I consult with clients everyday who are locally known as thought leaders in their industries - the best of breed. They regularly speak at community functions and industry conferences, sponsor fundraisers, and are quoted as experts in state-wide and national publications. They’re the type of people who actually are, really really good at what they do.
All too often, I hear how they’re frustrated that when they try to find themselves online, a far-less-qualified competitor comes up ahead of them … or worse yet, they’re nowhere to be seen. The Internet can be a cruel place, and it happens to all types of businesses: I’ve heard the same thing from hotel owners to restauranteurs to business attorneys to healthcare privacy consultants.
The sad reality is that Google has absolutely no idea who you are in the real world (though, for a lot of very different reasons, that’s probably a good thing). It infers who is the best (and therefore #1 ranked) by your activities across the Internet – your website or blog, presence on social media, listings and reviews on third-party sites, and who’s talking about you (and linking to your website).
A lot of marketers would look at this and say “Well, we should optimize your website for search engines, and that’ll improve those rankings.” They’ll drop some jargony phrases like meta descriptions and sitemap.xml files, and get you signed up for an ongoing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) service.
Now, I’m not at all saying that traditional SEO isn’t a good approach – we work with quite a few clients to do just that and have turned some pretty impactful results. If done properly, SEO can be one of the highest ROI initiatives that a company can undertake. However, I’ve never felt like the term SEO accurately describes what this initiative should be.
Search Engine Optimization – it sounds so manipulative … like you’re trying to fool a search engine into ranking you better. And there’s a lot of SEOs out there who do just that – to gain impressive, though almost always short-lived, results. The fact that you have to differentiate between black hat and white hat SEO is giving the term itself a bad name (don’t get me started on grey hat).
A New Term: Online Presence Management (all Internet terms deserve an acronym … so, OPM)
Online Presence Management: The practice of managing your overall visibility across the entire Internet.
Think of it as an overarching term for keeping an eye on, responding to, contributing to and making the most possible hay out of: the things about you on the Internet. It’s a method of bringing you or your brand’s pre-existing real-world clout onto the Internet and making sure you keep it going.
OPM is essentially what we do with our “SEO” clients, but I don’t believe all SEO firms are actually doing even half of this work. OPM is an overall umbrella term for:
Note: Each of these could easily be a blog post on their own. Perhaps they will be in the future.
- Website Design, Development and Ongoing Management: We think of your website as the HUB of your marketing initiatives. If it’s not rock solid, attractively and properly built, and houses a wealth of content about you and your business, then none of the rest really matters. Note: other spokes also include offline channels of driving traffic to a website.
- “Traditional” SEO: This includes things like including keyword-rich content, proper meta descriptions, easily crawlable sites, etc. – but I like to think that this is really about giving Google EXACTLY what it wants and bowing down to their every whim. Also, I’d add that it’s important to always track and monitor rankings for a handful of keywords to use as a barometer.
- Reputation Management: Keep an eye out for everything that’s said about you or your brand online. Respond to it in a timely manner. Actively work to negate false or misleading information.
- Directory Ownership: Ensure that ALL directories (local and industry-focused: everything from Yelp to a trade association to your local chamber of commerce) are properly representing your company. Be sure they’re fully and accurately populated with contact information, about blurbs and links back to your website.
- Online Public Relations: Submit any and all press releases to online PR sites. This matters now, more than the past few years, because of some recent Google algorithm releases making (JARGON ALERT) bibliographical co-citation and lexical co-occurence an important factor. Fancy terms for word associations.
- Social Media Training: Assist in defining a company’s internal social media policy. Make sure staff knows about it. For example, make sure all LinkedIn profiles are properly tied to your company’s page. You’d be surprised how often this doesn’t happen.
- Social Media Management: Again, this could be a post on its own, but claim ALL of your social media profiles. Actively use the ones you’re committed to.
- Content Strategy: Be sure you have a solid plan in place for who’s responsible for coming up with new content, how often it’s posted to the site and what the review process is like.
- ONGOING EDUCATION: Arguably the most important aspect of this is to continually coach and educate clients on how they should be talking about their brand on the Internet. The better you get at it, the more results you will see.
Content is – very much, still – King
I first heard the term “Content is King” in 2001 (Bill Gates coined it in 1996), and it still is about the best piece of advice I can give to clients. If you continually create quality content, the Internet will reward you. OPM is more about educating people on best practices, monitoring results and ensuring consistency in what you do than it is about stuffing the right keywords on a page.