The SEO industry has received bad publicity in the past, and perhaps for good reason - like any new industry finding its feet, SEO went through some less than honorable phases. While learning how to appease the Google gods, pioneers of search engine optimization tried everything from spammy content, to paid links to keyword stuffing - and the industry is still trying to shake off the bad reputation.
Today, Google is a superpower to be reckoned with, but in response, SEOs have also evolved into sophisticated algorithm chemists, fine tuning content to benefit the user, and optimizing sites for speed and performance. The goals of Google align with the aims of any SEO worth their salt, because everyone wants the same outcome - searchable content which yields the best results, and sites ranked for their real worth, rather than how many keywords are shoe horned into the opening sentence.
Content Is King
Content has become a commodity and it comes in a variety of forms. From social posts to viral videos, the internet has all but reached the point of saturation. With this in mind, it’s more important than ever for brands to make the most useful, engaging and rewarding content possible.
Most people now understand how to get what they want out of search engines and so will look for specific phrases such as ‘What is the best printer to buy?’ Creating content which directly answers this search intent is a good way of making sure your page ranks well. However, a simple plain text article is no longer enough to stand out in the increasingly crowded search results pages.
Rich, engaging and useful content comes in the form of videos, infographics, diagrams, podcasts and checklists to name a few. Each of these formats offers something unique and beyond the scope of plain text. Content made to answer a question in great detail in a format that not only educates, but keeps the user on your site is far more valuable than an article stuffed with a target keyword.
Good Customer Experience Is Key
To rank web pages, Google actively promotes the most relevant and the highest quality pages to the top of the search results. To get to the top, you have to ensure that what’s offered on your page is incredibly appealing to your audience.
Google decides the hierarchy of these pages based on an ever-changing algorithm which rates content on a number of quality signals. Pages must be informative and relevant and also offer a good customer experience in order to be deemed important to google - the new rules are all about quality.
Some of the biggest focuses for an SEO working on your site will directly translate to an improved customer experience and an overall uplift in user satisfaction as this is a key driver for Google. Gone are the days of paying someone to game the system, SEOs are gatekeepers to the best content and the smoothest user experience.
We’ve all been on websites that are impossible to navigate, that look and feel outdated and make you want to leave as soon as you land on a page. Any website with content that comes through an SEO ‘filter’ will effectively be cleaned, tidied, well-formatted and optimized.
Not only will each page be optimized, the entire site will most likely be built with user experience (UX) in mind. Sites that are easy for your customer to move around are crawled more easily by Google. Additionally, content will be well structured, making it easy to find what you need with just a quick glance. Headings and subheadings within content help your customer understand your content quickly but in truth, they help Google understand what your page is about too.
Other less noticeable (but more technical) elements also improve user experience. The load time of your pages for example, can be significantly reduced by simple practices like ensuring images are uploaded in the correct dimensions and the smallest file size possible.
As Google adapts and becomes even more advanced, it’s SEOs who will be pushing the boundaries to offer businesses and consumers a continuously improving browsing experience.
Recent developments like the release of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) provide information to a user in lightning speed. Such speed and convenience on a mobile device truly offers a luxury online experience and this experience is brought to you by SEOs across the globe.
In essence, all of this boils down to an excellent user experience for your customer which in itself only boosts your brand image and strengthens brand equity.
The move from black hat practitioners to white knights of the internet has already happened. Gone are the days of dirty tricks and paid links. SEO is an essential investment for any eCommerce site or indeed any brand with an online presence. To rank well in Google, investment in quality and usability is crucial and not only should legacy spam tactics be discouraged, they should be spurned and proactively resolved.