So far in this series we’ve discussed website design, navigation and usability. These are all very important. But what if no one finds your site???
Your website needs visitors in order to be successful. And those people need to be the right type of visitors if you hope to achieve your conversion goals (sales, new members, attendees, etc). To reach your target audience, your site needs to be optimized for search so they can find it. This is called search engine optimization or SEO.
Whether users are on a desktop searching in Google or walking around the park talking to Siri like a crazy person, they are using search to find answers to their questions…
- What should I have for dinner tonight?
- What software will help me track sales leads?
- Where should I send my child to preschool?
Search engines are inundated with queries every second of every day. You need to have a focused and strategic SEO plan to break through the clutter so that your target audience can find you quickly and easily.
SEO is a discipline that has been written about exhaustively. At the end of this article I will provide a list of SEO resources because one blog post is not going to give you all the information you need succeed with SEO.
With that said, I want to focus on the core principles of SEO that should remain constant, no matter what your overall SEO strategy might be. Those principles are as follows:
- Content is KING!
- Keywords are critical but so are user profiles
- Frequency and relevance are your secret weapons
- Don’t try to outsmart Google!
Content is KING!
You’ve probably heard this before, a lot. The reason is that it’s true. Content, now more than ever, is very important to your website’s success. It’s what the search engines use to rank your website. What we are talking about is Content Marketing. According to the Content Marketing Institute:
“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
A big piece of content marketing is the content you include on your owned properties – your website and blog. These pieces of content contain keywords (we’ll get to this in a second) that your clients are looking for. The more keywords you have in your content, the better chances you have of getting a favorable listing in Google, within reason.
If content is King, context is Supreme Leader. Simply pumping keyword rich content into your website is not going to get you ranked. There needs to be a specific relevance to this (more on that in a bit). The content has to solve a problem or fill a need.
Google’s bots are smart enough to know whether or not certain content is more useful to the target than others. The quality of your content is just as, if not more, important that the quantity.
Keywords are critical but so are user profiles
Keywords are the words and phrases that your target audience uses in search queries to find you. Let’s use a very simple example to illustrate this point…
- You are a plumber in Baltimore, MD.
- Your keywords might be “pipe repair, Baltimore, MD”
You just add the words “pipe repair” and “Baltimore, MD” to your content about a 1,000 times and you’re all set, right? Nope. What you really need to consider here is context.
What is happening with this keyword rich content? Well, it is going to get “spidered” by Google – the process that Google uses to crawl the web looking for quality sites to list. And this content is going to be read by your potential clients. In both of these cases, the content needs to be clear, concise and relevant.
- Your users need to see the solution in your content and not a bunch of repeated words and phrases. User experience is just as important as content because if the content is a mess, the user is gone. All those keywords are immediately rendered ineffective.
- Google is just as finicky as your users. They want to deliver page results to their users that those users find useful. If you know who your users are, you know what they want and can deliver it with your content. Google will give the quality sites a better ranking, this includes content and user experience.
The more you know your target audience and what their needs are, the better you will be at developing content that meets those needs. Identifying a list of keywords that your audience will be searching for is step one. Using those keywords to develop content that solves those users’ problems is steps 2, 3, 4…
You need to optimize for keywords AND the target audience.
Frequency and relevance are your secret weapon
Knowing you need content, and knowing that your content needs to have an appropriate amount of keywords in it is going to help you to gain search engine visibility. But, there is so much more you can do.
Just placing a finite amount of quality, keyword rich content on your site is not enough. You want to establish an ongoing content marketing campaign where you are placing relevant and timely content on your website on a regular basis.
Knowing what your users need combined with seasonal factors like holidays, hot topics and your own events/announcements/milestones, you can develop an editorial calendar for your content marketing efforts. This way you are prepared to generate the exact type of relevant content your target audience needs when they need it.
Google likes fresh, relevant content. If you are producing this type of content on a regular basis, studies show that Google will crawl your site more often and will rank you more favorably. With a steady stream of fresh content you now have fuel for other marketing efforts.
There are lots of things you can do with this content. But, from an SEO standpoint, the efforts that prove most effective include:
- Blog syndication – feeding your content to other industry blogs. Do some searches for blogs in your industry and see if they offer guest blogging or blog syndication. This is great for creating backlinks to your content.
- Social media marketing – use your content to feed your social efforts on sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. This creates social signals that the engines use to rank your content’s popularity.
- Google+ – Google is making it no secret that sharing your content through Google+ will help your search rankings tremendously. In Google at least.
Don’t try to outsmart Google!
If you do you will get smacked! Seriously, that’s what it’s called when you use tactics that Google deems to be “bad”. You get smacked. This could mean a slight drop or severe plummet in rankings.
Don’t try to figure out some sneaky way to cheat the system. Instead, be aware of what Google wants and expects from websites and do this. It’s no secret what they want, they tell you right there on their blog.
The people at Google (and Bing for that matter) are very smart. Google is the number one search engine not because they buy every small company on the planet or because they have cool offices in Mountain View, but because they are constantly updating and refining their product to deliver the highest quality results.
Don’t try to game the system. You can’t win. Instead work on optimizing for the user with quality, relevant and timely content contained within a targeted user experience.
What are your biggest challenges with SEO? Let me know in the comments section below.
Useful SEO Resources
- Search Engine Land
- Search Engine Roundtable
- Search Engine Journal
- Content Marketing Institute
Do you need help with SEO? We can help.