It happens every time when Google changes the algorithms of its search engine that a whole bunch of marketers get the shivers. More or less without a reason – as marketers can easily make those algorithms work for them.
It is true that some marketers build their SEO strategy on very narrow and thus unstable grounds causing many websites to drop in rating every time Google tweaks the algorithms. This is though not the most usual case as we often are made to believe.
Incorporating SEO Into Marketing
When working on a SEO strategy marketers usually base their tactics on the overall marketing strategy: brand identity, target group, goals, brand specific language, etc. The guidelines found there are what should become the core of your online marketing and thus your SEO strategy.
This means in practice that you already have your tone of voice, your graphic solutions and your networking/collaboration guidelines. It happens awfully rarely that a marketer ignores all such guidelines to chase a SEO score. Actually, this happens most of the time when companies turn to SEO professionals with little understanding of the brand.
What is SEO all about
SEO is in its essence a combination of characteristics signaling the reliability of a website and the relevance of such a website as a search result in a query. SEO has developed a lot throughout the years since search engines appeared and has in time emphasized different website aspects: number of links to website, keywords, meta data, titles, etc.
Today things has changed a bit. Internet has become almost intelligent and quite more “vocal” in the sense that today it is not only a business owner talking about the business, it is the whole consumer community getting involved in the debate.
Therefore Google works all the time to improve the precision of its search results employing methods as semantic analysis of webpages and combined evaluation of a website’s reliability by checking factors as domain health, code and markups, updates, speed, overall performance and visitor experience, public mentions and references by third parties, etc.
This does not however mean – as you surely believe –that the “old” SEO practices are dead.
Make Google’s Algorithms work for you
1. Optimize for Semantic Analysis
Google is trying to become intelligent and is therefore working hard on developing a deeper understanding of the language, not only in terms of keywords but in terms of general meaning and context. Besides the fact that this gives Google the opportunity to better select search results it was the start of Google’s intelligent services – Google Answer Box and Google Knowledge Graph.
Needless to say, having your website appear in the Answer Box gives you a great competitive advantage. Therefore it is worth the effort to try and get there. You can do that by optimizing the semantic structure of your content so that it matches and answers search questions in a meaningful way.
Working on semantic structure helps also your general ranking. You just have to let Google know what you are really about. Emphasize your core competences by using the right keywords and conveying the right contextual meaning.
2. Google Authorship, Google Places, Google Marketplace and Google+
As Google is the king of search engines you just have to play by its rules. While a Google+ page might not be the logical choice for your business, it gives great advantage in many ways, including bumping your Google+ page up the search results. Not to mention that Google+ is one of the few social media platforms allowing crawlers to accurately record social interactions. Thus, it can help boost your SEO scores.
Another thing you should consider is a registration at Google Places which makes your company easily searchable in local searches. In many cases this means that you skip the line and come up first in the results only because your proximity to the consumer is unbeaten.
In the same time being registered at Google Marketplace gives you the amazing opportunity to offer your products with picture, price and a Buy button directly from the top of the search results.
On top of those options you can register for Google Authorship which can help Google classify your field of expertise and follow your popularity all throughout the internet where you provide your name or “sign” your content with Google Authorship. As a result you rank higher in search results matching your field of expertise. Of course, it is up to you to deliver consistent quality content within a well defined field to make it possible for Google to classify you as an expert.
Using such services – together with the must-haves Google Webmaster and Google Analytics – is an external search engine optimization which adds a lot of value even though it does not directly bump up your website’s SEO scores. To say it short: it pays out to make friends with Google.
3. Social Media: Wikipedia, Facebook and LinkedIn
Have you noticed that search results often include LinkedIn profiles or Wikipedia pages among the first results? The reason is that those sites have earned Google’s trust to return reliable and quality information.
While it does not add any particular value to your website ranking having your company’s name appear among the first results will help your business: just make sure that customers can find your website via easy to spot links on your social profiles. Getting increased traffic from those sources will at the end increase your page score.
So make sure your presence on social media is prominent enough. While it is almost impossible to get listed on Wikipedia as a young company, it is still worth the effort to try and do it.
4 .Brand Identity
Building a strong and recognizable brand helps both search engines and consumers find your brand. A brand is evaluated by Google both by how you market it and what others say about it. It is then the prominence of the brand that increases your SEO score. Therefore make sure to make it easy for consumers to engage with the brand – both on-site and off-site. Social media, forums, campaigns and commercials are a good off-site way of reaching out and prompting consumers to talk about you.
5. User experience
Google claims it tries to provide the best user experience. Thus, speed, design, ease of navigation, and quality content are in focus when evaluating a website. As traffic is usually a reliable measure of a website’s quality you have to be very careful to follow Google’s guidelines for user experience. Check how your website scores by using Google Developers’ web tool for performance evaluation. Furthermore, be careful to keep bounces low as they affect your SEO score negatively. Ensuring that there are no misleading title tags and meta descriptions is one way of doing that. Optimizing design by implementing AB tests is another thing you should consider.
The world is getting mobile and so should your business. Make sure that your website is compatible with mobile devices and develop a mobile version of it. Failing to do so will lower your SEO score and will likely cost you appearance in search results on mobile devices.
7. Old SEO still works
While many experts try to convince you that you have to hire them to fix your SEO as nothing works as it used to, this is simply not true.
From experience I know that a website with accurate meta descriptions, title tags and ALT tags, and well chosen H1 and H2 ranks higher than websites who fail to implement them. Furthermore, it is a myth that the importance of keyword density is declining. Besides the fact that high keyword density still gives you very good page rankings, Google uses it to define the main topics of your website (take a look at your Google Webmaster Search Terms section and see for yourself how Google decides what your content is about). Thus, having a lot of keywords like marketing for example will make Google understand that your website is mainly about marketing. Therefore be careful with the choice of words.
Links are also still very important. While you had to focus on quantity before, today it is much more about quality. Register in Moz, Yahoo and search ways to get into the most prominent websites within your field. Some SEO specialist argue that having several links to your pages from each of the prominent websites is valued very high as it demonstrates a relationship between the two websites.
From experience I can say that getting registered in 100s of made-believe web directories does not even get detected by Google so do not waste your time on that.
In connection to links, it is worth mentioning that working on your URLs is something that will really help you come up in search results – it provides you an additional opportunity to include your keywords making Google evaluate your page as a better and more professional search result. Also, the likelihood of users clicking on a meaningful constructed link is higher as the weird generic characters often found in URLs are sometimes connected to spam and fraud.
Remember though that it is only the fewest who can make it by merely implementing brilliant SEO. You have to find ways to reach out to consumers and tell them your story before they are willing to click on your website link – even if it appears as the first one on Google.