Brian Thomas - Friday 1st March 2019


The Changing Nature of SEO and What this Means for SEO Agencies

September 23rd, 2016 saw a massive shift in the way Google handles its relationship with link evaluation through its release of Penguin 4.0. Rather than penalising domains for having spammy backlinks and allowing them to eventually recover, Google was able to devalue the links in real time. It’s a concept that fundamentally changed the way search engine optimisation works and therefore began a total shift in how SEO agencies function.

If SEO agencies want to stay relevant and provide value to their clients, there are some major ideas to understand the current SEO landscape and what that means for SEO consultancy as an industry. Below are the major shifts in SEO and what agencies need to do in order to adapt.

Hire writers…who know SEO

We’ve all heard the phrase “Content is King” but what makes it king? Well, links used to be king until the first Penguin launch in 2012. Since then, Google has grown in its ability to read and understand content without having to rely on the links to that content, or links within it. Prior to 2016, links were still heavily impacting rankings regardless of whether or not they were spam. Black hat agencies and less-than-reputable companies still found value in playing the system for quick wins. There was a chance they would never get caught and even if they were, the value gained from the high rankings was worth it to some.

Now that spammy links never gain any value to begin with, there isn’t a point in employing any of the old tactics anymore. As this shift has taken effect, SEO specialists and organisations are trusting Google to notice well-produced, valuable content.

As an agency, you need to be able to, at the very least, identify your client’s content assets for SEO, and more likely be able to produce the very content they’ll need to gain organic positions in the search results.

Agencies will therefore need to employ writers. They can’t hire just any writers. SEO writing is a different animal. An individual can be a great writer by other measurements in literature but be a terrible fit for SEO. An SEO writer needs to be short and direct. There can be no flowery language or allegory in SEO content generation. Make sure your candidate submits writing samples that prove they can write for a search engine, not their English professor.

Focus on Client Value: Go Beyond the Product

As the focus of SEO shifts from off-page links with exact match anchor text, your SEO strategy needs to position your client as an expert in their industry. The content they, or your agency, produces for their website has to go beyond self-promotion and teach potential visitors about the client’s industry. When you produce content that aims to educate rather than sell, it does two things:

  • Gains the trust of visitors by showing them you know what you’re doing and
    belong in the conversation
  • Positions the brand to be able to rank for more long tail search queries in Google

Our relationship to search engines is evolving. We speak to them now through voice assistants and the amount of time we’ve had with them has us “speaking” to them like people rather than robots. This is a huge paradigm shift from just a couple of years ago when a majority of searches were for singular products like “running shoes” or “blue jeans”. Now searches look and sound like “What are the best running shoes for outdoor trail running?” If your client isn’t answering questions like this within their industry, the modern searcher will not find them.

Holistic SEO Product Offering: Become a Partner, Not a Vendor

SEO agencies can no longer be hyper-specialised. If you think your agency is the best at a single aspect of SEO, you’re missing the mark. The increased sophistication and interconnectivity of SEO strategies require that an SEO agency is equally proficient in building and monitoring robust backlink profiles, creating content that will rank and increase their clients’ expertise in a field, and have the technical skills to optimise a client’s domain through on-page tech SEO.

Regardless of the size of your agency you will need employees who cover all areas of SEO so you can offer clients a one stop shop for all things SEO.

Don’t be afraid to branch out into more marketing and PR initiatives, as well as on-page conversion rate optimisation. The more you can provide for your client’s online identity, the better. If your clients are making changes to their website, posting content and social media campaigns without consulting your agency, something is wrong with the relationship. You want your clients to look at your agency as their partner in all things online, to the point where they will rely on your opinions and expertise before doing anything with their online properties.

SEO is evolving but it’s evolving for the best. As Google gets better at providing value to their users, agencies need to become better at providing value to their clients. You need to be able to produce content, a lot of it. And that content needs to be tailored for SEO. Agencies need to be ingrained in their clients’ mission and value beyond the products they sell on their pages.

Become your client’s partner in all things online and your agency will be positioned for success in 2019 on beyond.

This is a guest post by Brian Thomas. 
Brian is a contributor to Enlightened Digital, long-distance cyclist, and lifelong advocate for women in business from Philadelphia. Tech and business are my lifeblood, but I’m also a fanatic of brewpubs and just about every sports team in Philadelphia.

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