In today's user driven online marketing world, what’s the best way to approach SEO? Should we focus our strategy solely around the user and their needs and let Google be the matchmaker? Should we focus on link building, keywords and flawless on-page optimization? While it’s easy to jump onto one side of the argument or the other, the truth is, you need both. A balanced SEO approach will help you rank for high traffic keywords and connect with users who need what you have to offer.
The push for better content and user focused marketing over the past few years, has been a good one. By focusing on the end user, we will not only create better leads but also deliver more value to those who interact with our content. But we can’t forget about the facts. At the end of the day, we are also marketing to search engines. While they are trying to deliver what the users want, they can’t read minds. So, as SEOs or website owners, it’s our job to help the search engines understand who we are and what we do, so they can then connect us with the right users. This means a balanced SEO strategy combining technical and user focused elements.
Page optimization still matters. But before we can optimize our pages, we have to first know what keywords will drive the traffic we need. This means keyword research! Now there are a number of different ways to tackle keyword research and we won’t go deep into that subject in this post, but we will cover some best practices.
Don’t Assume You Know What People Are Searching: Many times, as business owners, we think we know what people are looking for. The problem is, we don’t. We have to take off our business hats and step into our customer’s world. We have to look at our business from an outsider’s perspective and try to understand what our users need. This can be extremely difficult, but thanks to the Google Keyword Planner, we can get an idea of what people are actually searching for.
Target High Traffic, Low Competition Keyword Phrases: You will need an AdWords accounts to use this tool, but it’s completely free. Once logged in you can search for new keywords using phrases, website urls or categories. Add some of what you think people are searching for and hit “get ideas.”
Two things you want to look at, average monthly searches and competition. This will give you a better idea of what people are searching for and what keywords you should try to go after. While some of the high traffic terms look appealing, high competition makes them hard to rank for. Instead shoot for medium traffic terms with low competition. If you don’t like the results, try searching another phrase in the Keyword Planner.
Begin With The End In Mind: Users search for solutions to their pain. Don’t just focus on “attraction keywords”, but also focus on “transaction keywords.”
While in the end, we would like to have all of our visitors convert into customers, the truth is some people are just browsing. This is why hitting both sets of keywords are essential. You want to get exposure to users at all levels of the buyer’s journey.
After you’ve done your research, it’s time to put it to work for you. Now, stuffing your website and content with all of the new keywords you just found may be enticing, but don’t do it! You will get flagged from Google and your content will look spammy. Instead use the keywords where they make the most sense. Just to keep things simple use one, but no more than two, long tailed keyword(s) per page.
Use on-page SEO best practices and add the keyword to your title, body text, image meta and meta description. Make sure that the content is user focused and actually delivers what your long tail keyword promises. This is where you begin to merge “old school” and “new school” SEO. Targeting the right terms will help drive traffic, but if your site doesn’t deliver to the user what the need or want, Google will take notice and all of your hard could get reversed. Create content for your users not your keywords.
Having great content that is both keyword and user focused is the first step to a balanced SEO strategy, but there’s more. While link build has gotten a bad rap over the years, if you do it the right way it’s a game changer. Links are powerful, but not all links are created equal and if you don’t have an optimized site with user focused content, links alone won’t save you. You can’t build a house without a foundation, just like you can’t have an effective link building strategy without a solid website.
There are a number of different strategies and approaches to building links. The key is to find one that promotes your content and builds relationships with sites that make sense for your niche. If you run a pet store, a link from a real estate blog doesn’t make sense. Google and every other web crawler can see your links and if you are trying to “beat the system” you will lose. If you need some ideas check out this great article from Eric Ward, aka “Link Moses”, that has 131 legitimate link building strategies. If you don’t have the time or skills to do this on your own, hire a pro. Links are still the most important factor in ranking and I don’t see that changing anytime in the near future.
As long as there are search engines, SEO will thrive. Yes, the techniques and strategies have shifted over the years, but the facts are still the facts. Keyword research and link building are still important. The websites that will win out are the ones that use technical SEO and tie it into user focused design and content. Don’t jump at trends. Do your homework. Find the right keywords, create content around your buyer personas and implement a link building/earning strategy. Doing this will help you create a balanced SEO strategy that get’s results.
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