Content is everything. That’s the main learning from the excellent book SEO for Growth which explains how to get more Google traffic to your website, in plain English. The authors even claim that content marketing experts are surpassing SEO experts in this field, which should give you pause for thought about where to invest your digital marketing budget.
The old SEO war
It’s a turning point that marks a change that’s bigger than a tweak in an algorithm. In the past Google results could be gamed with clever strategies, and SEO forums were filled with impenetrable, jargon-filled advice on how to get to number one. Techies fought to outsmart Google in an ‘SEO war’, and you chose to fight for good or evil, as this (slightly tongue-in-cheek) Search Engine Watch post illustrates – SEO Wars: Forget Black Hat, White Hat – What Color Is Your Lightsaber?
New user-focussed SEO
The Google algorithm has smartened up to stop spammy sites cluttering up search results. Their updates penalise black hat tactics such as using ‘link farms’, where people pay to get hundreds of rubbish sites to link back to them in order to falsely appear popular. SEO is now less about ‘crushing your competitors’ (though that’s still a big part of it) and more about understanding and engaging with your audience. It’s not enough to produce a pretty website and expect a couple of tweaks from an SEO expert to get you to the top of results. You need to put SEO and your users at the start of your design process, and:
- understand user demand and meet it with your content
- use best practice design so people can easily use your site
- build a community in social that leads back to your site
- get people flocking to your informative blog posts
- get quality sites to link to you
- attract great online reviews from your customers
Monitor your SEO performance
You also need to test your approach, and use performance data to refine your strategy. There’s no SEO rule book that will guarantee success for your individual organisation. Discover your niche with a well-informed strategy, then track your performance to monitor the effects of algorithm changes and changes in user demand.
The authors of SEO for growth go so far as to say that companies that grow the fastest in the future will be the ones tapping into the rich data of Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
SEO content tips
The need to invest heavily in quality content is reinforced throughout the book, along with useful insights such as:
It all starts with keywords – Google’s algorithm is based around them
On-page elements account for roughly half of a website’s ranking potential
Teaching is the new marketing
To create content that gets Google traffic, here are some tips that resonated with my experience across different client sites:
Titles are the most important thing – even if the rest of SEO seems too difficult, make sure you include popular keywords in your titles and URLs.
Create a content strategy to serve up the best ‘starting point’ content to Google and create pathways to other relevant content – the home page is dying as more people land on deep-level pages from Google.
Frequent blogging is really important – you ideally want to publish one quality bit of content per week of 500 words or more to keep relevant to Google and your audience.
The most important content should be above the fold on each page – this is a Google ranking signal as well as usability best-practice.
You want people to take one of five actions before leaving your (commercial) website – buy, try, call, email or follow – it’s crucial that you monitor how many people complete these action to ensure that your site is working for you.
SEO is now closer to a communication strategy than a technical expertise. The days of shiny, flashy websites that fail to provide measurable value for users and the businesses they serve are over. It’s time to invest in quality, user-focussed content that hits the mark – the quill is mightier than the sabre.
If you want help making sure that you’re content is meeting the mark with performance data get in touch and we can have a chat.