Let’s face it. SEO has received some bad press over the years. Various companies tried all kinds of “magic” SEO methods to fast-track clients to the front page of Google. But in the end, Google wasn’t buying it. Sites that employed these methods torpedoed once Google updated algorithms. And the owners of those sites were left wondering if SEO’s really all it’s cracked up to be.
But while bad practices can fast-track your site to the bottom, that’s not the whole story of SEO. In fact, search engine optimization makes up an important part of your online strategy. It’s not an easy thing. Nor will you see your rank go up overnight. But good SEO practices produce a valuable return.
SEO helps connect you to your audience. At its root, SEO is really just telling search engines what your site is about. Search engines then take that data and match it to what users are searching for. This should result in more users finding your site.
Unfortunately a lot of pages experience a communication breakdown here. The breakdown occurs when companies provide Google with poor data. This happens for a variety of reasons, but they all point back to one source. SEO is about communication!
In light of this, we at Message First Group put together 3 ways SEO dynamics fit into your message first strategy.
1. Keywords ARE Your Audience’s Language
When communicating with someone, it’s important to speak their language. If I were to go up to your average employee and start talking about SEO, CRMs, and marketing pixels, chances are he’d look at me like I had six eyes.
But too often, website builders, bloggers, and other content writers put information out there that doesn’t get indexed well. Not because it’s not good information. In fact, it’s often great information. But sometimes they write in a way that won’t get them recognized. Some of them have an attitude about keywords. Others simply use words or phrases that are ingrained in their speech and way of thinking because of their industry. Still others just write to write.
If that’s not you, great! You already understand the importance of SEO.
But if it is you, you need to stop to think about why keywords are important. Keywords are actually your audience’s language!
That’s right. When your audience looks for you, they type something into Google. Google indexes what they type in as “keywords.” Then those keywords are recorded, stored, and measured for use. At the same time, Google’s search engine software scans websites for content that fits those keywords. It then displays a list of pages that best fit the keywords that were typed in.
Now remember, the people who started this whole process were your audience. The same audience you want to reach. That means they searched for your product or service by typing those keywords in. To them, those keywords in some way represent a product or service you offer.
Since customers already believe these keywords relate to your product, give them the keywords! If you sell two-wheeled, manually propelled vehicles optimized for mountainous terrain, and people come into your shop looking for mountain bikes, you’d sell them mountain bikes. Why should your website be any different?
And that brings us to the second point…
2. SEO Tells Your Audience What Your Site is About
Have you ever seen the signs on the side of the highway? Not the speed limits, but the ones telling you where you can find food, lodging, or gas?
Most of the time these signs just fade in and out of your peripheral. But when you’re on an unknown stretch of highway and your stomach starts complaining… When you’ve got less than a quarter tank left… When it’s almost midnight and you’re still six hours from your destination… they suddenly grow very important.
SEO functions like these signs on the highway. People often fire up their web browser and take off down the information highway with a destination in mind. Sometimes they know every stop along the way, but more often they don’t have specific destinations mapped out. Sometimes they feel that empty stomach calling for food. Or hear that pillow calling to their drooping eyes. At those times, they’ll look for signs pointing them to the solution to their problems.
Now in this functionality, you might think Google is the signs. But in this case you’d be wrong. Google actually functions as their eyes.
The Keywords are the signs that the eyes read and interpret based on input from the mind.
So if your audience looks for you, but your content isn’t optimized to what they’re looking for, as far as Google’s concerned you don’t exist.
That’s how important your SEO is to Google. And the more content you have optimized for keywords, the more likely Google is to show your site to users first.
But today it’s not enough to just tell your audience what your site is about. Once they get there, you need to keep them there. Which brings me to the third point.
3. SEO Matches Your Content to Your Audience’s Needs
Although this may seem similar to the second principle, it’s actually really important in a different way. Your SEO tells your audience what the site is about. And your content needs to match the keywords.
Going back to the highway illustration, imagine you’re on a long stretch of highway. It’s been 60 miles since the last exit, and promises to be at least another 50 after the exit you’re about to pass. You could’ve stopped for a bite at the last exit already. But unfortunately there were no food places advertised close to the highway.
Thankfully, you see a sign on the side of the highway. “Food”, it says, and there’s a solitary restaurant name listed there. “Joe’s Burgers and Sausage.” You’ve never heard of the place, but you don’t know when your next opportunity to get a bite will be. So you pull off the highway and follow the directions to Joe’s.
When you come in, the first thing you notice is that it doesn’t look like a restaurant. In fact, there are no tables and chairs. Not even a bar stool. Freezers line the back wall, and the wall to your right is dedicated to refrigerators. You quickly discover that these are filled with meat. Ground beef, sausages of all varieties, poultry… If it’s meat, they’ve got it. The only problem is, it’s all fresh or frozen.
The aisles are filled with bread, ketchup, mustard, and other condiments and spices you might want for a cookout. They even have charcoal, refill tanks for gas grills, plastic ware, and grilling utensils. But you don’t need any of that right now! You just need to eat something, fast!
How will you react to the situation? Well, if you’re like me, you might either leave with your mood extra sour. If you’re in a particularly bad mood, you might even find the store’s management to have it out with them over the sign. But in either case, you won’t have a good experience. And chances are you’ll tell your friends as soon as possible. “Whatever you do, don’t go to Joe’s Burgers and Sausages if you’re ever driving down that stretch of highway.”
Your customers will react exactly the same way if your content doesn’t fit your keywords. Best case scenario, they’ll immediately leave your site. Worst case, they’ll tell all their friends about it on social media or anywhere they can leave a bad review.
Connect Your Audience to Quality Content
The point of this whole article is to not forget the importance of good SEO. Remember, Search Engine Optimization’s not about trying to be something you’re not. It’s not about trying to game Google. It’s about using your audience’s language to communicate with them.
If you keep that in mind, you’ll see your SEO efforts fall seamlessly into place. Your overall ranking will rise, and more importantly you’ll see users engage more with your content. The final goal of all content should be to spark conversation about your brand.