Bill Hunt’s 5 Epiphanies for SEO #SESAtlanta

During Bill Hunt’s long career in search marketing, he’s been building search at IBM, helping WebMD rank first in search results, and penning best-sellers like Search Engine Marketing, Inc.: Driving Search Traffic to Your Company’s Website. Over the last 20 years, he’s had a few revelations about ways to make search more efficient.

During his keynote at SES Atlanta, Hunt defined “epiphany” as “that Eureka moment when you realize something you’ve been doing may not have been the right way.” Here are Hunt’s top five search epiphanies:

1. Leverage Force Multipliers

Hunt defines force multipliers as a few doing the work of many. He believes that agencies are often too bureaucratic to see the “big picture” when it comes to SEO, which Hunt breaks down into four departments: Indexability, Relevance, Authority, and Clickablity. And to optimize those four areas, SEOs should “simplify” processes. For example, by creating a “compelling clickable snippet” for IBM, Hunt was able to improve clicks by 3,000 percent.

2. Leverage Corporate Judo

SEO often suffers from too many corporate restrictions, but Hunt says that one way around that is to work with them, rather than against. “Stop talking about SEO and put it in something else,” Hunt said. “Make people view SEO as part of their job.”

For example, when Hunt writes contracts, he stipulates that sites must be SEO-friendly, and that signed contract becomes part of the site build. He also advocates giving clients actionable reports that show real losses for managers who ignore SEO.

“Create change via embarrassment,” Hunt said. “Make some kind of model that shows the mistakes they’re making.”

3. Understand Searcher Interest and Intent

Taking the searcher into consideration should be second nature, but Hunt said many miss the mark. For example, when client MGM wasn’t seeing the improvement in rank Hunt predicted, he took a closer look around search terms. MGM was focusing the lion’s share of its budget around the Bellagio, a hotel with the word “luxury” in its snippet. But Hunt found that only 1 percent of searchers were looking for luxury. The others were searching for “discount” and “cheap.” Refocusing its budget on more wallet-friendly holdings, like Circus Circus, MGM quickly got 30 percent of the keywords’ clicks.

4. Understand Your Economic Value

Hunt believes the SEOs shouldn’t sell themselves short, but they should also be able to tell the client what they’re paying for. For example, if an employee wants to make $100,000 a year, the agency should bill out 3.5 times that amount. Getting clients to pay those sums can be tricky, but the trick is to appeal to the chief financial officer (CFO), not the chief technology officer (CTO).

Hunt called this attention the “Opportunity Realized Matrix.” He believes that if SEOs can show financial executives a boost in profits as a direct result of search optimization, the budget for the optimization becomes hard to argue.

5. The Future of Search is Multidimension Integration 

Understanding search keywords goes beyond clicks and rankings, according to Hunt, and eventually SEO will have to become a bigger part of brands’ overall marketing strategies.

“The biggest scam in content marketing is that no one pays attention to search,” he said, citing the example of a client he helped market duty-free airport goods to mobile users at airports in Dubai and London. He added that the future of search is a transition to strategies where search is built in to every part of the customer journey, from social media to viewable content.

“When we start to break down what we do, we can finally be part of the party,” Hunt said. “From social media to television to mobile ads.”

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