When Guy Kawasaki asked Google Senior Vice President Amit Singhal if he thought SEO was “bull—-” during the SXSW 2013 keynote interview, a beautiful thing happened. Amit laughed (because he’s awesome) and responded with two sentences that optimizers should consider the North Star in an era of complex and rapid search industry change: “No, that would be like saying marketing is bull—. […] You should think of good SEO as marketing to the web search engine.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but when the head of Google’s core ranking team volunteers insight into what he considers “good SEO,” I tend to listen.

So, what exactly does he mean when he says “marketing to the web search engine”?

You know what marketing means, and you know what a search engine is, and you know you want the search engine to display your content higher than everyone else’s content – but how do you “market” to a search engine? It’s not like you can send the Google spider an email newsletter or ask it to follow you on Twitter…


On the surface, the idea of “marketing to the web search engine” can seem like an abstract concept, but it actually becomes quite straightforward when you add a few clarifying words to the definition of marketing: [SEO is] the process of creating, communicating, and delivering [to Google] offerings [content and web pages] that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

In other words – marketing to the search engine – and being a purveyor of “good SEO” – is all about two things:

1)     Creating, communicating, and delivering content and web pages.

2)     Making sure the content and web pages you’re creating, communicating, and delivering have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

You need the first one to rank anywhere in search engines, you need the second one in particular to rank highly, and you can’t have the latter without the former.

Got it?

Now that we understand what it means to market to the web search engine, let’s dig deeper into how we actually go about doing this.

A Two-Part Search Engine Marketing Plan Anyone Can Follow

A brief review:

-Marketing is SEO

-Search engine optimizers want both humans and search engines to choose their content above their competitors, so optimizers should consider it their job to market their content to both humans and search engines more effectively than the competition.

-“Marketing to the web search engine” can be defined as the process of creating, communicating, and delivering [to Google] offerings [content and web pages] that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

Got it! (For sure this time?)

Now let’s do it.

Part one: Create, communicate, and deliver content and web pages

The first step to effective search marketing is creating, communicating and delivering content and web pages in a way that allows them to be discovered and understood by search engines. This step is necessary in order for you to rank anywhere – on page 18 or on page one – in search engine results pages (SERPs). This means in order to be eligible to rankyou need to:

-Physically create content – HTML articles, videos, PDFs, images, and web pages – that Google can discover, crawl, index, and deliver in SERPs.

-Communicate the existence of that content and deliver it to Google using Webmaster Tools, ALT attribute tags, and well-mapped HTML and XML sitemaps. 

Part Two: Make sure the content and web pages you create, communicate, and deliver have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large

The second step to effective search marketing is creating, communicating, and delivering value to humans and search spiders in order to earn a high rank in the SERPs. So, in order to rank highly in SERPs – say, page one position one – you need to:

-Communicate the authority of your content to Google by building your website’s inbound link profile and PageRank with a content-based, white hat link acquisition strategy.

-Communicate to Google and to your users that your content is valuable and relevant by:

   -Optimizing your Meta tags and on-page content with concept-focused keyword clusters that are highly relevant to the searches your target market perform.

-Crafting human-focused Meta titles and descriptions that inspire click-through. Bing uses click-through rate as a ranking signal, and it’s possible Google will adapt this user satisfaction signal in the future as well.

-Writing new content regularly to satisfy your customer’s interest in fresh content, while also trigging a SERP boost from Google’s Query Deserves Freshness ranking factor.

-Growing your Google+ community. While +1s are not a ranking factor, when someone circles you, it does send an endorsement signal to Google. This endorsement basically communicates to Google that, when possible, a highly relevant Google+ post from a highly relevant author (based on the searcher’s decision to circle the author on Google+) is an extremely relevant web result that should be returned in page one of the searcher’s results.

-Confirm that the content you’re creating truly has value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large by being thoughtful about what you’re creating, who you’re creating it for, and why you’re creating it.

To put more focus on end-user value from the start, make sure you:

   -Perform persona research to create stronger content that gets at the heart of what your industry needs and considers “valuable.”

   -Stay observant, analyze analytics reports, and perform content audits to guide a content strategy that does more of what resonates with customers, and less of what doesn’t.

The Takeaway: SEO is Marketing. Don’t Try to Reinvent the Wheel!

Voila! Straightforward enough, right?

Marketing isn’t bull, SEO isn’t bull, and the secret to winning at both for years (not days) lies completely in our ability to create, communicate, and deliver content that resonates with search engines and end-users.

The trick is to approach your strategy methodically and to always remember user experience comes first.

Have questions? Ask in the comment section!

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Chelsea Adams
Chelsea Adams is a senior content writer at Bruce Clay, Inc. When she’s not writing, optimizing, and analyzing, she enjoys sketching straw bale house plans and long-distance cycle touring. Follow Chelsea on Twitter @ChelseaBeaAdams.