In the last 2 years Google has changed the weight of the factors that put your web pages on the first page of search result listings. This is causing a flood of articles on the Death of SEO. The most useful is Ken Krogue’s article in Forbe’s Magazine. SEO hasn’t died, it’s just gotten more complicated. Building web or blog content must meet five needs:
- Meet user needs and answer user questions
- Include search optimization principles to make your content easy to find on the web or in social platforms
- Use social media methods to share your content and build your relationship with customers
- Build significant amounts of content over time
- Publish fresh content 3-5 times per week
Google Changes Everything
It started with Google penalizing Overstock.com for links from edu educational domains and penalizing JC Penney for buying links in 2011. The Wall Street Journal and most online marketing forums took notice.
SEO may look simple to people outside of the corporate marketing department. Leaders who allocate the resources and budget for SEO meed to realize what has happened in the last two years. The Google Penguin update punished link building schemes and several Google Panda updates forced out web sites with thin content, more ads than content, weak user metrics or a poor user experience.
The most interesting part of the Panda update is Google’s use of user metrics like time on page and bounce rate to reward sites where users stay longer to read pages with useful information. There’s no way to game this metric. Your best method to solve this need is to use social listening tools to find and answer questions and problems that your readers express in comments, forums and social media. Think long term and plan on building 100-300 pages of content, with each page focusing on a single keyword phrase that you discovered in your social listening. In the graph, you can see that traffic increases at a faster pace as you reach 150 to 200 pages of content in your blog or web site. ( Based on Hubspot.com research data.)
Will your Blog Grow Traffic or Wither Away?
Here’s how to avoid SEO mistakes and gain the first page of Google search rankings to grow your web traffic.
- Only spend 20% of your effort on fixing existing blog or web pages with SEO enhancements. Correcting basic SEO and technical errors on old web page or blog content is a good start, but you should put more effort into building and optimizing many new content pages that help your users. The correlation between more content and more traffic is compelling.
- Go beyond just building the search engine rank of your 20 top converting key words. Instead focus on building the content footprint of your site and become a trusted source of information in your niche. Check your analytics and find what keywords actually draw users to your web site. There will be many more than 20 keywords. Your users are telling you what they really want to read on your site. Are you listening to what users say through your analytics or through problems and questions they pose through social media? If you optimize search for 200+ long tail keywords, your traffic will grow.
- Customers don’t want your products, as much as they want a solution to their problem. You built research based user persona’s that tell you who your customers are, didn’t you? If you have 7 types of customers with different needs, why would you drive them to 4 product pages? You should have multiple offers, spread across 20 to 50 landing pages that solve user problems and meet their needs at different parts of the buying cycle.
- When Facebook created the LIKE button, they accidentally solved one of Google’s main search quality problems. Even with the Google algorithm to rank each web page using over 200 factors, users could never be sure if they would click through to a great page that solved their need or a slick sales page. Google now includes Shares of your content, Google+ and other social media signals that tell the search engines how humans rank your content. Listening to your customers and engaging them in social media discussions builds your brand, builds trust and improves your visibility to search engines.
- The first step before creating content is reading forums, blogs and social sites where your users hang out. What do users like or dislike about your product or service? You should be learning the problems that users face and help solve these problems. Let users get involved with your product through user generated content, games, surveys or contests. This will build trust with customers who will be happy to share your content with others. When enthusiastic customers share their great experience with their social media friends, you won’t need to buy fake artificial links.
- Increase the usability and decrease the bounce rate of web pages to gain search rank. Almost every landing page or blog post should have images or photos to increase user involvement. Replace your one size fits all videos with short videos that demonstrate some specific aspect of your product, answer user questions or involve users in your product story.
Have you noticed increased web traffic as your consulting or marketing blog and site grow? Are you struggling with building more content? Tell us about it in comments.