SEO = Content + Links + Social
Modern and successful SEO campaigns need more than just some keywords on the page and a bunch of links. We track changes in Google closely and monitor thousands of keywords which gives us a detailed look at what Google and other search engines want from a quality website. Broken down into three main components, we have content, links, and social influence.
Quality Content Is Essential
Quality content is difficult to define, but we know it when we read it. After looking at how Google rewards well established content, we have a few things that continue to prove effective.
Content Needs To Be Compelling
Content that is compelling invokes interest and action. In order to create content that is compelling, you need to understand who your content is targeted to and deliver it in a way that relates to them. Website content often falls into the same trap of a standard resume in that companies just describe what they do and how they do it, and how long they have done it. There is a place for that, but what employers and potential clients need to know is how can you contribute to their success? How can you impact their business? What value do you bring? Your content should be centered around these things because that is what people are looking for. Answering these questions helps you invoke interest and potentially drive them to email or call you for more information.
Content Should Be In-Depth
In-depth content is content that covers the full spectrum of a topic. If you look at the websites and pages that rank well, they tend to cover a topic completely and link to other pages and resources. This is a main reason why WikiPedia became so popular and ranks well for millions of keywords. Your website content should be structured the same way. For instance, if you offer a product or service, the more information you can give the better. This sets you apart as an authority figure on the subject, and often times, this in-depth content will get linked to from other websites. The mistake companies make in this arena is not providing enough information. You can have compelling and in-depth content work together by putting the value proposition content near the top with the in-depth content further down the page. The more you can give the user, the more Google will use your pages as a resource and increase your rankings.
Content Should Be User-Driven
When you write content, there is a balance between including keywords for search engines and writing content for your users. User-driven content means that your sole purpose for providing content is to increase the chances that users will find it valuable. Content that is structured properly will meet both goals of search engine optimization and user optimization. This really overlaps with compelling content because users can tell the difference between quality content and overly optimized content, and so can Google.
Content Should Be Unique
Unique content is one of the pillars of creating new content. Rehashing content from other sources isn’t a bad thing as long as you create it in your own words and provide some additional value to it. Duplicate content from other websites in most cases won’t rank well because another website has credit as the author. When you are creating content for products, services, or landing pages you want to be sure that the content is unique as possible for the best chance to get it ranked in Google and other search engines.
Content Should Be Topical
Your website content architecture is critical to creating relevance for keywords. Website content architecture is how your content is structured throughout the website. A good content architecture can make browsing your website easier for the end user, and give search engines a better understanding of your topics. For websites that cover many topics, this is even more important. Topics should be divided into the appropriate pages and directories, and this architecture creates the URL structure of your website’s pages. For instance, everything on our website related to SEO would be under the SEO directory such as (www.seoteric.com/seo/seo-sub-page). Your website sections need to stay on topic, and even pages need to stay on topic. If you use a single page to try to rank for a lot of keywords, the result may be not ranking for any keywords because of the sporadic nature of the content and keywords. Topical pages tend to only focus on one or a few elements, and elaborate upon those elements. Other topics should be reserved for their own pages and directories.
Quality Links Are Essential
Google’s Penguin updates have been hard at work to identify and reduce the effectiveness of low quality links and link spam. Links can help or harm a website depending on who they are from and how they are obtained.
Links Should Be Topical
Much like content, links need to be topical. It is natural for websites that complement each other to link to one another. It is a lot less likely that unrelated websites would link to each other. Websites that have a higher number of off-topic links and link exchanges with off-topic websites have seen a drop off in ranking (and in some cases, been penalized or banned from Google). Getting topical links from related websites boosts your relevance for those topics. We’ve been doing topical link building since before it was “the right thing to do” and most our clients have benefited from that, staying out of harms way when the Google updates come along. Think about it this way. If I am in the website industry, I tend to be familiar and know the industry, so when I link to something, chances are I know it has value in my space. If I link to a legal firm, I don’t know that space as well unless I have a relationship with the firm. I can still pass value to it by linking to it, but not as much as if we were in the same space.
Links Should Be Local
Local links can be seen two ways – local to your market and local meaning US based. Local links within your market give you some geographic boost for products and services in your market. Local Links from US based websites is also important unless you are targeting global customers. There are loads of low quality free websites to get links from in the US and overseas, and sometimes these links can do more harm than help. Getting links from local business, complementary business, and local news and community resources can have a great benefit on your ranking ability in your target market.
Links Should Be Reputable
Reputable means having a good reputation or respectable. If someone digs through your backlink profile, they should see websites that have value, not hundreds or thousands of links from free SEO directories or blog comment spam. When it comes to links, Google places more value on links and websites that have an editorial review for those links. This means not everyone can get them or qualifies for them. Editorial links like business listings, guest blog posts, citations for work, images or infographics, or references in other content are links that are not easily obtained without the content being edited or review prior to publishing. A good rule of thumb when link building is easy = low value and hard = high value. If links are easy to get and easy to duplicate, then chances are, they are not reputable and have very little if any value.
Links Should Be Relational
Relational links are the hardest links to duplicate for competitors. Links from suppliers, vendors, clients, and fans are all relational links that are built by relationships first – not just a request for a link. When a competitor looks through your backlink profile for strategic links that they can also get, these relationship based links are almost impossible to duplicate. Links tend to fall into two main categories from our experience. They are either relational or informational. Informational links are also good and valuable and are certainly worth going after, but the relational links create differentiation and uniqueness to your backlink profile giving you a competitive advantage.
Links Should Be Sharable
Pages and content are spread through the internet via links and social media. There are a lot of ways to increase the sharability of a link. Having good clean URLSs or using a URL shortening service can help this. Also, having easy social sharing buttons within content helps people link to you via social media. If your content is compelling and unique, it helps drive the sharability of the content. This is a simple concept, but lower the barrier for people to share your links and content easily can have an impact on how often people link to your website and your content.
Social Media Is Essential
Google and other search engines want their search results to show pages and website that are relevant to the search and trending in current media and social media. This combination of relevance and trending can impact the search results, so how do you impact your social influence?
Social Media Should Be Emotional
The most successful and viral social media falls into emotional categories of shock, amazement, interest, disgust, and joy. Social media broken into its simplest components is “social” and “media”, and the collective sharing of media is meant to drive an emotional response. Naturally, the most successful and viral media out there causes a strong emotional response. Not every social media post will trigger strong emotions, but mixing in some emotionally charged items that connect with your target audience can really boost your following and engagement.
Social Media Should Be Engaging
Once you have media that sparks emotional response, the next step is to engage with your audience. Publishing to social media is the first step in the process. Next, you need to follow up and engage with people that comment or share your story. Develop your persona for your social media channels and get involved in the conversation. If you don’t get involved and engage, neither will your audience.
Social Media Should Be … Media
Simple right? Good media can in itself create conversations and engagement. Media does not have to be (or shouldn’t be) self promoting or self serving, but should relate your brand to your audience by what connects you. That can be food, beliefs, comedy, preferences, fears, or regional bias (think sports teams, beaches, mountains, etc). If you can connect with your audience with one of these areas using good media such as images, videos, infographics, music, etc, then you have a great recipe for social media success.
What SEO Is Not
SEO is not the process of manipulating Google or finding loopholes or shortcuts to rank. Many SEO companies find things that “work” for a set of keywords or a niche of websites and think that is the secret sauce to ranking all websites. These loophole strategies attempt to artificially inflate the things that Google and other search engines deem important. What the fail to realize (or fail to disclose to their customers) is that Google and other search engines are actively targeting these link schemes and loophole strategies to make them ineffective. In most cases, when Google applies changes to make loophole strategies less effective, they often penalize the websites that engage in those practices. There may be short term gains in raking and traffic, but the consequence may be a significant drop in rankings or a ban all together.
Ask The “How” Questions
When looking at an SEO company, be sure to ask them how they intend to get you ranked. There isn’t a secret formula or real “proprietary” knowledge unless they are attempting to exploit a “loophole” and don’t want to disclose their practices. SEO, as we have been discussing, has evolved beyond finding tricks or tactics for quick gains. Its really a process of providing useful information, building brand signals, credibility, and trust.
When an SEO company does tell you how they intend to get you ranked, you want to avoid strategies that involve “private networks”, “link wheels”, “buffer sites” or other “link pyramids”. A private network is a collection of blogs or websites that only exist to link to other websites. These private networks have little value to users, and as such, Google targets these networks to decrease their value and effectiveness. Many times, the websites in a private link network are all penalized, along with the websites that they link to. To “fix” the penalty issues, some companies use a series of “buffer sites” to send links to, then link those buffer sites to the main sites. If the links pointing to the buffer sites are very penalized or lose value, they simply un-link the buffer site from the main website. They attempt to reproduce this enough times to maintain value, but its a continual losing effort that results in short term gains followed by dropping rankings. Link Wheels and Link Pyramids work the same way, but they build links in multiple “tiers” with a few layers of links and buffer websites. Any of these tactics should be avoided.
Connecting The Dots
Doing well in Google and other search engines is all about how you connect with other people online. Its the combination of your website design and content, your relationships and links, and your social media influence. Without any one of these components, it is difficult to succeed in SEO. The more competitive your market, the more influence you have to have in each area. This sums up our philosophy and approach to SEO and how we help our clients get more influence, and gain more exposure online.