You will never earn top-5 rankings on Google for the content your website does not have.
- Cole Wiebe
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) begins with a strategy and list of tactics that will be implemented to make your website rank higher in a search engine's results pages (SERPS). A top-3 (or at least top-10) ranking means more people will see your web site and this lays the foundation for more visits, leads and sales.
You may have read blog posts claiming that SEO is dead. Titles like that may be great click bait, but it's nonsense. When you look for something on the internet, where is the first place you go? Google is the first place almost everyone chooses to find anything. Bing may be the default search engine on Windows computers, but most people are tech savvy enough to quickly switch their browser over to Google.
Backlinko's research has shown that 75.1% of all clicks go to the top 3 Google results. According to the Search Engine Journal, 93% of all web traffic comes from a search engine. And 75% of Google's users never click past the first page of search results. As the character of Ricky Bobbie said in Talladega Nights, "If you ain't first, you're last."
The landscape of SEO has undergone massive shifts over the years. Google’s “animal” (Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird) updates rendered many older SEO methods obsolete, and with good reason. These updates to Google’s search algorithm removed many sites that were created just to clog up the results with false web pages and spam marketing.
Search is continually evolving. The need for truseted advisors and skilled professionals who can help companies create “findable” content and attract prospective customers to that information has never been greater. We believe this is a certainty that will outlive any SEO tactics, content marketing strategies, SEO experts and even the search engines themselves.
There’s little that an SEO (search engine optimization professional) can do to earn top search engine positioning if the content is either nonexistent, or 'thin', having little or no value to the target audience. The best place to start is with analysis and research, and drafting a comprehensive content strategy.
Often most of the existing client-generated content needs to be chucked, and a brand new content strategy rolled out. If the content was written in-house, it tends to be nothing more than obnoxious advertising, constantly plugging the company's products or services. Sorry, shameless advertorials are not considered "valuable," to the reader, or the search engines.
Much of the content on websites we inherit from new clients has months or years of crappy posts and articles purchased on the cheap from content mills. It's 'thin', meaning the writer conducted little or no research at all, and simply fulfilled the required word count with fluff they made up. Readers come away knowing no more about the topic than when they arrived on the site, so they 'bounce'. Google and Bing record all these bounces, and their algorithms conclude the website has absolutely no value.
Your website will need a combination of dynamic blog content, with weekly posts, as well as a growing asset base of long form pillar article pages. We need to research and write 'epic' content. What makes it epic? To rank at the top, we have to create a significantly better page than anything that has ever been published on the internet before, for our target keyword phrase and topic. That content must be optimized and promoted. That's right; content doesn't go out and market itself.
SEO used to be a checklist of tactics, and the engines were fairly easy to trick. Unfortunately, some SEO companies still try to use old tired methods such as keyword stuffing, content duplication, HTML
Google's algorithms are a lot smarter in evaluating page content, but there’s still a need to carefully fine-tune each website page and post so that the targeted keywords are presented well, but in a natural way.
And today, we need to pay particular attention to schema and voice search. Rich snippets are organic Google search results with additional data displayed. This added data is usually pulled from Structured Data found in a page’s HTML. And voice search is taking over, moving away from the traditional 'keyword' queries. Your content must reflect the new ways people search, if it's going to be 'findable'.
Google and Bing rank web pages, but they also evaluate your site as a whole, to determine the predominant theme. They track how many pages are viewed, how much time your visitors spend on the site, how they arrived at the site, how many times your content is shared, how many people link to your content, etc.
Search engines evaluate how your content is shared across the web, and compare that with what your site claims to be about. Site optimization is an ongoing process in which your content balance is monitored, with course corrections as required, to harmonize your content with the information your audience craves.
Audience optimization focuses on making each piece of content ridiculously valuable to your audience; your ideal customer. Each article and post should address the pain point or question that caused your reader to enter the search query on Google. It should cause your visitor to think, "Wow, this is exactly what I was looking for."
The content you create and publish should be interesting to readers, not search engines. Publishing regular high value content on your website, that is easy to find and carefully cross referenced, and promoted across a range of social channels where your audience hangs out online, will encourage people to link to your content in a natural way.
But, like it or not, waiting for people to link to your content on their own usually takes way too long. Neil Patel says that we need to observe the 80/20 rule when it comes to content marketing. An incredibly valuable pillar article can take days or weeks to research, write, and edit; but we must then invest four times more time in promoting it. Sending out news of the new article, and asking people to link to it, is still a very essential part of earning top search engine rankings.
I began writing articles for magazines in 1987. If the readers loved my articles, they bought more magazines. If the magazine circulation was good, the ads produced plenty of leads and sales for the companies who bought space.
Things may have changed... but not very much. Today, I write articles and they're published on my clients' websites instead of paper. We distribute the content in social media channels instead of news stands. But the leads and sales generated are still dependent upon creating valuable content, developing a strong readership and getting your ideal customers to see your offer.
Can I map out a content marketing strategy for your company, and write valuable content your future customers will love?
The answer to the biggest upside for your business or ambition is to make content; as much of it as humanly possible. And make it where people actually pay attention, so they become aware of what you want them to know.
- Gary Vaynerchuk