The general consensus among marketers is that search engine optimization (SEO)—the various tactics used to help web crawlers understand and index your website’s content for higher rankings in search results—is necessary to improve your website traffic. The reasons for investing heavily in SEO are numerous, from generating more leads, to increasing the number of click-throughs and page views on your website.
Most entrepreneurs would agree that to compete for favorable placement on search engine result pages (SERPs), you need a website flooded with inbound links and keywords that attract the search engine’s attention. However, other experts argue that companies should spend more time focusing on generating high-quality content instead of generating inbound links, as many believe that constantly refreshing your site with solid content is a more effective SEO strategy than getting other sites to link to yours. As stated in the search guidelines published by tech giant Google, companies should “Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.”
How Search Algorithms Affect You
The truth is that the algorithms Google uses to rank webpages are constantly evolving, and nobody fully understands how they work or how often they will change. In light of this uncertainty, altering your SEO strategy to conform to these algorithms is impractical.
Google updates its algorithms to combat “black hat” SEO practices, which deceive users into thinking the site provides the most relevant content when in fact it might not. If you employ “white hat” SEO practices, and your website is already relevant and useful to customers, these algorithm changes shouldn’t affect you too much, and they may actually help you rank higher than competitors who use sneaky or underhanded practices.
The next time you hear about the latest Google updates to its search engine algorithms, remember that the best way to handle the change is to focus on your website’s quality, rather than its SEO. Here are a few tips on how:
Write Content for Your Audience
Instead of trying to optimize every single webpage with high-ranking keywords (which could actually hurt you), advocates for “social search” encourage companies to focus on creating content that will build online buzz and a consistent engagement throughout your corporate and social media channels.
Cleaning up 301 redirects (code that automatically sends web users from one URL to another) and improving your site structure and hosting are important for helping web crawlers index your site, but these tasks are also highly technical and time-consuming. If you already have a solid website structure but limited staff and monetary resources, consider focusing some of those resources on developing content that will be useful to your users and can bolster your organic search rankings. Some content ideas to consider include:
- Developing and maintaining a corporate blog
- Positioning your company as an industry thought leader with whitepapers
- Collecting customer testimonials or discussing success stories in case studies, webcasts and podcasts
- Publishing industry research, company reports and customer surveys
In other words, if you create and post high-quality content on your corporate website, your customers, prospects and stakeholders will naturally want to link to it.
Increase Your Social Media Presence
Creating and publishing great content is a good start; however, most marketers would agree you also have to promote it across your various social media channels (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.). Whether you hate it or love it, social media promotion has become a crucial part of effective marketing strategy for organizations large and small. Maintaining a Google+ profile, Facebook business page or Twitter feed is important for projecting brand authenticity and authority on the web. Likewise, search engines perceive these social signals as important indicators of the relevancy of your content for web visitors and users.
According to writers such as Social Media Today’s Stephanie Frasco, link building is no longer a guaranteed strategy for boosting your SEO clout online. Search engine algorithms have become smarter and more sophisticated, and they now consider factors such as the number of social links bringing people to your site and into your social circles. On top of that, many search engines, including Google, may ban sites from search results if they buy or exchange links with companies with disreputable SEO practices.
By doing basic things—like filling out the “About” sections of your social media profiles with words associated with your brand or with geolocation information such as your office address—you’re already helping individuals and businesses find your company online. When you share your content on social media, you also increase social media links and interaction between those social media pages and your corporate website. Search engines will eventually recognize these social signals as indicators of relevance and importance when ranking your content in search engine results pages.
Make Your Corporate Website Usable and Accessible
Having a sleek, impressive-looking website is nice, but making it accessible to all users is even better. This means ensuring your website can be read, understood and navigated by users of all ages, as well as those with auditory, cognitive, physical, visual and other types of disabilities.
Incorporating SEO into web design and web content management system (CMS) decisions can help to avoid or alleviate restructuring your website in the near or long-term future. Nevertheless, it’s also important to select a CMS that will eliminate accessibility barriers that can make it challenging or even impossible for people with special needs to effectively use your site. It also helps non-disabled users with slow internet connections or temporary injuries to continue to utilize your site and its content.
Although web accessibility and SEO are two different things, making your website easier to use for disabled users can, by default, improve your SEO. For instance, using lots of readable text, inserting hyperlinks with proper keywords, adding descriptive alt text to your images and building a site map are all best practices that help disabled users better navigate your site.
Pure SEO Isn’t Everything
Ultimately, a high ranking on search engine result pages doesn’t guarantee real business results (e.g. customer sales, higher engagement, etc.). If you rank highly for a search term that has little or nothing to do with your product or service, that won’t help your goal of attracting prospects who are generally interested in engaging with your brand and buying your product.
As with everything in marketing, quality matters more than quantity. Creating content that is engaging, unique and shareable across multiple platforms will help you naturally optimize for search engines as well as get the attention of web users who are genuinely interested in your brand.