Much like snake oil salesmen sold potions of dubious quality in the 1800s, search engine optimizers today promise great search rankings for your website by employing keyword-loading trickery. But SEO suffered a great setback late last year when Google unleashed a whole new set of search algorithms that negated much of the work those people do. Is SEO dead? That’s a complicated question.
The first problem with SEO is that with any change in its algorithms, Google can make all your search engine optimization work for naught. The second problem is that users want authoritative, relevant information — something that SEO manipulators aren’t really offering.
The logic behind search engine optimization is to focus on the keywords you want your web page to rank highly for, and then stuff the meta tags and content full of those keywords to trick Google into thinking your page deserves to be in the first page of search results. So-called “white hat” SEO techniques involve tracking Google’s search algorithm changes to make sure your site ticks every box on the list of what Google considers authoritative content. On the other hand, “black hat” SEO uses tricks like spammy inbound links in blog comments or machine-generated content that stuffs a page with keywords.
In September 2013, Google released a new version of its search engine, dubbed Hummingbird, that focuses more on semantic search — understanding what humans mean with their search queries rather than just serving up exact text matches. Keywords are less important than context — if a user in Cincinnati searches for “bengals,” Google is going to serve up the schedule of upcoming games, not information about the cats.
SEO experts will tell you that a website’s design and content don’t matter as long as you’ve rigged the keywords correctly. Computers don’t care about aesthetics — but users do. And savvy web users can tell the difference between a website that’s just keyword bait and a website that’s actually trustworthy. Users don’t want to be tricked into visiting a site that’s optimized to the hilt but contains little helpful information. And all the web traffic in the world doesn’t mean a thing if those site visitors aren’t turning into customers. When it comes to business leads, quality is way more important than quantity.
So the best strategy for any business owner is to focus on the strength of your web content. Don’t neglect the site’s metatags, but don’t stuff them with irrelevant keywords, either. Creating authoritative content that’s relevant and interesting to your customers (and potential customers) is the only way to ensure healthy search results.
So what’s a business owner to do? Here are a few suggestions for making sure your website gets the attention it deserves:
- Create a content strategy: Great web content doesn’t just appear out of thin air. Consider your business goals and opportunities, and devise a strategy for creating relevant web content that appeals to your audience and establishes you as an expert in the field. What are your potential customers searching for? How would they phrase it in a web search? Can they find that information on your website?
- Stay up-to-date on search technology: Nothing ever stays the same in the world of online search. For example, Schema.org is a new system of adding metadata (or microdata) to websites in a way that all major search engines can read. Make sure your websites are up to snuff by working with a reputable web marketing company.
- Work with a top marketing firm: St. Gregory Group would be glad to help you develop an online content marketing strategy that establishes you and your business as experts in your field. Get in touch.