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The Most Important Aspect of SEO

Feb 20, 2017
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When it comes to ranking and driving organic traffic to your site, there is no magic bullet. SEO is much more than just checking tasks off a list. In order to really get the traffic you want and need, you have to put in the time and effort to create a strategy that will speak to your core audience.

In this episode of the SMA Marketing Minute, I am going to be looking at the most common SEO question I get.

"What's the single easiest thing I can do to boost my website's SEO?"

Instead of digging into tactics and tools, I want to talk about the most important, yet often overlooked, aspect of SEO. Let's see why getting to know your users and their needs is the best way to create an SEO strategy that works.

Video Transcript:

We live in an internet driven economy and if you really want to grow your business online, it's important that your content, that your website is easily found. Yes, there's a lot of benefit to using social media channels and other channels online and referral sites, but one of the best ways to drive really targeted traffic, traffic that converts at a high rate is to rank in the search engines. This is where search engine optimization comes in.

Today I'm going to be talking about a question I get all the time, and it's "What's one thing I can do to improve my search ranks? What's one thing I can do to help my website do better in search?"

Before we get into tactics and some things that you can do to better optimize your site for your users in search, let's talk a little bit about how the search engines work. The search engine's job, especially Google (this is what they've been going after for the last few years), is to deliver the best answer in the shortest amount of time to that specific user.

Search ranking can actually shift depending on who is searching for them. If I'm searching for something on my computer at home and you do the exact same query at your house, we might see a slightly different result based on our own search history, based on our own search patterns that Google is starting to understand. We really need to take a step back and understand that none of this stuff, none of these keyword rankings are cemented. It's not like these are where you're going to be and you're always going to be there no matter where somebody is looking. It's going to change and vary based on a number of different variables.

We know that there's a ton of different signals that go into the algorithm. This is really to help Google get the most natural results possible. Their goal again is to deliver the best answer to the user in the shortest amount of time. If that's your site, then you're going to get rewarded with a higher spot. Now if your site doesn't fulfill that, you're not going to get that.

There are a number of things that we can look at when we want to make sure that our site is more optimized for search. Some things that we know of like we want to have the right links pointing to our site. Again, it's not the amount of links that matter as much as it is the quality of the link and the context of that link. You want to make sure that the links make contextual sense.

Let's say you own a car detailing shop. You want to make sure that you have links that have to do with car detailing or car detailing supplies or the auto industry or things related to that niche. You don't want to have links from like a beauty supply forum or some random page that really doesn't have anything to do with what you do. Google sees those links and they see those as spammy links. They see those as spam tactics. They can really devalue your site. They can hurt you.

A lot of times people think, "I need to rank higher. I need to get more links. I'm going to go to Fiverr and I'm going to buy links." Those are the types of links you're going to get, these really low-quality spammy links that are actually going to do more harm in the long run than actually help promote you to the search engines.

Another thing we know about is content. Content is extremely important. Content fuels the internet. When people are going online to search for an answer, they're looking for a piece of content that's going to solve their problem or really answer their question. When you're writing content, you've got to make sure that your content makes sense to the user, that it's written for the user's intent because again, that's what Google is trying to understand.

That's a little bit more of where Rank Brain comes in. Over the last year or so we've been talking about Rank Brain, we've been digging into what it means and there are a lot of things underneath it. It's really Google's AI technology trying to better understand how people use the search engine to find solutions to their problems.

People search differently depending on the types of problems they have. When you're at work you may be a little more specific in the keywords you use but maybe in your home or maybe with Google Voice or one of the other applications we have on our cellphones now you're doing, "Hey Siri, how far is the moon?", where she's going to look at Google and answer your question with a more human tone or more natural type of question. Rank Brain is trying to understand those tones, trying to understand the context of the situation and then deliver the best answer for that user in that specific moment.

We also know that Google has split the index. Now you've got a mobile index and you've got a desktop index. Again, you're going to see different rankings and different things matter differently when you're searching on a mobile phone rather than a desktop. Whether you're having accelerated mobile pages, those are going to start to rank a little bit better in mobile because you're delivering the content faster and it's a better user experience so Google is placing more weight on that, while on the desktop version they might be looking at some more deeper content, long form content, but again, depends on the industry.

Really when you're starting to look at search engine optimization, you've got to look at it in the context of your business, the context of your industry and the context of the users who are searching for your products and services.

One thing that I think everybody should do before diving into an SEO campaign is to do persona research. Start to understand your users. You can do this through your website by installing tracking software, Google Analytics has a number of things that you can do to dive into your personas and demographics. I would also recommend that you use a heat mapping tool to understand how people are using your site and how they're interacting with your content. You can use Hot Jar. That's what I use. I love it. It's a great tool. It's free. You can sign up. There's a link below. Get it on your site. You get to actually understand what people are doing on your site. That's going to start giving you some of the technical side.

Then, interview your clients. Interview the people you interact with. Ask them a few questions about how they found you. Start to get into their heads and how they search for things. That's going to give you a ton of valuable information on how to really build your site around your user. If you build your site around your user, build around their questions and their intent, you're going to have a much higher chance of ranking for those high-quality keywords because your site serves the user's purpose.

Google is going back and really, really honing in what they do to serve the end user because they know that those users depend on Google. If Google can continue to stay that trusted source, that they provide the best results, people are going to continue to use them. That makes their ads way, way worth more. That makes their brand worth more and that helps them keep their market share. Google will continue to evolve and continue to really serve the end user because it serves their business' purpose as well.

Getting to know who your audience is, getting to know their likes, their dislikes, the way that they're typing keywords in, the types of keywords they're using, the types of phrases they use to solve their problems, and then taking that information and adapting your content around that, adapting your strategy around that. Looking for other sites that kind of have the same philosophy as you, that have the similar buyer persona profile where you can start to build community with that could lead into really creating some nice organic links.

The one thing that I would do to help improve my site, to help improve the overall effectiveness of my campaign is I would get to know who I'm targeting.

Once you understand who you're targeting, now you've got to put in the work. Now you've got to start developing the content around those users. Again, long form, short form, it really is going to depend on your users and how they want their content shown to them. This is why short pieces of content can outrank long pieces of content depending on a specific industry. You've got to understand that it's not really about how much you do but it's about the 'why' and the intent behind it more than anything else.

That's the same thing when it comes to link building. When you're creating or building links or reaching out to gain links, it's about the intent. Who are you getting these links from? What do they do and where are they interacting? What does their back link profile look like? It's really understanding the intention behind all these different pieces and make sure that you have the right links, make sure that you have the right content and that it serves the user's intent.

I hope you found this helpful. I know it wasn't a lot of tactical stuff because really when it comes to one thing with SEO, the best thing you can do is understand who you're targeting and then deconstruct your strategy from there. Yes, content is a huge key. Yes, links matter a lot, but again, you need to have content that's centered around your users and you've got to have links that make contextual sense and that again, our user's focus so that when a user sees your link on that site, it's not something that's spammy and again it adds value to their journey as their looking for more products and services in that specific niche.

If you've got any questions on SEO, I'd love to help you out. Shoot me an email at ryan@SMAMarketing.net. We've also got a link if you want to add to this conversation and join our community where you can submit a question and we'll answer it right here on our video. Thanks for staying tuned and until next time, happy marketing.

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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