SEO is not dead! And, if you are reading this, neither are you… PHEW! Just like the Mayans predictions were wrong, so were the predictions that SEO would die in 2012…
SEO will never die and here’s why:
Unless ALL of the search engines die (including Google who is now worth over $250 Billion dollars) or the government shuts down the internet (or you know, Zombies take over the planet and kill all electricity) then there will always be a need for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
SEO is so much more than optimizing a web page for the engines. You can optimize a number of things: videos, articles, images, social media profiles, press releases, newsletters, blog posts, mobile applications…. Heck, you can even optimize your Tweets.
And not only can you optimize all forms of digital content, if you aren’t, you should be!
“Isn’t SEO just spam?”
I think people first became scared of SEO when Google started cracking down on websites who were practicing spam techniques. Unfortunately many website marketers who practice spamming call themselves SEO’s, giving the rest of us who are legitimately doing SEO a bad name. Google has been updating their algorithms for several years now, but when they rolled out Panda and then Penguin all hell broke loose and many website owners started reconsidering their marketing strategies.
The fact of the matter is SEO is NOT spam. Spam is spam, so there you have it.
The right way to do SEO:
I am not saying there isn’t a “wrong” way to do SEO. There is such a thing as OVER optimization and Google has come right out and said certain methods that used to work are no longer effective. As the internet continues to evolve, and as new technologies are developed, the way people use the search engines changes as well. Clearly Google updates their algorithms to accommodate changes to human behaviors as they aim to serve up the highest quality, most relevant information on the subject being searched.
Because Google (and the other engines) are updating their algorithms frequently, we (website owners, content optimizers and SEO marketers) have to be prepared and, for lack of a better term, roll with the punches. What we do today may not work tomorrow, but there are some basics that EVERYONE should be doing. So, here is my quick list:
Oh, and let me just preface this with saying although all of this is basic, most of it requires a certain amount of SEO know how, technical skill and access to tools. But, nevertheless, here it is. If you don’t think you can implement it on your own, I highly suggest you hire a professional. They don’t pay me the big bucks for nothin’ 😉
Nail down your keyword strategy
I put this first on the list because it is the VERY first thing you need to do before you start optimizing anything online. This is an involved process and if you don’t know how to do it already, this blog post isn’t going to help you much. But, what you should know is a solid keyword strategy includes:
- Keywords for conversions. Many used to believe that the highest search volume term in their space was the most important term to rank for. This is just NOT the case. Sure, you want to target key terms that bring in some volume, but it’s more important to focus on the terms that will bring in the highest quality traffic for conversions.
- Keyword diversity. One of the biggest mistakes you can make post Panda/Penguin is go to heavy on any one keyword phrase. If a root term is important to you, pick at least 10-20 similar supporting phrases to include in your strategy.
- Brand “keywords”. If your entire backlink index consists of anchor text keywords only, you are sending Google the wrong signal. Avoid a red flag, go heavy on variations of your brand, your URL, your product names and direct click calls to action “keywords”.
Optimize your meta data
On-page SEO consists of a number of things from basic keyword inclusion in important areas of each page, to siloing your website architecture for a deeper search engine spider crawl. When a new client comes in and asks me to do a website audit, I use a checklist of over 100 things I think are important to consider when trying to improve your website authority. However, I am often surprised how many people miss the most basic on-page SEO – your meta data! Some of the basics:
- Meta Title. The title of the page is the first thing the search engines see when the visit. What a lot of people forget is that the title is also the first thing the user sees in the search engine result pages. Therefore it is extremely important that you write your page title for the search engines AND the user. We like to include the important keyword for the page along with a benefit or unique value offered. Sure, it’s nice to get rankings but if no one is clicking, what’s the point of ranking?
- Meta Description. Although Google doesn’t always serve up your meta description in the search result pages (they are now using keyword rich snippets from the page content instead in many cases) I still suggest you write optimized content for the meta description. We like to include the root keyword phrase used in the title, along with a call to action. Again, we are NOT just writing for the engines here, we are writing for the users and clicks!
- Meta Keywords. Back in 2009 Google announced they would no longer be using the meta keywords in their algorithm to determine where your site should rank. So, why do I bring it up now?Although Google may not be currently using this data, there is a chance they might in the future. Also, many believe that Yahoo, Bing and other engines use this data. So, although it might not be helping your Google rankings, it’s not hurting them either. However, there are some that also think you should avoid using them as your competition can simply peek at your meta data to see your strategy – so, if you do decide to use them, just keep it short and include your root targets (seen in your other meta data and content as well).
Write quality content; optimize it for your keywords
Content has always been THE most important part of any website marketing strategy. If you want the search engines to see you as an authority, your content has to be unique, relevant and fresh. Of course you want to give your users something interesting to read as well, so you don’t want to write for the engines, you want to write for your audience. However, you won’t have an audience if you don’t optimize your content for the keywords that will drive them there. So, write for your audience, but include your keywords where possible. A few content optimization tips:
- Web pages. Once you have your keyword strategy and you’ve properly optimized your web page meta data, you need to write (or rewrite) your page content to include these keywords as well. I am NOT talking about keyword stuffing – so don’t get carried away. But, pay attention to your headers and be smart about how you talk about your products and services. If your goal is to rank for “red roses” make sure your content includes that term and variations of that term.
- Blogs. I believe everyone should have a blog on their site. It’s the easiest way to keep your content fresh, giving your users AND the search engines reason to visit your site more often. Updated content also makes your site more of an authority on the subject, increasing your search engine value as a whole. I suggest including your keyword strategy where possible in your blog post titles, content and tagging – however, a BIG no-no is to write for the engines and not your users. If something interesting is happening in your industry, write about it, even if the content isn’t exactly in line with your overall target keywords.
- Video, images and other digital content. Content isn’t just written word. Content can be a number of things from a video to an image. Because the search engines look at your website as code, the only way they will know what your videos and images are about is if you tell them through your optimization. Don’t forget to add relevant tags to your videos/images and include your keywords where possible. Oh, and this goes for your off-site content as well – when you load video to YouTube, add your keywords in the title, description and tags. If you are going to share an image socially, name the image file with your keyword, post the image with keyword related content.
Share your content
Remember that movie, Field of Dreams? Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) hears a voice that whispers, “If you build it, they will come”. That might have been true in the movie – but unfortunately it is not that easy when it comes to website marketing. You may have an interesting design, compelling content, beautiful images and videos – but if you don’t share it, no one will know it’s there. Proper sharing for higher search engine rankings involves a strategic marketing plan that includes a number of methods, but if you are looking for some tips on how you can do some of the work yourself, here are a few:
- Get social. I don’t care if you are a local plumber or a big, glossy brand, you need to be social. There are a number of reasons to have a social presence online from branding, awareness, networking and partnerships to direct clicks. But as an SEO, I want to focus on the search engine value. Because social is such a large part of how people now use the web, Google and the other search engines have integrated social mentions into their algorithms. If your site and content is getting social mentions and shares than you are relevant and worthy of search engine results. So, if you are already creating interesting content – get social and share it!
- Submit. Okay, this is not the time to get into the value of a press release or article syndication link – but what I will say is that quality content, with a mention of your brand or a link back, that is hosted on a quality site can pass value to your site. Some do guest posts, some submit their content to high end news sites, some pay to submit their site to a relevant web directory – there are a lot of methods. If you are looking for help in this area, well, you’ll just have to call us. It’s a strategy developed over years of trial and error. But, if you come across an opportunity to submit your site or a relevant article you wrote, don’t pass it up. Even if you don’t get a link back, just mentioning your company name as a citation can add value to your overall authority on the web.
- Bait. Possibly one of the trickiest content marketing strategies, link baiting or content share baiting is one of the most powerful methods for increasing your web presence. The practice of viral marketing includes creating something people WANT to watch/read/see and share. Sometime companies have found success with developing something funny, connecting with people through a humors video or an animated meme. Others have pushed the boundaries and developed something controversial – creating content or a series of ads that hit hard and spur debates and conversation. If you are having a hard time getting visibility – creating something interesting and sharing it can end up giving you 100’s or 1000’s of shares, link backs and direct clicks.
I think it’s safe to say that SEO is harder than it used to be. In order to be a true SEO, you have to know the history of the internet, understand the search engine algorithms as well as human behavior. You have to be logical, technical and creative. You have to be humble and willing to change on the fly. You have to listen, study, test and analyze. Because of this, perhaps SEO is a dying art. Not because SEO will ever die, but because it’s hard and people don’t want to put in the work. But, I am okay with that – why? Because WE are willing to put in the hard work. And we do, every day…