The ongoing search for SEO
Your business is online, but is it visible? If you want to be found, SEO will do half the job. Great content will do the rest, writes Narrative Chief Content Officer Mark van Dijk.
If the Internet is an enormous library, is your content on the right shelf? Is it at eye level, with the cover showing; or is it at the bottom of a dusty pile of books in the downstairs storeroom? Are you trying to reach an audience that doesn’t know you exist, and that couldn’t find you if they tried? SEO (or search engine optimisation) helps to categorise online content so that it’s easy for people using Google’s search engine to find it. In other words, SEO moves your business’s website out of that storeroom and onto the right bookshelf.
The honest truth about SEO
Yes, SEO will push your content up Google’s rankings, but – no matter what you’ve been sold or told – the scary truth is that no-one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google. And that’s a direct quote from Google itself. The world’s favourite search engine adds that the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through its Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap… and you can do this yourself, for free, without hiring an SEO consultant.
Optimise your content for SEO, and do it more than once. A new report from the Content Marketing Institute warns businesses to “break the bad habit of viewing aspects of an SEO marketing strategy as a one-time exercise. Too often, some companies optimise a website page and never adjust it.”
SEO best practice in action
Start by tackling technical issues, like title tags and meta descriptions. Are yours unique, concise and in the correct format? Current best practice is to have a unique tag for each page, with no duplications or repetitions across your site. The recommended format is [ Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Your Brand Name ], making sure to stay within 55 characters (including spaces). For meta descriptions, be sure to avoid duplications, steer clear of quotes or non-alpha characters (Google’s search bots sometimes cut off tags at non-alpha characters), and don’t ramble on for longer than 150 to 160 characters.
The rules governing what’s on the page follow a similar formula. Make sure your content is unique (not copy/pasted on multiple pages), and that it relates clearly to its keyword or keyword phrase. Obviously you’ll need to use that keyword four or five times within the content. Similarly, you should avoid “keyword stuffing”, or unnatural repetition of that keyword. Write naturally. Treat your audience like humans, and not like robots, and Google’s robots will treat you better.
The search for quality content
Technical tricks will only get you so far. Until just a few years ago, you could hire an SEO expert to try to game the system, packing every paragraph with keywords and tagging the daylights out of every page. But Google’s bots and algorithms have learned to tell the difference between quality content and SEO-manipulating drivel.
Again, take it from Google: “Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed here”, it says in one of its many online SEO guides. “Users know good content when they see it and will likely want to direct other users to it. Organic or word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build your site’s reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content.”
That’s the real secret to SEO. What your customers are really searching for is good content. And great content marketing will help you to help them find it.