SEO professionals can make SEO into a very complex industry, but that isn’t necessary. If you’re ever talking with a Search Engine Optimization “expert” who makes it seem like the non-professionals of the world wouldn’t understand, just hang up.
SEO isn’t really that complicated. Sure, when it first got started there were really simple ways to trick the internet into sending traffic your way. But in 2019 “Search Engine Optimization” is more human than it sounds.
A few keys here will help you understand what we mean, starting with your own experience (remember, the people looking for your business are an awful lot like you).
When you’re Googling something, what do you want?
Are you looking for the website with the best meta tags? Or perhaps you want the website that has perfectly defined your keywords? Surely not.
No, you’re looking for the same things we all want: easy & helpful answers from a trustworthy source.
That’s it. For me, I’d say I want to go to a website that gives me the right answer to my question. I also want it to load quickly, be legible, and be easy for me to navigate the website if I need additional information. Additionally, I want to trust the source of my answer. If a website has the right answer but it looks like it was built in 1996, I often move on to another site to confirm that answer or get a different one.
In short, my twenty-first century lack of patience just wants a great experience, helpful content, and a trustworthy source. That’s really it.
When your customers are Googling something, what does Google want from your website?
From the user side, you can probably imagine those things are pretty straightforward. Users don’t really care how the sausage is made, so to speak — as long as it tastes good.
Google’s goal is similar. They want searches to be happy website visitors.
Consider their business model. They make money every time someone searches on Google. So, if you’re Google, you want to make sure you give users what they want every time so that they’ll come back next time they have a question.
This is where the technical SEO aspects come into play.
There are some technical guidelines which need to be followed to make sure that you’re communicating to Google how great your user experience, trustworthiness, and content is. The good news is that Google has well-articulated those guidelines from a performance standpoint here: Google WebMaster Guidelines.
Think of it like this. Google has the traffic. They also have a mandate to make search as helpful as possible. So, they tell everyone what to do to be helpful.
And that’s SEO in a nutshell. Provide a great user experience, helpful content, on a trustworthy website. And make sure you follow the things Google has told you to do.
“Ok, that’s a simple way to understand SEO. But what do I do?”
When the rubber meets the road on SEO, it’s both a bit art and a bit science. There are literally dozens of factors that go into Google’s algorithm, which mean we can’t fully break the code. And, incidentally, that also means I’d be wary of trusting any SEO agency that offers you the #1 spot on Google. Frankly, it’s just not theirs to give away. (Checkout this article from MOZ about the ranking factors for more info)
But here are the things you can actively do to increase your visibility for Google search.
- Have a great website. This is a must anymore. It needs to be fast, beautiful, easy to use, with great site architecture. Make sure mobile-first is included in your design. A clear perspective and helpful calls to action are key as well. That said, do note that “great website” doesn’t mean expensive or complex. Some of the best websites are very simple. But they are great from the perspective of the user.
- Produce irresistible content. Clear, easy-to-read, helpful content is key. If you’re wondering about the kinds of content you should produce, just ask yourself, “What kinds of things do I like to read and share?” That’s the goal. Great content isn’t just click-bait headlines and a few bullet points. You have a perspective. You have an approach. And we need to hear it. A good SEO company or content marketing expert can help with ensuring content best practices are followed. Good content that people like, however, is more important than technically following every best practice.
- Choose lightning-fast hosting. Hosting is an under-rated SEO factor. Sometimes clients talk to me about hosting like it’s a hassle. Sure, you can get $3-per-month shared hosting plans. But the problem with those plans is your performance will vary significantly, and Google doesn’t like that. If your site takes longer to load than a bull-rider can stay on a bull, you’re in trouble (Aka, that’s a terrible user experience).
- Clean up your external profiles. While most of your SEO work will be on your website, you can also focus on some external link building or citations. This shouldn’t be a big, expensive component of your SEO strategy (some agencies make a killing off of these services). It’s labor-intensive, and the return on that investment is often tied to the quality of content anyway. Instead of link-building, why not focus on finding ways to serve your audience? That seems to be a better approach. That said, you do need to make sure that your information (mostly your Name, Address, Phone Number) is clear and consistent across the web. Think about it like this — if you’re Google, which website would you trust more, the company that has 4 conflicting phone numbers and 2 addresses, or the one whose name, address, and phone are all consistent in the major information databases online? Yeah, me too.
- Ask for reviews. This is a great business practice in general, but getting reviews on sites like Google maps or Facebook can really help build your authority. Businesses with an average rating of 4+ stars on Google and Facebook tend to have far better visibility rates than those with ratings below a four.
- Be consistent on social media. As a confession, I am personally a not a good, consistent social media poster on my personal accounts. That’s fine. You don’t have to be. We’ll talk more about Social Media in 2019 and beyond in another post. Still, at the very least, you should put that great content you’ve produced out into the world.
Understanding SEO: Now What?
We set out at the beginning of this guide to give you a simple approach to understanding your business’s approach to SEO. Hopefully we’ve done just that, and hopefully you have at least this takeaway: it’s about serving people. That’s it. Google’s goal is to serve their audience. If you want them to send people to your website, get really good at serving your visitors, too.
If we can help you discover what this could look like for your business, feel free to get your free SEO report from Authentic Digital.