For SEO practitioners, it’s so easy to see why many people view SEO as some kind of dark mystery. Personally speaking, there are a lot of small details that can have profound effects on your websites’ SEO, so the reputation isn’t completely undeserved.
However, as much as these mysterious bits of knowledge might be, the difference for some websites in ranking in the top 3 for a particular competitive search phrase or keyword (the true art of SEO) really isn’t about the black magic behind-the-scenes, but more so, it’s about the study of the user that you’re trying to specifically target.
The reason I say that is because ultimately – it’s the user whom decides what the profile of a top ranking site should be. Google, Bing, and other search engines have historically spent millions (if not billions) of US Dollars on trying to create the best information retrieval system (algorithm) for humans who are looking for information, based on common search phrases.
They spend a huge amount of time, energy and resource trying to understand what these users want based on the words they type into their search boxes. The more successful they are at providing those users with exactly what they want, the more money that they make. It’s the treasure at the end of the rainbow.
So it’s the users of the search engines that drive the algorithmic refinements that continue to evolve what factors are used in determining which digital asset is the best asset (web page, video, PDF document, etc.) for a particular user for a particular search. This is definition of true SEO success.
UNDERSTANDING THE USER
As SEO practitioners and consultants, our job is to understand the subset of these Internet users we’re targeting; what keywords they’re using to find what they’re looking for, and what information we can provide them that will make our digital assets the best choice for those users. It’s all about matchmaking and supplying the most relevant information to the demand.
Additionally, we must then be familiar with the signals that search engines use to make that determination and to ensure that the site we’re optimising for is effectively sending those signals to Google and Bing. But many SEO workers spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on trying to send signals to the engines that they deserve to be listed for certain keyword phrases without spending enough time ensuring that the site meets the criteria of actually being one of the best resources for the users they are targeting. So you might search for ‘Telecoms in Manchester’, you may get a company who offers managed P2P connections, when you really wanted a few mobile phones for your company. That listing is irrelevant to you and chances are, you’ll leave the site as quickly as you found it.
The first question that any SEO practitioner should ask when targeting a particular keyword phrase (especially a competitive one), is “what information is the user looking for and does my site provide that information in way that differentiates it from all of the other websites competing for the same phrase?”
Another way to explain this is to ask the question “why would a user searching for the term in question think that my site provides a superior digital experience and is the depth of the information provided sufficient enough that my site truly deserves to be in the top 10 of Google or Bing for this term?”. Deserving to be ranked in the top 10 for a particular search phrase doesn’t guarantee that you will be there, but it does make the process of getting there much easier.
IS THERE A CONTENT STRATGY IN PLACE?
The second question that needs to be answered in the SE optimisation process, is to define the ongoing content strategy. This strategy must allow for production of new and authentic content that will augment the position as an industry leader for the term(s) that are targeted. Content is king, so the more of it you have, the more ‘Spider Food’ you have for the Search Engine spiders that will crawl your website and index accordingly. Consistent fresh content will alert the Search Engines that you are authoritative and always providing up-to-date information. The Search Engines will rank accordingly (after all, they want to offer their users the best and most relevant information).
Getting to the top of the search rankings is really only half the battle though. Staying there in the face of your competitors takes a persistent effort that is focused on constantly providing users with the most up-to-date and relevant information that satisfies their query, but does so in a way that is superior to your competition. Defining an ongoing content production strategy given the resources available for the project is a key stage in creating a winning foundation for your SEO campaign.
By addressing these two questions upfront in the optimisation process, the rest of the SEO equation will become a lot clearer. Experienced SEO consultants will use this reverse-engineering method to maintain focus and efficiency in the SEO compaign. Having superior content that succinctly addresses the needs of your users allows you to get links from credible sources, makes your social media activities far more compelling (and with higher engagement levels), makes your press releases much more likely to be picked up by significant distribution and fully-augments your brand by providing your users with a better overall digital experience.