SEO may seem like a complex concept, but it’s actually pretty simple. Just think of Google as a concierge whose job is to connect its users with what they are looking for. It has to assess the user’s intent and list the results it feels will be most helpful. SEO is the process of making your website the most helpful to the user and sending Google these signals. So how do you send Google the signals? The first step is to make your website the most helpful in your niche! This is a critical step that is often overlooked. Often businesses want to ‘do’ SEO without changing their online strategy or considering the user experience. Or in other words, take an ordinary website and make it miraculously rank well in Google. But there is more to it than that. Along with improving the website and user experience, you need to communicate that to Google and this comes in the form of relevant links to the website, quality site architecture and fresh content. What does this mean for SEO in 2014 and beyond? Well, with Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update at the start of this year the trend is now towards natural language search. These keys will help your site to rank well in search results. 1. Natural language – diversify keywords Figure 1: image source from researchperspectives.org Google removed exact-match searches in its Keyword Planner in its recent update for the tool, and it is a big problem for us SEOs because it is more difficult to calculate the performance of a certain keyword, making it harder to identify which keywords we need to focus on. Google is trying to drive us towards using keyword themes rather than exact-matched keywords. Google doesn’t want us to put the stress on exact-match keywords too much as it also leads to irrelevance when you target a certain keyword even if the relevance is unclear, just because it has a significant volume of searches. A survey conducted by Kelton Research shows that 65.4% of adult Americans spend more than two hours online searching for information on specific topics, with 72.3% experiencing search engine fatigue when searching websites. However, when the study was conducted SEO focused on exact keyword searches. Google is trying to take its keyword searching to the next level, by improving it to better understand natural language queries. This is also likely to solve the “search engine fatigue” problem caused by the implementation of the Hummingbird update. According to Danny Sullivan in his post, “FAQ: All About the New Google ‘Hummingbird’ Algorithm”, Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query – the whole sentence or conversation or meaning – is taken into account, rather than particular words. This means that pages that match the meaning do better, rather than pages with matching keywords. Key takeaways: Use natural language in keyword targeting Target keyword themes, not just specific keywords Use Google’s suggestions for what people are searching for Avoid slapping exact match keywords together, if they don’t read well Try predicting the intent of the searcher when judging a keyword’s importance 2. Use links more cautiously – but still use them Figure 2 A few years ago, building links for the sake of it worked very well – I tried it too, but moved on from that practice out of necessity. In years past even a low-quality website could outrank better ones through building links using the targeted keywords and spam link building tactics. Now more than ever Google is guarding its search results, trying to ensure the most relevant and high-quality results possible. With that being said, Google has implemented the Penguin algorithm to help it fight spam by penalising websites that were over-optimised for certain keywords, and websites who practice buying links that passed link juice. Key points to optimise your website better for Penguin: Avoid using link building software that creates content for you and posts it everywhere Avoid participating in link networks Diversify link sources Build links from trusted websites Aim to build links (relationships) to website owners/webmasters (it may result in higher quality links in the future) Aim to create value. Otherwise, don’t do it. 3. Quality content is king Figure 3: Image sourced from blog.joelx.com Quality content has always been king, and writing content just for the sake of it is futile. If you use your valuable time to create content without having a goal or knowing your audience, chances are it will get you nowhere. When creating content, you have to consider your audience, what matters to them, and if the content is good enough for them to share with people they know. Writing content for SEO is tied to content marketing, as it needs to perform well, by giving valuable and relevant information. As the Content Marketing Institute says: Figure 4: Source from Content Marketing Institute When you don’t think about your audience when creating an article, it’s likely that it won’t matter to them and they won’t share it. This just wastes your time without giving back something in return. How do you know when your content matters to your audience? It gains editorial links It gets shared Visitors are likely to stay on page to read the entire content and post their comments Increase in newsletter subscriptions You can track the performance of your pages/contents through tracking software, with Google Analytics the tool most commonly used. Always remember to track, analyse, reassess, and tweak if necessary. Writing content without prioritising quality will backfire and cause Google Panda to kick in and devalue your website. Key takeaways: Write content that will matter to your audience Write content that educates and sells your services to a normal degree It’s OK to publish content on a regular basis (weekly or even monthly) as long as it’s useful Creating content for the sake of it is a waste of time Always track the performance of your content and tweak if necessary. 4. Leverage local search Start using local optimisation as one of your strategies, if you aren’t already. According to Bright Local Consumer Review Survey, 57% of users search online for a local business more than six times a year, 39% search online for local businesses at least once per month, and 15% search online for a local business almost every day. Figure 5: Source of image and information from BrightLocal.com Benefits of local SEO: Visits from local searches are more likely to convert More targeted audience Fewer competitors (depending on the niche) Attract more people in your area If you have done local SEO properly, the visits you get are more likely to convert into customers. If you have served those customers right, they are also going to become returning customers. The customers who loved your business will share their experience and impressions with their colleagues, family, and friends in neighbouring places, thus giving you free advertising. Just imagine if those colleagues, and friends of theirs, do the same thing. Doing local SEO is like killing two birds with one stone. If you are a starter business, ranking in top organic searches is hard so stay in your local, but don’t limit yourself to it. Having little competition is another advantage, as opposed to targeting global audiences. This is going to save you a lot of money in your investment to SEO. Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 5. Value proposition – what is your website worth? Figure 6 SEO is a very challenging investment to put your money into. If the SEO campaign you invested in returned a negative ROI, then it is considered a failure. What’s the purpose of initiating SEO if you are not getting a positive ROI? Before blaming SEO, however, make sure your website is adding value for your customers. Consider SEO as just part of your overall sales pitch. Improving your website’s value is hard. Especially when you have to come up with great headlines that visitors will notice and get them enticed. Some guidelines to creating website copy that will increase the value of your website for your visitors include: Stating the problem you will help them to solve Educating them in what you do Showing them what your other customers have to say about your services. Be relevant Relevance is one factor that increases website value and depends on if the visitors to your site find what they are looking for. They won’t find your website valuable if you don’t provide what they’re trying to find. Highlight benefits, not features One of the things that matters to consumers are the benefits they will get from you, so state them. As opposed to the traditional method of stating the features of your services, stating the benefits is effective marketing. Save the features for later. State the problem you will help them solve Is there a problem that your business will help your customers solve? Write it in your website copy. The users that reach your website are probably looking for a solution to the problem they need help solving. Key takeaways: Don’t assume your website visitors understand your website copy. Test and refine. Feature the benefits your customers will receive Remember to tell them what you do Provide customer reviews 6. Conversion optimisation – leveraging current success Figure 7: Image source from consummo.com Conversion optimisation and search engine optimisation are different concepts. In order to see the fruitful efforts of your SEO campaign, you need to optimise your website for conversion. There’s a very thin line that separates SEO and CRO. One will optimise your website to drive more traffic to it, and the other one optimises your website to convert those visitors into customers. As industry expert Kate Morris said in her post, “CRO and SEO: SEM Civil War”: “Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is simply focusing on the conversion as the core metric when optimizing any particular page.” A search engine optimiser will usually know how to optimise your website for conversion if they are truly experienced. Nonetheless, it’s hard not to judge the effectiveness of your SEO campaign without optimising your website for conversion. Failing to do so leads to false judgement as to whether or not your SEO is effective as some faults may lie with how the website treats its visitors. Key takeaways: SEO (search engine optimiser) is different from CRO (conversion rate optimiser) You need a CRO to boost your SEO campaign and to help you get more out of your investment. 7. Traffic strategy, opposed to just rankings Figure 8: Data source from chitika.com According to online advertising network Chitika, having the top position in search results will give you 33% of search traffic. This research proves the value of SEO for online businesses. Just imagine your website ranking with a keyword that is highly searched, resulting in say, 18,000 searches per month and your website receives 33% of that traffic every month. While this provides great value to online businesses, ranking in top search results is not guaranteed. As an SEO, traffic is one of my main goals as it opens the floodgates for conversions – assuming that your customers are satisfied with your services and you have great reviews, along with several other factors. With that said; our main goal is to generate more traffic and then achieve rankings. It might sound in reverse but it’s true, and that is what makes our career more challenging. The only way to do this is by adding value with each link we create. Remember that value is also quality, and in today’s SEO, quality is better than quantity. Getting 12 links per month that drives traffic is more important than getting more links that only aim to improve rankings. Again, no one can guarantee you top rankings because of unpredictable algorithmic changes, but increase of traffic is always possible. Key takeaways: SEO is important to online businesses Ranking is not the only means of traffic When building links, think of the traffic you will get from each link you build Adding value to the places you build links from, as they are more likely to drive traffic to your site A balance of quality and quantity is important No one can guarantee rankings SEO – keeping you on top 2014 has been an exciting time for SEO and it is now much more about quality than ever. Apply these tips and make the most of your online presence. What are your thoughts about SEO in 2014? Add a comment below. Scott Donald runs CreativSEO and has worked with successful start-ups and established businesses alike, helping them succeed online. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Retargeting is the process of displaying advertising specifically to people who have already visited your website.
Australian gaming start-up Pinion has been selected as one of the first companies to participate in Microsoft’s new Bing Fund, after raising almost $2 million from Australian investors.
Negotiating with real estate agents isn’t most people’s idea of fun, but one business found out the hard way how to deal with the industry in a profitable way.