Why You Need to Use SEO Outside of Google

The customer journey doesn’t start and end on Google.

Written by Kelly Ayres
Published on Jun. 07, 2024
Why You Need to Use SEO Outside of Google
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When I say we’re in a revolutionary era of SEO, most people immediately think I’m talking about SGE — search generative experience, also known as generative AI, results popping up in the SERPs. That is indeed a transformative shift in the SEO industry, but it’s not where I’m focusing with my clients.

3 Reasons to Expand SEO Beyond Google

  1. Users crave the authenticity and first-party perspectives found on platforms like Quora, TikTok and Reddit.
  2. User-generated content is a great counterpoint to the AI-produced content on Google.
  3. Diversification can reap benefits because Google is prioritizing first-party perspectives from other platforms in its rankings.

These days, much of my SEO work – building awareness and branding – happens on platforms like Reddit, Quora and TikTok. Those platforms are uniquely oriented to address recent trends in user behavior. They’re also feeding neatly into some of Google’s recent (non-SGE) areas of emphasis.

In this post, I’ll examine how user behavior has changed in recent years, the new levers to pull (user-generated content, forums, communities) to find and engage today’s users, and what Google is very clearly telling SEOs will matter in 2024 and beyond (hint: it’s spelled E-E-A-T).

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What Today’s Users Want

Today’s users value community, authenticity and personalized content.

No longer can brands get away with issuing empty statements to celebrate occasions like Pride Month and Earth Day and then conducting business that runs counter to those interests. Users won’t tolerate stale practices like unsegmented, irrelevant email campaigns or content that shows no empathy for their specific needs or challenges.

But it’s not all about mistakes to avoid. Brands, their leaders and their advocates can and should actively participate on platforms and via media that lets authenticity shine through and builds communities using first-person perspectives.

How to Reach Today’s Users

Brands and their thought leaders have a range of options for connecting with users through less polished, more personal content. This can be media channels like Quora or Reddit, where individuals can share unfiltered views; platforms like TikTok that provide powerful showcases for UGC (user-generated content); or smaller brand- or industry-specific discussion boards.

On Reddit and Quora, for example, we’ve worked with several clients to establish a presence that helps them achieve a number of KPIs. On Reddit, brand spokespeople can drill down into relevant subreddits, find topics that they can speak to with authority and without obvious sales agendas, host ask me anythings (AMAs) and create valuable, insightful, first-person content that has a good shot at showing up in the SERPs for related keywords.

These platforms have a lot to offer brands that play by the rules and respect user expectations. That means following community guidelines, providing insight and avoiding spammy and overt sales pitches that will draw the ire of users.

Depending on your brand’s industry, there may be an opportunity to build a community of users who can contribute to a topic whether or not they use your product or service. One example is Running Warehouse’s Talk Running forum for discussing all things running is open to all users and carries a Top 10 ranking in Google’s SERPs.

The other trend to emerge in the last few years is UGC, the less-produced, less-filtered nature of which stands in sharp contrast to slick, corporate brand content. UGC and the rise of TikTok are somewhat intertwined, but brands can leverage UGC in a variety of ways, from TikTok and Instagram ads to organic social content to customer reviews, stories, photos and videos you can use on any of your owned properties. UGC is, by its nature, more relatable and trustworthy than any content produced by a brand or its employees, which makes it a powerful lever in helping brands embrace authenticity.

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Why Google’s E-E-A-T Matters

About three years ago, Google introduced E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness). It isn’t exactly a ranking factor, but it is something its search raters used to evaluate ranking systems. At the end of 2022, Google added another E (Experience) to the acronym.

Even if it’s not an official ranking factor, E-E-A-T sets forth some characteristics of content that Google is now very obviously prioritizing. Recent releases including hidden gems, discussions and forums and Perspectives; the fact that off-platform content (from Reddit, Quora, TikTok, and more) is starting to dominate search results shows Google is serious about giving users more authentic, first-party content. 

Brands can do plenty on their websites to build E-E-A-T that will appeal to Google. Blogs that feature detailed author pages and showcase user stories are a smart play, as are About Us pages that provide lots of details about a brand’s founding story and mission. 

Social proof in the form of awards, certifications and user testimonials are an imperative for brand websites at this point. They certainly give users who reach a brand’s site more confidence that they’re in good hands, even if they do not help a brand rank higher in the SERPs.

Don’t abandon social media, though: Optimize and maintain social media profiles to serve as reference points for users.

Ultimately, a customer journey doesn’t start and end on Google, and a brand’s approach to engaging users shouldn’t stay confined to Google either. It might take some research to determine the best avenues and methods to reach your desired users, and it will definitely take a strategic adjustment if you’re used to relying on bland brandspeak. 

As the age of AI and SGE takes hold, the best bet to stand out is to make your brand as personal and human as you can.

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