Five Annoying, Yet Powerful Fundamentals of SEO
SEO is one of those areas of marketing that seems to always be changing. Keeping up with latest tweaks Google has made to their algorithm can be maddening and many people find themselves overwhelmed by the ever-shifting rules of the road. That was the premise of the second session I sat in on at the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit.
Ken Fischer, CEO of Atigro Digital Marketing set out to demystify the world of SEO by laying out the “five fundamentals that–if understood and followed–will put your site in the ‘doing better than most” category’.”
During his workshop, Ken aimed to help the room full of marketers understand these core fundamentals of search engine optimization, with an eye toward the latest trends on how Google and other search engines rank websites.
Per Ken, while SEO may have been mostly about rankings, traffic, and eyeballs in years past, today’s SEO strategy must extend beyond this outdated definition and be approached in a holistic fashion to include conversion tactics, as well as ROI measurement.
In order to achieve SEO nirvana, Ken laid out what he believes are the five fundamentals: 1. Strategy, 2. Content, 3. External influences, 4. Infrastructure and 5. Measure and improve.
Strategy. It’s important to cast a wide net for key phrases and use it to reel in what’s important and frequently searched. Knowing exactly what those phrases are that are worth going after is a bit of a balancing act and it’s important to consider not just about how many times a phrase is searched a month but how important it is to your business. But how do you do this? One easy way that Ken suggests is to look at what competitors are doing — what words are they ranking for and what would work for you as well?
Additionally, Ken advises that it’s necessary to understand the journey your customer takes from figuring out they need something to understanding that they might need something you have. Through SEO you need to interact with the customer at every stage of their journey. Doing so isn’t just about knowing how they search for services but truly understanding what problem(s) they are trying to solve.
Content. Content is how you bring your strategy to life. In order to use it effectively, there are three key things to know.
- Content needs to grab your audience. The first place you get to “grab” your audience is not your website homepage but rather the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Too often people think it’s a place to describe the company and put in keywords, which isn’t exactly right. Again, it’s important to find balance. A good company description balanced with the right keywords (known as meta content) can be a powerful combination. The better your meta content the more likely you are to get click-throughs.
- Use words people search for. With the wealth of data available, don’t just search in the dark for the right words. Be data driven and use the words your target audience uses. Don’t be afraid to talk with your audience and find out what they are looking for.
- Work as a marketing team. This may seem like a no-brainer but content and SEO teams need to work together as a cohesive marketing team rather than in silos, each focused on their own part. For true success, the teams need to work hand in hand.
External influences. It’s not just about what you put out there but online influencers are critical to SEO. While backlinks have their place, they aren’t all created equal and aren’t necessarily a good idea for long-term results for your to your web page, according to Ken, who recommends pruning “bad” inbound links. Instead, work on high-quality link building by paying attention to who is talking to your target audience and engaging them. Additionally, local directories and Google My Business can be powerful external influences. Ken cautions not to underestimate the power of Google My Business, especially as it has become more robust and new features are being added.
Infrastructure. When embarking on an SEO campaign, don’t forget to make sure your infrastructure is in order. The server your network is connected to and the software that runs your website is critical to ensuring high-speed page loads. Consumers don’t have the patience to wait for a page to load and Ken pointed to research that showed that as page load time goes from 1 second to three seconds, bounce increased 32 percent and astonishingly as it goes from one second to five seconds bounce increases 90 percent!
Also, don’t forget about mobile. Your infrastructure is responsible for producing different views for different devices and mobile is a must. Google will rank your page based on how well your website does in mobile so it has become imperative to have a responsive website or risk Google lowering your rank, no matter how great your SEO.
Lastly, security matters as well. These days Google expects every page on your website, even if you aren’t an e-commerce site, to be https. Thinking beyond SSL, it’s necessary to continuously monitor your website to ensure there is no malware, take steps to protect your website from attack, and guarantee multiple backups. For the last part, Ken warns against simply relying on your web hosting company to do this as it’s not a guarantee they will.
Measure & Improve. Lastly, make sure you measure what matters. When measuring SEO many marketers focus only on what Ken calls the “leading indicators,” ranking, traffic and bounce rates. However, this paints an incomplete picture and to really get the full picture you have to also look at “conversion indicators” such as button clicks, phone calls, form submissions, and who is actually visiting your site. Reports are available to provide so much of this information that companies today really are better able to track conversions. While it may sound obvious, it’s important that marketers not only engage with these reports and but actually understand the data being presented.
With those five fundamentals in mind, Ken’s parting advice for the crowd was that it’s not enough to just master these fundamentals but how you work matters as well. Be thorough and consistent, educate content writers, partake in constant coordination and use reporting that makes sense.
SEO is complicated because it’s always changing but if you execute properly on these five fundamentals there is a good chance you’ll be on the right course for a successful SEO campaign.