Blogging Is No Longer About SEO

Blogging is not about SEO.

Blogging is about referrals.

The argument about SEO being dead has been going on for years. All the while, SEO remained a strong driver of new sales for a variety of businesses. Some of those businesses used a content strategy (including blogging) as a way to generate SEO rankings that drove traffic and sales.

I believe SEO will always be around. People search for things and a service that can provide answers is valuable. It just seems strange that a search engine like Google would monetize search mostly by paid advertising, which is basically the old school phone book model. There has always been conflict with Google’s combination of natural or organic rankings and paid rankings. Google is a business. They don’t owe it to anyone or any business to house organic rankings. Google has built a loyal following of consumers. If businesses want to get referred for search queries they will need to pay.

I think there’s a key word in there and it’s referrals.

Even before the Internet and the Web, people have shared referrals with friends, colleagues, and even strangers. It’s something we do. If someone asks us for a good restaurant to eat at tonight we provide them with our best recommendation. Over the last decade, Google has become a trusted source of referrals. People search for answers and Google provides them. It’s been a mix of organic (free) rankings and paid rankings in the past, but it appears things are moving more toward paid. It makes business sense for Google.

Even Google describes SEO in a different way than most SEO folks. Those in SEO, people I respect very much, seem to focus on what they think search engines want and often this includes getting links. Even more, SEO has been about getting links with keyword rich anchor text. This has worked for many businesses in the past and probably will in the future. Google keeps saying this is not what SEOs and businesses should focus on, however.

In their own words:

Effective search engine optimization can make a site more crawlable and make individual pages more accessible and easier to find. Search engine optimization includes things as simple as keyword research to ensure that the right words are on the page, not just industry jargon that normal people will never type.

“White hat” search engine optimizers often improve the usability of a site, help create great content, or make sites faster, which is good for both users and search engines. Good search engine optimization can also mean good marketing: thinking about creative ways to make a site more compelling, which can help with search engines as well as social media. The net result of making a great site is often greater awareness of that site on the web, which can translate into more people linking to or visiting a site.

In my experience, Google is too unpredictable with their organic rankings. It just does not appear to be a good long-term strategy to plan as if your traffic and sales will come from organic rankings. Google basically defines SEO as creating great brands and great experiences. It’s a basic need on the Web in general and the people that do this, including SEO folks, are wonderful to have around.

Yet there are still folks that contact me and there are still articles I read that focus on SEO when it comes to blogging. Therefore, even though I’ve discussed this before (Blogging Is Not About SEO, Write As If Google Did Not Exist), I’m going to touch on the subject again.

Your blogging focus and business blogging focus should be about the most basic of sales drivers, referrals. When you blog you are really creating something that can be shared and discovered. People have long been referring businesses to others. A blog is simply a way for people to learn more about an industry, a topic, and your business. By providing this information you are giving someone something they can refer to their peers when someone asks them a question. I think in the online world this is where things are going in the social area. The referral aspect that has been strong in the offline relationship world is eventually going to find a home in some capacity online. It already has in some respects.

If your business provides good service and good products, people will still refer you. If your business has a good blog with good content, people will refer your business and refer your blog content.

Guest posting is still very relevant. To grow your business blog it’s good to guest post on other related blogs and websites. It’s a way to expose yourself and your brand to an audience that is already established. That audience will read your guest article. They will google your name and business name. If you include a link it should simply be for referral purposes so people can find your website.

This is where I still see value in links. I know internal blog linking (like the few links in this post) and linking in guest posts has had more immediate and substantial impact for SEO in the past, but the slow and steady link building simply for referrals is a great long-term strategy. Links on blogs might be discounted by Google in the future, but if that link is still on a highly trafficked post there is a good chance readers will keep visiting your site.

SEO will always be a part of the referral process. It’s an organic way for people to search for something and find answers. But it’s only part of an overall referral strategy your company should create when setting up a business blog.

The next step from there will be to leverage your referral traffic into list building

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