For a long time, SEO (search engine optimization) has seemed like a magic trick to many business owners trying to get found in search results. It was a mysterious task performed in secret, and most of us had no idea what was happening, and if we hired someone to do it for us it we hardly knew what we were paying for. For agencies like us, the ones perceived as performing magic, we found ourselves having to justify what we were sending a bill for every month. Fortunately, much of what goes into providing effective SEO has changed dramatically in the last decade. We no longer need to look at it as a secretive process, but rather a collaborative and holistic process.
The old ways of looking at SEO had a technical focus and were largely one dimensional. Traditionally, SEO practises focused on the website’s code or the specific links feeding traffic back to that website (backlinks). While technical on-site SEO practices are still important and backlink profiles still contribute to overall SEO effectiveness, they aren’t nearly as high priority as they once were. Today, SEO is comprised of a much broader online brand presence. Social media presence, listings, reviews, outstanding website design or usability and blogs are now analyzed as factors that determine search engine ranking, alongside technical elements and backlink profiles. So, how can one navigate all this?
A great way to start thinking about your SEO is to try to look at your web presence from the perspective of Google—how would the search engine behemoth analyze a business when building their algorithm? Ultimately, the goal of a search engine is to answer a question for its users in a clear, concise and functional way. Instead of thinking in 1’s and 0’s like a computer, Google’s algorithm is designed to interpret information much like a human user would when they're seeking an answer to a question. Google wants to ensure the sites it puts in front of its users answer their query, providing them with a positive experience and resources that are reliable and qualified. It’s important for Google that their users trust the results they provide, so they look for indicators in your digital marketing that build trust in your brand, such as reviews.
Holistic SEO is about becoming more discoverable, so it stands to reason that your presence on social networks such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter will help increase your visibility to search engines. Google reveals how important social media accounts are to its algorithm by listing them in search results for associated business profiles. Similarly, when your business profile is visible on listings websites such as Yelp, Foursquare and other local directories, you’ll increase your chances of being found by search engines and ranking higher in their results pages. Your presence on social media and listing sites not only helps your customers find you, but also provides Google with the information it needs to index you amongst it’s search results.
SImilarly, online reviews can make all the difference when it comes to SEO. Consistent reviews from your customers indicate that your business is active and operational, and good reviews signal to potential clients that you are trustworthy. Even a good response to negative feedback in a review can build confidence in your brand by showing your integrity and accountability. Just as a human consumer reads reviews before choosing to work with you, Google’s algorithms scan online reviews and favour sites with a high number and high frequency of positive reviews from a diversity of sources. This can be a lot to manage, but with a solid review management strategy, you’ll have the benefit of appealing to both search engines and customers who are looking for you.
While getting potential customers to your website is important, their experience upon arrival is even more paramount. In the past, visitor experience was seldom taken into consideration for SEO campaigns, nor was it an indicator for ranking in search results. Picture this: a potential customer found you in a recommendation on Facebook, so they go to your website to see if you are the right fit for them. When they get there, they are met with a website that isn’t particularly nice to look at, is difficult to navigate, and doesn’t provide the information they are looking for. Or worse, the site isn’t mobile-friendly and loads painfully slow. This kind of experience would likely result in that potential customer clicking out of your website and moving on to the next option with a nicer user experience. Today, a website that doesn’t satisfy users will also be ranked lower by search engines. Ensuring your website performs well for users is therefore key to ensuring it in turn performs well for search engines.
Think of it as a feedback loop of sorts: if your website is bad for customers and is unlikely to create conversions, Google will also rank it lower making you less discoverable to customers. Conversely, if visitors love your website and it produces high conversion rates, Google will rank it higher and make you more discoverable. Ensuring your website performs well for users is therefore key to ensuring it in turn performs well for search engines.
In the end, whatever creates quality brand visibility, increases your websites usability and generates trust will attract both clients and search engines. Just like your site visitors, search engines favour websites that perform well and deliver on expectations. This logic operates hand in hand with traditional SEO practices such as keyword placement and back-linking to satisfy search engine algorithms. To rank higher in search engine results pages, your site needs to load well, be easy to navigate, answer user search queries, and provide the information potential customers are looking for. Looking at your entire online footprint and the value it creates for your brand will ultimately help encourage search ranking and attract qualified customers. We understand this is no easy task, and we are here to help provide direction or augment your efforts!