The Worn-out Consultant’s Guide to SEO in 2014

world-of-tomorrowRaise your hand if you’re fed up with the bazillion tweets and posts promising “SEO Secrets” like rubbing peanut butter on your blog to attract more readers from the myriad of “internet marketing enthusiasts”.

Marketing a consulting business can be exhausting. Writing posts, finding images, researching keywords, getting on social networks…sometimes it feels like war without an end.

Still, the truth is SEO is important. And, it’s not going away.

But, Google doesn’t really want it to be that hard.

They are tired of people gaming the system and, update their search algorithms almost 500x/year to weed out the garbage. The reason is simple: if users like you don’t feel Google is giving the best search results, you are likely to go somewhere else (like Bing).

If you go somewhere else, their stock drops. If their stock drops, management (and stockholders) get very angry.

In a nutshell, they are focusing on information quality. That means, if you play your cards right, you can win the SEO game by focusing on what matters most: creating awesome content while building great relationships.

Here’s some SEO advice heading into 2014.

Tip #1 – Content Matters

Smart consultants know that good, relevant content attracts leads and helps turn them into paying customers.

Keep posting helpful tidbits on your consulting practice’s blog. Write case studies, white papers and any other content that turns the dial for your customers. The more quality content you have, the more readers (and referrals) you’ll attract and the easier it will be for search engines to find you.

Content that offers valuable, engaging information has always been the way to Google’s heart. They want original content that falls in line with the rest of your website. Don’t copy other people’s work and, don’t just stitch together old content.

Keep things original, honest and useful from the start and, you’ll be in good shape.

Tip #2 – Be Smart about Keywords

Search engines are constantly working to match keywords with content relevancy. The things that used to work in the past like stuffing as many keywords into a page or using trendy, unrelated keywords to pump up traffic will kill a site today.

Google can spot a poser and they do not want website owners putting keywords before content.

They say as much on this topic by no longer providing detailed, organic search traffic data that was the core of keyword research. They really want people out of the keyword business.

Using a dramatic example: let’s say a management consultant writes a blog post focusing on the keywords “celebrity selfie”. While he may initially see a spike in traffic (people love celebrity gossip), over time his search rankings (and reputation) will drop.

That’s because the consultant is drawing the wrong crowd and writing content that doesn’t “match” the rest of his site. Star-crossed teenagers aren’t interested in corporate strategy and, when they bounce they’ll bring the site’s ranking with them.

Don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal, which is to increase opportunities, not just traffic.

Which brings me to my main point on this topic: when in doubt, focus on the reader and not keywords. You’re better off writing something useful for your target audience than trying to predict the sexiest search term.

Tip #3 – Link Building As a Practical Approach

The more links from the good guys, the better.

If somebody at Gartner were to link to an IT consultant’s blog, that would be a nice win. Gartner is a reputable company and, should bring in some more traffic. The people clicking the link would most likely be interested in the content and hang around on the site longer or, even link to it themselves. This is one way Google ascertains that the content has value.

Get the picture?

Find an industry influencer, peers, magazines and trades in your consulting focus area and build relationships with them. Participate in their forums and discussions. Share their stuff with your readers too.

Again, spread the word by focusing on quality over quantity.

Tip #4 – Social Media is Still Important

Fact: executives and other key buyers do use social media. TJ MCue did a nice write up on Forbes.

The idea here is really an extension of the links discussion above: build your social network with key contacts, engage them and spread the word. Social plays a big role in search rankings and, can drive traffic much faster than organic if your content catches fire.

Get in on a Twitter discussion. Share your blog post on LinkedIn.

Three last points on consultants using social media:

  • Most professionals draw a line in the sand: Facebook is preferred for family and friends, LinkedIn for business.
  • You’ve got to give to get, so participate don’t just broadcast
  • Be careful about what personal views and info you’re sharing

Tip #5 – Don’t Overthink it

SEO isn’t really that hard, if you think about it. Sure, there are some best practices for optimizing your copy and website technically. But, it’s not the wizardry it once was.

Just focus on getting the right content to the right people and you’ll get some R&R back in your schedule.

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