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“Well SEO is dead, isn’t it? I mean, it doesn’t really work, does it??”
I get questions like this from clients on a regular basis. Although their questions are valid and widespread I realize how misunderstood SEO is to the general public that makes them ask such questions in the first place. This post is to try to clear up any confusion one might have on the topic of SEO and how to use this new understanding to generate more traffic and sales for your business.
What is SEO?
In the past, most people defined or viewed SEO as the ways in which you trick search engines to index your site. And although that may have been true in the past, with the growth of search engine algorithms, that trickery simply doesn’t work. “So, that must mean SEO doesn’t work anymore?” Well, yes and no. Thatparticular form of SEO doesn’t work anymore; attempting to cleverly trick search engines. But that form of SEO isn’t what SEO was really ever about in the first place.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and the practice of SEO is the process of making your site and site content optimized so that search engines can: 1) find your site and; 2) list your site based on relevant search terms.
The new SEO
SEO may have once been taken advantage of but, in reality, it was always about the same things: having a clear and easy to navigate site, that is full of relevant keywords, with influential brands linking to it. Sure, there’s a lot more that goes into it but in it’s most basic form, it’s about being helpful. And while that’s not difficult to understand in theory, it’s not so easy to accomplish in pratice.
Let’s take a look at the elements that make up an effective SEO strategy and how to implement those on your own site in a way that helps to draw more traffic and increase conversion rates on your site.
Keyword Research & Site Structure
Your site’s keywords are the bedrock upon which your site is built. Keywords are like the montage of your site. Individually, they may only be irrelevant words but when viewed as a whole, like search does, you see a clearer, larger picture of your site.
A companies keywords define who they are, what they produce, and who they serve. And yet, for something that plays such a huge role in defining a company, it is surprising how few businesses actually take the time to: 1) research effective keywords and; 2) intentionally and regularly use those keywords.
There are many great tools to to conduct keyword Research. Some of our favorites are:
Whatever keyword tool you use, the basic concept is to find keywords that are relevant to your industry. In general, the more specific to your business they are, the better.
For instance, maybe you make handmade wood bowls. An example of a generic keyword would be bowls. An example of a specific to your business keyword would be handmade wood bowls. The latter example is going to be much easier to rank in search for because it’s more specific.
Another option is to use geographic identifiers in your keywords. For instance if you’re mainly targeting a local audience you could use New York handmade wood bowls.
The concept is to find the balance between traffic and competition. Generally the higher the traffic the more the competition and vice versa. When you’re just getting started, it’s better to ere on the lower competition even though it also means lower traffic. After all, 5 visits from highly qualified customers are much more valuable than 100 visits from totally irrelevant customers.
As I touched on before, keywords are only as good to the extent that they’re used. And I don’t mean a shotgun approach that leads to unreadable content; or maybe as you’ve seen before with hundreds of random links in a footer. I mean keywords that are used creatively and intentionally throughout your site content.
This is easier said than done and often times why hiring a good copywriter isn’t a bad idea. Not only is a good copywriter a good writer, but they’re also generally an outsider to your business. They don’t see it like you do, they’re new to your line of products and services and, actually, this is a good thing.
In the world of marketing, the concept of getting into a “beginner’s mind” is the process of trying to understand your products/services from the perspective of having never heard of them. This allows us to get closer to the customer’s mindset and whether we do this ourselves or hire some one to do this for us, it is essential if we wish to convert customers.
Usability & Conversion
A few days ago I was with my, nearly two-year-old, son getting ready to watch something on Netflix. The computer was open to Netflix but I was busy doing something else. My son scooted off the couch, went over to the screen (yes I have a touch screen), and poked the picture of Peppa the Pig with his little finger. Next thing I know, Peppa the Pig is playing and he’s sitting their quietly watching.
Okay, so maybe not the discovery of a century, but what amazed me was how Netflix had figured out how little people process information and responsively built an interface to help them navigate it.
If you’ve ever been in the Kid’s section of Netflix you’ll notice it’s laid out a bit differently. Instead of just images of different movies with titles, there are large round images of the characters of the show; in this case a big picture of Peppa the Pig. There are no play buttons, which wouldn’t make sense to an older audience, but to kids, especially young kids, a play button doesn’t mean anything yet.
This highlights perfectly the goal of usability; to help our users convert on some pre-determined goal. In order to pull off such jedi-master type Netfilx usability is a very clear understanding of who your audience is and how they will relate and use your website and technology in general.
SEO isn’t a way to tick the system, and doing it right isn’t easy. But for those who have taken the time to do their research, craft their message and create an optimized experience for their users have understood the true meaning of Search Engine Optimization.