While there are a lot of SEOs out there making money on optimizing sites for Google, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what Google wants to rank. We’re supposed to create content that people want to look for and would naturally share. So why isn’t this being done as much as it should?
The answer is because many of us have been thinking with the mentality of an SEO, which until now has been very keyword-centric. In addition, SEOs don’t look at how a visitor would value their content, but at how Google would. This is because for a time, what Google’s algorithm could derive from a webpage was very limited. As a result, sites could rank with a ton of back links from hundreds or thousands of low quality pages and simple on-page keyword optimization.
But Google has been getting better, and it’s gotten to a point where SEOs can’t help but fear the next major algorithm update that might penalize their optimizations. But why be scared at all? According to Kristina Kledzik, an online marketing consultant at Distilled:
If we’re optimizing our sites for visitors, there’s little to no chance that a Google algorithm update will penalize us. That means that we’re on Google’s side: We’re trying to make our site better for visitors, which makes Google look good when visitors click through to our sites.
So how do you do that? By putting the user experience first – not Google.
Titles are 50% for SEO, 50% to Entice Clicks
While titles are typically short, sweet, and merely a quick representation of what your content will be, a lot of thought should be put into them if you want to rank well and improve your click-through rates. Writing good titles is a combination of technical SEO and writing to tap into whatever emotion of your readers that will entice them into clicking on your post. After all, even if your posts rank well in Google, if they don’t entice readers to click on them, then you might as well not have ranked that high at all.
According to SEO consultant Dan Shure:
Good practice technical SEO (for ranking) says to put your most important keyword/keyphrase in the title tag, and as close to the front as possible. I’m speaking more about blog posts in this case, but I feel that if the keyword needs to be towards the end, or split up/modified in some way, to create a click worthy title, this is essential.
Changing Your On-Page Keyword Usage Strategy
Of course, there shouldn’t be a drop off in the content following a well-crafted title. There was a time when optimizing your on-page content meant using your target keyword in the Title and H1 tags, and possibly in one of the H2 tags, while using it every few hundred words within the content itself. All you had to do was avoid stuffing it with too many instances of the keyword and you would have an optimized post.
These days, it’s different. Kristina says:
Google understands synonyms now, so you can use a keyword once and show that it’s highly relevant with other similar terms. Experts recommend using keyword groups (an idea that I had been hinting at for ages but didn’t think of concretely until I read Cyrus’s awesome post): Use a number of keywords that all mean approximately the same thing, so you can be relevant for all of them.
Changing Your Page Design and Site Structure Strategy
Prior to the days of Panda and Penguin, it was pretty easy to manipulate the Google algorithm into paying attention to the important parts of a webpage. This was achieved through the use of tags. You could create a hierarchal structure to your content through the use of H tags, bolding keywords with the Strong tag, etc.
However, Google is smarter now and according to Kristina:
Google can see where text will show up on a page, and how prominent it will be to visitors. You can’t just tag text to make it relevant to search engines, it has to be integrated into the design.
Of course, SEO goes way beyond page level and can be impacted by your site’s structure and how well it facilitates users who are trying to get the information they want in as few clicks as possible. For most websites, including blogs and ecommerce sites, the hierarchal structure is that of a tree, with the homepage serving as the trunk and the subpages and individual posts serving as the branches and leaves. The key to creating a great site structure is to make sure the content is organized with general information being closest to the homepage and more specific content and individual posts being furthest.
As a marketer, you have a tremendous amount of opportunity to impact how easily and quickly visitors reach your intended goal. There are many ways marketers can influence that outcome, but the two biggest pieces of low-hanging fruit are in identifying and defining visitor goals and expectations up front, and then organizing your site’s content areas around those goals and expectations.
Don’t be Afraid to Pay for Good Content or Design
Many of you reading this are probably well-versed in the technical aspects of managing a site and its content. However, chances are,there are better things you could be doing for your business if you didn’t have to focus so much on the technical stuff. In this regard, don’t be afraid to pay for a team of writers who can create good content for you, or for the services of a web design team who can create the site that you want.
There’s nothing wrong with being hands on with your site. In fact, it’s encouraged. But don’t let it reach a point where focusing too much on the technicalities of SEO and content creation that the actual content starts to suffer or the core processes of your business are no longer being given as much attention as they should.