Search Engine Optimization And The Struggle Over Content

October 16, 2007

Because organic search results account for approximately 70% of traffic sources, we know how critical it is to maintain high rankings for keywords related to your product (visit Medium Blue’s informative commentary on Organic SEO vs. Pay-Per-Click Advertising). Following this reasoning, during an SEO optimization program for our clients we advise adding relevant content to their websites to boost keyword density, thereby increasing their rank and exposure.

But the matter becomes complicated because of the other online channels through which we advertise. Here is one illustration: one of our account executives gets a sales call from xyz.com about their advertising opportunities. We set up a time for them to come by the office and present their programs. They’re excited to meet and present to us, and even sometimes bring bagels (but then forget the cream cheese :P). We agree our client would get decent exposure to a targeted audience for a relatively small price. But after the sales representatives from xyz.com leave, I’m stuck with the nagging thought that all we’re doing is taking content from the website we’ve built for our client, and have optimized for our client, and handing it over to xyz.com only to compete with us in organic search rankings.

The scary thing is that clients are catching on to this conundrum as well. I just got out of a meeting where a client basically asked, “Wait, I’m paying you to optimize my site, but you want me to advertise on this other site, which in effect pits my content against itself in natural search rankings?”

Uh-oh…

Yes, that’s what I’m asking you to do. However, we need to think in broader terms, particularly when dealing with higher priced items. When it comes to products that cost more (such as real estate), internet buyers spend a considerable amount of time educating themselves. Also, many websites (such as ones that deal with real estate) are going to post your information whether or not you’re paying for it (for instance, Streeteasy.com). So why not buy a hand in controlling the content for which consumers are already searching? Why not pay to have more exposure on these sites as well? Most importanly, I think you’re giving the consumer another channel through which to feel educated. And the benefit of a consumer feeling educated about a product is that the window from expressing interest to putting down money becomes much shorter (again, this specifically applies to real estate buyers, but I don’t think I can post the research because it’s proprietary [many apologies]).

So yes you’re distributing content that makes you compete with other organic search results. But you are also increasing your brand’s awareness, utilizing a measure of control for the content consumers are viewing, and, finally, aiding in the consumer’s search and helping them feel they’ve done their homework. That sound like a decent return on investment to me.

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3 Responses to “Search Engine Optimization And The Struggle Over Content”

  1. Pete Brand Says:

    I completely agree with you. If you are out deep see fishing and only have one line in the water you are less apt to catch a fish than if you had 7 or 8 other poles in the water. Focusing on ONLY organic search results to drive traffic and ignoring other methods of creating awareness about your company is not a good business decision.

  2. Adrian Palacios Says:

    What do you feel is the limit though? I.e., along the lines of your analogy, how many poles should you put out to sea? I can’t tell you how many websites come to my office trying to sell advertising space or sponsored listings with their company, so I have to wonder at what point we would be doing ourselves more harm than good…

  3. Pete Brand Says:

    Great question and a difficult one to answer. Although I think quantity is important quality is definitely more important. Developing a strategy based on who you are looking to reach can certainly help in determining the correct answer.


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