SEO: what does Google really want?

SearchEngineLand-Periodic-Table-of-SEO-condensed-mediumIf there is one thing that we all agree upon with SEO*, it’s without a doubt that search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo hold mysterious powers. Their algorithm is impossible to scrutinize completely, but it’s also subject to change.  And it’s not a risk-free business either.  With constantly evolving rules, guidelines, algorithms and penalties that can destroy an entire digital marketing strategy, keeping up with this mystery power is a challenge. So much, that millions of full-time jobs have been created around the world to do so…

More than 200 ranking factors…  Where to start?

Is SEO a complex proces?  Yes.  And no.

Yes, because a website that concurs with all that Google wants has to approximately satisfy those whizzy crawl robots with over 200 ranking factors.  Which ones earn the highest priority? And would it be wise to just do your best job in only a few of them and ignore the others? Of course, the exact explanation of how the mind-boggling ranking algorithm works is a tightly-guarded secret and therefore the more boxes you tick, the merrier, truly applies. That is one of the main conclusions of our recently conducted Online Capability Review on 80 Microsoft Dynamics Partners in Belgium and Netherlands.

And then again… no, SEO is not that complex.  Before you call on expert support from external agencies and invest a considerable part of your marketing money, try to first fix the basics yourself.  It isn’t that cumbersome as you might think.  Start with evaluating your keyword consistency: do they appear in the site content (organic texts), in the right context and in the appropriate meta data behind your site? Put a fair amount of time (not money) in checking whether you can manage this yourself via the CMS (content management system) you use to maintain your web pages.

Does your CMS lack those features or even worse… do you need to ask for support from the agency or provider? Then we advise you to migrate to another technology platform.  Opt for tools that are user-friendly and that have all the core functionalities in house: content management, mobile optimization, social media sharing, conversion, analytics, etc. The first step in leading a successfull SEO strategy is a critical analysis and evaluation or your current CMS.

Optimize your website for a great user experience

As much as the complexities can deter you from even thinking about trying to take on the giant, when you analyse the core foundations of Google logically, the what to do next cloud begins to disapparate with quite some ease:

  • Google is a profit and loss business.
  • It takes the real-world into digital and into a better place.
  • It has an extensive customer service plan.
  • It requires your website to adhere to this service plan.
  • It requires your website to be completely accessible for all.

And all of this is in place so Google customers find what they are looking for:

  • In the fastest amount of time.
  • With the most amount of credibility.
  • With the most amount of relevancy to the search term.
  • With the most amount of popularity.
  • Within a geographical location that is reachable; if possible.

So before you begin to chip away at ranking your website for highly competed for keywords, take a step back and think about your strategy. Try to align yourself with Google’s own way of thinking. Take into account the Customer Journey, what they are looking for, how you can achieve those goals and how you can better the digital space.

You’ll be sure to rank higher on Google for doing so and if all else fails, at least your prospects will revel in a smooth website experience which is likely to improve your conversion rate.

Ask yourself the right questions 

Now how will you achieve a higher return-on-investment when spending your budget in the wide range of today’s marketing efforts?   Below questions may be hard to answer, but by putting yourself to the test, you build the foundation of an efficient online marketing strategy much more easily:

  • What is my primary service or product?
  • Does my website have set pages for each service or product?
  • Is it accessible on all devices and to all of my audience?
  • Am I writing genuine, informative content or just SEO spam?
  • How can I make my messages clear on all digital media (newsletters, social media, blog, etc.)?
  • What other ways can I better my digital presence and brand?
  • Am I engaging with my audience or just a one-way street?
  • Do I have sufficient budget available to invest into search marketing on the long-term?
  • How can I be constructive with my analytics reports?

Because you’re not Apple or Microsoft…

Not all SEO tactics are required to rank on the first pages of search results. So wouldn’t it be wiser to be selective and only put your efforts in the heavy weights?  The answer is no. Your business will lose that battle before you’ve even began. For example, powerful brands often tend to pay little attention to their own on-page optimization, both in organic text as in meta data. Nevertheless, content optimization plays a significant role in SEO.  So how come they still top the search results? Well, what they choose to ignore with on-page optimisation, they make up for with quality referral backlinks from other websites and lots of social media activity pointing back to their own landing pages. This loop generates a huge amount of traffic which makes Google deem those powerful brands as popular authorities, and thus return a higher rank. Obviously, this is not something you should start competing with… first.

If you haven’t got the powerhouse budget like some of your global competitors, you should pay attention to the other ranking factors that are achievable. Perhaps target less competitive keywords that can bring short-term traffic and makes visitors who are looking for added value finally hit and stay on your homepage. A far more feasible tactic that goes hand in hand with offering the best user experience, especially on mobile devices. Chances are you can convert anonymous users into loyal customers more easily. This way, you can build up a return on your investment and pump that money back into a second round of digital marketing tactics. Some more advanced than others: content re-optimization, video integration, email marketing, social media campaigns or -why not- online advertizing? Buying more competitive and expensive keywords (SEA*) will prove to be a viable option with a good ROI strategy behind. Even PPC* falls within range.

But whatever you do, employ a professional and invest properly into SEO. However tempting as it is to turn to your current provider in the first place (web designer, CMS developer, etc.), you will not necessarily get the best results. Second the optimization of your every digital marketing effort with the expert advise from an independant consultant. They ask the right questions and come up with solutions that meet your scope (cfr. my previous: “Don’t request your building contractor to act like an architect.”)..

Search marketing is not, and will never be, a DIY job if you are serious about your business. Millions of careers have been formed globally for people to specialise only in defeating the beast. If you could do it yourself, we would all be out of business and doing the same as you.

(*)
SEO = Search-Engine Optimization
SEA = Search-Engine Advertizing
PPC = Pay-Per-Click

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