Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a once relatively unknown business term that has been popping up more and more on social media. From Reddit forums to Facebook groups to Discord, more and more employers are seeking out people with a capable knowledge of SEO to work on burgeoning websites. As the term rises in prominence, more and more people are turning to the internet to learn about what is a relatively simple subject. Search engine optimization is the simple method of incorporating keywords and links into online content. Doing so increases the chances of being brought up in a higher place on browser’s search results. When you’re browsing Google, you’re more likely to click on one of the first links you see. In order to get a piece of that valuable real estate, websites of all kinds are starting to incorporate SEO into their web content.
Media sites like Buzzfeed, Reductress, Gawker, and Cracked all rely on their self-generated content to accrue web traffic, and do so through social media marketing, ad placements, and SEO. Think of the last time you read an article on any of these sites – it was riddled with links throughout the entire article, right? By writing in a link to another website, like Vogue, and maybe sprinkling the brand name “Vogue” a few times, one can generate a new flow of traffic by coming up in the search results for Vogue. Interesting, no? There’s product placement in the articles you read online, just as much as there is on television, and even in the fiction you read.
Generating an audience for any online content can be an extremely frustrating task, and is often fruitless. And once you have that audience, you can’t take it for granted – maintaining viewership, building a brand, marketing deals – it’s all often just as hard, if not more so, than just starting out. Plus, as more and more people are getting online and immersing themselves in the internet, so too are people limiting themselves to social media. Over 51% of American adults reported that they use Facebook multiple times every day (details here), and numbers are only going up for Facebook and every other major social media application. By devoting more time to social media sites, people are effectively cutting themselves off from the vast sea of knowledge and entertainment that lies outside of what their family and friends share. And as the number of content creators rises, viewership sinks, as hundreds of millions of people watch the same videos over and over again.
But anyway, what SEO does is give content creators a real, tangible chance at accruing viewership and a real audience. It’s a relatively new tool that will soon be incorporated into every new online venture. What is presents is an opportunity for those that recognize it, and there are a number of companies that already do, such as the Avidon Group. By using SEO in targeting marketing campaigns for companies, this marketing group generates more views on products from those companies. This marketing strategy enables companies a surefire way to accrue customers, without ever tipping off the consumer. Advertising has always shown to work best when it’s subtle. While some subtlety in advertising has been proven to be ineffectual, as long as the product placement and tagline is organic, then the ad should be successful.
Indeed, SEO is an increasingly integral part of the phenomenon known as “stealth advertising.” Stealth advertising is like it sounds – the goal is to unconsciously subject consumers to advertising. The practice has been regarded as unethical by some, as its definition can apply to some instances where it is clearly wrong. Any company that engages in manufacturing fake reviews for their poorly reviewed products or services is engaging in willful deceit of the public, and attempting to profit off of that deceit. However, stealth marketing itself, while sounding shady, is generally harmless. In 2002, Sony hired 60 actors for a viral marketing ploy. The actors would stand on busy city streets, posing as tourists, and ask people to take their picture with their new, state of the art camera phone. After talking up the phone to unwitting citizens, the goal was to generate buzz on a grassroots level. The experiment proved a success, with the T68i becoming one of the year’s top-selling models. This sort of stealth marketing harms no one, and while deceitful, is a shrewd marketing strategy that delivered high quality results.
Search engine optimization deceives no one in its usage, but is an innocuous example of stealth marketing. If anything, it is one of the best examples of harmless advertising that isn’t obnoxious or in your face. There’s a reason that premium memberships for streaming services are exploding in popularity – people hate commercials, and they love binge-watching The Office until they get a headache. Search Engine Optimization gives companies a streamlined way to market themselves to people reading their favorite online content, without the reader ever realizing that they’re being marketed to. After all, advertising has always has a bad reputation in the eyes of the public. People don’t like being told what they want, or what they need. That’s why companies and advertising agencies are constantly trying to come up with new ways to market things without seeming greedy or manipulative. People are quick to berate bad ads with worse messages, and companies like Gillette and Nike have picked up on that, and capitalized on people wanting to feel good about their money goes. Companies that fail to keep up with rapidly changing times with feel the economic effects.
As society changes, the companies that service that society have to change as well. The goal of any good business is to grow and expand, and if you want to do that in an increasingly ironic culture, you need to employ advertising in a way that doesn’t offend, overwhelm, or suffocate your audience. SEO is a pretty good way to go about that.