Isn’t Online Audience Optimization ( OAO ) Just Another Acronym for Good SEO ?

I typically avoid those “SEO is Dead” articles that keeps floating up in the social feeds on and off, however, recently one of them caught my attention with the mention of  “Long Live OAO”.  “Wow! Another shiny new acronym to throw around in every conversation”, I thought and went on to read it. And of course I didn’t want to be left out on the latest digital marketing trend that is supposedly going to replace SEO.

So I read on and here is a summary of what I found….

What is Online Audience Optimization ( OAO)

The term OAO seems to have been coined by Linda Ruth ( sorry, I never heard of her before). As per her article, OAO is “search and engagement optimization expressly designed for publishers”. It is a way to use social media, mobile apps and your website content in a way that is useful and accessible to users and not just to search engines. It also deals with how to maximize the transactions from your website visitors.

online audience optimization

Tips for Online Audience Optimization

In one of her other articles, she provides some tips for OAO, which to summarize are as follows :

    1. Focus on the brand
    2. Be consistent and clear about your strategy and purpose
    3. Cast a wide net ( referring to target audience)
    4. At the same time cast a targeted net ( referring to target audience)
    5. Encourage audience participation
    6. Employ engagement mechanics and gamification techniques
    7. Integrate your mobile strategy
    8. Don’t obsess about keyword density
    9. De-emphasize meta tagging

However, I was completely dumbfounded by her claim “OAO also adds the element of branding to SEO. SEO can use any keyword, any search term, to entice traffic to a site. Is the anchor text appropriate to the publisher’s brand? Is the SEO work done throughout the content sharing and social media world consistent in brand and message? These are concerns, ignored by SEO, embraced by OAO.”

Seriously?? I have no idea why would a SEO, who is worth is salt ignore those points.

Let’s take a deeper look. In summary, what OAO or online audience engagement preaches is that you have a clear and concrete strategy that is communicated across all departments and business functions and following the same you develop content, which is syndicated using social media to bring users to your website. The content quality should be good enough to be useful to your visitors and get them engaged. On top of this there is a pinch of mobile focus ( yes, we all know its a multi screen world today and responsive is the way to go).

I completely fail to see how is this different from a modern and sensible SEO practice. If saying “don’t obsess about keyword density” and “de-emphasize meta tagging” makes it different from SEO, I am afraid the advocates for OAO has probably never stepped beyond the 90’s way of doing SEO.

Google has never asked people to write keyword rich content; neither did they ever ask people to build links. They have always said build content that is useful to the users. They have definitely used keywords in content to understand relevance. People might link to useful content and they use those links as signals to identify relevance and usefulness of the content based on which the rankings are done. Now under this context, we SEO s have tried every possible way to game the algorithm with various forms of keyword usage and link “building” techniques which has very recently seen its demise with Panda and Penguin.

Any good SEO has however always banked on content and that is what it is even today, whether  you are calling it SEO, OAO or some other funky name. Of course with the increasing importance of Social media and the open secret about search engine algorithms factoring in social signals, it is only natural that any marketer would get their content distributed through social media – there’s really nothing new to it.

The focus towards user centric content is not new either, while search engines have been preaching for the same for some pretty long time, the actual focus shifted onto this part with the advent of social media a few years back or even before that with the launch of bookmarking sites like Digg which would not only provide server crashing traffic but will convert your content to a link magnet – IF you could serve the content that appealed to the users ( and not necessarily to search engines).

While I do appreciate the principles of OAO – a focused content strategy that conveys the right and uniform brand message to your audience in a form they like/engage them and then leveraging social media to increase your reach and brand presence, I don’t see any reason why we should be considering it to be the death of SEO or need a new name like Online Audience Optimization for this. Has it not always been for the users ?

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