New holistic search approach needed, argues The Search Agency

By Chris Lee

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is high on marketing agendas but most search marketing focusses solely on search engines themselves as opposed to the broader Web search landscape, according to online marketing consultancy The Search Agency. The company has just launched its h(SEO) offering, what it calls a “holistic earned media solution for online marketers” to address “the evolution of search and user behaviour”.

What is “holistic search”?

The Search Agency says its h(SEO) approach drives meaningful results through multi-platform tactics, engaging content strategies, and goal-based analytics to measure, inform and justify on-going SEO campaigns.

Caragh McKenna, group account director of The Search Agency in the UK, said that the inspiration for h(SEO) came the need to engage and inform target audiences, regardless of where they look for information on the Web.

“With a growing percentage of search now taking place outside of search engines, effective SEO must consider the intertwined search universe – spanning traditional search sites, social media, review sites, mobile and other niche publishers,” she told NMK. “h(SEO) fills the gap between search behaviour and various social properties across the Web. It recognises all paths of engagement with the end user, rather than driving traffic to a particular site.”

Elements of h(SEO)

McKenna said that h(SEO) aims to optimise the reach and engagement of brands online by improving brand visibility, user engagement and optimising conversions toward goals. The approach addresses the following:

  • Relevance – Today, relevance is defined by user intent, according to The Search Agency, which requires a better understanding of search behaviour to ensure that site structure and content development aligns with user goals and search engine indexing methodologies, thus creating a better overall user search experience.
  • Authority – To truly drive authority, marketers must think “beyond the link” and create crucial brand and topic associations, citations, affiliations, connections and mentions within social media, review sites, blogs, vertical publishers and other relevant authority venues.
  • Engagement – While SEO gets users to the click, h(SEO) views the post-click experience as critical to deliver user satisfaction and provide signals to both search engines and other users, that user intent was satisfied, The Search Agency argues
  • Analytics – h(SEO) goes beyond traditional SEO analytics by measuring and tracking the metrics that are most important to clients’ businesses – including social, onsite engagement, site performance and keyword visibility – and then justifies strategies and tactics based on hard evidence from each campaign.

One of the company’s US-based customers, home builder Schumacher Homes, claims that within six months of using the h(SEO) approach in the US its flagship site ranked in the top 10 on Google for 80 per cent of its top 50 keywords. This in turn led to a 76 per cent increase in organic traffic year-on-year.

“Building authority on the Web isn’t just about link structure anymore and it’s crucial that SEO fills the gap between search behaviour and activity elsewhere on the Web,” said Chris Anderson, CIO of Schumacher Homes. “As a result, Schumacher Homes was able to more effectively target traffic, get people to notice us and drive a record number of leads on the Web.”

Top tips for holistic search

The Search Agency’s McKenna said there were several best practice steps that marketers should take when embarking on holistic search and content marketing practices.

“The most important first step is to determine who are the main points of contact within your organisation in order to be able to communicate content from an organisation to its audiences,” she said. “Aligning your online schedule with your offline schedules for PR and promotions will result in a more effective programme. Ensure that you are always monitoring current trends and discussions; the key to engaging an audience is engaging content. In this ever changing landscape it’s important to plan a strategy but also remain flexible to get the most out of what’s happening in your field.”

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