Whatever your business, it’s important to generate traffic to your website. Traffic to your website will mostly come through Search. Someone somewhere has typed a query into Google. If that query matches the words and phrases on your website, then you will show up in the search results. But what if you want to rank higher in the search results? That’s where Search Engine Optimisation comes in.
In The Beginning
The process of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) used to be simple. All you had to do was get as many people linking to your site as you could. All of a sudden the big search engines (like Google) would start ranking your site higher in their results.
You could be part of a Backlink network where you managed hundreds of websites that all pointed to each other. Or you could have a website that was just gibberish. Just blocks of texts with keywords repeated over and over so you would rank highly for those keywords. This is useless for human beings actually looking for helpful, relevant information or products.
In fact, it isn’t “optimisation” at all. Not if we take it to mean making your website perform optimally. It did fool the search engine’s assessment of your website for a while, but that’s not optimal.
And Then There Was Light
In February 2011, Google released an update to its search algorithms which they called Panda. The Panda update began penalising websites they deemed to be of low quality; sites that were all links and no content. Since then, Google and other search engines have continued improving their algorithms. The main goal, to promote websites with good content and demote sites without.
And so a new era of content marketing was born and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) matured.
It’s worth noting that anyone worth their salt working in Marketing up until this point weren’t trying to trick people into finding their websites, only to serve them a sub-par experience. But these Black Hat tactics were sometimes employed even by genuine sites. I’ve seen more than one example of people hiding keyword stuffed text in design elements on the page by making it the same colour as the background.
This doesn’t impact the human user of the site but might fool a Google crawler. But true to form Google cottoned on. It has been looking at the meta information on-page such as text colour to weed out these sneaky people for quite some time now.
That being said, there is a much stronger focus amongst digital marketing folk to do things the right way. We want to produce high-quality websites which are updated regularly with usable, relevant information across the site.
Don’t forget, search engines aren’t in charge. Or at least it shouldn’t be your goal to please the search engine. They are a service provider, they have clients. Everyone who ever uses a search engine to find something. If you choose Google over Yahoo! or Bing over AskJeeves you are their customers and they are in competition with each other.
They need you to keep coming back. They create brand loyalty by serving the most useful and relevant links. Think about it, would you keep buying things from a shop when the product was never really what you wanted? Would you keep using a particular search engine when the results never gave you your answer? Or didn’t find what you were looking for?
It Can Be Good
It is in Google’s best interest to continue to change its algorithm to rank the ‘best’ pages. And so, it is in everyone’s best interest to try to understand what Google’s criteria are and match our website structure accordingly.
But, as I said before, your goal shouldn’t be to beat a search engine, or to be found by a search engine. Google and Yahoo! aren’t going to buy your products, or sign up for your services. Humans do that. So you need to focus on who those humans might be, what they might be looking for and how they might be searching for it. Tailor your website and create more content with that in mind.
Every change Google has made to its search algorithm in recent years has been to try and anticipate searchers’ needs. That is all you are trying to do. By focusing on your potential customer base, you are aligning yourself with Googles goals.
And that is how you win at Search Engine Optimisation and Content Marketing.
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