I was recently interviewed by Local Media Insider on my work for OPUBCO (The Oklahoma Publishing Company – publishers of The Oklahoman) helping my boss, Marilyn Hoeffner, to build an internet marketing agency. I’m reproducing it in part here with permission from Local Media Insider.
OPUBCO did not originally set out to build a $2 million division. SEO Manager David Christopher was originally hired in 2010 to create and execute an SEO strategy for the newspaper’s own site, NewsOK.com. The division unofficially began when a salesperson approached Christopher with a client that needed to improve their online ranking. That first client went to the top of the search engine results for local design services. And today the SEO division, with 14-non sales employees, is arguably the leading provider of SEO services in Oklahoma City, also providing back end services for large local ad agencies. Since OPUBCO was purchased by Phil Anschutz, the division also serves 18 more newspapers and is in the process of signing on as a white label provider to additional media companies.
A gap in the market: The changing face of SEO
When most media executives today talk about selling SEO, they mean selling directory listings and listing distribution to small businesses, along with a little reputation management thrown in.
SEO as a service is more complex, technological and means getting directly involved with merchants’ web sites, traditionally avoided as sticky business. Christopher contends and has demonstrated, however, that as SEO has evolved, so has demand for higher-end SEO services from large local or locally headquartered companies with budgets in the millions. And newspapers are well-positioned to leverage core competencies to go after this business.
The development of in-house SEO services is aided by Google’s updates Panda and Penguin in 2012, which favored content providers and penalized SEO experts adept at black hat practices. Suddenly the advantage eroded for shortcuts, such as content-free link sites, that violate Google guidelines; “all the things they kept saying didn’t work, that did work.”
Today, search engines favor real content with links to other real content, precisely the stuff that newspaper people are good at creating, and the mystery of meta tags has also been replaced by the nuances of linguistics.
‘“SEO used to be done just with hidden words on the page. That strategy is a long time gone. What your content says is what the search engines are looking for. The content … has to be sensitive to linguistics, “ Christopher says.
Out of favor too, are old school SEO professionals whose low-quality link building was their main competency.
“Link volume was once more important than the source of links. It’s not anymore. … Cheap hacking is out the window and can now be penalized. That’s now a huge challenge for those cookie-cutter people.”
The confluence has opened a hole in the market for media start ups like SEO Sales Pro that take a more customized approach, and have a built-in sales team and infrastructure.
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