Search engine optimization has changed a lot in the past few years and the past few months have been especially turbulent. However, the most holistic way to understand the SEO landscape consistently prevails as the source of best-practices. It’s not a card game where it’s your business against some secret algorithm you can game. It’s much more like earning a spot on the New York Times Best Sellers list. It’s not rocket science, it’s relevance.
In the modern, non-snake-oil sense, search engine optimization ensures that your website is organized and presented in a way that Google and other search engines can understand its content and context. If your website were a book, SEO is the editor’s art of insuring every chapter has a purpose, every figure has a label, every self-reference is accurate and that the publication as a whole is a smooth read.
Simply having the best format does not a bestselling or celebrated publication make. Relevance factors, or off-site SEO signals, account for most of the ‘score’ when Google decides which site is the best match for their user’s query. These factors, the most famous of which is the quality, quantity and context of links into your site from other online sources, aren’t factors that can be controlled by a website administrator any more than a printing press can convince Oprah that this is the quintessential book on [insert category here].
No matter how much you claim your own expertise in your own book, people aren’t likely to see you as a relevant, trustworthy source until others begin pointing to it as a valuable resource in your field. This effect cascades over time. Search engine results are made for people, not publishers, and so they aim to weigh the factors that are most important to their users.
Publishers don’t allow themselves to rely on the printing press alone to show their publications relevance, and neither can we rely on the formatting of a website alone to prove your deserved importance to Bing or Google or Yahoo or other. Book tours, advertisements, awareness campaigns, special guests and outreach –now those are some book-selling power houses!
The digital cousins of proving relevance, guest writing, SEM/PPC, sponsored content, consistent multi-channel messaging and online engagement help sell your website. Most of these ‘signals’ prove your relevance to Google and help earn higher and higher organic ranking.
[Note: *SEM is a weird exemption to the rule. It buys something similar to high ranking and earns more traffic, but it doesn't increase rank.]
I wanted to address that this new world of SEO is riddled with confusion, complication and confounded claims. Even still, the ‘new rules’ are ever-changing and today’s silver bullet can be tomorrow’s noose.
Ranking highly in relevant searches for your customers to discover you isn’t a technological fix, it is the results of strategy, dedication and patience.
There is a very, very common guarantee in our industry. “If you work with my firm, I guarantee first page results on Google.” You know what? They can do it too. The question is “first page for what?” If you become the top ranking result for a phrase nobody searches for, what’s the point? You’ve become the best at acquiring nothing.
As an example, SilverTech has ranked in the top three nationwide for ‘National Digital Marketing Agency,’ on Google for over three years. In those three years, this phrase has earned our website exactly three visitors for our website. By comparison, the word ‘groundhog’ had also earned three visitors in the same time-frame.
The real formula for success is more holistic, and will blend your online and offline advertising and marketing efforts for better performance all-around. Unlike today’s ‘big thing,’ a winning strategy is built on a proven marketing framework that, if you think about it, isn’t far off from promoting the next New York Times best seller.
While there are technological tips to making your efforts more effective, a strategic focus on being relevant in your area of expertise will invite high organic search ranking to follow naturally. Without relying on whiz-bang, silver bullet, grey-hat techniques, your company will be better protected against the often violent nature of search algorithm changes.