This blog introduced the concept of web presence optimization (WPO) back in 2010. The idea was to extend search engine optimization (SEO) more broadly. SEO was (and is) about being found at the top of search results. WPO was and is about being found everywhere online where your prospects are looking for what you offer.
The concept of being everywhere online gave this blog its logical (though hard to spell) name.
Of course, the Internet has changed a lot since then. For example, microsites are no longer a productive tactic, other than for special-purpose uses such as new product launches or event promotion (in conjunction with paid advertising).
Using article marketing, reputation management, or social bookmarking for SEO stopped working years ago. Sites and services like Plaxo, PeoplePond, Netlog, Buzzle.com, and StumbleUpon no longer exist.
Whether to create your company blog in a subdirectory or as a subdomain was once a serious debate, but that dilemma has long been settled by the overwhelming SEO benefits of going the subdirectory (or subfolder) route. Directory links no longer matter much (though building out your Google My Business profile is vital).
But the WPO approach is more popular than ever. A Google search on “web presence optimization” yields more than 150 million results. It’s just the tactics that have evolved over time.
Here’s a quick look at the origins of WPO and which channels, tactics, and media matter most today for establishing online omnipresence.
Web Presence Optimization: The Origins
WPO started as an attempt to weave together the different strands of digital marketing in its early days. Search engine optimization (SEO) had already been around for more than a decade, and blogging for almost as long, but the web was changing.
People were trying to find a new term for how to become “findable” online. The phrase “search plus social” was popular for a brief time, but was quickly recognized as too limited. “Search plus social plus content” was a bit more comprehensive, but also awkward. It didn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
There were also other strands to weave in: online reputation management (ORM), media sharing (video on YouTube, podcasts on iTunes, photos on Flickr, presentations on Slideshare), and social public relations (PR).
WPO was a framework and acronym to bring it all together. In the beginning, the model looked visually like this:
The colored lines show how each individual tactic reinforced others. This model actually worked quite well for a while.
But as search engine algorithms evolved (changing content marketing and making social bookmarking less helpful), a handful of social networks grew dominant (especially in the B2B space), and reputation management became largely reduced to LinkedIn and Twitter (plus maybe PeopleBrowsr and about.me), the WPO model had to adapt as well.
Web Presence Optimization: The Evolution
As the WPO model was refined, there was a shift from thinking about tactics to the different types or categories of a brand’s online “presence.”
The refined WPO framework (shown below) did two important things. First, it clearly identified five channels, or types of presence, marketers needed to focus on. Second, it introduced the elemental workflow cycle of content marketing: plan, create, promote, measure (repeat).
This diagram also introduced the ACKTT framework for content marketing strategy based on audience needs, competitors’ actions, high-potential keywords, hot industry topics, and content production tactics (formats).
Once again, this approach to WPO worked well for a while. But then, news releases lost their SEO impact. Reviews moved largely to a dozen or so top software review sites. And it become clear there were still pieces missing from the model (such as email marketing).
Web Presence Optimization: The Present
In 2014, author and PR pro Gini Dietrich introduced the PESO model of media types:
- Paid media (advertising)
- Earned media (press / media relations, influencer marketing)
- Shared media (social media marketing)
- Owned media (content development and SEO)
The third-generation WPO model borrowed from and expanded upon that model, adding a fifth media type, “managed” (for prospect marketing activities such as email marketing, live events, surveys, customer community sites, and surveys).
This framework also made the content marketing cycle (plan, develop, distribute, analyze) more explicit, and called out tasks within each area. For example, content strategy development starts with creating buyer personas, then addressing the topics (problems or pain points) they care most about, and leading them to take action (subscribe to a blog/newsletter/podcast, download an eBook, register for a webinar, schedule a demo, etc.).
Expanding the model by adding managed media made the model more complete but screwed up the acronym (PESOM? EPSOM?). A bit of further refinement led to the current best practice model for WPO, the POSEEE approach:
- Paid advertising (Google search/display/remarking ads, LinkedIn sponsored posts, Facebook ads, native advertising, etc.)
- Owned content (website and blog)
- Shared (social) media
- Earned media (industry press, analysts, associations, partners, vertical sites, influencers)
- Email marketing (outbound, lead nurturing, customer communications)
- Event marketing (live, virtual, and hybrid)
This captures the current elements of web visibility and engagement pretty effectively. And as the interactive graphic above shows, the marketing technology landscape has expanded to include tools that help in each step of the content marketing process.
Web Presence Optimization: The Future
While there’s no question the future will bring some unforeseeable changes, there are at least three clear trends which will impact the ongoing evolution of WPO: expanded content repurposing, greater use of artificial intelligence (AI), and buyer engagement.
Content Repurposing and “Multi-Formatting”
The notion of repurposing content is nothing new, of course. Buffer published their ultimate guide to content repurposing back in 2014. But in the near future, this practice will be kicked into a new gear.
Content marketers are increasing faced with a paradox: mundane, low-quality content is inexpensive to produce, but not worth even the modest cost. At best it will accomplish little, and at worst it may actually damage your brand image.
High-quality content gets results, but it’s expensive to produce. Marketers face growing pressure to produce both more content and higher quality content, but without commensurate budget increases. The only way to do this is to get more mileage out of each piece of really great content.
This means, in practice, producing something like a high-value ebook or original research report, and then repurposing portions of the content into various formats such as:
- Multiple blog posts
- An infographic (check out this ultimate guide to designing infographics that really stand out)
- Multiple guest blog posts
- A video (or more than one)
- A podcast episode (or more than one)
- A webinar (which may be the basis of a video and podcast episode)
- A sequence of emails
- A live presentation
- Multiple social media posts, promoting your blog posts, guest posts, video(s), podcast episode(s), webinar, and live presentation.
The process may seem exhaustingly repetitious to the marketers executing on it, but keep in mind that different prospects consume different types of media. In addition, prospects don’t see everything you produce. They don’t remember everything they see. And hearing the same message, in different formats, reinforces belief in your brand message.
Content Marketing AI
We are (probably) still a long way from having AI that can produce compelling, thought-provoking, original content. So, talented writers who have technical industry knowledge are safe in their jobs. For now.
That said, the technology is being used in an increasing array of AI-based marketing and sales tools, to help them work better. For example, email service provider SendSquared uses AI to help its customers craft more effective email subject lines and optimize send times. Click360 applies AI to your CRM system to predict which prospects are most ready to buy.
Web analytics tool PaveAI analyzes millions of possible combinations of Google Analytics data, in just minutes, to find actionable correlations. And video creation tool Squigl uses AI to associate animated images from its library with keywords selected from text you upload. Those images are human-drawn or rendered “in accordance with neuroscientific guidelines for maximum attention and retention.”
AI will continue to be applied in new ways to help repurpose existing content and promote it more effectively.
Engagement and Interactivity
The POSEEE model outlined above may need yet another “e” added to the end, for “engagement.”
Today’s sales prospects, buyers, and researchers don’t want to merely be passive audiences or consumers of information. They want to be part of the process. That’s why influencer marketing, unboxing videos, and user reviews have become so popular (both from a production and consumption standpoint).
It’s why interactive graphics like the Website Visibility and Engagement framework shown above, and viewer controlled 3D virtual tours created using tools like ThingLink, are displacing static images and infographics.
And it’s why the unconference format is becoming increasing popular for events, and old school webinar tools are being displaced by virtual event platforms like Shindig that turn “attendees” into “participants” who can choose how and when to engage with presenters and other participants, one on one or in small groups, just like at real-world live events.
The future will bring new ways for buyers to become active participants in brand content marketing rather than passive consumers of information.
Web Presence Optimization: The Summary
Clearly, the fundamental premise of WPO, that brands should seek to “be everywhere online—where prospects are looking for what you have to sell” hasn’t lost any importance over time.
What has changed are the specific tactics, content formats, and media channels that matter most. Microsites, online reputation management, article marketing, and social bookmarking are no longer vital or effective tactics (and may not even be familiar to Millennials or Gen Zers just getting into this realm).
Content marketing strategy, sophisticated SEO, social media, and influencer marketing are the key elements of successful WPO today.
In the near-term future, content repurposing and reformatting, AI, and interactivity all seem likely to play a larger role. Beyond those developments lie technological and sociological changes not yet envisioned.
But until we advance beyond the Internet, whatever that may mean—the harnessing of universal mental telepathy, perhaps?—the concept of WPO will remain vital.