The New SEO
In the past, SEO (search engine optimization) was more straight forward when it comes to measurability. Keyword effectiveness and movements in keyword ranking could be easily discerned, and businesses could easily connect the dots to return on investment. Now that Google has devalued some of the most widely used SEO tricks and evolved its keyword tool to represent a mere sample set of global searches, gauging keyword opportunities and effectiveness has become a finger in the wind test.
But still, many businesses want to tie their SEO investment back to a tangible return. While this makes perfect business sense, this train of thought has become illogical. Whereas before, SEO was a ‘thing’ with a defined set of activities, now the concept of SEO is more slippery. Instead of SEO activities revolving around influenceable factors like meta data and on-page optimization, the meaning of SEO has changed. Today it’s all about user engagement.
“We’re going to have to get comfortable in a world where the ranking factors are indirectly influenceable, not directly influenceable,” says Rand Fishkin, MOZ’s co-founder and search marketing technology expert. Fishkin says organizations need to start thinking holistically when it comes to SEO and realize that other activities not influenceable by a SEO provider impact user engagement.
SEO influencers go all the way up and down the chain, contributing to a site’s real world street cred over any silver bullet an SEO can provide.
Factors Affecting a Company’s SEO
Instead of thinking about SEO as a set of tasks you can hire an SEO provider to do which will improve overall SEO, think of it as an entire customer experience you are providing. When customers interact with your business in any way (in person, over the phone, by mail, by making an online purchase or by shopping in a store), the customer makes a series of decisions:
- How was the customer service? If good, this customer may become a repeat shopper, repeat visitor and/or write positive reviews. If poor, the customer may drop off, may not visit the website again and may write negative reviews. All of these factors either positively or negatively influences SEO, and one single provider cannot change whether a company makes great customer service a part of its culture.
- What incentives are you offering the customer? Maybe customer service is awesome, however the service offerings or products available for sale are not appealing or do not meet the customer’s needs. Aside from good old fashioned customer feedback, market research, focus groups and other methods can help reveal reasons why customers may loose interest. And a drop-off in website traffic can negatively effect a site’s SEO rankings.
Other Factors That May Affect a Company’s Search Ranking
Direct marketing like fliers, email marketing and brochures have the ability to drive new traffic to a website. By increasing the number of direct loads (when someone types in a web address instead of using search) search rankings are likely to improve. Google prefers websites with lots of direct loads because it strongly indicates a high level of brand awareness (people already knowing where they want to go). Whether or not a business decides to launch any direct marketing campaigns is one decision that an SEO cannot influence but greatly impacts rankings.
User experience refers to how well the average user is able to navigate on a website. In addition to simply being a part of great customer service, User Experience specialists can help determine whether a website elicits the desired behaviour. Examples include calls to action “click here,” “buy now” or “learn more.” Effective page design and how easily a user can find what she is looking for effect how likely she is to return – one of many metrics Google uses in its ranking factors.
Rich content on a website should communicate clearly and speak to your target audience. While optimized (SEO) content has the ability to increase search visibility, rich web content has more staying power and is a better long-term investment. Identifying target keywords and creating content rich articles, blog posts and interactive will always be important in helping to increase search rankings, but it will not get you to page one by itself.
Sales, Customer Service and Operations
One final example that is very often overlooked by businesses involves sales and customer service operations. Sales and customer service directly effect customer loyalty in a plethora of ways, and businesses spend billions each year trying to improve their sales and customer service operations. If the customer liked the product and had a good experience when dealing with the business, she will be more likely to write a positive review, share her experience on Facebook and return a second time to shop.
In short, the same rules that apply to good business will also contribute to improved search ranking.
The Silver Bullet Myth
Other factors that impact SEO which are not influenceable by an SEO include website load time (IT Department), advertising and PR efforts (Advertising Department or Agency) and other factors so numerous to fill entire volumes. In short, SEO influencers go all the way up and down the chain, contributing to a site’s real world street cred over any silver bullet an SEO can provide. So, while SEO used to be a recipe websites could follow to achieve a high search ranking, today it is a somewhat nebulous set of conditions a company must create to achieve the same. While many of the old SEO tricks are dead, SEO as a discipline is not. Businesses that make SEO a holistic part of their overall business strategy will benefit in terms of increased website authority, increased rankings and ultimately increased sales and conversions.
The SEO Debate
There is an ongoing debate among digital marketers and website designers about whether SEO is dead. Some say that, because Google has updated its ranking algorithms to favour authenticity and quality of content over keyword density and the placement of tags, you don’t need to pay attention to SEO at all. I could not disagree more.
While the definition of SEO has changed, the essence of its purpose has not. Search Engine Optimization is the act of optimizing your website so search engines (and ultimately, people searching for you) can find you. Just because ‘black hat’ or ‘tricky’ SEO ranking factors have been devalued by Google doesn’t mean we should completely ignore the discipline of SEO all together. There is a happy place in the middle that neither ignores SEO nor claims SEO is the way to page one in the search results.
Search engine algorithms are imperfect and will always be prone to SEO ‘tricks’. User generated content (ratings and reviews) is currently among Google’s list of top ranking factors. To gain from this, companies employ social media strategists who jump through all kinds of hoops to get people to ‘like’ them or ‘pin’ them. While most companies approach social sharing in a legitimate way, some have been shown to regularly employ fake ratings and reviews for the purpose of boosting their website authority. According to an investigation by CBC News, as many as 15 percent of online reviews may be fake. Now, Google will need to figure out a way to update its algorithms to weed out these fake reviews companies are paying people to write.
It is an ongoing battle between technology and authentic people. Making sure your web content contains all of the necessary key terms, while keeping it clean and legit, remains an important way in which local customers will find you and you will retain and even build up your website’s authority.
What is SEO?
Other terms that are closely related to what we now think of as SEO include ‘Natural Search’ or ‘Organic Search’. Organic traffic or natural search traffic simply refers to all the website traffic that comes from people clicking on your listing after ‘Googling’ something.
Search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and others use algorithms to judge content in three primary areas: relevance, substance and trustworthiness.
Whereas ‘black hat’ SEO used to be a lucrative way to attract customers, ‘white hat’ SEO has always been, and remains a valid way in which websites can increase visibility while retaining credibility.
SEO and Bounce Rate
Your web content must be relevant to visitors. One way to determine whether your website has what visitors are looking for is to look at the bounce rate. If the bounce rate for a page is above 40%, you may need to conduct some user testing and / or refresh the content to offer visitors what they were originally looking for.
How Does Web Content Creation Drive Natural Search Traffic?
Any written content on your website is valuable if it speaks to your visitors and helps identify your site to search engines. Optimized content works twice as hard at increasing site visitors because it has more power the longer it is there. Identifying target keywords and creating engaging new content will help increase your search rankings. But web content alone will not get you to page one.
What Does Web Content Mean?
Content can mean lots of things: whether it’s a web article or video, buying guide or interactive brochure, content on your website is the most important thing when it comes to driving traffic to your website. So a content creator is someone who not only knows how to write great web content, but who can also produce content, that is, work with designers, writers, developers and other resources to pull together the best web content that can be presented to customers via any digital marketing channel.
The best web content creator understands how to integrate web content into other advertising channels and how to advise businesses on holistic ways to improve SEO.
People and Google favor relevant content that meets their needs. A search engine is a powerful tool used by people to find relevant content. Google, Bing and Yahoo are examples of search engines that crawl content to rank websites using algorithms that weigh content relevance. There are tricks to how you can present your content that “tell” the search engines more about your site’s content, such as tagging structures and keyword ratios, but unless there is a broader perspective in play within an organization, no amount of on-site optimization will deliver the traffic needed to make it to the top.
Do You Have the Right Web Content?
You may have lots of content already, but is it the right content? You may have spent valuable time and money creating content, but is it being displayed correctly to the search engines? We can help you answer these questions. We work with you to develop web content using target keywords aimed at attracting the specific types of traffic you want the most. If you don’t know what your target keywords should be, we work with you to develop a keyword strategy that you can leverage across your site or entire digital marketing organization.