Depending on your level of tech-savviness, “SEO” is either a meaningless acronym that stands for the jargon-y sounding “search engine optimization,” or it’s an acronym that relates to techniques and strategies that often sound awfully technical. This little acronym has created an industry full of consultants, conferences, and yet more jargon, that can leave your average business owner more than a little confused and overwhelmed.
Here’s the real deal: search engine optimization (aka “SEO”) is simply making it easier for your site to be found in Google. And it’s actually quite easy to do, with the right content strategy. Intrigued? Read on:
Why does SEO matter?
If you’ve never worried about it before, you might not even think your website’s SEO matters. If your business is driven primarily via referrals, SEO might not be your top priority, but it should still be something you think about. Search engine optimization can help drive organic traffic to your site, which can potentially turn more people into customers.
And of course, if you don’t put any effort towards SEO, it could actually make it difficult for people to find your website–even when they’re looking for it. That means potentially losing out on customers who heard about you and are trying to look you up.
How SEO used to work
If you originally heard about SEO a long time ago, you might be familiar with some of the “old school” SEO techniques. Typically, these consisted of techniques like “keyword stuffing”–putting as many keywords as possible on a page, even if doing so made the copy borderline unintelligible. Another popular technique was buying backlinks, where a website owner would pay for a keyword-based link on a highly trafficked site. For example, if you were trying to drive traffic with the keywords “Dog walking Austin,” you’d buy a link that had those keywords and linked back to your homepage.
Typically, people were trying to drive traffic back to static pages (a page describing services, for example), or their homepage.
Why that doesn’t work any more
These tactics used to work–they were popular for a reason. But Google’s latest series of algorithm changes, starting in 2012, was specifically designed to hunt down “webspam” sites that use these techniques and penalize them accordingly in the search results.
Now, if you use those techniques (or the SEO consultant you hired does), your site is at risk for being moved further down in search results. Instead, you need to find a replacement set of techniques that Google’s okay with. What’s a business owner to do? Stop worrying about your SEO. Instead, focus on your content marketing.
Where content marketing comes in
It might make the SEO consultants unhappy, but I’ll go ahead and say it: if you’re doing your content marketing strategy and consider SEO from the get-go, then that’s the only SEO strategy most businesses need.
Reason #1: Good content is naturally search engine optimized
If you’re writing your content correctly, it’s naturally search engine optimized. Here are a few pointers:
- The title should have keywords in it.
- The URL should be based on the title (none of this business: yoursite.com/2014-9-2/).
- Most importantly, the post should be genuinely useful. Answering questions is not only going to create useful content but automatically create a good search engine strategy, since questions are one of the most commonly searched phrases. (“How can I,” “What does ____ mean?” and so on)
- For bonus points, you can aim towards a longer post, since longer content tends to rank better in search engine results.
And of course, if you’re on WordPress, you should download and install the free Yoast plugin for SEO, since it makes the process fairly foolproof. By default, WordPress’s permalink structure (the way URLs are created) is based on numbers and not keywords, but you can easily change that by going to the Permalinks panel (under “Settings”) and changing it, like so:
Make sure not to choose the “Numeric” option–you want one of the URL choices that has the post name in it. “Post name” is generally the way to go.
Reason #2: Google loves blogs
One of the core functions behind the latest updates has been to weed out information that’s no longer relevant. By consistently publishing fresh content, you’re showing the algorithm that your information is up-to-date and still worth ranking.
Reason #3: People link to and share good content
Last but certainly not least, people link to and share good content. And when they link to it, they’ll typically use either the post title or associated keywords (for example, “this post on content marketing”). Those links tell the search engine algorithm that your content is good content that real people like, which is exactly what it’s looking for.
These three reasons can apply even if you aren’t necessarily sharing text-based content; as mentioned in our article on the multimedia content strategy, YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine after Google.
What it comes down to:
- Even if most of your business comes through customer referrals, you should pay at least some attention to SEO.
- But you don’t want to use outdated methods that can get your site penalized.
- Instead, construct a content marketing strategy that’s focused around creating quality content first, and then use tools like keywords, permalinks, and SEO plugins to help accentuate the optimization of that content.
Need some help constructing an SEO + content strategy that gets results? Get in touch–we can help.