Previously, search engine optimization (SEO) was defined as the process of gaining traffic and visibility from search engines such as Google, Bing and others through both paid and unpaid efforts. But that definition has evolved, observes Martin Laetsch, a noted digital marketing strategy leader.
To this industry expert, SEO is now better defined as: putting content in front of people who overtly and explicitly express a desire — via keywords — for a particular product, service or piece of information.
So how best to achieve this? Here are the four pillars of SEM and SEO success, according to Martin.
#1: Remember high-quality content consistently wins
Forget about ways of “gaming” search engines like Google so that your company’s listing appears higher on a results page when prospects enter a search term associated with your business. They’re onto practices such as “keyword stuffing” and regularly change their search algorithms to defeat them!
Why? Self-interest. Google (and others) know that if a search fails to deliver a site that delights their audience with relevant content, the searcher will quickly move to a competitor like Bing or Yahoo looking for an entry that does.
As a result, now more than ever, content is king. And if you want to create great content, you have to know the character of your target audience. Who are they? How do they think? How do they speak?
The good news? If you are an established business, it’s likely you are already well familiar with your customers. Of course, consumer research can supplement your knowledge.
Before crafting your content, you also will have to consider why your target would search for it. Are they looking for general information? A specific solution? Do they have one of your products and need help? Or is someone simply conducting research?
Next, consider what you want them to do. Do you want them to purchase something? Do you intend to simply educate them? Do you want them to solve a specific problem?
The more carefully you craft your content with these considerations in mind, the more likely your audience will find you, engage with you — and respond in a way that’s favorable to your business.
One tip: Know that most searchers are no longer using one- and two-word queries when searching. Today, long-tail searches that are three-, four- or five words are not uncommon. For example, a search for “pizza” has in many cases been supplanted by consumers with far more specific queries, such as “Chicago-style deep-dish pizza for delivery.” These longer-tail searches are a good indication of user intent and typically lead to better conversions.
Capitalize on this trend by adjusting your content accordingly. Remember that your goal isn’t to attract the most shoppers, but rather qualified prospects who have a genuine interest in buying what you are selling!
#2: Optimize your site for mobile users
If you haven’t yet done so, switch to your website to one with a responsive design that automatically provides easy reading and navigation not only to desktops, but also to mobile phones and tablets.
Why? Mobile search has now surpassed desktop search among most audiences. As a bonus, you get additional credit in search engine rankings from Google if you employ responsive design.
#3: Write for SEO, or search engine optimization
While tricks such as “keyword stuffing” are no longer valid in improving search engine rankings, many best practices still hold true. Among just a few:
- Feature your keyword in your page headline and the first paragraph of your body copy; readers will give you only about three seconds of consideration.
- Use natural language to communicate your message by mixing in synonyms and varying word order.
- Consider longer copy as it provides a better opportunity for keyword placement.
- Go ahead and include each keyword three or four times within your copy; just don’t overstuff it!
Remember to include your keyword in your page meta description; this is the page preview snippet that is displayed on search engine results pages.
#4: Adapt to change
While change is ever present in search engine optimization, you will be on the right track for SEO success, notes Martin Laetsch, if you follow SEO’s Golden Rule: Write for people, not for search engines!