There was a time when the only search engine optimisation you had to do to get to the top of Google rankings for a moderately competitive search term was stuff as many keywords into your website meta tags, get a few links from directories and some other 3rd party sites and there was a good chance you'd rank well for your chosen keywords.
It's been well documented in this, and other websites, that this SEO strategy no longer cuts the mustard. So why is it that so many businesses still think that this is all it takes to rank well in the search engines?
There is a perception that SEO is easy, that it's just a matter of stuffing lots of keywords in the meta tags, repeating them in the site content, getting a few paid backlinks and away you go. But, and it's a BIG BUT, there has been a fundamental shift in SEO over the past year, driven by Google's Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, which has changed the way websites are ranked.
Before Panda and Penguin, spammers and Black Hat SEO practitioners had increasingly been able to monopolise the search results for many popular search terms by developing various strategies (usually involving generating huge numbers of backlinks) which duped Google's search algorithm. Ultimately this meant the quality of the search results Google produced was diluted. For a company facing stiff competition from other search engines, this meant Google had to find a way of improving the quality of its search results, or risk losing searchers (and advertisers) to its competitors waiting in the wings. The upshot of this was one of the most seismic shifts ever in the SEO landscape and one which lay waste to many sites which, up until then, had enjoyed almost exclusive domination of the search results for some massively popular keywords.
In effect, what Google has tried to do is to recalibrate its results in order to attach stronger ranking to websites whose content is relevant, informative, authoritative, helpful, credible, unique and shareworthy. Hand on heart, how many of you can confidently claim your website content fits this criteria?
By producing quality content, not only are you able to gain a stronger foothold in the search engine rankings, you will also engage your readers more effectively. This, all things being equal, should lead to higher conversions.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that someone who is searching online for a particular product, service, information or advice will gravitate towards sites which contain unique insights into a particular topic, or offer an alternative angle or opinion. Readers will tend to stay on these sites for longer (hence stronger engagement) which is in itself an important determinant in Google's ranking calculation.
The problem is, producing quality content takes time, planning and a certain amount of writing ability. Many small businesses in particular would find the process of producing quality content a little daunting. But, in reality, the process isn't as difficult as some might think.
Say, for exmaple, you operated a website for a small plumbing business (note, this strategy works equally well for any service provider). What you need to do is compile a list of the pain points or information topics your prospective customers are seeking answers for online. A good tip is to read through plumbing related posts on discussion forums such as boards.ie or askaboutmoney.com. Here you will find a huge source of “ready made” article topics for your website, targetted at exactly the sort of problems and queries your prospects are experiencing right now.
You could even collate a number of the most frequently discussed topics and write a longer, more in depth article titled something like “The ten most common plumbing problems you can fix yourself.” If written well, a post such as this should establish the business as an authority in the eyes of your prospects. These type of “Top ten list” posts are frequently shared on social media platforms and bookmarking websites so have potential to go viral, generating good quality organic backlinks. These positive social media signals and links will boost your website's visibility in Google and other search engines for your main subject area. You could boost your article's viral potential even further by producing a Youtube video on the same subject, along with a transcript of the “keyword-rich” content (to further boost SEO).
There are countless sources of inspiration for quality articles on any subject. You just need to adopt the same thought processes and search strategies as your customers are using and you will come across a raft of possibilities. Here are a few more ideas you could use:
- Speak to your current customers. Ask what problems they are having difficulty resolving or finding information about.
- Use Twitter search to find out what topics are trending.
- Interview an authority in your field and get their views on specific issues.
- Review a product, or range of products, and share your views.
- Play devil's advocate and challenge the perceived wisdom around a newsworthy topic.
- Discuss your failures and show how these were overcome. People love an honest tryer!
- Get on to Youtube and see which videos around your industry are generating the most interest and comments.
Once you get into the habit of writing regularly about subjects that interest your customers, the traffic will follow. It may take time, and you will need to have patience, but your efforts will eventually pay off.
To get the most return out of this increased traffic, you must ensure the rest of your site has the tools to convert your browsers from prospects to customers. I'll be publishing a detailed post on this very topic within the next week.