SEO is never going to be a prescriptive ‘one approach suits all’ solution. The days of a handful of specific tasks delivering a certain degree of almost guaranteed return are long behind us – and believe it or not this is a good thing!
So, what does work in organic search? And how can you deliver results from SEO in 2014?
Search marketing for SEO
I did a post on this very topic at the end of 2013 called ‘search marketing vs search manipulation’. It’s worth a look, even if I do say so myself.
Assuming you don’t have the time to read this previous post, at the top level you need to be thinking about SEO differently. The mind-set of generating results by manipulating the search results will only lead you towards SEO tactics that will either have very short-term success (often resulting in long-term resolution strategies post penalties) or will simply fail to have any impact at all.
As long as SEO has been around, so too have phrases like ‘content is king’ (and its variations), which over the past few years can accumulatively been coined ‘content marketing’. Having the privilege to work for a company known for pioneering approaches to SEO, our content driven SEO had for some time been at the forefront of the drive towards content marketing for natural search.
To make this simple – content is central to your SEO success and arguably always has been.
Technical SEO still works. Fact
Please do not include spam activities like using the meta keyword tag and stuffing search terms into it. There is a big difference between professional technical SEO and manipulative technical SEO.
Here are some practical technical SEO tips. There are so many examples that I tried to add in a good mix but the more you delve into technical SEO the more you will discover:
- Page title tags can assist in average ranks for pages
- Meta descriptions for organic adverts can improve click through rates and turn visibility into visits
- Header (H tags) should be used stylistically and structurally to add value to the understanding of core topics contained within a single page. Also, they act as a method for making pages easier to read, parse and interpret
- Image optimisation can add great additional areas of visibility and impact to a campaign
- Page speed enhancements will assist site crawling, indexation and the user experience
- Correct implementation of robots.txt file, xml sitemaps and regular attention to HTML improvement areas will assist value attribution to correct pages, quicker page indexing and provide higher perceived quality signals
- Google loves and needs structured data – the more information you can provide it to enhance its understand of the relationship between content and meaning/context the better
It’s all about the user
One of the biggest problems with SEO historically (and still something that taints the industry because some people just cannot move away from it) is that SEO is all about keywords.
This relentless focus on keywords has led to the link penalties about which people so frequently complain. It has led to the deprecation of once useful tags which had an intention of good but were spammed to an early grave. Plus, it has led to the removal of huge volumes of keyword data, which has since been largely taken away from us.
Keywords should have always been seen as secondary to the user – in many instances keywords have been, and by some, probably still are seen as the goal; this is just wrong.
People often forget that in almost every instance they are a user as well as a provider.
I get as frustrated as the next person when I have to keep drilling down into search results to find what I wanted (due in the main to artificially inflated ranking sites that have yet to be impacted by Penguin, Panda or manual penalties) and I can only assume that the frustrations of less savvy search engine users must sometime be exponentially greater.
When looking at how you can add value I hope this post can help.
What else can you do to make SEO work?
This question for me is as open as ‘what else can I do to add value’?
I will give you some more practical advice though. Think about:
- Trust signals – proper trust signals from real people: social media, reviews, industry bodies, affiliations and more
- Thought leadership – if you want to be the voice that people hear in the crowd (or see in the crowded SERPs) you need to be saying something unique, valuable and authoritative. Who listens to the guy at the party that just repeats what everyone else says?
- The user – their demographics; what the data tells you they want and how you can service them better. This can include the devices they use, the questions they have, the stage in the buying process they are at and so much more
- Spoken language and context – if you think the success or failure of your search marketing relies on a handful of key terms you need to start looking at bigger data sets. Search queries all have intent, meaning and context, discovering this will lead you towards a brighter search path in 2014