Whenever we need a question answered, purchase something online or go to a specific page, what do we do first? Sometimes you know the URL off the top of your head, but honestly, most of the time you ask Google (or Mr. Google according to my friend Mariona). The Internet and search engines as a whole are one of the most effective ways for markers to reach their audience. With increased knowledge and buying power, consumers these days are becoming smarter, but also lazier. We rely on Google for information and it has become increasingly important for businesses to show up as a high search result in order to validate their position and authority.
But how do we become friends with Mr. Google in the first place?
Let’s talk a little bit about how search engine optimization, or SEO works. It all begins with words typed into a search box according to Moz, SEO experts. Search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo use techniques and algorithms to search and categorize websites. The two main things these engines look for is relevancy and popularity, and from there, they rank or index for every organic search. For simplicity purposes, I will mostly be talking about Google. Why?
1. Because Google is the most popular search engine, making up about 80% of the “search pie” (thanks Moz).
2. Most other search engines employ very similar techniques for indexing.
3. Google is the most popular kid on the playground, if they are behind you, others will follow suit.
Okay so you’re on board, but if you want to be on Google’s side, you need their friendship and they know it. If you cross them by buying links or employ any of the other black hat techniques for optimization, be ready to face the wrath of Google.
Just like a mean girl at school, Google has the power to bring you down. But instead of playground cred, you could be sabotaging your businesses credibility and ability to rank well, which, as we’ve discussed can have a major negative impact on your business. Just take J.C. Penny for example. In 2011, in attempt to bump up their search results, they employed “link schemes” that connected J.C. Penny to bogus and unrelated websites. In doing so, Penny’s basically undermined themselves, almost completely cutting one of their sources of revenue: online sales. Cue “oh shit” moment for J.C. Penny marketing. The draw to these techniques is that they’re really easy, you “cloak” or hide a few keywords into your html text, and suddenly your rank goes up… or at least until Google catches on. Just like starting a rumor, it’s not nice, and totally not worth it in the end because Google is made up of some really smart people. If you’re curious what exactly is considered a Google SEO “no no”, check out their webmaster tools.
Now that we know what NOT to do. How do we become the good guys and become best friends with Google?
Link building is one of the hardest, but most rewarding parts of SEO. Simply put, if a well known and ranked webpage links to you, the better your rank. There are a few approaches to building links, some are easy and others are harder. We’ve gone over the black hat kind that should be avoided already, so let’s start with a few simple ways of link building, but first:
“All link building campaigns must start with something worth linking to” -Moz
Follow your buyer personas and content guidelines to create something that excited influencers and creates natural editorial links. Maybe you didn’t directly ask for the ping back, but you created some awesome content with your influencers in mind hoping they’d see it, love it, and link to it. This is a really genuine way to gain brand preference and leverage your evangelists in regards to search engine optimization. If you are just starting out and don’t have the screaming fans that repost everything you say just yet, consider manually doing some outreach and asking others to share what you have to offer. Remember, only do this when it’s relevant and avoid a “I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine” Moz warns. There are better ways to entice ping backs, like by providing other incentives. I see this done on social media all of the time. Some business will launch contests where individuals tag the businesses page and in return, have a shot at winning free product. When starting a link building campaign, it might be helpful to follow these steps provided by Moz:
But Hannah, why is link building so great? Essentially, by creating your awesome content and connecting with others you are simultaneously building relationships. One of the key goals of marketing is building relationships so SEO is your problem marketers. No longer can markers ignore the power of search and pass responsibility to IT. When SEO begins to create a referral system (which it does), we want our marketers talking too. Those among you who are dreading learning the ins-and-outs, have no fear. Consult the Beginner’s guide to SEO written by Moz, in simple easy to digest pieces that can even be employed by the least tech savvy among us.
Another important and straightforward way to increase your rank on search is to utilize keywords. No, I do not mean blasting your content with the same phrase over and over to ensure you show up in organic searches. I’m talking about using words that you know your buyer personas use to get the right visitors to your page. Be specific, but not too specific. If you’re selling laptops, you probably shouldn’t title your posts “handheld abacus central processing unit thinking machine”. Because no one, not even my computer engineer dad, calls a laptop anything other than a laptop. Okay so my point is exaggerated, but you should get it- speak the language! I mentioned before the search engines rank based on two things: relevancy and popularity. By understanding the customer and adding the right kind of keywords, you increase your relevancy.
Here’s my idea, if businesses should employ third party search engine optimization, what is being done about on-page search optimization? Think of the power you could gain from collecting the search data on your website and leveraging it to your advantage. If you know most of your users are searching on your page for black booties or a particular recipe, why not use that to create more relevant content? You already know that individual is on your page and interested, why not give them what you know what they want, right away. On page optimization would likely help SEO, too. As a cuisine lover and food blog frequenter, I would love it if they would take into account the commonly searched keywords in the same way they heed commonly asked questions. Just my two cents.
Hey Moz, what do you think?