While they’ve been around in some form or another since the mid-1990s, search engines still have a somewhat mystical allure to many of us. They’re sleek and useful, but also vast and mysterious. How do they work? How do we put them to use?
The art and science of making sure that your brand’s website ranks highly on search engines is known as search engine optimization, or SEO.
Unfortunately, it seems like SEO these days can be just as byzantine as the algorithms it was designed to demystify. There are all sorts of SEO hints, tips, and tricks available to the curious business owner today. Some work, some don’t. We’re here to help you tell the difference.
Don’t sink all of your time and money into an SEO tactic that doesn’t yield results! Instead, focus on what works. Here’s our definitive rundown on the “do’s” and “don’ts” of modern SEO:
What Works: On-Page Keyword Optimization
While keywords aren’t the end-all-be-all of SEO, as they were back when search engines first began to catalog pages, it’s still important to make sure that the many elements of your page are clearly and effectively labeled, the better to enable search bots and crawlers to inspect and rank your site accurately. There are a few key places to make sure that you address on every single page of content you produce:
- Headings and title tags
- Image text and alt-text
- Internal links
What Doesn’t: Keyword Stuffing
While it’s important to strategically implement keywords in the backends of all of your pages, it’s less important to stuff them into every other sentence of your body copy. While this was once considered smart SEO strategy, it’s now just a turn off to readers and search engines alike.
Similarly, it’s counterproductive to stuff your content and on-page elements with every keyword under the sun. You’ll never be able to encapsulate every single potential search query in your one page of content, so don’t try; if you do, your page will just look like gibberish to readers, and like a desperate spammer to search engines, which will rank you accordingly.
What Works: Writing Original, High Quality Content
Instead of stuffing your writing with keywords, think about the intent of your searchers. This is what search engines do now: Instead of just targeting keywords, Google now considers usefulness, intent, and precision. It tries to find the content that will best help a searcher fulfill their needs, not just the one that mentions their search team the greatest number of times.
To this end, don’t just focus on the big stuff, but the specific, the detailed, the low volume, high reward searches, which we call “long-tail” keywords. And above all, focus on writing great copy, complete with imagery, with strong voice, with compelling narratives. In 2017, good writing is the key to great SEO; it’s not about gaming the system, but about putting forward the best work possible. Search engines – and human users – will thank you.
What Doesn’t: Cookie-Cutter or Duplicate Content
As we’ve discussed before, there’s a clear trend line when it comes to content: The more of it you produce, the more traffic you’ll see. Studies have shown that as the number of indexed pages on your site increases, so does the number of hits your website receives; that bump in organic traffic typically results in more leads – perhaps up to twice as many leads for every 50 to 100 pages your site has indexed in Google.
Knowing this, some brands try to stuff their website with as many blog posts and extra pages as possible. The goal becomes quantity, rather than quality. And while the size of your site is important to search engines, it’s far from the only thing that matters. Brands that plagiarize other sites’ work, that repost the exact same content multiple times, or that rely on “Mad Libs”-esque content marketing templates are only setting themselves up for failure, as most search engines have cracked down hard on copycat content.
Our rule of thumb? If it’s just there to fill up space, then it’s not producing value; if it’s not producing value, then it won’t appeal to users or search engines.
What Works: A Comprehensive Content Marketing Strategy
Well-written, keyword-optimized content is designed to bring in organic traffic, also known as those curious searchers who find your pages via Google or Bing. At the same time, however, your content can also be put to use driving in referral traffic, clicks that are driven to you from a source other than a search engine results page.
Fortunately, it’s easy for you to put your content to work driving in referral leads if you have a comprehensive content marketing strategy in place. In other words, you shouldn’t just be letting your content sit dormant, but circulating it, sharing it, and putting it to work. There are plenty of methods you can use to garner extra eyes on your posts, but in our experience nothing works better than sharing your content on social media and producing a digital newsletter.
Even better? The clicks you get from sharing through these channels will boost your content even further in the eyes of the search engines, since social media is a reliable source of backlinking, also known as “off-page SEO.” At the same time, sharing your content is a great way to build a community of followers for your brand, improving your reputation online and boosting your rate of customer retention.
What Doesn’t: “Buying” Backlinks
As we just said, backlinking is one crucial part of the SEO puzzle; search engines see links to your site from outside sources as a testament to your pages’ trustworthiness and usefulness. Knowing that, some brands try game the system by getting as many backlinks as humanly possible. This has led to a shadow industry online of “content farms” and automated content programs, all designed to do little more than create phony content that links back to other websites for the sake of bolstering SEO.
This is a duplicitous and underhanded tactic, one that will only damage your reputation in the long run. It’s also important to remember that not all backlinks are created equal! One great link from the Chicago Tribune is worth much more than one from an illegible website full of nothing but weird keywords and shady hypertext.
Are you ready to see the benefits of creating original, quality content? Thinking about putting an SEO-focused content marketing strategy in place for your brand? Geek Chicago is here to help! Our team has a wide array of experience crafting content strategies for businesses of all sizes. Drop us a line today with any questions or thoughts!