February 11, 2013, 11:52 AM

Content is king in a fast-changing SEO world

Speakers at IRWD emphasize sharing responsibility for site content creation.

Lead Photo

HSN's Hugo Guzman speaking today at IRWD 2013.

In 2012, Google Inc. made more than 500 changes to the algorithm it uses to rank organic search results, but the main purpose of those changes was to provide consumers searching the web with the best and most authoritative answers. In effect, that means web sites with original content that Google thinks matches the query well show up higher in results than sites Google finds less meaningful. Speakers this morning at the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability Conference 2013 in Orlando recommended e-retailer marketers rethink their approaches to search engine optimization to find ways to create unique and authoritative content.

For retailers that have been doing SEO for years, that means rethinking and reshaping their SEO strategy to focus on the creation of content that is unique and authoritative. “Create new and relevant content regularly,” said Seth Dotterer, vice president of marketing and product at Conductor Inc., a company that helps retailers with their search engine strategies. He says it is particularly tough in the retail space to avoid having the same content as another web site, such as a product description culled from the manufacturer. “If you are just pulling in content from a firehose that everyone else is drinking from, that doesn’t work,” he says.

To create original content, Dotterer recommended spreading responsibilities for SEO and content creation across the organization, rather than keep it as a strict marketing or technology function. “Great SEO [pros] don’t think about hoarding, but sharing,” Dotterer says. “The best are the best politicians internally because they have to convince everyone why it is best for them to think about SEO within their function.” He said that retailers should provide all the new content creators within the organization with an SEO checklist they can follow to make sure the content they are creating is optimized for SEO before going live.

At web and TV retailer HSN Inc., No. 26 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide, spreading SEO responsibilities required getting support from stakeholders in dozens of business areas, including digital and brand marketing, public relations, merchandisers, finance and legal, says Hugo Guzman, the merchant’s senior manager of online marketing. “Getting stakeholder buy-in is one of the keys to success of SEO at HSN,” Guzman said. “A lot of folks are tempted to run with content but you need to get buy in or you are going to run into trouble.”

Guzman said that getting involvement from all these areas also helped the retailer spot SEO opportunities. For example, he says Google recognizes the press releases the public relations department puts out for company news and earnings reports as highly authoritative, and that helps boost search engine optimization for HSN more broadly. “Organizations that have distributed SEO responsibilities can marshal so much more,” Dotterer said.

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