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Marianne Sweeny

IO (Information Optimization) is 21st Century SEO

Marianne Sweeny

It’s easier than you think, more effective than SEO as we know it, & restores balance of power to thought processing bipeds.

In my last post, I wrote about Information Optimization (IO), a new method for influencing visibility of online properties in our uber-connected, multi-device, attention-deficit-ridden journey through any given day. Information Optimization breaks away from the Balkanized sub-specialized world of SEO, user-experience and content strategy to a unified approach that sees us moving forward, independent of Google’s Game of Throne’s vice-like grip around finding information on the Web. images-1

Gone are the days where you could rank for anything by simply using the elixir of keyword stuffing and a soupcon of 3rd world spammy link acquisition. Ahh…those were the good old days. They were good because searchers had to work just a wee bit harder to find something relevant amidst all of the spam in the search results. Working harder made searchers refine their searchers (more intelligence for the search engines) and occasionally inspired browsing. Remember browsing?

These bygone days have been replaced by judgmental algorithms named after sweet looking bears that derive “good experience” using computational math. Who knew that math could experience something as well as be an experience? The fond days of yore have been replaced by rapacious algorithms named for sweet looking arctic birds that put sites on trial in absentia with banishment to the nether regions of search results as punishment. Most importantly, they have been replaced by Not Provided, the anonymous analytics killer that is Google’s disingenuous ploy to protect their already abstracted users logged into any Google account by hiding their queries.

So, it is time to let go of all our old SEO and keyword research binkies. We must update our methods to match the century we’re living in. We need to start doing site optimization the right way instead of chasing algorithms and tying our guts in a knot over positions 4 and 5. This is not going to be your mom’s SEO. Everything that we’ve done in the past needs updating to leverage the vast data stores at our disposal. After all, we should get something out the daily invasion of our privacy.

21st Century SEO

21st Century SEO spans the silos involved in creating and maintaining websites today. It leverages user research and behavior instead of relying on overly broad keyword clicks. In this post, I've examined these related disciplines with questions that we need to ask ourselves, because these are the questions that the search engines are "asking" our websites.

User-driven Discovery: This is the most critical component of 21st Century SEO, make it or break it, do or die. Getting important information at the start of the project saves time, money and people resources. Most of the time, the phrases they provide are not found anywhere in the content on the site. 21st century thinking uses behavior over time with Top and Rising follow-on or associated search data for client-chosen phrase to deconstruct searcher intent and see if what they are looking for matches what the client is presenting.

Search 101: term frequency/inverse document frequency is a core concept for ALL information retrieval. In order to make the very first cut at SERP, the terms in the customer’s query must appear somewhere on the site.

Keyword Research guiding questions

  • What is your client selling, saying, promoting?
  • How do they describe their products/services in person?
  • Does this match how they describe their product/services on site?
  • Do searchers use the same or similar language to find these products and services?

Content strategy is a term that thrown around a lot lately and that is because it is so important. It is also very complex. It goes way beyond link-bait, keyword-stuffed articles on what’s trending or publishing xx articles per week. A 21st Century content strategy starts with aboutness.

Content Strategy guiding questions

  • What is the site about from a high-level conceptual view?
  • What are the concept components, e.g. how does the concept break into individualized content areas?
  • Do you have content on your site that uses that terms customers use to find what you’re saying, selling, promoting?
  • How does this content compare to top-ranking pages on the same subject. These are likely considered “authoritative” by the search engines.

Information Architecture (IA) Much like the very distance building architecture and landscape architecture cousins, IA is the blueprint of how the pages on the site are structured in relationship to other pages on the site (sitemap) as well as structure and layout for individual page type templates.

Information Architecture guiding questions

  • Can they find this content when on the site?
  • Does the site organization on the site support visitor ability to navigate through the content? Do the labels make sense? Are common components, e.g. search box, breadcrumb navigation, found where they are expected to be?

Interaction Design is the “so what” of every page as in what the user is asking themselves as the page starts to load into their browser, “I’m here now, so what?” Early on in the Panda reign of terror, Google referenced bounce rate as one of the signals that they pay attention to because a high bounce rate indicates, in most instances, a fail on answering the “so what” question.

Interaction Design Guiding Questions

  • What is the customer supposed to do when they visit a page on the site?
  • Is this activity passive (read) or active (download, print, convert, go further into the site)?
  • Are next steps clear to someone unfamiliar with the site, content or subject?

Change is hard, and harder when it means working with black turtleneck-wearing, squishy user-experience types who talk about mysterious things like heuristics. We, all of us, SEOs, information architects, content strategists and user experience/interaction designers have to work together across our silos.

The IAs, etc. are really not that bad. I know because I am a squishy user experience type who managed to find a place at a great internet marketing agency on a team of technical SEO. We’ve learned to speak each other’s language and find common ground to the benefit of our clients. I encourage all of you to do the same. Or, you can put on a wide brim hat, heavy duty rain slicker and wait for the next Panda/Penguin ****storm to dump a load on you and your client sites.

Marianne Sweeny

Provides valuable insights and adds depth to the conversation.

Marianne Sweeny is VP of Internet Marketing for Strategic Edge Partners, a medical marketing agency. She is passionate about optimizing the user search experience on the Web or inside the enterprise firewall. Marianne’s most recent article for SEMrush was entitled: "SEOs, Guns & Religion."
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