SEO: target searchers, not engines
Quality of user experience has been at the centre of Google’s thinking for some time now. Here, we cover what you’ll need to know if you’re thinking of hiring an SEO this year.
Why should you focus on your users?
Most companies know of SEO as a way of showing up in search results. They target the content on their website towards ranking high on Google because they’ve heard that that’s the thing to do. It’s an easy mistake to make, and an ethical SEO practitioner will gently correct them: they should be targeting the users who are doing the searching. People often talk about “the first page of Google”, but they seem to forget that the “first page” is different for every single searcher, every search term, every time. Google say:
When a user enters a query, our machines search the index for matching pages and return the results we believe are the most relevant to the user. Relevancy is determined by over 200 factors.
Their mantra is that content has to be relevant and useful. Site owners would be wise to read through the Google Webmaster Guidelines, to make sure they are getting the best out of Google. Good SEO will follow Google’s best practise guidelines and focus on providing a valuable experience to your users.
What do you need to know before choosing an SEO?
When considering hiring an SEO, the first question you should ask is what they know of Google’s best practises. In short, these are: don’t ram your content full of keywords; don’t copy and paste repeated content all across your site; don’t have spam links; don’t believe the word of anyone who claims they can get you to “number one in Google”. Google themselves say that this is impossible.
You wouldn’t trust just anyone with a spanner to fix up your car when it breaks down, so make sure your SEO knows their stuff. Google’s SEO best practise document is free to download and it’s easy to read, so your potential SEO has no excuse for not following industry guidelines.
If Google blocks your site for bad practises, it can take weeks for you to regain the position that you had before. Paying for poor SEO is not worth the risk that your site will suffer a long-term sink in page rankings.
What should good SEO content look like?
Good SEO content should look like good content. Really – it doesn’t have any distinctive “SEO” markers. If it’s easy your users to read and it’s informative about you and your services, it’s good SEO content. If it guides visitors around your site and provides them with the information they’re searching for, while giving you the exposure that you want, then it’s good SEO content. It’s pretty simple.
Optimising your content also means using meta tags, title tags and well-structured URLs to help the Google bot, and your users, navigate the architecture of your site. It’s invisible to your end users, but it’s still useful for you.
What does bad SEO content look like?
SEO is haunted by unethical practises like keyword stuffing, link spamming, poor-quality or repeated content, and various other short-cuts. They might give you a quick boost, but Google will punish your site once they find out you’ve been practising bad SEO. Google checks websites all over the world, all the time, and if they find content of poor quality, which they think won’t be valuable to their users, they’ll penalise your site.
Google’s SEO Starter Guide instructs you to “Create content primarily for your users, not search engines”. If they’re saying it, you should be doing it.
SEO should target your users, because they’re the ones spending time on your site.
Keep your content clean, relevant, and engaging for your visitors. Once you have their attention, their hearts and conversions will follow!