Search engine optimization is something that most people have heard of, but not everybody understands. Many people erroneously assume that it’s a meaningless jargon term that gets thrown around in digital marketing circles. But SEO is anything but useless, and it’s a dynamic and adaptive field that changes and evolves with internet user behaviour and adjustments to Google’s algorithms.
When SEO first emerged as an internet marketing practice, the focus was on keyword stuffing and content generation. However, SEO best practices have changed over the years as browsing habits have become more sophisticated, and today SEO is much more similar to public relations than it is to its former incarnation, and the focus now is on quality content, relevant links, and building relationships and authority online.
Because the focus of SEO is so different from what it was, it’s easy to identify digital marketing companies that will develop strategies to guarantee you the best ROI possible versus ones who will waste your time and money with competitive keywords and irrelevant content.
Traditional vs. Current SEO and the Focus on Authority and Quality
When the practice of search engine optimization was first developed, search engines weren’t as intuitive or intelligent as they are today. Sites were indexed based on how often keywords appeared in the content, and that led to content mills producing monotonous articles full of awkwardly placed keywords and phrases. And while the goal of SEO hasn’t changed much—it’s still about getting your company higher rankings, increasing your visibility, driving more traffic to your site, and increasing your conversion rate—the tactics have evolved over time, and today the focus is on:
- High-quality, shareable content that’s relevant to consumers
- Building authority
- Building and maintaining relationships
- Optimizing text with long tail commercial keywords
Among the main differences between today’s SEO techniques and yesterday’s are the focus on authority, the focus on quality, and the focus on more specific keywords. To build authority, a company must provide consumers with an expert voice in their particular field, and this includes releasing well-researched and well-written content that’s engaging and interesting to customers. Another way to build authority is by creating and fostering relationships with other authoritative partners, and by amassing a few high-quality links and backlinks to and from your site.
How to Improve Rankings Today
As consumer habits continue to change, Google adapts its algorithm to better reflect the needs of web surfers, and this means the rules governing rankings will also change. For the most part, only experienced digital marketing agencies will be able to interpret these changes when they occur, but according to the current algorithm, some of the most important elements involved in increasing your rankings today include:
Evaluating for errors: The major issues you might encounter here are problems that could prevent a search engine from crawling, ranking, and indexing your site, meaning your website won’t rank properly and may not even appear in a search result. SEO best practices can address these issues, and can fix problems with duplicated content, site maps, and connectivity.
Identifying keywords: Keywords are still an important element of SEO, and researching and identifying the right keywords may even be more vital than it was in the old days of SEO. One of the keys is to use long tail commercial keywords (used by customers who are ready to purchase) versus informational keywords (used by researching customers) so that you can target the right clientele.
Optimizing social media: Social media is an emerging trend with website rankings, but likes, retweets and growing numbers of followers are all factors that affect rankings these days, and SEO must, therefore, engage customers on social networks and work to increase a company’s audience in the digital social sphere.
Creating a mobile-friendly site: One of the newest changes to search engine ranking is the need for responsive website designs that display correctly on both desktop and mobile browsers. Even companies that follow best practices in every other SEO category will still be penalized for not having a mobile-friendly site.
Using metadata: Metadata is data that provides information about your site to search engines, but doesn’t appear on your site, and the most important among these are the title tag, meta description, and robots.
Shifting to a Public Relations Focus
Websites are now ranked based on audience, social media followings, how well you appeal to consumers with updated and relevant content, how you disseminate information via a wide variety of media and channels, and how you cater to a positive user experience. This translates to the role of SEO becoming increasingly similar to the role of public relations, which can help inform a search engine optimization strategy.
The expertise PR has can help with SEO tasks such as creating content that will interest consumers, making contacts and distributing information, and building authority by helping to create a recognizable brand that people trust.
Search engine optimization is a necessary exercise for any company that wants to be visible in the online world, but it requires people who are experienced and knowledgeable in the field to ensure that only modern and relevant best practices are used.
Any money your company puts toward SEO that doesn’t take into account the current algorithms is being wasted, because outdated methods won’t accomplish the goals of SEO, such as driving traffic, encouraging conversions, and making your site and your company more visible to consumers and potential customers.