SEO doesn't have to be scary: shift from a reactive to proactive strategy
SEO is a reality that all marketers face and many try to steer clear of as they devise an all-encompassing digital marketing strategy that is reactive in nature
Begin by familiarizing yourself with Google's Page Quality Rating Guidelines
Create a sound SEO strategy to use every time you start the content creation process, include - researching audience needs, keyword considerations, and internal linking
Make sure to clean up and update your existing content so that it doesn't drag down new, SEO-optimized content
SEO can be vague. It is nuanced. It is always in a state of evolution. But that doesn't change the fact that it is a very real factor that impacts your marketing, whether you plan for it or not.
Many marketers discover the powerful effects of SEO when it's too late. Their content is already underperforming. It isn't ranking for the right keywords. It isn't retaining readers and has a low dwell time.
Fixing the issue of bad SEO wastes time and resources. It's also completely unavoidable.
The key to utilizing SEO to your advantage is to approach it in a proactive rather than a reactive manner. If you're in a pattern of noticing the effects of SEO on your online content and trying to make adjustments after the fact, here are some suggestions to help you seize the reins and regain a sense of control over your organic search traffic.
1. Associate yourself with Google's Page Quality Rating Guidelines
If you want to dominate with your SEO, you need to start by understanding it as much as possible. This is much easier said than done. SEO often feels more like an art form than a science. Algorithms can be difficult to follow. Results can be conflicting. But there are ways to bring some clarity to the chaos.
Google provides a number of pointers for how its search engine works via its Page Quality Rating Guidelines. This is a massive document that used to be privy to Google employees only. Now that it's public, it enables marketers and SEO experts to better inform their proactive SEO strategies.
There are several key areas of the document that shed light on how Google evaluates your website. For instance, it's important to understand key concepts, like YMYL pages. These are 'Your Money or Your Life' pages, which contain important information to help readers make critical decisions. Due to their higher degree of importance, Google grades these pages with a more stringent, high-quality standard. That means you need to keep them impeccably informed and up-to-date (more on that further down).
E-A-T is another essential element of Google ranking. The acronym stands for expertise, authority, and trust -- a trio of elements that help define how high to rank a web page.
Google's Page Quality Rating Guidelines may be extensive, comprehensive, and a bit overwhelming. But you don't need to read it cover to cover every quarter. Instead, familiarize yourself with many of the basic concepts. And, of course, keep it bookmarked for easy reference so that it can continue to inform your SEO strategy in the future.
2. Build each piece of content thoughtfully from the get-go
Everyone and their mother knows about the importance of keywords and linking in SEO. The problem is when you fail to address these critical content components in the planning phase -- i.e. before you actually make your content.
Now, this is where things can get tricky. If you focus entirely on things like keywords, it's easy to over-prioritize SEO at the expense of the reader -- and that is always a bad strategy.
Good SEO comes from putting the reader first and the search engines second. That naturally creates content that better satisfies the searcher's intent. This has the effect of boosting critical SEO criteria, like dwell time ...which ends up boosting your SEO in the long run anyway.
Even so, it's important to factor things like keywords and linking into your initial content creation strategy. A good way to do this while still prioritizing your audience is by using the following steps:
Search for important keywords and phrases related to your audience: What is your target demographic searching for? What answers or advice do they need? One easy way to see this is by looking up generic keywords from your audience and checking the "Related searches" section at the bottom of the SERPs. Use this to guide what content you create.
Choose additional keywords: Use a keyword planner to add other keywords to your initial topic. Don't be excessive. Just use a handful of additional terms to help your content stand out in search results.
Create complete content: When you go to create the content itself, try to make it as comprehensive as possible. Complete content refers to something that doesn't just answer an initial inquiry but any follow-up questions, as well.
Add internal links: Finally, remember to link to other areas of your site throughout each piece. Consistently linking to important pages can tie your site together and help it perform better.
By planning keywords and links ahead of time, you can ensure that you optimize each piece of content right out of the gate.
3. Cultivate existing content
It's tempting to dive right into creating fresh, new content that is SEO-friendly. But let's stop for a minute and think things through.
If your current site is already performing poorly, creating better content is only going to solve part of the problem. Many chronic SEO issues are a site-wide affair. In fact, Google has clarified that thin content (that is, content without much value) doesn't apply to individual posts. It's a site-wide problem.
That means if you start the proactive SEO process by creating new content, it's going to have to overcome the flaws of your past low-quality content before it can really start to lift your site out of the SEO gutter.
Instead, as you study Google's search engine guidelines and gain a better grasp of how to improve your SEO, start the reformation process by assessing the state of your current content. Conduct a review of the existing content on your site by asking these questions:
Is it up to date?
Is it long enough?
Does it utilize keywords without keyword stuffing?
Are there internal links weaving each page together?
As you go along, try to identify YMYL pages. Remember, those are the pages that contain high value for readers -- and which consequently tend to be graded on a higher curve. Make a list of these and check in on them from time to time to keep them at peak value.
Don't leave SEO to chance
SEO is a powerful tool that can make or break your online content. It's not the kind of thing that you want to leave to chance. It's also hard to overcome by reacting to poor SEO after the fact.
Instead, take control of your SEO by using the suggestions above. Start by familiarizing yourself with Google's guidelines. Then create a sound strategy to guide each new piece of content. Finally, review your existing site (especially any YMYL pages) to make sure you're offering value with both past and future content.
If you can stay proactive with your SEO, you can turn it into a key element of your marketing strategy.
John Rampton is a top marketing leader and founder of Calendar. Find John on Twitter @johnrampton.
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