When people think of online marketing, they most often turn first to social media. While social media is a very powerful tool to build a brand, as well as to follow and appeal to new customers, a number of other strategies exist that marketers should not ignore. One of the most important strategies is search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines such as Google or Yahoo! all use their own algorithms to bring the most relevant pages to people when they enter terms into a search bar. Through SEO, individuals can improve the chances that their websites and content will appear first.
Since the algorithms used to conduct web searches are constantly evolving, SEO is not a one-time event, but rather a process. Individuals need to keep abreast of changes in search algorithms and ensure that their websites—ranging from blogs and social media accounts to company websites—are adjusted for algorithm shifts. For example, keyword density was once a primary component for judging the relevancy of a given website. Today, keywords are not as important, and including them too often can actually be detrimental to positioning a website on a search results page. Here are some helpful tips for getting the most out of SEO.
Think like a search engine.
Google and other leading search engines are primarily concerned with the user experience. These organizations want their users to find the results they need as quickly as possible. For this reason, they are tweaking their algorithms continuously to deliver the best possible user experience. Organizations can stay on top of SEO by adopting the same focus on user experience and attempting to deliver what individuals want in an engaging manner. Google and other search engines are now paying attention to whether a web page delivers value. Formerly, the number of visits to a web page was the main ranking factor. Now, if individuals who visit a web page tend to return to the search results and continue searching, the search engine takes note of this and begins to rank the page higher.
What makes for a good user experience, and how do organizations engage users? The best answer is through the use of original content. Organizations should focus on adding as much original content to their pages—whether it’s text, images, or video—as possible. However, the content needs to be good and interesting for the user. For that reason, it is critical to always think about the target audience and what they want. Borrowing content from other sources is perfectly acceptable, but organizations should always strive to add a few paragraphs about it to explain the relevancy and make the content more engaging.
Emphasize authoritative language over keywords.
At one time, individuals needed to include certain keywords in the content in order to appear in Google searches for those words. For example, it was very unlikely that a search for “best restaurants” would return results that did not feature that phase a handful of times. Today, however, search engine algorithms are smarter than that. Rather than focusing on keywords, the algorithms pay attention to the entire body copy and look for authoritative language. While the use of the phase “best restaurants” should not be overlooked, pages that include descriptions of food, language related to the dining experience, and the names of neighborhoods and cities will also be included among the top results. In other words, the search engine algorithm is becoming better at distinguishing semantics.
Optimize content for viewing on smartphones.
More people than ever are using their smartphones to view web content. In fact, many people today do not have computers at all and primarily access the Internet from their smartphones. For that reason, search engines are paying more attention to web pages that are optimized for viewing on mobile phones. When web pages are not optimized, they typically take longer to load and are harder to navigate, which detracts from the user experience. While search results from apps were not previously indexed by the Google search engine, they are now. Thus, creating an app is another great way to stay relevant and rank higher on mobile searchers.
Focus on creating long-form content.
Not very long ago, a 300-word article was considered rather long by online standards. However, this standard has changed quickly and dramatically in recent years. Previously, it was thought that individuals wanted fast, digestible content. While this is still true in some cases, individuals are often searching for content that goes into more depth than a 300-word article can.
Importantly, long-form articles should not simply be large blocks of text, since this would still be considered rather inaccessible for readers. The use of headings and bullet points can help in organizing a longer piece of content and make it easier to navigate. Again, the focus is on the user experience. Thus, if readers can find the right answers and then easily figure out where to go for additional information, they will spend more time on the page. Images are also important for breaking up larger articles and making the content more digestible.