I was both delighted and dismayed to read last week about the creation of the government led, Future High Streets Forum.
If you haven’t heard about it, the forum brings together leaders across retail, property and business to ‘advise government on the challenges facing high streets and to help develop practical policies to enable town centres to adapt and change’.
Sounds fantastic I thought. Clearly, the high street is suffering. We’ve seen a number of big name casualties over the last couple of years (and many thousands of smaller independents go under that receive little or no publicity). A walk through my home city of Brighton provides evidence enough that all is not well with the high street with boarded up properties aplenty.
Therefore, a group that includes high-level representatives from the likes of Alliance Boots, Costa Coffee, John Lewis Partnership and The British Retail Consortium, with a remit to ‘focus on future high street renewal’, must be a good thing.
But then I read the fine print…and sighed…heavily.
For me, the term search engine optimisation (SEO) has always been fatally flawed. It suggests that we optimise solely for search engines. However, search engines don’t buy products, people do.
I’ve always been of the opinion that by focusing, first and foremost, on optimising the customer experience, success in search will generally follow in the medium to longer term.
Yes, there are boxes to be ticked when it comes to SEO, such as the use of certain tags or creating an XML feed but even these can be optimised in a way that focuses on the customer primarily, not the search engine.
SEO is also a term that fails to describe (or give credit to) the full range of disciplines involved in creating and executing a contemporary natural search strategy, for example content planning, social media, PR and analytical skills. Neither does it communicate the benefits, over and above search engine rankings, that these disciplines deliver.
SEO also of course has a bit of a reputation issue.
All of this has led me to believe that ‘SEO’ needs a long overdue rebrand.
Let’s face it; for the uneducated or inexperienced buyer of SEO services, the market is a minefield.
Conflicting messages, confusing language and a saturated market, where anybody from web designers to PR agencies ‘provide’ SEO, combine to make the journey of researching and recruiting SEO expertise a pretty treacherous one.
One thing that certainly doesn’t help the buyer of SEO services is the massive disparity in what you can pay for a service that, on the face of it, looks the same, along with the myriad of weird and wonderful remuneration models on offer from freelancers, consultants and agencies.
With that in mind, I’m going to take a look at a number of SEO payment models that, for me, don’t come under nearly enough scrutiny and why, in my view, they just don’t work in the context of today’s search landscape.
Before going on, I want to make one thing clear. I am not setting out to be intentionally provocative with this article. It goes without saying that there are some excellent freelance search experts able to offer their clients first class advice in how to plan and execute an SEO strategy.
Instead, I am driven by helping those buying digital marketing services, SEO in particular, to make more informed decisions when sourcing external partners and agencies.
I am passionate about SEO, and digital marketing more generally, but I also understand it has its pitfalls, the main one being the complex, crowded and confusing market for SEO services.
As such, my purpose is not to antagonise the world of freelance SEO but to simply encourage buyers to question whether it is realistic for a freelancer to deliver every aspect of a highly effective SEO strategy on their own.
In the context of an evolving search landscape and multichannel environment, retailers need to re-evaluate the information they include in a brief when sourcing a search agency.
This article explores firstly why the search marketing brief needs to evolve before providing practical advice on what retailers should include in it.
Search remains a critical component of a retailer’s online and wider multichannel strategy. One might argue that it feels almost ‘old hat’ when pitted against new and exciting mediums, such as social media and mobile.
However, search engines remain the number one route by which ‘qualified’ prospects begin their discovery of a brand or product.
Yet the discipline has evolved significantly.