Almost everyone, even remotely connected with website ownership will ask me how they can make their website appear in the top spots in Google/Yahoo searches. I will then describe how we gather a list of possible search terms that we want to target, and optimize these terms throughout the website. Of course this is a very general description of a more complex and detailed process. Generally these techniques are designed to get Google/Yahoo to notice your site, index your content and highlight your keywords. While this is a great start, it does not guarantee top ranking from Google/Yahoo. You will likely have several websites using the same SEO techniques, competing for the same keywords. So why would Google/Yahoo give you a higher placement over these other sites? The answer lies in understanding what Google/Yahoo want so that they give preference toward your site.
Give Google/Yahoo What They Really Want
We need to remember that Google/Yahoo are in business to draw people to THEIR site. To remain competitive, they need to deliver QUALITY search results to their users that are truly valuable and relevant. Imagine if you conducted a search and received a list of sites that employed special “tricks” designed to “fool” the search engine into giving them top ranking. Your search results would look similar to a spam filled mailbox with all types of unwanted, unsolicited communication, and unrelated content. You probably would not continue using this search engine.
Google/Yahoo have several processes to help them determine the value and relevancy of sites they index regarding certain search terms. They even have detection tools to identify which sites are attempting to “fool” them, which can result in the site becoming blacklisted from all listings from the search engine. Tricks and techniques may work for a while, but nothing works better than providing exactly what search engines and their users are looking for: valuable, relevant content.
What is Relevant and Valuable to Your Users?
To determine what content your target audience values we need to take a step back and imagine your customers BEFORE they discovered your products/services. They had a problem or a task that needed to be fulfilled — the same problem that your product solves. They visit Google/Yahoo to search for possible solutions or a diagnosis. Now what search terms might they use? These search phrases might begin with, “How to…” or perhaps a hot topic or common issue in their industry. Do this exercise for each of your products and services as well as your different audiences you wish to attract. When you are finished you’ll have a great list of search terms to use, but also some keen clues in developing new content and subject material.
Adding Relevance and Value to Your Website
Most businesses will have web pages describing each product/service they offer. At the very least, consider how you might add these search terms and supporting content to these product/service descriptions. Rather than merely describe the product/service, address the specific problems or issues it solves.
An even more powerful tactic is to develop a web page devoted to addressing this topic and provide good, relevant, helpful, advice or information, keeping it as unbiased as possible. Keep your focus on HELPING the user rather than SELLING them. You might consider inviting users to comment or ask additional questions which then creates a dialog with you. Provide social network and bookmark service links so that users can share your page with others or save it for future reference. Adding an RSS feed and/or email subscription service will allow users to receive updates when there are changes or new articles/posts added.
Many of these techniques can be used quite effectively as part of a “Solutions” or “Education” section of your site. In recent years, the rise of the corporate blog has provided another venue. While many businesses have used their blog to deliver the latest corporate information and news, others have had greater success in keeping their blog postings relevant to the customer’s world and creating an online environment that encourages dialog and sharing.
Having and Maintaining a Blog has many advantages:
Blogs are usually easy for a client to learn and administer themselves, adding new articles, edits, responses, etc. quickly and easily, without requiring the assistance from a web developer. More importantly, a blog also:
- Allows you to address the common problems and issues your audience might face, and offer your product or service as a solution.
- Creates an open dialog with your users which builds trust and awareness in your brand.
- Establishes and brands you as an ‘expert’ in the field.
- Increases links coming into your site as users share your pages with others, effectively promoting your site.
- Increases your SEO value to those who may not be aware of your company or product.
- Positions your product as a viable solution.
- Provides you with valuable feedback on how your public views your product and how to improve it.
A blog often divides its posts (articles) into several categories, which allows users to find related content that is of most relevant to them. As you add additional posts, your blog can become an invaluable resource to both your existing, and potential customers.
Sounds Great in Theory, but Where’s the Proof?
The popular blog service, Hubspot recently surveyed 1,500 small to mid-sized companies and found:
- Bloggers had 55% more traffic to their site than those who did not blog.
- Bloggers had 97% more inbound links to their site. This is important to Google/Yahoo since this indicates high value content, and raises your SEO ranking.
- Bloggers had 434% more indexed pages. The more indexed pages you have in your site, the better chance of someone finding you through the search engines.
These results are pretty impressive. Other than the initial cost of setting up and designing your blog, there is virtually no additional cost to maintain it. How is that for a great return on investment? Obviously there is some time involved to write and post articles, respond and dialog with customers. But isn’t this just a part of your sales and marketing efforts? If not, perhaps it should be.