Search algorithms are too smart to be gamed. Getting a website to appear higher on search results won’t happen with outdated cheats, making SEO a crucial element of digital marketing strategies.
That being said, SEO is complex and, if you’re an executive that’s not involved in your company’s digital marketing, getting your head wrapped around it can be confusing and even a little frustrating. But stress no more: we’ve put together this piece to tell you exactly what you need to know about SEO as an executive and left out what you don’t. By the time you reach the bottom of the page you’ll feel confident discussing SEO with … well, anyone!
First Things First
You already know SEO is important, but why? To put it simply, the more optimized your website is, the higher it will rank in search results and the more eyes will view it. And we all know what more eyes on your company’s site means … more potential customers, more engagement, and more brand awareness. The more of these outcomes the better, right? However, that begs the question: how can I optimize my website?
Essentially, what you want to do is make your website the best product possible.
Searchers on Google are looking for answers and Google wants to provide them with the best products (websites) possible to answer their questions. Making your website the best answer possible to searchers’ questions will increase your search engine ranking. So, what it boils down to is that your website needs to be as helpful, informative, and user-friendly as possible to rank highly.
Out With The Old
Putting the time and effort into making your website as strong as possible was not always the approach to ranking well. When SEO first became top of mind for marketers, barriers to having a high search ranking could be overcome with simple tricks to “outsmart” the search engine. In today’s online world not only will these tricks not help you, they will actually damage your ranking.
Buying Backlinks Backfires
The number of other websites that link to your site, or ‘backlinks’, has always been a relevant score adding to your website optimization. This was also the target of many strategies to game the system, like paying a website to put hundreds of links to your website on it. How harmful could buying backlinks be, you ask? We’re here to tell you: very harmful, indeed. Although this was once a common and low stakes practice that could improve your search results, those days are long gone so you can kiss the practice goodbye. Google is constantly being improved to better detect irrelevant sources and unnatural connections between websites. Although they don’t explicitly say what will happen if your site is found guilty of purchasing backlinks, it’s safe to assume your ranking will drop and you’ll be faced with the prospect of recovering your once high ranking. Since Google needs to provide searchers with the best product possible to beat out competitors, any attempt to artificially increase your ranking will not be taken lightly.
Save the Stuffing for Thanksgiving
Keyword stuffing was once another common practice in the world of SEO that has fallen from grace. Repeating a keyword a ridiculous number of times no longer goes undetected; the same applies to incohesive sentences that force the inclusion of a keyword. The main reason that this is an SEO faux pas?
“...one of the most obvious reasons why this is a bad tactic is it creates an awful experience for users.” 1
The last thing Google wants is for their searchers (customers) to have a dissatisfactory experience using one of the sites they’ve suggested. If your site repeats a keyword an absurd amount of times, utilizes keywords that are out of context, or, worse, has blocks of keywords, Google will administer consequences to the attempts at tricking their algorithms.
SEO is an art…
Now that the black hat SEO techniques have been established, what can you do to improve your site ranking? Rather than quick tricks and cheats for temporary results, think of SEO as an art that requires time and care to be successfully created. Creating a masterpiece is a process, after all.
Content is King
What Google values most is the quality of your content. Point blank. Creating engaging and informative content is what searchers will find most helpful and, thus, what Google will reward. When writing, it is necessary to always keep in mind that it will be another human reading the text. Ask yourself: Is this helpful? Is it easy to digest? Is it engaging? If you can answer yes to all three, then it is likely that your content is of quality. One should also consider that longer content is perceived as more in-depth and more knowledgeable and can help boost your ranking. It is also important to have a strong title that describes the website content accurately and to use high quality images. Implementing these techniques also help to increase time on page and pages per visit.
This article was designed for exactly this purpose: to drive SEO while providing a useful guide for clients and prospective partners.
Okay, SEO is a science too
While the quality of what you create is paramount to SEO, the technical side can’t be overlooked. Users want to have a seamless experience with no confusion or hiccups. How can you meet their expectations?
Patience on the internet is low. By low, we mean really low. If your page takes more than a few seconds to load you can consider that searcher as good as gone. Of course, this must be avoided. Since Google is well aware that users don’t want to wait, they are continuously updating their algorithms to value page speed more and more. Which means page speed must be a priority for your website from the get-go.
"If you don’t have a fast website, people will bounce faster than you can say “conversions.” 2
The most simple, yet effective, tool is to reduce the size of images. This is essential to having a fast website as “the most common causes of slow pages are bulky images” along with poorly designed coding.3 Beyond that, introducing state-of-the art tech, such as Cloudflare or a Catch plugin, can also help to increase speed.
Consider the visitor’s overall experience of your website every step of the way. To better visualize this, picture that you’re walking into a beautiful, luxury hotel. Right away a doorman opens the door for you and assists you into the building. You notice the exquisite furniture, the grandeur of the space and the pleasant floral fragrances. Now picture stepping into a roadside motel - at least you have somewhere to rest your head, right? Clearly these two spaces are in contrast to one another and, if you had to choose, you would likely go with the luxurious experience. The user experience on a well-designed website stands in stark contrast to one with little thought put into it. A thoughtfully designed website stands out and makes the user want to stay and explore so making the experience easy to navigate is crucial.
As an executive, SEO may not be your top priority, however having a thorough understanding of it is essential to fully understanding your business. What’s more, you’ll feel confident joining the conversation when SEO comes up