand to your paid search efforts?

Get Focusing on The Core ElementsWhere Do I Go From Here?

These are just the core elements. It’s not indicative of the polished techniques you’ll need to acquire to have your online marketing engine roaring. For that you’ll unmistakably need practice. Then more practice and polish. At some point, you’ll be able to see how all these core elements work combine together like Voltron. But until then, it’s enough to keep your focus on these core elements; they are the keys to lasting success online. They are the key factors to having a website stand the test of time.

It’s time to move forward, get focused, and start harvesting.

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