Online Audience Optimisation (OAO) is an advancement of search engine optimisation (SEO) that encompasses aspects of social media marketing, user experience and content marketing. It is a return to the traditional marketing value of understanding a target audience and effectively communicating in their language. This enables marketers to enter the conversation taking place in the mind of the customer and channel their wants and needs towards certain goods and services. This has been the cornerstone of smart marketing since its inception in the ‘Mad Men’ era.
Previously, some digital marketers used questionable, ‘Black Hat’ techniques to manipulate a websites SERP without having great content to warrant the position. With the increased sophistication of search engine algorithms we are starting to see the fall of this age and the full circle return to traditional marketing methods, known as online audience optimisation. To understand the innovative destination of OAO – first the journey of SEO must be understood.
The History of SEO
We all know that technology evolves at a rapid rate. Google’s famous PageRank algorithm was published in 1998. The idea was that sites on the Internet could be ranked according to their link popularity. The main goal of a search engine is to provide a user with the most relevant answers to their search query. This method of ordering sites by link popularity was an effective and simple way of achieving this goal. The influx of the Internet also brought a new channel for marketers to reach households.
It quickly became apparent to businesses that a high PageRank was a powerful tool to connect to potential customers. Digital marketers were employed and used Google’s link popularity hierarchy to artificially place their sites at the top of the dog pile. In many instances the readability of site content would appear second place to spammy keyword tactics and dodgy link building attempts.
Search engines were having cotton wool pulled over their eyes. This sort of SEO impeded the ability of search engines to provide helpful answers to search queries. Some sites were so keyword stuffed they were simply unreadable and content was definitely not engaging. Of course the search engines responded, always wanting to provide a better service for their users to gain a competitive edge, and evolved their algorithms. Over the years they have cracked down on link-quality, hidden text, thin content, high ad to content ratios, landing page quality and mobile compatibility, showing no mercy.
Black hat SEO’s that were optimising purely for the search engine were found out and penalised heavily, resulting in a huge drop in page ranking. The sites that provided great engaging content were recognised by search engines as a better and more relevant answer than sites with a large link profile and the most keywords.
So has the Internet evolved to a point where the SEO dinosaurs are swiftly becoming extinct? And is online audience optimisation, the knight in shining armour, ready to save the day? First, let’s look at why SEO done right is still so essential.
Keep it or burn it?
Search engine optimisation lays the foundation for rankings success. By following SEO best practices sites, avoiding search engine penalties and curating quality content, optimum results can be achieved. Gone are the days when the technical aspects of SEO alone will achieve remarkable results. The rest of the pack has clued on to the important elements of SEO and that is considered the bare minimum, not the point of difference. Here’s a quick list of what you need to have covered:
- Meta titles
- Meta descriptions
- Ensure your site has no duplicate content
- Relevant internal linking
- Image alt tags
- SEO friendly URL’s
- Analytics set up to track results
- Goal tracking
- Page redirections where needed
- Mobile compatibility
Previously, optimising a site correctly for this list would take you to the top of the rankings tower – now it just gets you in the door. As a result, constructing a perfectly optimised site is more crucial than ever because you cannot possibly compete without it.
So you may be wondering what about that black hat, search engine manipulating SEO?
That’s what has become extinct. The sensationalist headlines that announce ‘SEO is dead’ are referring to marketers who weren’t keeping their audience in mind. They optimised purely for search engines and not the eyes of their customers. Asking an SEO provider to rank top three for keywords [x, y, z] is not viable any longer by using the spammy tactics that have been outsmarted by the algorithms. Common tricks of the trade included keyword stuffing, internal linking with keyword anchor text, poor inbound link quality, creating pages for the sake of keywords or long winded, irrelevant content that is not helpful to a customer.
Technical SEO is the foundation, it paves the road. Alone it won’t generate huge amounts of traffic like it did previously but it is the road to ensure that the site can sustain the traffic. SEO best practices are an essential component of online audience optimisation…
But what about Content?
Online audience optimisation integrates SEO as well as content marketing. Content marketing is the creation and sharing of content with the objective of acquiring and retaining customers. The content created comes in many forms such as:
At the risk of stretching a metaphor too far, if SEO paves the road then content is the shopping mall at the end of the road. It’s the reason for traffic to drive down the road in the first place. Strangely the acronym SEO seems to propose that it is search engines themselves that are being optimised when actually it is optimisation of online content.
Content marketing is a tried and tested method of gaining targeted traffic and increasing brand exposure. Well thought out content that speaks to and engages your target audience is where the competitive edge comes from. The SEO absolutely must be watertight but it is the quality of the content that makes the difference. SEO and content marketing are like gin and tonic or meat pies and tomato sauce; they are simply meant to go together.
In 2015, 85% of U.S. B2C and 92% of B2B marketers are currently using content marketing yet only 32% believe they are executing an effective strategy. Some tips to create an effective content marketing strategy include:
- Visual Content: Infographics, video and engaging imagery are critical. Slabs of text will not cut the mustard.
- Fresh Content: Nobody likes to see a site full of old, static pages. Keep your content relevant by regularly publishing online. Updating blogs are an easy way to keep your site from going stale – just make sure they always engage your target audience.
- A/B Split Testing: Split testing tools have become a lot easier to set up. Utilise this software and test to see which headings, CTA’s and imagery are most effective.
- Grow your Social Presence: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the three most popular channels for social advertising. Promote one-on-one customer engagement and keep content relevant to the target audience of each platform
- Promote Less: It makes sense that customers aren’t going to engage extremely well with purely promotional content. Learn to curate relevant content from across the web instead of pushing sales oriented copy.
- Repurpose: Creating fresh material day in and day out can be a difficult and costly process. Try repurposing content already created for other uses such as: release blogs in series, use key points of articles as tweets, make a podcast of a successful blog, re-feature old blogs or share PowerPoint presentations on SlideShare.
- Segmentation: The Internet is overflowing with content – how do small businesses stand out from the crowd? Segmentation. Target niche markets and specialised audiences of the broader market. Use long-tail keywords, industry blogs, and social media to reach profitable audience segments.
This blend of SEO and content marketing, among other digital marketing components like social media, conversion optimisation, UX and copywriting creates a unified strategy and a consistent online presence. Which finally brings us to online audience optimisation…
Online Audience Optimisation (OAO)
The user is at the heart of online audience optimisation. At the end of the day, traffic and page views don’t mean a thing if that does not convert into followers, sales or leads. The focus of your digital marketing strategy is not trying to achieve the highest PageRank for keywords [x, y, z]. The focus should be in understanding an audience, how they are searching for products and services, what language they are using and then creating content that is relevant and targeted towards that audience segment. The days of creating content that is tailored for the eyes of search engines alone are gone – now the user comes first and search engines second. Understanding an audience and the motivation behind search queries will enable the creation of content with high conversion rates.
Implementing an online audience optimisation strategy that embraces every digital channel will engage prospects and lead to the building of a brand loyal community of followers. But first it is essential to truly understand who they are and be clear about what benefits your business is providing. How do your products or services make their lives better? Once that is understood it is much easier to identify the type of customer you are trying to connect with. By targeting keywords searched in Google instead of the people it limits the effectiveness of your strategy. Recognising the motivation behind the searched keywords allows you to create content with dual relevancy – relevancy to the searcher and relevancy to your product.
An example of online audience optimisation could emanate from a user searching for ‘best jackets’. They are not being specific about any brand and are most likely in the research phase of their buying decision process. A product page with a single brand of jacket is not very helpful in comparing a range of prices and styles. Google recognizes this and will display lists, articles and blogs on jackets – as shown by the top two organic search results below:
Online audience optimisation is the return to traditional marketing methods that had been forgotten while shady SEO tactics were being ruthlessly exploited. Linda Ruth of PCSC Consulting recently compiled a useful list of nine tips to consider when approaching OAO:
- Focus on the brand: Hone up your mission statement and communicate it. Words and phrases that are important to the brand should be well known throughout the business. Every phrase used in headings, captions and anchor text should display dual relevancy: to the searcher and to the product.
- Consistent strategy and purpose: If your offline language is serious and practical, your online presence can be playful and whimsical – but everyone involved must understand the reasoning. Is your online audience different from your offline one? Do you have different goals for your site versus offline?
- Be Social: Social media indicators often correlate to high search engine rankings. Expand your presence across all social media but ultimately your industry will decide whether you focus on Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, GumTree and/or Pinterest.
- Be Specific: Your goal is not to bring the maximum number of visitors to your site. It is to capture potential audience members. Working to increase site traffic is pointless if the visitors who land on the site don’t stay. With that in mind, search for and connect with those people who need the content that your site offers.
- Encourage audience participation: Time on site and bounce rate are two of the main metrics that search engines use to evaluate site. Hence, they are two of the main factors for search engine visibility. Try to build audience engagement through polls, quizzes, gamification, user generated content, sharing and comments.
- Integrate your mobile strategy: This has become crucial since Google cracked down on mobile compatability during the mobilegeddon. Optimise your mobile and desktop sites, not only for search engines, but for social sharing, local and national apps, and user experience.
- Don’t obsess over keyword density: Keyword stuffing pages for the sake of high keyword density is a practice of the past due to Google’s new updates. In keeping with Google’s long-time strategy, the search engine’s recent updates look for the natural use of language in web content. Use your keywords in your titles and captions, and don’t worry so much about using them in the body of the text.
- De-emphasize meta-tagging: It’s been a long time since Google took those tags seriously, and from Google’s point of view there isn’t much point in them today. Other search engines may still use them but probably not for long. The exception is the description meta-tag, which still has a role to play.
Moving forward, the use of online audience optimisation to think holistically about digital marketing strategy will be paramount to success. The various online marketing tactics should not be kept separate but should be incorporated and all pull toward the same objective.
This infographic from marketingland.com displays circles of trust that can be used to classify an audience. The ultimate goal of online audience optimisation is to increase the trust levels of your customers – to move them from the circle at which they entered toward the inner, deeper circles of trust. Online audience optimisation, if executed correctly, will result in more followers, sales and leads plus loyal customers eager to share your content around the web.
Online audience optimisation is an all-inclusive method for getting the most out of your online presence. It sets guidelines for the ideal process of social media use, use experience, content creation, and designing an appealing and easy to use site – in the minds of users not just Google! Additionally, online audience optimisation provides insights into ways in which conversion rates can be continually improved to maximise site profitability.
Ewan Watt, CEO and founder of roi.com.au, believes “connection, amplification and sustainability” to be the biggest benefits of an online audience optimisation strategy. A stronger connection is created with customers when utilising online audience optimisation when compared to SEO services that don’t produce content to be user friendly and engaging. Well thought out online audience optimisation will also result in the amplification of traffic, leads, conversion rates and brand loyalty.
Lastly, it is the increased sustainability of an online audience optimisation strategy that is one of the biggest reasons to adopt it. Sustainability stems from the desire of search engines to create the best experience for their users – this is why search algorithms are becoming increasingly complex. The goal of online audience optimisation is to generate a great user experience and therefore implementing such a strategy reduces the risk of being penalised in the future by updates to search engine algorithms.
If you would like more information on online audience optimisation or SEO services from roi.com.au feel free to contact us via email or ring us on 1300 650 274.
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