Of all the digital marketing services, Search Engine Optimization has undergone the biggest change in the last five to ten years. Changes are happening even as we speak, as shifting consumer demands drive search engines to provide the best results.
A few years ago, remarkably only a short time ago in digital years, mobile search was not much of a concern. But today, mobile topics like search advertising and user experience are critical to advertiser strategies. SEO is often in the middle of these great user-driven changes.
Travis Shafer has over 15 years as a digital marketer under his belt. He has worked on SEO campaigns for large companies, helping them nudge their way to the front of the pack in an often confusing and crowded digital race for attention on Google and Bing.
In this month’s edition of our continuing series on Digital Marketing, Travis answers my questions about Search Engine Optimization.
Q: What do you say to those who claim SEO is dead?
A: SEO is not dead. Your strategy needs to be different. The old tactics don’t work anymore. You need to think less about specific keywords and more about the intent of the content. Does your content solve problems? Does it answer questions? Does it provide value? The internet is saturated with content now so yours needs to stand out.
Q: What is the primary goal of SEO: to make Google or humans happy?
A: Simple answer, both. The way Google’s algorithms currently work favor the user. Time on site, pages viewed, etc. are a few of Google’s main ranking signals. If you write content for humans, not only will you actually connect with people you are trying to help, but you will inadvertently help your chances in the rankings.
Q: Can’t I just use a plugin to do my SEO?
A: Technically, yes. The thing with plugins is it will only tell you if the elements are included, the right length of characters, etc. Like I said before, this is great for old SEO, but what an expert can do is expand on those variables and provide the correct messaging and intent.
Q: What is an example of an SEO project you worked on that had a direct impact on website traffic?
A: Good question. Every company is different. Some are enterprise, some are small, some want national exposure and some just want to sell locally. The trick is to tailor the strategy to the needs of the company. You can’t have cookie-cutter solutions. I took over for one client that was only targeting local SEO when they had a national brand. We created an aggressive lead nurturing strategy that not only improved their traffic but increased their QUALIFIED leads by 300%. I had another client that was the opposite: they were paying for ads nationally when they only needed a local SEO strategy. With some on-site content adjustments, we increased their traffic by 1300%.
Q: How does social, reviews, and other factors blend together with on-site SEO?
A: It’s all about building trust and connecting on a personal level. Simply put, people buy from companies they trust. When friends and family leave trust signals for companies with comments and reviews, and social posts that connect with customers, it makes it easier to do business.
Q: Is mobile revolutionizing SEO?
A: It has been for a long time. Can you think of one person that doesn’t own a cell phone? Most people have their phones on them at all times. We are on our mobile phones when we watch tv and when we’re at restaurants. That access to people’s lives gives us something we haven’t had in the past. We need to make sure we are ready with mobile optimization. Fast loading, correctly sized text and buttons, optimized video and images, these are all important factors for mobile site optimization.
Q: How does content relate to SEO strategy?
A: With all the content out there, you need to produce content that is interesting and worth reading. People want to solve their problems and have their questions answered. We want to be entertained. So let’s give them that.
As far as strategy, it all goes back to tailoring your SEO and content marketing strategy to the needs of the company. Find the problems and questions your target audience is asking and deliver the content in the way that reaches them the best.
Q: How important is the user experience for SEO?
A: The experience a user has with a website will determine not only how long they stay on the site (ranking factor), but it will be relevant to making a sale. People have short attention spans and they don’t want to read endless text or feel like their time is wasted. Is your navigation easy to, well, navigate? Are there images and graphics and do they help tell the story? All these things are important to a potential customer.
Q: What should people know about video content optimization?
A: YouTube is the second leading search platform, only behind Google, who owns them by the way. This means video is just as important to SEO as text content and you want to make sure you optimize basically the same way. Adding transcripts, having an engaging thumbnail, as well as a good title and description will go a long way.
Q: Should businesses optimize their website for voice search?
A: Yes! Voice search and wearable tech is the next big thing. More and more homes are adding this technology and optimizing for them will be essential, but not difficult. Once again, write for the user. Use natural language instead of keywords. Think about the difference between what you type into the Google search bar and how you ask Alexa questions. You have your answer.