A website without SEO is a bit like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich — without the jelly.
Sure, it will fill the gap. It may even satisfy some of your cravings. But the good stuff? All that sweet, sweet goodness, the stuff that keeps you going back for more, the stuff that garners you fans and followers for 100+ years just like the revered PB&J sandwich? (In case you’re wondering, the first peanut butter and jelly sandwich recipe appeared in 1901 in the Boston Cooking School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics, written by Julia Davis Chandler.) That comes with the jelly. And just in case you missed the reference here, SEO is the jelly.
Let’s step away from the PB&J for a second though, and talk actual numbers. Sound statistics and technical savvy to back up our whole sandwich theory.
Let’s start with this little nugget: Did you know that over 40,000 Google searches are submitted every second? That’s a lot of searches you need to compete against. Of course, not all those searches are relevant to your business and accompanying website, but with figures like these, the correlation to your specific industry is still going to be quite significant.
Ranking highly on Google is no easy task, though. With constantly changing algorithms, new strategies, and sneak-attack updates the order of Google’s day, you need to make sure your website is strong enough to weather any and all updates. This is where a sound SEO strategy comes into play.
Keep reading for sound technical reasons why SEO is so important; and to discover the key elements to a great SEO plan. If you need to take a moment to make a PB&J sandwich before diving in, we’ll wait.
The importance of a sound SEO strategy
Here’s another great number to hang your hat on: 3.5 billion daily searches. By structuring your website content in a way that is relevant, useful and easy to find – amongst other SEO tactics – you can at least give yourself a fighting chance of being seen amidst the 3.5 billion daily searches on the Internet.
3.5 billion daily searches. And yet, in the face of numbers like this some businesses still rage against the importance, and relevance, of SEO. It seems like a lot of work for something that is so intangible. And it is a lot of work. But here’s why you can’t afford to ignore, or eschew SEO.
SEO helps you attract and keep visitors
Proper SEO web design makes your site a seamless, easy-breezy place to visit – and finish the deal. Good SEO makes sure your site:
- Is user-friendly,
- Is easy to navigate,
- Offers obvious paths to your end goal,
- All the while offering useful, relevant information along the way and
- It allows you to send visitors to exactly where you want them to go on your site – no stopping, no irrelevant distractions, no unpleasant pushiness.
SEO helps you convert visitors into customers
SEO can help you ‘seal the deal’. You can boast of all the traffic in the world, but without a conversion – even a micro-conversion – traffic means little to nothing.
Good SEO can help offer up desired actions – like signing up for a newsletter, or clicking a ‘More Information’ link, or downloading a PDF, or best-case scenario hitting ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Enquire Now’ – and then make those actions the obvious choice.
Even if your user doesn’t buy something or contact you the first time round, all these actions, no matter how micro, help engage your user and create a better chance of return visits and, ultimately, a conversion.
Want a little bit – or a lot – of this SEO action? Read on to discover the basic backbone of good SEO.
6 Key elements to good SEO
1. Quality Content
“My rule of thumb is, build a site for a user, not a spider.” Chris Genge, President and founder of 1stOnTheList.ca, a Vancouver-based digital marketing agency that has been active since before Google even existed, in 1997.
“Quality content is a rule we live and die by.”
Gone are the days when keywords alone will get you rankings. The criteria should be:
- Content that is relevant.
- Content that is useful.
- Content that is authentic.
- Content that is true.
- Matches up with user intent
Begin your content creation by throwing SEO concerns, and keywords, out the window. Write about your product, your services and your business to show that you care about what you are offering the world. Because you do. And if your potential customers are looking for your services, they do too.
Now go back and spend a bit of time on optimizing that content. You’ll probably find your keywords are in there completely naturally, organically, which is exactly what your potential visitors – and Google – wants.
Stuffing keywords into a tag or a page’s content is both ugly and in 2019, akin to a cardinal “SEO sin”. Instead, the focus has shifted to presenting relevant and topical authority to a particular consumer demographic, which will garner you search engine love, and more importantly, consumer love.
Again, make your content, all your content – copy, video, images, alt-attributes to your images – usable, relevant and true, and the above should naturally fall into place. There are a few additional SEO tips you can incorporate:
- Long form content
Google has stated that users do not enjoy short bits and pieces of information. Longer and more thorough content is the way to go. Many of the sites ranking on Google’s first page tend to have long-form content, more specifically though, long-form content that is engaging, relevant and offers value.
- Long tail keywords
Keywords are still necessary. After all, when people are searching online, they still need to use keywords. But the key is to go for long tail keywords for the SEO win. Long tail keywords are target keyword phrases that are four to six words long and question-based. Increasingly, thanks in part to voice search, people are searching the web using questions:
- How? Why? Is? What? Where? When?
Look for question-based keyword phrases starting with these words when performing your keyword research. Answer The Public is a great resource for finding questions your target audience is asking. Use it.
2. Search Intent
Closely related to quality content and those long tail keywords you’re all set to discover, is search intent. As Simon Ensor of SearchEngineWatch.com stresses: “Focus on searcher intent. … What is the searcher really trying to achieve and how is your content helping them reach this goal?”
Once again this speaks to relevance. The URLs that link to the content with the highest relevance are those which are winning the Page 1 Google search wars.
User intent – or search intent – can be broken down into three categories:
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The user or searcher is trying to go somewhere. They are trying to find a specific page or site but don’t know the exact URL. This is often worded using brand-specific words and terms.
The searcher is trying to know something. This is where those question-based searches come in: questions will include words or phrases like “how to”, “what is”, “where is”, “why do”, “is there”. Make your content the authoritative answer in your field or industry to related questions!
The searcher is trying to do something, they want to complete an action. This could be actually buying something but also includes things like newsletter signup (proffering up their email addresses), downloading an informational PDF, visiting an online or physical store, giving your business a call, submitting a form, etc.
In a nutshell, your website needs to be packed with pages that meet user intent: answer your customers’ questions, allow them to purchase or act on a desire, let them find you online – easily.
3. Link Building
Off-page SEO, or SEO that focuses on the links that are directing users to your website from other sites on the Internet, continues to play a key role in SEO for 2019.
Beware here though: link farms and buying links in this day and age can only harm you.
Instead, make friends in your field. Love thy neighbor. Pay it forward. Share your links with other local businesses to share on their sites, where relevant, and share links to their sites, where relevant, on your site.
Write blog posts on topics close to your heart. Share them on social media sites. Invite experts in your field to write guest blog posts on your site; write guest blog posts on their sites. All these things can help build backlinks to your site.
Most of all though, build quality content that others in your field can trust. If they trust you and are backlinking to you as an authoritative source, this helps build trust in the eyes of Google and other search engines. Voila: your website is trusted, it ranks higher on SERPs.
4. Technical SEO
Technical SEO, which focuses on your website’s architecture and code is just as crucial as quality content and other on-page SEO. As Dainius Runkevicius of Medium.com states, “The SEO’s job today is more than keywords and backlinks. It’s more than metadata optimization. It’s more than even content. It’s the assurance of a friction-less user experience while delivering the right information at the right time – and in a timely manner.”
This is where things get technical and might involve some expert help. It is worth any amount of budget you can allocate to it though given that when ranking your website, Google places just as much emphasis on the code of your site as it does on your content. Here we’re talking about things like:
- Site architecture and UX optimization – making your site easy to navigate, with obvious, easy paths users can follow.
The difference between an average site and a great site, can often be boiled down to whether or not you kept your user experience in mind or not. Studies show that 68% of users leave a site because of poor user-centered design. You have about 3 seconds for a user to find what they are looking for before they abandon your site in favor of your competitor’s. Make those 3 seconds count.
- Page load speeds – making your website and individual pages load as fast as possible
As we mentioned earlier in this article, speed matters. Page load speed is a huge factor in Google ranking. Start by checking how your website measures up: head to Google’s free PageSpeed Insights tool to find out exactly how fast your site loads, as well as recommended changes to make it faster.
Why does page load speed matter? Well, at just 2 seconds, you’ve lost around 12% of the people who clicked to visit your website. 4 seconds? Say goodbye to 25% of your potential visitors. Any longer? Sorry. You’re done. (And by the way, this goes for mobile too, which brings us to…)
- Mobile optimization – make your website mobile friendly
Like quality content, this is a drum we will keep on banging. Again. And again. And again. Why?
- 67% of people say a mobile friendly site makes them more likely to hit the final ‘buy’ button or use a service.
- 61% of people say if a site is clunky on mobile they’ll move on in a flash. Quicker than you can say Bye instead of Buy. By the by, this is not the ‘bye’ you want to hear.
Start by checking if your site is mobile friendly by heading to Google’s free Mobile-Friendly Test site. Now adjust accordingly.
When creating, or optimizing your website, remember that Google crawls both – the desktop and mobile version. Moreover, Google now has a mobile-first policy: This doesn’t mean they won’t crawl your desktop version, it just means that if you have a mobile-friendly website up and running (which it recommends), it will probably show your website higher than the websites that are not mobile-friendly.
Final tip: when it comes to your website and mobile friendly design, ditch the ‘m’ or ‘mobile’ specific version and create a responsive design that works on all platforms. It might take more time, effort and money up front but will save time, and money, in the end.
5. Video optimization
Latest studies show that 87% of people say they prefer video content. Lazy? Perhaps. But true.
A recent Cisco white paper revealed that by 2021 video content will surpass all other content forms with consumption exceeding 85%.
What can you take from this? If you don’t have video (hello YouTube), get some. Immediately. Then make sure you optimize it using these three main tips:
- Channel name
Don’t be shy, claim your vanity URL right away. Not doing so is false modesty and, frankly, SEO-stupid.
- Channel keywords
Use more YouTube optimized keywords to drive traffic to your YouTube videos, giving you higher Google rankings, driving traffic back to your website. We like to call it the circle of sight.
- Channel description
Complete your YouTube description area. Don’t skip it. Like all your content, make it useful, relevant and matching user intent.
6. Voice Search Optimization
We just heard that 62% of people say they will buy something through voice search in the next month. As above, lazy? Perhaps. But true.
With this astonishing statistic and voice search now in play, you really need to circle back to those long tail keywords and search intent we spoke of earlier. Remember those question-based keyword phrases? Well, think about it: when people use voice search, they are more likely to ask actual questions: How? Why? Is? What? Where? When? Incorporate those and you’re golden.
How long before I see SEO results?
By now you’ve probably seen the SEO light. But if you’re anything like every other savvy business person we’ve ever met, you are at this moment asking: “Sounds great, but how much time before I see results from SEO? When will I see a return on my investment?”
Like all things in life: good things come to those who wait.
It takes time to develop a proper online visibility for the types of new business you are looking for. Prior to 2000 it was assumed that it took three to five years to build a business’s customer base and flow of new business to make a company successful. If we’re honest, there are very few examples of companies growing much faster than that.
Today, in a society which values… no, demands instant gratification, it is anticipated that it can be done in a few months. But this is one area where instant gratification is not an option. If you’re looking for fast, stick to food. If you’re looking for results, show patience. The number of businesses successfully growing that quickly is fairly small.
SEO is a long term strategy. When done properly, however, and given the time to develop, it really is a very good way to grow your business.
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