Search engine optimization (SEO) has both a good and a bad reputation. The good reputation is this: Anyone with a solid SEO strategy geared toward improving a company’s search rankings and authority without gaming the system or spamming the search bots with keywords and other questionable tactics can increase their search engine rankings and subsequently the traffic to their website. Here’s the bad news part (I mean, the way in which SEO has a bad reputation): Too many professional SEOs claim to know the secret to search engine rankings and end up hurting their clients more than helping them.
If you’re a business owner and you’re looking for a way to increase your search engine rankings, status with Google, and authority rating among the people you want to do business with, I offer these inconvenient truths about SEO for your immediate consumption:
- There’s no secret recipe – Google has more than 200 ranking factors. Some of them are weighted more heavily than others, but two web pages equal in every other way could have drastically different rankings for the same keyword simply because one does SEO ranking factor X way better than the other one. Or, the same two companies could hold the top two positions in Google for the same keyword because one of them excels at positioning through SEO ranking factor X while the other excels at positioning through SEO ranking factor Y. It’s also possible to have the No. 1 position at Google while your competition holds the No. 1 position at Bing or another search engine. The bottom line is, there is no secret recipe to good search engine rankings.
- Keywords are overrated – Keywords are important, but some people overemphasize that importance. It’s possible to rank well in Google for a keyword phrase with fewer instances of that keyword phrase in your content. Why? Because Google has more than 200 ranking factors. And here’s another thing: Through semantic language indexing and natural language processing, Google also looks at synonymous terms and alternative language in order to determine the concepts or ideas behind the content.
- Google loves quality – At various times, Google has favored longer content while at other times there was no clear preference as long as content producers stuck to the basics of SEO. In fact, Google’s preferences for content quality are always in flux and may change from day to day and from hour to hour. Nevertheless, Google is generally concerned with the quality of content more than the quantity of content. That means spelling errors, grammatically correct sentences, and well-structured content will perform better in the search engines than content without those attributes. If your content is helpful to your audience, there’s no better indication of quality (in Google’s eyes) in that it receives a lot of social shares and a respectable traffic arc.
- Third-party citations are important – It used to be, when someone mentioned citations, they were talking about inbound links. Links are still important, of course, but they aren’t the only type of citation Google considers when ranking web pages. Citations could also be reviews and social mentions without a link. If someone does link to your website, Google wants to know whether that link is a natural link or a spammy link (and they have their ways of knowing, too).
- Video is gold – Video is hard to game for SEO. One reason is because the content isn’t crawled like the search engines crawl web pages. Another reason is because video is more expensive to produce so fewer people are doing it. That means well-made videos with great meta data and other SEO elements can help your site rank for your important keywords.
- The audience is supreme – If you do something for SEO purposes and there’s no other clear purpose as to why you’re doing it, Google will likely not reward you for that. You could find your efforts wasted time. Focus instead on feeding your human audience with awesome content that meets the basic SEO guidelines for content and then share that content with your friends on social media.
- Content diversity is a plus – You’re better off if you have different kinds of content associated with your brand image. In other words, don’t just rely on contextual content on your website. Offer your audience videos, images, podcasts, downloadable PDFs, e-books, white papers, infographics, and other types of content. It’s okay to re-purpose your existing content for this effort. A diversity of content ensures that you have multiple ways of obtaining respectable SEO positions in the search engines.
- SEO is a long game – If you focus on obtaining good SEO positions in the short term, you could succeed. It’s possible to move from the bottom of the heap to the No. 1 Google position for competitive keywords in a very short time, but you’ll likely have to compromise your integrity to do so. When Google finds out, you’ll be back at the bottom of the heap. Focus instead on achieving respectable search engine rankings long term.
- Search results are personalized – One reason it’s more difficult to game SEO these days is because search results are often personalized. Two searchers could see different results for the same key phrase search within the same hour.
None of this is to dissuade you from pursuing an SEO strategy. The intent is to get you to think more deeply about your strategy. Don’t be afraid to publish white papers, e-books, and PDF documents on your website to show the search engines that you aren’t all about chasing keywords. PDF documents are actually crawlable, but the diversity in content can help you with your overall SEO strategy.
Are you a business owner in search of higher search engine rankings for your business and need a content strategist to help you figure out a path forward? Get a free 15-minute consultation. Call 717-253-2306.
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