Digital marketers today understand that when we’re talking about search engine optimization, we are almost exclusively talking about Google’s search engine. What Google wants to see, the smart digital marketer will try to provide. The goal is simple: get people to find you, entice them to engage with your content, and then convert them into a customer. And the most important part is the first—in other words, people have to find you before anything else can happen.
The key to Google Search Engine Optimization—what we call GSEO here at Hudson Digital—is very much wrapped in the process of content marketing. Over the years, Google has tuned its search algorithms to crawl sites looking for features that really amount to the equivalent of what you might call “useful content”. We are well beyond a time when keyword stuffing and cheap SEO tricks will win you anything.
Google has tuned its algorithms to recognize good content and penalize both “bad” or redundant content as well as old SEO tricks. What Google quickly recognized, and what the digital marketer must understand, is that Google works if it satisfies its customers with relevant results. Therefore, your job is to provide relevant content when someone is searching for sites like yours.
Duplicated, unoriginal content, low-quality links, and obvious attempts at keyword usage will only lower your ranking; as will a site that loads slow, has too many ads, or that links to the same content from too many internal sources (this can be managed by using what is called a “canonical tag”). Moz has a tutorial on how set up rel=canonical tags. Duplicate content can happen for all sorts of reasons and an estimated 65% of websites have duplication issues with only 10% using canonical tags. Check out Copyscape to monitor duplicate content on your site and rectify problematic finds with canonical tags.
There is no question that solid content marketing works to improve Google results but creating it takes longer and requires more effort. Your goal should be to do that, to be an authority on your subject matter—and that means research, staying on top of the latest trends, creativity, and originality.
One way of thinking about this is to take a look at how often Wikipedia results come up in Google searches. The reason for this is because, often, Wikipedia offers some of the most comprehensive, authoritative results available online. But you can also be authoritative in your niche. Wikipedia doesn’t have much about your B2B partner program—but you should. Wikipedia doesn’t say much about your brand of culinary expertise—but you should have a lot to say about it.
Concentrate on making your content both informative and accessible. Google rewards sites that have higher rates of engagement—low bounce rate with high page depth per visit. It reviews your site to see if it meets this criteria because Google needs to get information to its customers that they’ll find helpful (so they will keep coming back to Google). Pleasing visitors with great content means they’ll stay longer on your site and return—this is the most natural way to achieve GSEO.
When your site is slow to load, hard to navigate, and lacking in any real authority, expect this to translate into high bounce rates (in other words, visits with either no page views or one pageview) and a low rate or return visitors. You will want to spend some time making sure you can regularly get users to go past the landing page—get them to engage with your content. This will, in turn, drive more Google search traffic to your site.
Often, the most-visited sites have taken a professional approach to both great design and the written word. They hire professionals to build the site and professionals to write the content. You may be able to write your own content, and that may work well for you, but if you’re uncertain about how to work out the words to go with your great design, you may want to consider hiring a copywriter to create compelling, authoritative content.
Hiring out or not, it’s important to make sure you’re making true and meaningful statements about your business and its value to the customer. Speak with a seasoned marketer about your company, and they will likely ask you what is your “unique differentiator”. This is another way of saying: “why you?” as opposed to others in the same niche. Using the proposition of a unique differentiator is one of the best ways to spring your content towards relevancy and effectiveness. What do you do different or better than the next competitor? The more clearly you can state this, the more likely you will have engaged visitors. This, in turn, leads to better search rankings; and then, naturally, more visitors.
This may seem daunting, but there’s good news. Google is happy to help you understand what it’s looking for. They have a stake in your site being relevant because it’s good business for them. Here are some of the guidelines you can use to comply with their algorithm:
- Make your content simple and straightforward; use a conversational, jargon-free tone
- Try to understand what your customers are looking for; and provide that in a friendly, easy-to-understand manner.
- Use a style guide to form your sentences and paragraphs. The New York Times’ The Elements of the Stylebook is a classic guide, still in use today. Avoid obscure words and unusual punctuation.
- Avoid over-long words where simpler words will do. Apply the same principle to sentence structure and your entire argument.
- The words you choose to link to other parts of your site are key—choose those words that are meaningful to the content you’re linking to. It should feel natural to the user to click on that link, and then natural again when they see where it has taken them.
- Google seems to like lists (like this one) because people like lists.
- If you’re going to link out to other sites, make sure they’re tied to your industry, high in search rankings, and that you’ve already judged them reliable.
Today, GSEO is almost synonymous with having a great web site. Your takeaway here is Google wants to crawl and load your site quickly; wants to avoid slow-loading modules that deliver some graphical punch at the expense of speed; wants to see clarity of organization; finally, wants to see authority. If your site meets these requirements, then you’re likely going to see better search rankings which will lead to more traffic—and ultimately, more customers. Want to learn more? Click on the button to get in touch!