SEO is a hot topic. How do you improve your rank in the search results?
Here's the deal: Consistent, quality, longform editorial improves your organic ranking, period.
For the past several years, many businesses have been hyper-focused on the strategy of using keywords for SEO to improve their rank on the search engines. While I still think “key” words are an important component of search, for more than 15 years, I’ve been doing SEO a slightly different way. Writing long form editorial content around a nîche topic that is directly related to your unique business and industry isn't new, it just hasn't been done that much.
The reason this strategy works well is because the real value to the audience is when an editorial is filled with transparent, quality content. It’s not that much different from what modern media refers to as a “blog” but what is different is that the article is much longer and more detailed than what most consider a traditional blog to be. Whereas most blog articles trend toward being more entertaining than educational, it's important to use long form content for both your blogs as well as your SEO strategy; it is designed to educate and inspire your intended audience more than just entertain them.
When you write content that is very granular and specific to it’s intended industry, and then do an inordinate amount of auditing and research into the industry such as researching relevant metrics, interviewing people, gathering concrete data to reference (as though the piece is a scholarly academic article) then writing press quality copy that could rival that of a journalist, then you ensure that you're delivering high quality information.
Many people underestimate the importance of a professional copywriter, yet in the creative world, it's important to understand how the pieces of the digital puzzle fit together….in other words, blogging is for more than just entertainment; it's for education too. When you create experiences that connect people to a goal…experiences that move your audience to take action, that is when you begin making money online.
So how exactly do you tackle something so programmatically scientific?
During the research phase of any content creation project, even one as small as a weekly blog article, it's important to implement a tactic that we refer to as Keyword Analysis. There are very sophisticated ways to conduct keyword research, but as a blogger or small business owner, watch this [2-minute video] for a tip on a free extension that will help you a lot.
(NOTE // As of October, 2019, KeyWordsEverywhere.com is no longer free)
You can download and install the free Chrome browser extension by visiting: keywordseverywhere.com. This tool uses a computerized algorithm that mimics how the modern day search engines (such as Google) function. The algorithm obviously doesn’t know the search engine’s algorithm, but it understands the mechanism by which people search for information as well as how to display the results of that search based on the unique industry that you're researching (this is a combination of math and science…a far cry from what ordinary people consider “creative” in terms of visceral right brain vs left brain thinking). In other words, the plugin will produce a search volume for you when you type in your key word or phrase. The objective is to sprinkle some of those words and phrases into your long form editorial, as well as your meta-data.
What is a Meta-Data?
Using a free plugin such as YoastSEO, you can add your intended keywords into specific places such as the Title, Description, and Tags that you use in your post. You would also sprinkle the words and phrases (sometimes called Long-Tail Keywords) into the body of your article. Additionally, make sure you name your photos/images with the same keywords and fill in the alt-attribute to the photo with those key words as well. All of these in combination make up your Meta-Data.
When you do research on your key words and phrases and analyze the findings, you're essentially strategizing how you will prepare future content around that topic. By linking to more granular information inside your own website where people can go to get even more detail, you are also increasing your organic ranking by creating a “web” of click activity on your own website around that topic and those key words and phrases. Then, you can work to create educational and compelling copy. Writing copy on a regular and consistent basis that is both educational and informative, entertaining and directive, inspiring and compelling is the best way to improve your website's rank. Writing online copy is a very unique art, and it’s not something that just anybody is good at. Think back to grade school when you were required to write a persuasive essay…writing it was certainly different from presenting it in front of a group of people. Many people who are good speakers (or good salesmen or women) may not be the best writers, and vice versa. Although writing for the web is a very nîche skill, you can use the tips provided in this article to improve your SEO over time.
This next part of understanding how to improve your SEO ranking requires some context. Back in 2013, Google’s Hummingbird update was the first time that the algorithm started parsing out phrases rather than solely keywords. Many SEO professionals consider it the official “switch” to a focus on a topic rather than a word. What followed in the RankBrain update (2015) was a change to the algorithm which was designed to learn how to understand the context of a search query and not just the word that people were searching for. RankBrain pulls in multiple phrases associated with the search phrase to determine the most relevant results.
How does a computer algorithm parse a search query and why does it matter?
Consider this example: if someone in the city of Philadelphia is using a desktop computer at their office to search for “pizza restaurants” the results of their search query may differ from a passenger sitting in traffic on the Ben Franklin Bridge searching the same topic “pizza restaurants” on their mobile phone. The expectation is that the search engine (or Siri’s voice activated search) understands the context around the phrase. So when someone types or says “pizza restaurants” the search extracts other information such as geographic location and even the location of their office building within the context of the search to determine something as granular as whether they intend to search for “pizza restaurants near me geographically on Broad Street between Chestnut and Walnut Streets” versus an entirely different keyword or phrase such as “best pizza restaurants in Philadelphia and surrounding areas”.
What does all this actually mean in terms of SEO and writing for the web?
At the very core, high quality SEO follows the same deliberate architecture as my 15-years running methodology of writing good quality content because the content is focused on a particular nîche topic and contains properly identified long tail keyword phrases that are directly relevant to the topic at hand. Instead of standing on the street corner shouting “here is my pizza restaurant, buy my pizza” you want to market your brand by creating content that is helpful to your audience, and provides relevant information or helps them solve their problem by delivering the right results, to the right person, at the right time. If your pizza restaurant is the best in town because there are reviews indicating you serve large delicious slices and have gluten-free crust available along with your hours, phone number, and 5-star rating is right there (relevance) at the right time (when someone is searching for pizza restaurants) then your shop is being helpful and solving a problem for the person searching. If the information isn’t readily available when they’re searching, you’re going to lose out. It’s as simple as that. The business not coming up in the search results loses.
Think of SEO content like a comprehensive guide to specific information, that links only to the most relevant supporting data and trusted information available, including of course, further information on the same website. This deliberate way of organizing a site UX around pillars of information that is readily available for search engines and uniquely relevant to modern digital marketing has forced the industry to transparency. The result?
Your website will be a phenomenal success, because when you get modern digital right, the results just naturally speak for themselves.
Voice recognition and the changing way people search has been the driving force behind updates to the search engine algorithms. In the past, people weren’t as internet savvy as they are now, they simply typed mere words or fragments into the search box. Even the search engines own technology wasn’t advanced enough to recognize the connections across search queries. Now that these algorithms understand the context behind how people search (also based on location as well as behavioral psychology) the science behind the algorithm allows a computer to tie a phrase back to other past searches and deliver a web page (or list of pages) that are most likely to deliver the precise answer to what that search is intended to be about.
To illustrate that this methodology actually works, in 2016, Hubspot’s Anum Hussain and Cambria Davies launched a series of experiments to test the theory. The extensive findings in their experiment concluded that more high quality, internal links in conjunction with meta descriptions and tags that are transparent make it easier for the search engines to “crawl” topics.
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