Search Engine Optimization July 16th, 2015
I’m a Search Engine Optimizer. I deal with SEO content all day at work, advise my friends on how to better optimize their websites in my spare time, run my own fully SEO’d DIY blog, and even teach SEO classes to small business owners in Toronto.
Even with all of that in mind, I still agree with a comment I often hear in my industry: SEO is dead.
Before I go any further, hold off on sending that e-mail to your Internet marketing company requesting to cancel your SEO services. SEO in the traditional sense may be dead, but a new, more evolved, and more important SEO has taken its place.
When search engines first began programming their algorithms to read a website’s SEO, they’d look for certain indicators as to what the website was about. Repeatedly using keywords, collecting endless links from directories, and stuffing the names of services or products in their META descriptions all but guaranteed a cushy spot on SERPs. Before it became a competitive industry, SEO was a relatively easy game.
That SEO – the world of stuffing and manipulating and stuffing again – is dead. What’s left is a smorgasbord of more advanced ranking signals, white-hat tactics and, most importantly, a great UX for anyone visiting your website.
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Even though search engines have evolved well beyond static tactics of the past, there are still several strong strategies that need to be deployed on your website. First and foremost is the backbone of your SEO: comprehensive, thorough keyword research.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my SEO career is that your targeted keywords can make or break your online success. If you’re targeting the wrong keywords, you’ll attract the wrong audience, which will either lead to no sales or, equally worse, a high bounce rate.
Google’s Webmaster Tools, KeywordTool.io and SEO Chat’s Keyword Tool are just a few resources you can use to find out what people are actually searching for online and how they’re searching for it. Once you have a list of desired keywords, you can find a balance of ones with a large enough audience and a small enough amount of competition. Those will be the money keywords that you can use to create a strong and easily-dominatable SEO structure.
The step-two of your tried and true comes in with what you do with those keywords. Having them in areas like your title tags, H1s and body content will give Google and other search engines the proper information about your site, while including them in other areas like your META will help potential visitors better understand why your website is the one they’ve been looking for.
Although these tactics aren’t groundbreaking in any sense, they’ve proven to be valuable, effective, and even essential to successful SEO efforts.
Unfortunately even in doing all that, it’s not usually enough to rank in the top spots. There’s simply too much competition online and considering a majority of that competition will be taking additional efforts to push their site into the #1 position, you have to be willing to support your efforts in the world of “new SEO” if you want to be found online.
Although not all of these are official ranking factors in algorithms as they stand today, they will result in a more involved audience, a stronger brand focus, and a better overall website.
If you’re blogging on your website (which, if you’re not blogging, leave this article right now and go start a blog), you obviously want the article to be shared with as many people as possible. And why wouldn’t it be? You’re a leader in your industry and you’ve said something interesting. It should be shared with as many people as possible!
The title of your article should fill two jobs: it should give the reader an idea as to what the post is about to ensure you’re attracting the right audience and it should promote interest without being seen as “clickbait.”
What’s clickbait? You know those articles with headlines like, “A 5-year-old Boy Takes the Stage. You’ll Never Believe What Happens When he opens his Mouth!”? That’s clickbait. They’re article headlines written with the sole intention to suck in readers.
The problem with clickbait is that the article never lives up to the expectation. Sure there might be a video of a cute kid singing, but the content more often than not falls flat of expectations, leaving the audience disappointed, and unlikely to return.
Instead, you want to write a headline that teases the meat and potatoes of your article in an interesting, honest way. Think about what your target demographic would want to know about and tailor your content accordingly.
A great and simple way to do this is to pose your headline in the form of a frequently asked question and answer that question in the content. That alone is going to be enough encouragement for curious eyes to click on your article and will provide Google and other search engines with rich, valuable, and keyword-driven content.
Writing for the web is completely unlike writing for print because online users read websites in a different way.
Studies have shown that when people glance at content on a website, they do just that: glance. A majority of people will simply skim a page, looking for key information to answer their pressing questions about the subject.
The first rule of thumb when writing for web is simple: ditch the mega-paragraphs. You want short, easily readable paragraphs that won’t overload your reader with a wall of text.
Next, break up what you can in different headers. If a reader is only interested in a certain aspect of your article, it will help them navigate the page and find that information easier, creating a better UX and ultimately creating a returning visitor.
Photos and bulletin points also offer a great visual way to help breakup the page in a cleaner, more easily digestible way.
By making your content as simple as possible, you’ll keep readers attention longer, will encourage more social shares, and will be winning the first and biggest challenge of the new SEO game.
Online viewers want to get the most information possible, in the easiest way possible. In most cases, that means watching a video instead of reading an article.
If you can summarize a long article with a 30 second video, you’ll increase the percentage of interested viewers and will be giving yourself the opportunity to increase your SEO.
How? Including a video sitemap on your website will give search engines an entirely different way to crawl your site or even simply transcribing the video within the post will make use of those keywords you used organically in your speech.
When it comes to blogs, you always want to be answering the questions currently being asked. That way, you can talk to an already interested audience and provide them with rich, valuable content Google and other search engines love.
FAQ posts have been long-time favourites of those practicing this tactic, but new SEO practices dictate that Q&A posts are likely going to be more beneficial to your brand.
What’s the difference? Well, it’s all in the article prep and user engagement.
With FAQ posts, you’re taking a question you get a lot and writing a blog to answer it. With Q&A posts, you’re giving the audience a chance to interact with your brand and become a part of the article itself.
When preparing to write your article, turn to your social media fans and followers and ask them what questions they have about your company or your industry in general. Let them know that you’ll be answering questions in a blog post and try to promote as much engagement as possible.
Once you have a few fan questions, write a blog answering each query directly. You’ll have great content that you know your audience has interest in and you’ll have an incredibly easy time promoting it after it’s complete.
Simply tweet, Facebook message, or otherwise notify the question asker that you’ve answered their query, send them the link, and voila! A super easy marketing tactic that’s guaranteed to attract an involved readership. Chances are, they’ll not only read it, but they’ll share it themselves, increasing the overall reach of your article.
You can even do FAQ posts on an ongoing basis as an Ask the Expert series. This will build upon the initial interest each time you tease a new installment and will all but guarantee a strong social reaction to your posts.
Okay okay, in rankings you might be #1, but when it comes to your content, you’re not. Your audience is and you have to remember that.
Each and every post you publish online should directly benefit your audience. Is it something they’d find interesting enough to share? Something they’d find touching enough to like? Something they’d actually get use out of? If you can answer yes to these questions, then your content is serving its purpose.
Most businesses see blogging as a chance to simply promote their product or service, but there’s no ‘new SEO’ value to doing that. If you’re only posting content for the sake of making sales, then you have to set your expectations to get no social shares, no client interaction, and generally no attention to the article you worked so hard to write.
Be interesting! Write about topics people care about in a way that will keep them entertained and engaged. Invest time in traditional SEO practices, but also feed into newer and more reader-focused aspects of SEO, as well. SEO is a competitive industry, but that doesn’t mean that each and every business doesn’t have a fighting chance at the coveted #1 spots.
Have any ideas other ideas on new SEO tactics? Let our team know and we’ll share them in our next post!