SEO. It’s like some mysterious activity of Google that no one is “allowed” to know.
“Expert” techies do follow Google algorithms as they are developed and revised and are able to provide content writers with information that is certainly useful. And Google also provides some information as its algorithms evolve, and those hints are useful too. But many content writers are still frustrated trying to keep up, some even now stating that SEO is no longer relevant.
Of course, this is not the case. Consumers still search for products or services via search engines, whether that is by typing or voice, and they do expect results that will be valuable and directly related to their searches.
The bottom line? SEO is still alive and well. And any business that wants to be found when consumers conduct searches needs to do those things that will put their content as high up on rankings as possible. Most searchers do not go beyond the first page of search results.
The Evolution of Search Engine Indexing
When Google was born, it wanted to be the place where people could search for products, services and information among websites that had established their online presences. The original idea was simple. Users would type in a keyword or two that related to their searches, and Google would return results of sites or other content that had lots of those keywords in their texts.
Of course, marketers picked up on this right away, and realized that the way to pop up on that first page of results was to “stuff” their content with those keywords – the more the better. Value of a website came to be related to how many times a couple of keywords could be inserted. The result, of course, was that searchers got a lot of not-so-valuable results and had to spend time going through lots of sites that were really not what they wanted.
Google wised up, as did consumers. Over time, consumers became more detailed with their searches, adding more words (phrases) to narrow their searches down. Google was now searching for sites and other content that had those more detailed words/phrases, in order to provide better results.
All of this led to content marketers/writers looking for the most popular keywords/phrases that related to their niches and trying to use them as often as possible, even when they did not fit well into what was being written.
Google has responded over time through more sophisticated technology – technology that now evaluates websites and other content via many other factors. Its bots now crawl through the web, indexing and ranking based on a number of factors, a big one being the type and value of the content that is produced for users. Just the right keywords won’t cut it anymore. There must be much more for consumers to “chew on” if a business wants a high ranking.
So how do you design, write and publish content that makes Google happy? Well, here are six tips that should help you do just that.
Write for Your Audience Not for Yourself
Thinly-disguised sales pitches won’t cut it with consumers anymore. And they won’t cut it with Google. When companies create content just for sales, they are writing only for themselves. Consumers, on the other hand, want to be educated and informed; they want to be entertained; and they want to be inspired. They want their needs and wants to count, and they will do business with companies who put their needs first, with content they find valuable in some way.
When consumers like the content a marketer provides, they stay longer on that site or page; they also return for more and share it with their tribes who then come as well. These types of metrics are indexed by search bots.
So, when your content pleases your customers and potential customers, you will also please Google.
Digging Deeper into Your Customer Base Should Drive Content
You now know that content is all about your customer. But how do you know who that customer is? Traditionally, marketers develop customer personas – demographics of their typical customer, such as gender, educational level, geographic locations, lifestyle, income levels, etc.
But there are now data collections tools that can go much deeper into audience bases, and these should be used. While data science is a relatively new technology, there are the means now to collect oceans of data from all over the web. While this was at first reserved for expensive data scientists, there are now services and tools that can gather this data and answer specific questions that marketers may want to be answered. Such data will analyze purchasing behaviors, pain points, and even predict future purchasing behaviors. And it will delve deeper into demographics too. All of this information can be used to develop strategies, topics, and venues for content.
The goal is to produce content that will be most popular with a large base of potential customers, based upon who they are, where they hang out, and what they really want. It will also provide answers to the types of products and services they most value, the types of companies they want to patronize, and even the keyword phrases they most use when they search for products and services.
Do the Keyword Research but Be Smart
Yes, keywords do still matter, especially long-tail phrases. So, do your research and discover the most popular ones for your niche. There are any number of tools for this. And run “tests” on those you are considering.
Once you decide on some keywords, use them sparingly and only as they naturally fit within the text you are creating. Use them in the title of your article, in the meta description, and perhaps one other place within the text. If a keyword will not fit naturally within your context, just don’t use it.
Choose Content Type Based Upon Audience
Now that you have a deeper understanding of your audience, you also should know what types of content will appeal to them. But, in all cases, and with all demographics (except perhaps in cases of researchers and scientists speaking to one another), the average consumer of your product or service wants to see about it, not read about it.
And given that the percentages of searches on mobile devices has now surpassed those on PC’s, why would you want to publish walls of text for them to read on a small screen, on the go, and, in most cases, impatient to be educated, entertained, or inspired?
So be visual. It’s one of the reasons Instagram is so popular.
When Nathan Chan launched his entrepreneurship magazine, Foundr, he decided to market it on Instagram. He wanted first to inspire budding entrepreneur through a theme. So, he came up with quotes and superimposed them on a background of great photos. He posted several times a day, and the word spread quickly. Within 3 months he had over 100K followers. Subscriptions rolled in. He “nailed” what would resonate with his audience.
We’ve come a long way visually in the world of content. Today, your content can include photos, graphics, drawings, videos, AR in real time, VR, and full interactivity with your audience. In fact, research clearly shows that our brains process and retain visual information 60,000 times faster and better than textual.
When you present as much of your content visually as you possibly can, the chances of your visitors staying with you, sharing your content, and coming back for more increases. And that makes Google sit up and take notice.
The other aspect of types of content relates to voice, style, and tone. You have a brand and your brand has a “personality.” A seller of funeral plans or caskets will not have the same “voice” as one who sells kids’ toys. Find your own voice and use it consistently throughout all of your content. And these two sellers will not have the same audience. Your style and tone must be engaging for your audience too.
Check out this explainer video by “Dollar Shave Club,” a company that began with a subscription-based program for razor blades. The founders Dubin and Levine identified a need gap of their audience – the inconvenience of not always having clean disposable razors, forgetting to stop at the store to get some, etc. Through this company, men could order a subscription service and receive new razors in their mailboxes each month. The audience was primarily millennial, and the first explainer video was perfect for them. (It only cost $2500 to produce, by the way). The voice was perfect.
The video went viral, as did the business itself. Again, Google sat up and took notice.
When you must use text, make sure it is creative, engaging, and compelling. If you are not that type of writer, then get some help from professionals. Many writing services, such as WowGrade or Studicus, have entire departments related to creative copywriting. As well, there are a huge number of successful freelancers, through sites like Upwork, who can produce this type of content for you.
Conduct Regular Technical Audits of Your Website and Every Page You Publish
Google does index on the technical aspects of content too. Getting content quickly and easily means that consumers want your site and every page too load quickly without any glitches. How your content gets delivered is a key element of its value. If your videos load slowly and are constantly buffering, your visitors will bounce and go somewhere else. If pages load too slowly, they will also leave. Search engines take note of these things too.
Conducting an audit of the technical aspects of your content delivery on every possible device is critical to SEO ranking. So, do those audits, fix any problems, and make sure that your audience has a great experience no matter what device they are using.
Going along with this is mobile responsiveness. In 2018, Google rolled out its “mobile first” policy – it will index and rank mobile content before that of desktops. If your content is not mobile friendly, fix that now.
Backlinks and Affiliates
One aspect of SEO is definitely related to users coming to your site from other places. You want a lot of this going on. But there is another side to this coin. If people are linking to your site from low-quality or totally unrelated places, Google notices and will even punish you for this. If you set up arrangements with other businesses to link to one another, make sure that those businesses are “quality” ones and that they relate to your business products or services. A backlink coming in from a used furniture dealer when you are a clothing retailer doesn’t make sense. And if that used furniture dealer has a rather unsavory reputation, all the worse.
Work hard to get backlinks from reputable and related businesses. These are valuable as far as Google is concerned.
The same goes for affiliate marketers. This is a huge business today, but those who are promoting your products or services must be reputable and consistent with your niche. They need to be seen as experts in your sector, so that when they recommend you, they do so as trusted sources.
Langston Horowitz, head of marketing for Trust My Paper, puts it this way: “we could probably find businesses all over the planet that would be willing to provide promotions and/or links to our site. But we learned early on that we had to be picky. Our clientele are college students who tend to be very suspicious. We need to maintain our reputation be only being associated with reputable and trusted others. It has taken time to find the right associations, but it is well worth it – they bring in business.”
As you can see, you can really focus on SEO without focusing on SEO. When you stay abreast of your audience; when you create the type of content that is a fit for both your brand and your customer; when you lean toward visual and interactive content; and when you always keep your customers’ needs, wants, and values front and center, thee SEO will naturally follow.