If I could have any superpower in the world, if I could do ANYTHING to change the universe for the better, I would magically wipe every one’s mind of the old-school understanding of SEO and replace it with a focus on great experiences, unique content, and overall online helpfulness.
And perhaps I want this partially because I was raised in Florida where we try to always be helpful and even smile at strangers on the sidewalk. But mostly I want this because a great SEO strategy can often be the result of providing great experiences, sharing unique content and just being helpful.
Ok, so at this point you probably are thinking, “But Virginia, how can being helpful and providing a good experience improve my search rankings?” Well, the short answer is we’re changing our searching habits (once again).
But the long answer really has to do with understanding not just searchers but the platform so many of us search on (Google).
Now to understand Google a little better, you have to look at it from two perspectives: the business (your) perspective and a searcher’s perspective.
From the business perspective:
First, let’s go back and revisit what life was like a few years ago – some old-school SEO mentality.
Old-school SEO relied heavily on optimized websites and link building, which isn’t that different from today. What is different is this; you had to make sure your website had a BUNCH of your keywords in your page titles, meta descriptions, meta keywords and image alt-text. You had to also stuff all those keywords within your on-page content too. And if you can buy a couple thousand links to your site even if they are COMPLETELY unrelated to your business, you might spike to the top.
The key indicator of success for this type of SEO was often your #1 ranking for a specific list of keywords.
Now let’s come back to present day – Google’s algorithm (which is really just another word for formula) has become more complex. It doesn’t rely so heavily on just the information you provide through your website (like your on-page content, page titles, meta descriptions and so on). Google now pairs the information you provide with information on the rest of the web, like on your business’s google+ account and from websites linking to yours. And by doing this, it is really putting things into context. The optimist in me wants to also think that Google does this to give their users a better experience.
And a key indicator of success for this type of SEO is the amount of site visitors, leads, and customers.
From the searcher’s perspective:
When it comes to understanding the searcher’s perspective you first need to know that search results for a user aren’t just based on what they type into that Google search box anymore. Google can (and does) use your location, the content in your gmail inbox, your previous searches, your recent youtube views, and more to come up with custom search results for you.
This is actually pretty awesome because we can do things like just search brunch and there’s results based on your current location. But this also means that I’m now just typing in “bottomless mimosas” instead of a longtail keyword like “bottomless mimosas brunch midtown, houston, tx”. So that long-tail keyword strategy that you were using with those old-school SEO tactics, probably aren’t going to be so effective today.
So with all these changes on how Google views your site, decides how to rank it, and and what results to show for what users, how do you navigate the world of SEO today?
In short, eat, sleep and breathe Inbound Marketing.
You should be doing things like:
Building a website that makes sense to your users. Have a simple navigation that uses your visitor’s language. Use page titles and other meta tags that actually explain what is on that page. And throughout your site, provide value that makes visitors want to come back for more.
Creating unique, great content. Do it consistently and as much as you can. And once again, talk in your visitor’s language when doing it.
Sharing content. Share your stuff and the content of any company that support your success. Share it where your customers are and where your potential customers are.
Building relationships and ultimately a community. Whether on social media, through email, on the phone, in person, or where ever you can – build and nurture relationships. Help people out when you can and let them inspire your marketing.
By doing all these things, a great SEO strategy should fall into place.
So here’s my challenge to you for 2014: focus on your leads and customers needs and wants instead. It’s not about you; it’s about them. What are you going to change in 2014 to give your website visitors and customers a better experience?