“The Unbearable Truth About SEO” – by Josh Turner

A recent event I attended given by E-Marketeers as part of the Marketing Academy’s Merlin Lecture series looked at the SEO landscape. Where quick wins have long gone, and the focus on content strategy and marketing, earned links and UX marketing reign supreme.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is vital to all businesses in today’s online world, whether you think it is or not. Consumers search online for everything from reviews, deals, to products and services all from their finger tips in an instance. We as businesses are not directly ranked on how good our offering is, or how much value we give the consumers, but increasingly where we rank in terms of ‘search’. Statistics show that 75% of users don’t go past the first page of results on Google, and seeing as when online your competition is now the world its important you rank on the first page for what you do.

SEO is made up of a multitude of aspects, and keeps changing all the time with the update algotrims search companies like Google and Yahoo use, which doesn’t make it easy, hence why this can often be a full time job for companies. Currently, it is said that 40% of SEO ranking is based on links. Search engines score websites up and down based on many aspects, to determine where they rank you when consumers are searching the web for what you do. The ‘Panda’ update (always named after animals!) by Google, ranks websites down predominately based on repeat content, poor user experience design and poor content.

In 2015 search on mobile devices is set to overtake that of desktops for the first time in history. What’s more, Google have already announced that they will rank websites down if they are not designed to be mobile compatible. In light of this there are many websites you can use to easily check how mobile responsive your website is, and what changes you may need to make. It is also possible from the more technical point of view to control user access from mobile devices through your website code. If you have complicated aspects to your website which you know wont work well on a mobile devices, you can block these when users log in via a mobile device, therefore Google’s algorithm wont score you down – however this is more complicated to do!

It was also mentioned that we should utilize Google trends and other free tools, especially when planning content for right time of year. For example most people search for ‘flu jabs’ in October, therefore if we want to rank highly in this area our content should be prepared and out in the months prior. This allows us to be at the rank we want to be at the right time of year. It is also worth keeping an eye on what’s trending on the Internet, to help target websites content strategy direction, as this will no doubt keep changing.

With regards to content, it is also worthwhile considering ‘proof words’ which Google now recognizes through its ‘Hummingbird’ update. This is important as we no longer need to fill just key words into our content to get ranked highly on a subject, which comes back to content quality being important. For example if writing about ‘superman’ (key word) words like ‘Clark Kent’ and ‘reporter’ would count as proof words on this topic and in Googles eyes rank us higher in terms of content quality. Whereas before we might try and get the word ‘Superman’ into an blog or article 10 times every 100 words which makes for poor content.

Below is a list of useful online tools to consider when working on our SEO:

Schema.org. – set of extensible schemas that enable webmasters to embed structured data on web pages for SEO,

Copyscape.com – free plagiarism checker, lets you detect duplicate content and that your articles are original. Remember Google ranks down duplicated content!

Gtmetrix.com – page speed checking tool. Not vital when it comes to SEO ranking, however is very important to user experience,

Gunning-fog-index.com – basically gives you the reading age of your content & website, allowing you to alter to your target audience. A reading age of 8 years old is not a always bad thing when we consider UX remember!

Topsy.com – free tool, which is great for content marketing as you can search and analyse the social web.

Buzzstream.com – is great tool for link building and digital PR Outbrain – largest content discovery platform, e.g. if you want to put your content next to similar content – more PPC (pay per click) focused though.

Although there are many more tools out there that can make our lives easier when it comes to SEO, overall the CEO need to become CIO (chief innovation officer). In the past paid links worked, but now we need to consider earned links as the most key focus. The CEOs of business large and small need to not only understand SEO, but also monitor it (e.g. tools above). How many new links we have, or lost links we need to understand and monitor. Sites like: Moz.com, Raventools.com, linkdex.com can all make this simple. They just need to be actively utilized by all online companies – the web isn’t going anywhere, imagine if you business address moved from prime location to the bad end of town overnight, how would you survive?

As famous marketer Seth Godin claims, “Content marketing is the only marketing that’s left”. Which all comes back to trust, trust in content we are putting out, which Google ranks accordingly what is genuine and what is fake. To summaries the three key areas business need to focus on with regards their SEO ranking of their website is Content marketing, UX design and Mobile responsiveness.