Search Engine Optimisation, otherwise known as SEO, is often seen as a bit of a dark art but by following best practice and sensible strategies, good SEO work can drive traffic to your website, increase conversion and generate a positive return on investment. Last month we looked at Search Engine Optimisation vs Search Engine Marketing. In the first of our series of posts focused on SEO, we will be looking at why content matters when trying to rank higher in search results.
When a visitor comes to your website, they typically come from one of three sources: direct traffic (where the user types your website address into their browser); paid advertising (where a user clicks on an advertisement) and organic traffic (where a user finds your site through a search engine). People are increasingly turning to search rather than traditional mediums to find things. With 43% of New Zealanders visiting a search engine everyday, it is easy to see why organic search is a fundamental driver of traffic for all websites and should be considered as part of all digital marketing strategies.
Google is the king of search - with over 65% of the search market, and providing up to 90% of search traffic. If you want your site to be found, you need content for the robots that search engines send out to find. But what are they looking for? This is where things start to get a little tricky. The major search engines will tell you how to structure content on your page but don't publish what they look for in content or what other factors are considered as part of ranking, and they are constantly tweaking their ranking algorithms to provide searchers with more relevant results and filter out websites trying to manipulate their ranking.
The first factor to consider when building good content is gaining empathy for your audience. The starting point is to think about what those conducting searches are expecting to find. Users are typically performing one of three queries: transactional (they want to buy something), informational (they want to learn about something) or navigational (they want to go somewhere). Therefore, you should be thinking about what kind of content will best serve these needs, and the keywords associate with this intent. If a person's intent is to buy something, the keywords they type into a search engine may be very different to the keywords used by someone who wants to understand how something works. It follows that aligning content with the types of information people are looking for is fundamental.
The second factor when building search optimised content is to consider the philosophy behind how search engines build their indexes. We know that they want to show users useful, relevant content from authoritative sources. In the offline world we seek information from those with experience and authority in the area we want to know about. Search engines are effectively trying to replicate this online. In fact, in 2011 Google started using human evaluators to manually rate websites, and used machine learning to scale this. In a perfect world you would be able to show search engines that you are an authority on all areas of your business, but in practice, time and money make this impossible. You need to refine your approach and select several areas to build content around that show you to be an authority - for example areas that generate most profit or areas where you want to be seen as a thought leader.
From a practical stand point, search engines like fresh content. It is also important therefore to ensure a constant stream of content is being added to your website. A blog is a great way to do this, as is building up content in sections of your website where you want to be seen as an authority. It is also important to remember that content should be written for people, not search engines. A balance needs to be sought between search engine optimisation and practicality - search engines will penalise you for content they determine is written for the purpose of manipulating search rankings at the expense of user satisfaction. Duplicate content should also be avoided where possible as the value is spread across the duplicates and none will rank well (there are methods of attributing this value back to the original content).
In future blog posts we will get a bit more technically and discuss best practices for structuring this content on your page, how to use keywords to improve ranking, and delve into the many off page factors that can impact SEO.