Search Engine Optimization or SEO is not dead and it is not dying and it will never die.
SEO is just a term to describe the marketing function of getting found on the Internet. Marketing has been around forever. The job of marketing is to help the business be found. Before the Internet, there was the art of being found in the Yellow Pages. Companies would change their name from “Roofing Company” to “A+ Roofing Company” just to secure the number one spot. Then their competitors would change their name to “AAA Roofing Company.” Then another company would change their name to “AAA Advanced Roofing”. Literally, anything would be done to get that number one spot. Sound familiar? The yellow pages would then change the rules about how to secure that spot. That probably sounds familiar as well. So…in short, the art of getting found and listed first has been around for a long time and been present in many different formats. If you believe the Internet is here to stay, then you know SEO is not going anywhere. The only thing that is going to change is the rules we play by, and we can guarantee that they will change.
The Rules of SEO And Why They Exist
So what are the rules? How do we play by them? Are there shortcuts? The answer is yes, yes, yes and hold on, you are getting ahead of yourself.
Before we explain the rules to SEO – it’s important for you to understand why these rules exist. Most search engine providers like Google and Bing have selfish objectives just like you do, and they are not different from yours. They want to make money. They make money by helping people find stuff on the Internet. It does not get more simple than that. Over the past 20 years or so, they’ve learned a thing or two about their customers. What they’ve learned impacts the rules they use to govern SEO. What they continue to learn will change the rules to SEO.
One lesson these Search Engine Providers have learned is that the highest paying advertiser is not always best for them. They have learned it is better to keep customers (those searching the Internet) coming back by providing higher quality references, not necessarily higher paying references. From that lesson learned, we now have two kinds of placement on search engine result pages (or SERPS): Organic Search and Paid Search.
Organic search results are those results that show up in search queries that are not paid for. This is a majority of what we see. But, rarely the first thing we see.
Paid search (often called PPC) are those results that show up in others sections of the page and are ranked based on paying advertisers and select criteria those advertisers meet. PPC is an art form all by itself. Fewer advertisers are shown on each SERP, but they do get preferential placement.
But since this is about SEO, that’s all we are going to say about it.
Getting back to SEO, Google, Bing and Their Customers.
Here are few more lessons they have learned about customers. They probably sound obvious to you, because you are one of their customers
People searching the Internet want to:
- Find the best solution provider, not just some random result.
- Have a positive experience.
- Have confidence in their choices.
- Engage providers with ease and simplicity.
Sure, there are more things we want, but these four top the list in a big way. To accommodate their customers, search engine providers have implemented into their programming language, algorithms, or a set of rules to follow, when displaying search results.
Each search engine provider operates with a different set of algorithms. These all vary in complexity. In the United States, most people associate Google and Bing as the primary search engine. But there are others that you use every day. Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon are all search engine providers. They are niche providers but nonetheless, they are search engines. Any website you visit with the intent to use them as an objective source to help you find something – they are a search engine. Globally there are many others. In Russia, Yandex is used more frequently than Google is, as is Baidu in China.
Where Should You Focus Your SEO Efforts
Where your customers go to find what you are selling, is where you should be focused on optimizing your website for search rankings. Engines like Google and Baidu tend to be generalist wherein something like Youtube might be more narrow for those looking for entertainment or instructional how-to videos. Also narrow might be Pinterest for those looking for visual inspiration. Amazon or Alibaba are marketplaces (also of a search engine) for all goods while Backcountry.com is a marketplace for specifically for outdoor goods.
Generally speaking though, all search engines algorithms are looking to provide the most relevant result. Elements that favor into relevancy include experience, quality, popularity, and expertise. How they determine these things is different for each. But let’s discuss what each means to the online user. If we can identify what it means to the online user, we have a better chance of knowing what it means to the search engine, and you will do a better job of ranking where your customers are looking.
Customer Experience. Considering customer experience online is not much different than considering for offline. When your customers come to your physical place of business, do you want it to be a dump? Do you want the sign on the door to reflect the previous owner or tenant? Is it OK to have burned out lightbulbs? What about keeping out of date product listings that are not available for purchase? Do you want dust accumulating? Its also better to give people options such as self-checkout or use a clerk, pay by phone, credit card, check or cash. Do your aisles have proper signage or do your customers prefer to aimlessly wander hoping to find what they are looking for. I think you get the picture.
The web is not much different. How your site is built, coded and designed sends many signals to engines telling them what kind of experience visitors are likely to have. Does it load fast? It is clear from the get-go what the site is about? Is it easy to move about the site finding information? Are redirects in place for missing pages? Is coding simple and clean? Is it designed for mobile, tablet and desktop experiences? Does it contain the kind of content your users want to consume? Do people leave right away or stay awhile and visit? Does site architecture help or hurt bot crawling? Are best practices implemented with meta tags and information? Do integrations play nice with other applications? Are you coded to show up in local or national search?<
A number of items create a quality site. Are you providing enough information to your users, that help them feel informed or empowered enough to continue on in the buyer journey or take the next best steps? Does your site allow them to take the next step in their journey? Is your content updated frequently enough to remain relevant to today’s buyers and buyer behaviors? Is the message written in such a way that all users interpret it the same? Do you avoid grammar and spelling errors? Do you avoid inter-company or industry language that outsiders might find difficult to understand?
What about supplementary content? This is content that may not relate directly to you, but still helps your user in their process. For example, a realtor might include a loan calculator on their website, even though they are not the actual lender.
Does your site move as fast or faster than the users. When users have to wait for a site to load, they leave instead?
Did actual thought go into the mobile version of your site, or are you hoping that being responsive is good enough?
These are all just the tip of the iceberg questions you need to ask when it comes to considering quality.
When it comes to content ask yourself this: Are we giving them everything they need to know to make an expert choice? What can we give them to make the overall journey easier?
As far as site design and build go: Are you putting as much thought and care into the design and build process as you would your own dream home – avoiding as many errors, sloppy mistakes, corner cutting as possible. This includes use schema.org code as a template for best practices.
Popularity is not often a word to describe SEO. But it’s true. Popular sites rank better. Think about the popular kids in school. What made them popular? Well, they were rarely somebody new. It takes time for everyone to want to be around you. Charisma plays a factor in it. When hanging out with the popular kids, you feel on top of the world and want to be like them. People talk about the popular kids, both positively and negatively.
In the SEO world, these same principles apply. Domain age plays a role in SEO strength. When others backlink to your site, it’s a signal they want to be associated with you and like you. Sites that engage others (charisma) and keep them on the site longer, get better SEO results. When people start talking about you on review sites like Google Places, Facebook reviews, Yelp etc – search engines take notice and rank you, regardless of how positive or negative the sentiment.
Earlier on in this article, we covered how one of the lessons learned is that it is better for Search Engines to give higher quality reference than it is higher paying references. This is no better demonstrated than high ranking sites that provide expert information.
People visit the internet to learn more than any other reason. So search engines have a vested interest in providing the most expert solution providers at the top. There is actually a spot reserved known as spot 0, for those sites who give really good expert advice on their site. This is a snippet shown at the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). These snippets reveal, how-to-advice and process lists for users to learn from.
This article by Search Engine Land shows you three easy steps to getting snippets from your site ranked at the top of the SERPs.
Are you ready to use SEO and rank #1 on Google and Bing?
There is a lot to consider when ranking at the top of search results. A lot more than figuring out how to rank first in the yellow pages. But it’s important that you do. So make sure to take the time do it right.
The guys at Backlinko came up with 200 indicators that Google uses when factoring where to place a website. These indicators cover everything from great site build and design, to excellent content, linking, third-party influencers and to technical coding and so much more. Some of it is very technical, too much so for the average person, and a lot of it is something an everyday person can easily troubleshoot.
At the end of the day though, it’s about winning. Most companies don’t follow 20% of what we’ve covered here. So by just following some of our advice here is going to put you ahead.
Bonus SEO Tip
One of my favorite SEO tools is Yoast. Yoast is plugin for your website. When installed correctly, Yoast will grade your pages and posts to let you know where you can improve the SEO value of your specific pages and posts. It will let you know if your keywords are appropriately placed in key technical spots, and grade the readability, and in general, let you know if you are doing all you can do make this it as SEO friendly or not.
SEO Tips Summary
though, we like to tell people to follow just one rule. We call it the SEO Golden Rule. The rule is this: Help Google Be Google. If you do that, you will avoid black hat techniques, you will pay more attention to buyer behavior and adjust, you’ll write better copy and build better websites. Ultimately – you’ll be found at the top more often.