SEO 101: Reality Check

SEO 101: Reality Check Featured Image

It’s tempting to believe the SEO provider who promises instant surges of search engine traffic while questioning the provider who tells you that SEO takes time. Unfortunately, too many business owners give up on SEO far too soon, or they’re too quick to switch SEO providers when they don’t see immediate results. If you’re expecting to conquer Google with one quick campaign, then you need to receive a reality check. Once you’ve buckled in for a slightly longer SEO journey, you’ll be ready to increase your organic search traffic.

SEO: A Marathon, not a Sprint

Google states that they release 500 to 600 algorithm changes, on average, every year. It’s impossible to optimize your website one time and expect instant, lasting results. Some SEO providers lure clients by promising a specific search ranking by a certain date. In reality, experienced providers can give you an idea of how your organic search traffic might improve, but they won’t predict specific results.

Also, the strategies that work best for boosting organic search take time to roll out and nurture. Think about all of the work that’s required for these high-quality SEO tactics:

  • Quality content. Write a lot of content, persuade people to share it, engage with people who comment on it, and you’ll likely see a boost to organic search traffic. However, it’s hard to do this in a short amount of time without hiring a team of writers to create content on your behalf.
  • Social networking.  In order to get your content seen and shared, you’ll have to open social media accounts, spend time building a following, and establish a solid social reputation. Building a social networking strategy isn’t something that you can accomplish in a weekend.
  • Inbound links. Links that lead visitors back to your website or to your content will boost your search results, but to be helpful the links have to come from high-quality referring sources. This means that people have to like your content and link back to it, or they have to agree to publish content that links back to you, and creating these relationships takes — you guessed it — time. The days of “if you link to me, I’ll link to you” are long gone. It’s going to take time to accumulate good inbound links.

Like most things in life that produce major rewards, SEO requires hard work, fine-tuning, and persistence. Let’s take a look at how you can get started building your organic search traffic.

Quality Content

Content marketing is fundamental for growing your business. Four out of five business decision-makers, according to Roper Public Affairs, would prefer to receive information in a series of articles instead of in an advertisement. Great content is also the foundation for building organic search rankings. Before you create new content or repurpose your current content, it’s important to objectively define quality:

  • Unique. Your content should offer something that your competitors’ content does not. It should present something special to your customers that they can’t find anywhere else.
  • Relevant. Your content should focus on your business and on your industry. It should be relevant to the questions that your customers have and the problems that they need your business to solve.
  • Substantive. Your content should contain information that your customers would find valuable. Substantive content is information that customers could use as a reference, material that stimulates discussion, or something that customers want to share with others.

Quality Content Action Plan:

  • Review the content you have. Evaluate whether it passes the tests of being unique, relevant, and substantive. If not, think about ways that you could improve your Web pages, your blog, downloadable brochures, and other content that you publish.
  • Know your keywords. Use Google Webmaster Tools to see which incoming search queries, or keyword phrases, customers most commonly use to arrive at your website (click Search Traffic>Search Queries on the left sidebar). Then, edit your existing content to use these common keyword phrases, and incorporate them into new content that you produce.
  • Check for freshness. Google uses a measurement called Query Deserved Freshness (QDF) to check for new content on trending topics. If you publish new content at the right moment, you could be propelled to the top of the search rankings. Whether or not you hit the right moment with QDF, do something about the blog that hasn’t been attended to in months or about any content that contains out-of-date information.
  • Evaluate for engagement. In addition to checking to see whether users share your content on social media, check how long users stay on your site. If they’re clicking to your page and then bouncing right back to the search results, you can guess that readers aren’t taking the time to read your content.
  • Commit both to generating and curating new content. You can publish blog posts of differing lengths a few times each week. You can also share great content that others have created on your blog and in your social networks. Additionally, publishing your content on other websites can be a good way to build search traffic. Just be sure to avoid tit-for-tat schemes (“I’ll guest blog for you if you’ll guest blog for me”) that can generate low-quality inbound links.

Social Networking

Social networking influences organic search rankings according to two factors: social reputation and social engagement. Social reputation has to do with how authoritative your social media accounts look to search engines, which relates to your personal or business reputation, how active you are on social media, and what kinds of content you share. Social engagement measures how many followers you have and how much your content is liked, favorited, and shared. When customers share your links, Google interprets the share as a signal of trust in your business.

Social Networking Action Plan:

  • Pick one social network and get really good at it. Unless you have a marketing team at your disposal, start with one social network and get really good at using it. Pick your social network based on both the type of content you share and where your customers hang out. If you’re a B2B business, start with LinkedIn. If you sell visually appealing products, try Instagram or Pinterest.
  • Spend time engaging with customers. You can schedule social posts for certain times of the day, but you’ll build a stronger, more engaged follower base if you actually interact with others using your account. Venture into the comments section on Facebook or reply to customer tweets.
  • Avoid pay-for-followers schemes. If you open a Twitter account, for example, you’ll probably pick up a few followers that will offer to give you 20,000 followers for a small fee. These followers will boost your numbers, but they won’t boost your social engagement because they won’t read, share, and comment on your posts.

Inbound Links

Link building used to be about quantity, but now it’s more about quality. Google’s 2012 Penguin update and its subsequent tweaks, designed to squash spammy inbound links, made people a lot more conscious of who links to their website. An authoritative page that links to your content or someone from your industry who links to your content helps your search rankings. Links from spammy sites, widgets, directories, and other low-quality sources can hurt your search rankings if they appear in volume.

Inbound Links Action Plan

  • Investigate the number and quality of inbound links to your website. Log in to Google Webmaster Tools.  In the left sidebar, click Search Traffic>Links to Your Site. You’ll see how many inbound links point to your site and where the links originate.  If you see a lot of links coming from very spammy sites, you might want to try contacting the webmasters of those sites and asking to remove them.  We recommend consulting with a professional before beginning this process.
  • Review anchor text that people use to connect to your site. Click Statistics>Page Analysis if these tools are visible on your Webmaster Tools page. They can show you the anchor text that other pages use to link to your content, which helps you to understand how Google interprets your site. If most inbound links use similar anchor text, then Google will likely interpret that similarity as an unnatural attempt to game their algorithm.   If you are earning links naturally, your anchor text is likely to be naturally randomized; however, in the past it was very common for link builders to utilize keyword rich anchor text in order to gain an advantage.  Since the Penguin update Google is now specifically looking for this gaming technique. Keyword rich anchor text is fine if it is randomized and natural looking, but it can earn you a penalty if it looks overly gamed.
  • Use the nofollow attribute. Nofollow tags allow you to use outbound links without endorsing the content. They also protect you when a spammy or irrelevant site links back to your content. For example, if you publish an infographic that other sites might use, but you don’t want search engines to count the inbound link as a connection to your site, then you can ask people who use your infographic to add a nofollow tag.

The Long and Winding yet Profitable Road

When your business needs new customers and additional revenue quickly, it’s hard to accept that SEO isn’t an instant route to success. However, SEO remains the backbone of any digital strategy. Organic search traffic, for the foreseeable future, will be crucial for the long-term growth of your company.


Start optimizing now!

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