The search engine optimization (SEO) world has undergone some big changes in the last few years—the biggest being coming in the form of Google’s heightened push towards strong user experiences. It’s hard to imagine that just 10 years ago, SEO was a discipline governed by blackhat marketers whose sole objective was to increase rankings and drive traffic. Long story short it wasn’t pretty, and Google didn’t like it.
Today, the ‘secret’ to SEO is no secret at all. It’s common sense. Brands that rank high on search engines have great content, address their target audience’s search intent, and take the time to optimize their sites from a technology standpoint. Here are 9 SEO ‘secrets’ that will lead your brand to awesome.
1 - Stop overthinking it
The biggest challenge with SEO is that it’s ambiguous territory—but you shouldn’t let the uncertainty get the best of you. Understand that almost every marketer is exactly where you are now. Everyone’s trying to figure out SEO’s ‘hidden secrets’ with little direction. The best thing to do is to keep your mind off the complexities and instead, focus on delivering the best possible user experience.
2 - Keep content fresh
When people conduct research, they want up-to-date, accurate information. That’s why it’s important to keep content updated. Recency is becoming an increasingly important ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm and for good reason—your audiences don’t want to waste time reading dated content.
3 - Prioritize usability
Technology is an important part of the user experience equation. In addition to providing audiences with helpful and informative content, you’ll want to make sure that your website is easy and enjoyable to browse. Make sure to optimize your website to be mobile friendly and to ensure that it has a quick load time.
Just recently, Google announced that more than half of its US searches are now coming from mobile devices. This stat, coupled with the recent ‘Mobilegeddon’ algorithm update provide strong signals that even greater emphasis is going to be placed on businesses mobile websites in the coming years.
You can use WebSite Auditor to identify potential technical flaws and to crawl your site on a consistent basis.
4 - Build relationships, not links
“Link building” is a term that SEO practitioners use to describe the process of building credibility. The idea is simple: people link to your website when they perceive your brand as a source of authority. Often, however, SEO specialists take the expression ‘link building’ too literally. By asking for links, they end up with the extreme opposite—absolutely nothing.
Links are the key to ranking well in Google, but what marketers often forget is that links are built upon relationships with people. The best way to ‘build links’ is to forge connections and offer value to bloggers and other influencers in your niche.
Try using SEO SpyGlass to see who’s linking to your website—and to identify potential patterns.
5 - Prioritize the long-tail
Search engine experiences are becoming increasingly personalized. That’s why it’s important for businesses to focus on long-tail and location-based keywords—so that audiences can find your company based on the exact value and service that you provide.
Ranking highly for a vague search term like ‘San Francisco Doctor’ might be an ego booster, but it puts you in direct competition with all the doctors in San Francisco, regardless of their practice area. A top rank for a more specific term, such as ‘San Francisco orthopedic surgeon’ will generate a lot more qualified leads.
6 - Use the right keywords in the right places
Get specific by taking a structured approach. It’s not enough to focus on the right keyword—you need to make sure that you’re communicating the ‘right’ information to Google in a structured way.
In order to improve rankings for long-tail keywords, make sure that they’re present in your main body copy and page titles. If your website structure doesn’t allow for this, attach a blog or news feed to your site and create content around these topics, with the long-tail keywords in the titles and copy.
A good place to start would be Rank Tracker, which can ensure your content is fully optimized for specific keywords.
7 - Replace keyword research with customer research
People turn to search engines when they have questions. When they’ve arrived at your website, they’re likely looking for immediate answers.
Think of your brand as a publisher and source of high-quality information. When you produce helpful, informative content like blog posts, how-to articles, and research, you’ll get in front of searchers and earn their trust.
8 - Don’t ignore the small details
Often, marketers will focus on optimizing elements that are direct SEO ranking factors. In doing so, however, they’ll overlook a very important detail—meta descriptions.
Your meta descriptions, for instance, provide previews of your website. It’s your brand’s chance to stand apart from competitors on search engine results pages and encourage click-throughs to your website. A well-developed meta description, in a few short lines of text, will drive more traffic to your website.
9 - Be a go-to resource by creating a dictionary
One of the most efficient ways to rank for a term is to create a ‘dictionary’ page with objective and thorough definitions. Rather than ‘keyword stuffing,’ however, it’s important that marketers take the time to create content that helps their target audiences learn.
These pages often rank highly in search engines all on their own, as they are naturally somewhat keyword dense and are usually very helpful to people who searched for those terms. They tend to position brands as authoritative sources of information and generate backlinks.
You can use this keyword research tool to identify potential dictionary terms and low-hanging areas of opportunity.
The days of self-serving, scammy, and spammy SEO are long-gone. And that’s a good thing. The ‘secret’ to success with SEO is no secret at all. Just focus on serving your audience’s needs and answering their questions in a thorough and empathetic way. Focus on your customers, and take the right logistical steps to make sure that search engines can find your content. Focus on the ‘road less traveled’ with long-tail opportunities, and you’ll be set.