Let’s do a quick test. Open up a new browser and go to Google. Search “SEO tips.” You’ll get over 13 million results.
Good Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an important piece of a successful online strategy, and arguably the most important. It benefits both online and offline marketing initiatives, and serves as the foundation of any effective campaign. Many of those 13 million results will offer you “quick tips” and “secrets” to enhancing your SEO and beating out your competition. But the truth is much more nuanced:
SEO is a moving target. And it moves constantly.
So where has it moved to in 2016? During EdNET, the CB&A team sat in on a presentation by Jenny Munn, an SEO consultant based in Atlanta, GA, where the conference was held this year. Here are a few of her insights (use with caution – some may surprise).
Traditional SEO isn’t dead. It just evolved.
Every time Google releases a new search engine update, countless blog posts crow that “SEO is dead,” but somehow it survives, adapts and evolves. Old tricks break, but new strategies emerge and yield positive results. So ignore the skeptics – SEO will never die.
Modern SEO is …
SEO helps your content be found online. While SEO used to be a one-stop bag of tricks and the primary workhorse for a digital presence, it’s now most successful when part of a broader marketing strategy. Diversify. Find balance. Integrate it into email marketing, blogging and social media. But don’t ignore it. Bake it in to your routine.
A Mix of Disciplines
SEO still relies on the technical basics. But packing your pages full of keywords and other HTML tricks don’t provide a shortcut anymore. The focus today is on natural language, meaning that a web page written by a human being will be favored in search results over one that sounds like it was written by a spam robot. Successful SEO still relies on a creative mix of keywords, but weaving those keywords into website content (including blog posts) in a natural way is a discipline that must be practiced.
Besides making sure your content is informative and natural, search engines are also looking for social media hits, backlinks, the user experience (read: go mobile), and whether videos are being watched and forms are being filled out. SEO isn’t just about content, though content has changed. It represents a mix of disciplines.
It Takes a Village
The days of hiring an SEO expert to add a bunch of links and keywords to your website in an afternoon are long gone. SEO requires a unified, team approach. Instead of an occasional SEO tune-up from a webmaster or third party, companies practicing successful SEO have a blogger, a social media expert, a PR manager, and more on the home payroll. This team collaborates on effective SEO strategy and everyone is in the loop, making content changes, technical tweaks and measuring success. On that note …
Measure What Matters
Show of hands (don’t be embarrassed). How many of you out there still don’t know exactly how to measure SEO success? It might surprise (or comfort) you to know that most companies have trouble determining which metrics to measure, or fail to measure anything at all.
Is your content being consumed? Are you seeing bumps in traffic? Are you ranking, but not converting clicks? Are you ranking at all? Are you being found? Furthermore, are you being found for the right words?
Here are some effective metrics to measure success:
- Devices users are accessing your site with
- How many visits you’re logging
- Where your traffic is coming from
- The bounce rate
- Site speed
- Average time on site
- Number of pages visited
- Most popular pages
- Performance of landing pages
- Keyword searches
Don’t Cast a Wide Net
Have you heard the phrase, “jack of all trades, master of none?” Casting a wide net with broad keywords isn’t paying off in SEO strategy anymore, and there’s no way to “spam” your way to the first page of search results. However, the more specific and “niche” you get, the better you’ll perform in 2016. Factors that drive organic search include content quality, amplification of social signals (shares, retweets, etc.), usage data (i.e., click-through-rate), topical authority, trust and, believe it or not, local optimization.
Let’s say you own a company that repairs boat motors. Instead of a keywords strategy based on “boats,” you’ll have better success with “boat motor repair [city, state].” Don’t be afraid to be as specific as possible. Users looking for exactly what you’re offering will find you.
The fundamentals of good SEO haven’t changed: authoritative, meaty content, persuasive calls to action, continuous on-page optimization of the user experience, and long-term planning and strategy are still the foundations to an effective online presence. SEO isn’t becoming more narrow; in many ways, it’s broader than ever, and requires a mix of disciplines to deliver the results you’re looking for.