Google makes changes to its search algorithm every day — on the order of 500-600 times per year. With a target that constantly shifts, much ado has been made about the rapidly changing tactics of search engine optimization (SEO) and whether it remains a viable technical practice. Surely, as Google’s algorithm becomes more advanced, SEO returns diminish, right?
In 2009, MentorMate created a diagram to distill the complexities of SEO into essential steps and metrics needed in any search marketing campaign.
It was quite successful, featured by The Huffington Post and other publications, but seven years is an eternity on the internet… Is it still accurate?
Keywords remain the bedrock of SEO. Despite all that has changed since the early days of search, this is still the natural starting point of any campaign. Content creators should begin by asking three important questions:
1. What is my target audience?
2. What are their interests?
3. How would they search to locate content?
Use these questions to brainstorm a list of specific search keywords. The list can be further refined via any number of available SEO tools. The industry generally recognizes Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer 2.0 and Moz’s Keyword Explorer as the two most comprehensive keyword tools. Both are newly released this year and can provide powerful insights about search traffic and competition. The goal with any keyword research tool is to identify keywords with high search volume and low competition.
This practice has remained largely unchanged over the last decade. The only significant shift has been Google’s ability to better understand the written word. Content marketers no longer need to be concerned with the specificity of plurals and synonyms, Google is able to parse a page to determine its topical relevance and rank a post for words that were never even included. There is less need to repeat a specific keyword multiple times throughout a page, though it is still recommended to include it in certain key locations.
Despite all these changes, the goal of on-page optimization remains the same as it always has. Once audience, topic and keyword have been identified, a certain level of technical optimization is necessary to give the content the best possible chance of ranking. While less important than it once was, you should also include your keyword in certain locations, such as the the title of the page, when possible.
Often referred to as off-page SEO, backlinks were the original Google ranking factor. A link from one site to another was considered equivalent to a vote of confidence. The more links a website accrued, the higher its chances of ranking on the search engine results page (SERP).
While there are now dozens of additional factors, some included here, links remain the single most critical ranking factor for a web page. Noteworthy too: Not all links are created equal. A single link from a highly-authoritative website is worth more than many links from smaller websites.
It’s as crucial as ever to have a marketing team capable of building backlinks to key website content. Getting links from authoritative websites in your niche can be the single most meaningful tactic for getting your content in the hands of users.
Traffic quality and conversions
Defining the end goal is the most important part of any marketing campaign. It doesn’t matter how much traffic you’re getting from Google if it’s not beneficial to your organization. This tenant remains the beating heart of SEO.
Always identify your business objectives first and work backward from there. Let your goals define your audience and your audience, in turn, define your keyword research.
The traffic, intent, and competition of those keywords will influence the direction of your content and the industry influencers that you try to gain backlinks from. This should result in your content ranking highly in the SERP and driving visitors that matter. Visitors that, supported by your website’s user experience, will take a conversion action beneficial to your business.
Despite the volatility of Google’s algorithm, and the mad dash of the technically-minded to adapt to those changes, the basic principles of SEO haven’t changed in the last decade. There’s no need to be concerned when you hear about the latest big algorithm rollout. Continue to be mindful of your audience, create content to support your goals, and promote that content to the best of your ability. As long as your website is well crafted, the rest will follow.