Why Thought Leadership is the New SEO

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SEO used to be a bunch of tricks. Using their legion of Stanford-trained engineers, Google has successfully eradicated the effectiveness of those tricks to the point that a company trying to do SEO the way they were doing it 5 years ago wouldn’t have a moment’s success. It would be like trying to download songs using KaZaa.

The key to being successful with SEO nowadays is the same thing that would have made you successful with any business fifty years ago: creating a great product that works well, publicizing it, and optimizing your revenue stream by performing tests and crunching numbers. The only difference is that Google has codified that process and turned it into a search engine.

What Google’s search engine effectively does nowadays is return the best-written, most helpful, most popular website for a given search. Again, you might think this was always the case but it wasn’t; as recently as 2010, Google was returning search results from the sites who had purchased the most links from third party brokers, built networks of useless websites whose only purpose was to link to each other, and re-purposed content that other people had created. Nowadays, Google is so smart that they can literally – and I mean that word in its actual sense – tell the difference between interesting and “filler” content.

The sophistication of Google’s algorithm has left us with a situation that has surely disappointed many a corner-cutting SEO company: that you have to produce truly good content, and lots of it, in order to rank highly in organic search. (There are always exceptions, of course – niche industries for which there is very little content produced and Google is forced to return the best result it has, which may not be the one with the greatest original content.)

That is why I hesitate to call First Page Sage an SEO company. While our core strength is still generating thousands of new, relevant visitors for our clients from natural search, the way we do it is through thought leadership. Thought leadership, of course, means producing best-in-class content that conveys a company’s leadership in its industry. Examples of thought leadership content include: a long-form article containing original research, a detailed case study, an infographic, and an incisive blog entry featuring thoughtful analysis of an issue.

Of course, SEO is still about links more than any other thing. So that element must be considered no matter how thought-leading your content is. But the great part is, truly fantastic content leads to links very easily simply because people value it so much that they’ll want to share it with their audience. Naturally, you’ll want to help that content get seen by as many people as possible, which is why an authentic outreach program should always accompany the creation of thought leadership content. And of course, the third and final pillar of successful SEO nowadays is good conversion optimization and analytics.

So remember: industry-leading content, link outreach, and conversion optimization. Those are the three pillars of successful SEO nowadays. There is no other way to do it.

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