Every time you think you’ve figured out what you need to do to get search rankings, Google releases another update with one of those cutesy names like Panda or Penguin, pushes the concept of natural search engine optimization and gives all sorts of advice that’s contradictory and confusing. Sound about right? It’s not just you.
The Natural Search Engine Optimization Conundrum
Google sends very mixed messages on how it wants us to earn search rankings. It’s almost as if Google really wants us to believe in natural search engine optimization. Build your great website, broadcast your great content and you’ll get natural search engine optimization. People will find your website and your off-site content; they’ll share it and link to it while you just sit back and let that natural search engine optimization happen. As if.
SEO is required to get rankings but
Google/Search engines are pretty amazing
Search engine users type in a search query, a bunch of really intricate things happen ridiculously quickly and BAM! Millions of results appear in a matter of seconds. The speed and efficiency is remarkable. If, in those few seconds, Google allows a crappy, spammy, stupid website to appear on page one, that makes Google look bad. Consumers expect the top results to be legitimate sites that have what they’re looking for, or very close to it. Google really is trying to give consumers what they want.
Google can be amazing for a business when that business manages to get to the top of the search results. It doesn’t take too long to realize that natural search engine optimization is not a real path to page one rankings. All business owners want is a fighting chance to get ranked on page one and genuine direction on what they need to do to get there. They understand that backlinks are a good indicator of a website’s authority and that links matter when it comes to rankings. But then…Google updates its “Ranking” webmaster tools help document.
Where did the link go?
Google’s webmaster help document used to say this:
In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.
Now, it says this:
In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.
Once again, Google is promoting the idea of natural search engine optimization. And, the reference to links is gone! Does that mean Google no longer considers links when it determines search rankings? Absolutely not.
Links do matter for search rankings. But what Google is saying in a roundabout way is you have to earn those links by producing the right kinds of content.
What about those sites that are spamming all over the place and getting great search results? If you’re thinking that’s the way to go, look what happened to some of those sites following the most recent Penguin update. A spammy site that survives a Google update is at risk for future Google updates.
Google’s guidance is no guidance at all
The way in which Google guides us in terms of our
What if the rules of tennis were like those of Google?
- A player is permitted to hit the ball outside the line a little bit. But the line is invisible and always moving.
- A player will either earn a point or be penalized for hitting the ball outside the line.
- A player can win by consistently hitting the ball outside the line but that win can be stricken from the record at any time.
Who would want to play competitive tennis when the rules are a complete disaster? Most people would give up.
Surrender is not an option
A business owner cannot give up on search rankings and since Google is pretty much the only game in town, you have no choice but to try to make sense of the nonsense. Google is not going to give us a search rankings formula.
If you’re too cautious and do too little, you might as well do nothing. If you go to the other extreme, you might get away with inappropriate/spammy
You have to find the middle ground and that begins with content marketing and REAL
- R = Research. This is where you find the keywords that are relevant to your business and have good search volume (use Google’s keyword tool to check the keyword search volume) but not so competitive that you have little chance of ever ranking on the keywords. This step helps you build your editorial plan for your website and your promotional plan for off-site content.
- E = End-User. What do your customers and prospects want to know? What can you teach them? How can you guide them? What can you tell them that will establish you as a credible source of information? Remember, you want to educate, not advertise. In terms of content marketing, your business name being associated with that valuable information is enough.
- A = Analyze. Use Google Analytics to analyze the results of your content marketing. Look at your keyword traffic, the number of web pages that are getting traffic, the length of time visitors stay on the website, the call to action conversion rate and any other custom metric you want to set up.
- L = Launch. You want to launch your content (articles, blogs, videos, infographics, press releases and so on) far and wide but not willy-nilly. Have a plan. Identify the sites where you can get placement. Full disclosure: that part is not always easy. It takes time to reach out to bloggers and get them to accept your content. You content has to be good and you must be persistent. Use sources like Blogger Link Up, Technorati, HARO (Help a Report Out) and BizSugar. YouTube is a no brainer–use it! Same with social media. Use it and use it wisely. Sure, it’s fine to share your content, post links to your site and sites where your content is published. It’s also important to like and follow others, comment, retweet, engage. Be social on social media.
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