SEO is a side effect
Gone are the days when an SEO strategy existed on its own. In the old days (read: as little as 3 years ago), a web editor could essentially trick search engines into thinking a page was more relevant than it really was. A product page that featured generic red sneakers could be “SEO’d” by adding paragraphs of meaningless, keyword saturated and hyperlinked copy, and see great improvements in organic ranking. Because of some very logical, common sense updates in Google’s algorithms over the years, this type of tactical search manipulation is no longer effective. Keyword saturation doesn’t work, and Google punishes spammy back linkers. So, does that mean that we shouldn’t talk about SEO anymore? We should absolutely still talk about SEO — we just need to reframe the conversation.
In a modern digital marketing strategy, SEO is not a tactic — it’s a side effect. You can’t “add some SEO” to your site to achieve success in organic search, but you can make fundamental content or architecture changes to your website, and see improved search engine performance. Google’s robots are smart enough (sometimes creepy enough) to be able to assess the actual relevance of your site pages and, in the form of page rank, hold you accountable. So, what does this mean? How to you improve your rank in such a warm and fuzzy new search environment?!
It’s actually really easy!
Stop thinking of SEO tactically!
You can’t apply SEO. It’s not a digital rash ointment.
Rather, have an honest conversation about the actual relevance and quality of your website.
Are you finding that your home page isn’t ranking well in Google? If so, it’s probably not because you don’t have enough hyperlinked keywords. It’s because Google has decided that, out of the entire world wide web, your content just isn’t very relevant to the topic you targeted. Sure, there may be some content formatting changes needed, and there is still value in SEO best practices from the old days, but chances are, you need to think about revamping your content, and making sure it’s outstanding!
Pick a keyword theme for your page, and stick to it!
Just because SEO is no longer a tactic, doesn’t mean you don’t still have to focus on a central theme for each web page you design. Remember, Google is looking for relevance based on a very narrow topic at the page level. Stay focused, and be thorough. When you find yourself going off topic, it may be time to plan a new page. And no, this does not mean using the same keyword phrase over and over again. I’ll say it again — Google is fricking smart. It will automatically pick up on synonyms and alternate wordings for your topic. Unless you are aiming for *very* specific long-tail traffic, you can say “red sneakers” any way you want!
Don’t let lazy design hurt you!
Google is smart, but it’s still a machine. There are widely accepted and agreed upon locations to put your most important content (Title, Meta Description, H1, Alt Tags, etc.), and these are the places that Google is going to look for content and decide relevance. So, please, put some good stuff in those places. There is no excuse for messing up this one.
Develop more content!
When you think you’ve said enough, say more! And then say more tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after. The search robots work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This means that every day you spend NOT publishing content (blogs, articles, worksheets, guides, whatever!), there are thousands of online competitors that are being picked up, and rising in the ranks based on their fresh content. You can’t sit back and enjoy your “optimized pages” — you have to stay ahead of the enormous amount of content being created every second.
One page for each theme.
Don’t cannibalize your own pages by duplicating keyword themes on multiple pages. Here’s an example:
Company A wrote a single blog about how great red sneakers are. It was thoughtful, focused and interesting. Company B wrote 2 blogs about red sneakers (one was about dark red sneakers, and one was about brick red sneakers). The articles were both very thoughtful, focused and interesting.
On the surface, it seems like Company B has doubled their ability to rank in search, right? Nope! The second blog is actually going to steal page authority from the first one! Even if they both rank, they will never achieve nearly as much success as a single, thorough blog post because they are splitting the traffic. Company B may have one blog ranked 6, and the other ranked 8, but if they were to combine the content (read: FOCUS), they have a much greater possibility of ranking at 5, 4, or even higher for “red sneakers” searches.
For nearly all of the clients I’ve worked with, it is these common sense content decisions and writing/design habits that allow them to improve their rank in search.
So, stop trying to rub some SEO on your site, and start creating relevant content!