SEO is an art, a science, a skill, and a mindset. And, at times, it can also feel like a bit of a mystery - even to experts in the industry.
Let’s back up a second. First thing’s first, it’s important to note that SEO is shorthand for “search engine optimization,” the process involved in getting website content to rank highly with search engines like Google or Bing. With an SEO strategy in place, a brand can make sure that its content is high on the list of a search engine results page, or SERP - a powerful way to secure inbound traffic and warm leads, without having to spend and strategize on paid advertising.
SEO is one of the most effective and dependable forms of inbound marketing there is. Every day, millions of eager searchers turn to Google and other search engines to find everything from “new car” to “how to unclog toilet.” This is a massive audience that can be directed from a SERP straight into your conversion funnel, whether they’re at the very beginning of their buyer’s journey, or almost ready to make a purchase.
According to one prominent study, 51 percent of all website traffic comes from organic search - contrast that with 10 percent from paid search, and just 5 percent from social. Meanwhile, more than 40 percent of revenue is captured by organic traffic, and SEO offers about 20x more traffic opportunity than PPC (“pay-per-click”) on both mobile and desktop devices.
Now, with all this being said, we can jump ahead once again - to the ins, outs, and updates that come along with SEO success in 2019 and beyond.
The Evolution of Search Engines - and SEO Best Practices
There’s no denying that the digital landscape is changing, sometimes rapidly - and search engines are a key part of this evolution.
Over the past few years, for example, the look and feel of Google’s SERPs have changed dramatically, with a variety of new visual features - like knowledge graphs and featured snippets - popping up on results pages. Similarly, voice search is a rising trend, and is beginning to impact how all sorts of SERPs look and function. In SEO circles, the chatter is now about claiming “position zero” and maximizing results for “no click searches.”
Meanwhile, Google algorithm updates, which once seemed few and far between, now seem to be occurring ever more frequently, causing ripples throughout the SEO ecosystem.
In this time of growth and change for SEO, many brands worry about what it takes to succeed. Is there some technical gimmickry that webmasters need to adopt in order to be competitive? Is existing content just bound to get pushed further down SERPs? Is there a whole new set of best practices to learn right this second?
There are a lot of questions in the air - and thankfully, Google recently gave some answers via their webmaster blog. And those answers? Well, we here at Geek Chicago were positively thrilled to see them, because they reaffirm the core strategy behind our SEO efforts for businesses in Chicagoland and across the country (since 2011!): create well-researched, informative, high quality content.
It’s that simple - and that complicated.
Creating High Quality Content for SEO: Google’s Guidelines
Over on the webmaster central blog, in an August, 2019 post entitled “What webmasters should know about Google’s core updates,” a Google writers dives into the effects of core algorithm updates, which the post explains this way:
“Several times a year, we make significant, broad changes to our search algorithms and systems. We refer to these as ‘core updates.’ They’re designed to ensure that overall, we’re delivering on our mission to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers.
...there’s nothing in a core update that targets specific pages or sites. Instead, the changes are about improving how our systems assess content overall. These changes may cause some pages that were previously under-rewarded to do better.”
As the blog explains, losing ground on a SERP following an update is not necessarily a sign that a page is doing anything wrong, or have anything concrete “to fix.” With that said, the Google blog also acknowledges an action that you can take in the event of a declining ranking:
“We suggest focusing on ensuring you’re offering the best content you can. That’s what our algorithms seek to reward.”
So, what does Google to be “the best content” in 2019? They break success down into four primary categories that SEOs can address - “content and quality,” “expertise,” “presentation and production,” and “comparative.”
Content and quality
This area is all about assessing the depth and quality of your content - how well it is researched, how much it has to offer, and how deeply it may benefit a potential reader. Here’s how Google breaks it down:
This category is all about ensuring that your content is accurate, thorough, and trustworthy.
Presentation and production
Form and function go hand-in-hand. Google recommends assessing your content to make sure it’s clear, easy to read, free of errors, well-organized, and visually appealing:
One way to determine the general quality of your website content is to hold it up in comparison with other examples from your industry. Here’s what Google recommends asking when you contrast your site with others:
In addition, Google recommends assessing the “E-A-T” of your site content - that is, “Expertise,” “Authoritativeness,” and “Trustworthiness.” This is a metric that human reviewers at Google use to analyze, rate, and review sites for SERPs. There are numerous algorithmic factors that play into E-A-T as well, including backlinks and references from other sources (even non-linked references). For more on the many, many factors that go into evaluating E-A-T, it may help to browse through Google’s search quality rater guidelines, or check out our quick guides to domain authority and on-page vs. off-page SEO.
Putting the Pieces Together
Asking yourself Google’s list of questions can be… intimidating, right?
After all, they’re recommending nothing less than that you create well-written, well-researched, high quality content on a regular schedule, positioning your brand as the expert on a given subject. That’s completely original content, free of errors - and that means an extensive review and proofreading process. It also means sourcing or creating original images, videos, and graphics as supplements, to make your content look more appealing.
Beyond written content, Google’s guidelines mean that you must make sure that every page you create is fully optimized for SEO in strategic areas, such as metadata and descriptions. They mean having a website that is responsive, user-friendly, and quick to load on desktop and mobile devices. They mean having a logical internal linking structure, and a strategy for securing backlinks from reliable sources.
And what’s more, Google’s insistence on E-A-T points to the many other elements that can play a role in a successful SEO strategy, including generating online reviews, maintaining a robust social media presence, being active on email, and monitoring your results with deep analytics insights and reporting.
That’s a lot for any busy business to take on alone.
But at Geek Chicago, it’s what we do every single day.
Get to Know the Geeks
At Geek, we’ve been singing the gospel of quality content for years now. We believe in a comprehensive approach to SEO that factors in web design and development, as well as the creation of original, high-quality content, designed to simultaneously draw in readers and appeal to the crawlers that power your favorite search engine. And because we know that finding success with E-A-T goes beyond the limits of your webpage, we also take a holistic and multi-faceted approach to digital marketing, including organic social media management, paid social media marketing, email marketing, and online reputation management.
We believe in staying on top of the trends and developments in the digital world, while implementing a sound and proven strategy that can help businesses remain competitive in an ever-changing landscape.
Want to talk shop? Curious about our process? Want to get to know our team? Don’t hesitate to drop us a line to discuss all of the ways that Geek Chicago can help you enrich your brand and grow your audience, in 2020 and beyond.