Search Engine Optimization. Fairly rolls off the tongue, does it not?
With all that’s been written about SEO, perhaps you’re finding your strategy tinged with a touch of ADD.
On one end of the spectrum, there’s solemn discussion of black hats and white hats, canonical issues, conversion—and SERP. Let us not forget SERP. It’s enough to evoke grim cultish imagery of pious congregants in ill-fitting clothes, chanting in a forest by candlelight.
How’s that for specific, Google?
Scroll down on the other hand, and you’ve got the empirical-sounding lexicon of algorithms, click through rates, meta-tags, and widgets. Must one be a postdoctoral researcher to decipher this claptrap?
By turns futuristic and quaint, getting a handle on your website’s SEO can seem, let us say, enigmatic, particularly to the uninitiated.
To the small business owner with limited personnel, it’s even tougher than that—it’s downright problematic, and not because they fail to see the point of optimizing, but because there are only so many hours in a day. If anything, most small business owners see the value in it. And they're willing to admit, the task of wading through such terminology might well prove useful, stimulating even—given the time.
Trouble is, spare time isn’t a commodity small businesses usually have much of.
Indeed, there’s technical, local, national and organic optimization, to name but a few, and while the task of optimizing can (in some cases) wind up being a granular endeavor, there are (in most cases) timely, actionable ways to improve your visibility without getting too carried away.
With that in mind, here’s a look at something old and something new, the best of both worlds in the realm of optimized content.
Because SEO is neither rocket science nor racket science.
It’s for people.
Because search engines and robots don’t have interests, affinities, or credit cards.
And who knows, in the end, the Gospel According To Google might not end up looking all that different from The Latest and The Greatest—digitally speaking that is.
Very often, what looks at a glance like sweeping replacement is really just gradual improvement.
See what you think.
*There’s also a Catch-All Checklist at the bottom of the post for those looking to perform a quick diagnostic of their website and digital presence
IMPROVE SITE SPEED
It’s said that age comes before beauty and it seems the same goes for our digital selves: websites that have earned the cachet of Google’s approval, and thus the highest ranking, tend to be relatively old or—if you prefer—seasoned. But without speed, it might just eventually prove to be a moot point, at least from an SEO perspective. If our site takes more than a couple of seconds to load, users will invariably hit the back button and move on to the next result, thereby hurting our overall visibility within the context of search engines.
It’s unfortunate but true, especially since those who do so aren’t (in all likelihood) intending to cast a vote as such. Age, beauty—now velocity too? So much for well-worn adages.
Thankfully there are remedies for the slow-to-load site. Not least among them is the compression of images on the page. For this, there’s a WordPress plugin called ShortPixel that allows us to compress images as we upload. It’s a convenient and intuitive plugin, this ShortPixel, and for all the good it does, there aren’t any of the usual drawbacks associated with resizing. The quality of the image is upheld—site speed is enhanced.
But because the pendulum swings both ways, remember, too many WordPress plug-ins can be a detriment to our site speed.
Paring down and disabling the ones that are less-than useful can go a long way toward improving user experience. While we sometimes convince ourselves otherwise, it’s a small price to pay in the grand scheme of search engine optimization. Rarely, after all, is there a need to use every plug-in that’s offered, and in most cases, we won’t even notice the absence.
One thing’s for certain—we won’t be noticed if we aren’t mindful of the time it takes our page to load.
OPTIMIZE WITH VOICE IN MIND
Google started using mobile search as its primary means of indexing back in November 2016. What followed from there—voice search—couldn’t have surprised many, but who knew it could be so painlessly adopted throughout our SEO strategies?
The main point to key-in on here is the conversational tone that voice search enables and how handsomely search engines reward that tone when it’s reflected back in our content.
Voice search is typically mobile and local-centric, but because they’re conversational they’re often lengthier than typical keyword search queries. In order to optimize our website to its fullest potential, it helps to get a sense of how people search with this new technology and there’s no better way to do that than by listening and taking note. When we do, our keyword strategy will start to assume the speech patterns of real people, people talking and asking questions—except verbally for a change, not as they do when they’re busy typing away at their computer.
These considerations have a sociological strand to them.
For instance, think of the types of questions we get when customers call in over the phone. Documenting these, we could then begin to make distinctions, gradually introducing content with these longer, more nuanced conversational search terms in mind. Approximating these questions throughout our content is bound to pay dividends in our SEO strategy, to say nothing of the many new relationships that are likely to form in direct consequence.
Finally, an estimated 22% of voice searchers are looking for local content and information, making it advisable to claim a Google My Business (GMB) listing without further delay. With a little preparation, small businesses are particularly poised for success.
WRITE CONTENT FOR PEOPLE
We want to be sure the context of our page is unmistakable. Navigation, URLs, page titles, headers, and subheads all factor in here. At the same time, the aim is to communicate naturally, using relatable language that supplies useful content and answers the questions of those searching—that is, people.
And this gets at one of the age-old principles of search engine optimization: so much of what algorithms seek to measure and quantify comes down to interaction. How do people interact with our site? Or don’t they?
Along those same lines, how do the people we’re targeting speak? How’s their question configured—words, structure, and all? Is their written imprint represented in our content?
Once we know that, we have all the knowledge we need to create titles, subject lines, and body content that will speak to a wide variety of people, and across a vast array semantic contexts.
From there, it’s a question of whether we’re engaging those people.
Just think though—70% of the eventual links that users click and then settle on are organic search results. That’s good news whether we’re marketing B2B, B2C or in any other sphere—it signifies the importance of a fixed, sturdy foundation.
Think of it this way. Every search that’s performed has an underlying aim, whether to find, learn, solve, buy, fix, treat, or understand. Search engines attempt to direct that aim to its best, most conclusive end. By crafting fulfilling content, that addresses searchers’ needs, we’re well on our way.
What’s timeless about SEO—quality content, meaningful relationships, local search—these are the qualities we want to personify in our content.
It may appear to be an ever-changing, even temperamental discipline, but when we adhere to this principle of writing for people, the latest change in Google starts to take on a different look. A more sensible, less enigmatic look.
More often than not, the changes are improvements, as opposed to replacements. In the end, Google just wants to be relevant and that means giving the people what they want.
Strip away the jargon, for instance, and what we’re left with is a practical way of further pinpointing our business’s reach. In principle, optimization is just a useful tool to increase contact with quality prospects, and that’s all it needs to be for the average practitioner—or business owner.
Dispel some of the surrounding mystery and look through the checklist below. Would your business benefit from any of the following?
- Register with Google Search Console
- Register with Bing Webmaster Tools
- Claim or create a Google My Business listing
- Conduct keyword research.
- Organize keywords by page.
- Target long-tail keywords.
- Test your keywords with PPC.
- Optimize your page titles.
- Optimize your meta descriptions.
- Request links from business partners.