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DC SEO 3.0 & Internet Marketing Top 10 2014 Tips for Local or Small Businesses

At KME (a DC SEO Company and Digital Technology Agency), we cover a lot of ground among client types, industry segments and technology services, with a heavy emphasis on area DC SEO business requirements for online, interactive marketing and advertising. As a local or regional small business near Washington DC, including Northern Virginia, Suburban and Southern Maryland, there's an almost bewildering array of online marketing services, tools, channels and opportunities to sift through - plenty to buy, try and use, but not nearly enough time and expertise to properly leverage. Plus, the online research or purchasing habits of your constantly changing customer segments (and their technologies) are really hard to keep up with - whether for marketing or simple communications purposes.

Our insight comes from many places, though primarily from the experiences of our long list of DC area clients - ranging from IT and B2B service companies, to retail, B2C and startup businesses. We're also very active in local economic development agencies, chambers of commerce and small business development/incubation centers, in addition to other area business development, industry organizations, media and professional associations. This gives us a very comprehensive, very unique perspective into the challenges and requirements faced by DC area businesses, digital marketing staff and DC SEO companies as they evolve their marketing strategies.

The most challenging theme we see is the gap between the SEO skills a small business understands or can afford to hire, and the SEO skills truly relevant and necessary in the evolving 2014 DC SEO and online marketing environment. A large and growing inventory of SEO facets (like onsite metatags and content styling) are now commodity services readily offered by legions of cheap, low-skilled or offshore providers (think of an auto mechanic with just a few months of experience; they can change the oil, clean the car and install new headlamps, but …) These SEO facets are also standard offerings in most online content management tools and social media platforms, and can be implemented by the your newest social media or administrative intern (see easy-enablement of SEO visibility of widget text even if the browser's JavaScript is turned off) .

Therefore, addressing these common DC SEO facets is no longer a differentiator among competitive businesses – it’s simply a required cost of operating, a required skill for those who maintain websites. Particularly in this very high-tech, mobile, Internet-focused Washington DC community. 

Businesses must learn more, work harder and likely pay more to maintain market-share and relevance in the online marketing domain – much more skill and experience is required for SEO performance in this more complex environment. However, since small business budgets for online marketing really aren’t growing to meet the need (though the DC metro and Northern Virginia economy is turning around) – the role of the successful and most helpful small business DC SEO company begins to transition from a tactical services provider to more of a strategic, multi-faceted business counselor and IT investment advisor. With fantastic, empathetic communication skills.

Be sure your small business Northern Virginia or DC SEO company meets this profile, and can provide current, experienced business management, digital strategy and marketing consulting advice that’s pragmatically aligned to the commodity DC SEO block-and-tackling required.

Here's a brief summary of what we see are 10 significant themes in the online marketing and search engine optimization space, that DC area businesses, nonprofits, agencies and startups need to address in 2014.  

1. Natural, Accurate Language - is quickly becoming more accessible and desired by search engines, as they process very large amounts of unstructured information and data that increasingly exists within a predominantly artificial ecosystem of structured tags, markers, metadata, links....in other words, content that's readable, immediately useful and sharable to local, community culture and language dialect is incredibly important.

2. Simple Mobility - is the defacto device use case for our busy DC audiences and customers, notwithstanding "hands-free" legislation for commuters and the slow uptake of federal government mobile usage - but the desktop design sometimes is most effective for mobile tablet users, and the "responsive" cellphone design is sometimes not as effective as a standardized, small-screen design.  In other words, any web or content design you're considering needs first to consider the mobile needs of your primary audience segments, but needs not be overly complex.

3. Online Brand Consolidation - your primary branding signals or presence is manifested in a special image or video, an online persona, a message (text copy) or perhaps an interactive user interface (like a special app function), but it can quickly get lost, fragmented or devalued among the noise of competing SEO, website navigation,  device controls or user experience signals across the multi-channel path your customer takes to interact with you...in other words, simply and consolidate your branding signals so that they're instantly, easily, helpfully recognizable anywhere your content is used.

4. Knowledge Management - what really does this mean, isn't it some huge information organization and expert tracking system that only the biggest companies use?  Nope - it's simply finding out what your employees know, and figuring out how best to package and share this knowledge in a way that supports your marketing and communications. Call it "employment engagement" or "content harvesting" - your people (particularly DC-based, local, social residents) have lots to contribute, but will need some process control to do it successfully. It's ALSO semantic translation and tagging of content using metadata (invisible data, but resulting in visible indicators such as Google "snippets" or Twitter Cards) - this is definitely a more difficult yet extremely important to address.

5. Online Reviews – are incredibly important now, in this time where social recognition and community input heavily influence consumer choices, and these social signals in turn drive SEO performance and online reputation – but this can be a complex communications process to monitor and manage, with careful attention to search influence and audience feedback. Yelp is particularly difficult to manage - there are many other review sites and services that should be considered.

6. Online Asset Protection - how is your digital content monitored and protected from copyright infringement, duplication or misuse, brand dilution or highjacking, or other situations where competitors or gray-hat SEO firms are illegitimately benefiting from your hard work?  Inbound link and reputation monitoring is critical, as is the all-to-often-ignored process of updating, backing up and protecting both your content and web technology investments (including all the service widgets and plug-ins you've purchased).

7. Website Performance - while this has always been important, it's even more so in the age of mobility; content-heavy, responsive websites with data feeds and service integrations need to work fast on large or small screens - and Google will reward those that serve immediate, local demand the best. Website performance includes efficient security and privacy protections - protecting not only against malware and misuse, but also against content management errors that quickly become SEO faults. Don't forget to include an "Information Architect" on your web design team - a critical professional in our opinion for the next year. 

8. Authorship - the importance of canonical content attribution to recognized, popular or otherwise trustworthy, expert and credible sources is more important than ever right now - creating and publishing content will need to more often recognize individual personalities (or bodies of work) further legitimized via social media activity. No more hiding content behind the corporate voice, particularly for small businesses - engage your audience directly, personally, in both text and imagery.

9. Social Marketing over Social Media - there are thousands of people who are really good at using social media for socializing, and there will be millions more next year graduating from secondary schools around the world.  Few of these, however, can craft messages and conversations to align with marketing objectives and performance goals, in ways that are optimal for each social media platform, are professionally transparent, for each audience segment.  Don't confuse the two, and cloaking social marketing within online socializing will become more easy for search engines to spot (particularly with advances in big data tools).

10. Paid Placement - still works, and there are more tools and ad products than ever to leverage (from Google, Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, LivingSocial, Washingtonian; you name it) - so long as you know how to evaluate and use them, and your paid, placed content is appropriately identified. In fact, online paid advertising methods appear to be rapidly gaining usefulness even to the smaller budgets - and this carries over to the small screen as well, where inline content and product placement is much more acceptable than the traditional banner ads (which you can't see anyway).

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More Stories By Ted McLaughlan

Summary: Currently a Federal Enterprise Architect with Oracle, Ted has over 25 years in Commercial and Government Information Technology with University of Virginia, EDS, Accenture, KME Internet Marketing, Blackstone Technology Group, NavigationArts and CSC; additional focus recently on Interactive Design, Web 2.0 Internet Marketing, SEO, Social Media and Advertising. Specialties: Enterprise Architecture and Information Management, SOA/ESB, Enterprise Integration, Business Intelligence, Internet Safety and Security, Family Content Networks, Knowledge Management and Collaboration, User-Defined Operational Pictures/Common Operating Pictures (UDOP/COP), Situational Awareness, Portals, Internet Marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Website Design/Development and Optimization - Certified Systems Engineer - Certified Enterprise Solution Architect