23 January 2017

The Friendly Side of Search Engine Optimization

It’s easy to think of SEO—search engine optimization, for the uninitiated—as this dispassionate, impersonal set of variables out in the world as ruthless and unfeeling as natural forces. It’s a game to play and win. It’s about playing it so well that resources better than yours, still won’t make it to the top of the pile.

There’s a similar feeling in other B2B and digital tools. Technology and technical expertise is lacking in story or other human elements that brings it to life—or so we imagine. That’s the cultural narrative anyway.

Or, if you’re from the engineering/technical side of things, you might wonder: the “feelings” aren’t relevant, so why are we talking about a human side of anything? The algorithms do their job.

But as a marketer, I stand between both worlds: both technical and human, product and client, speaker and audience. I’m a translator. If I don’t bring both the technical and human sides together, then I don’t do my job.

SEO was something that always confused me. So when I got the chance to take a Skillshare course, I jumped on it. Honestly, I didn’t know Rand Fishkin—founder of the first SEO driven service agency and a big deal and possessor of the coolest name ever—but I knew right away I was learning from a great teacher. The delivery was easy to follow and genuine; this guy really cared about his topic. And he had a white board behind him covered in the notes from his lecture which made it easy to track the progression of topic to topic—a format he’s known for.

The course was 2.5 hours long and was broken across eight topics. Each section introduced new vocabulary on how SEO actually works and how it fits with a larger mission: to help people find the information they need.

Because here’s the kicker: the search algorithms are made by people who care about their audience. They want people searching to find what they need—not help SEO agencies make money.

Content matters in the online world. If someone shows up on your page and doesn’t find what they need there, they will leave quickly. The algorithms will note that and you won’t show up as easily in search rankings. And if you are giving the best content out there to your niche audience (being specific and focused does matter), then you will improve.

In some ways, it’s that simple. To win the search rankings you have to actually consider your audience and give them what they need—not what you think they need, not what you want them to have but what they actually, really truly need.

Who would have thought?

Some quick tips for the new to SEO:

  • Get your content sorted out. Make sure that you are using language that is specific, detailed and definitely relevant to the topic you’re dealing with. No need to repeat keywords 18xs in every webpage or blog post.
  • Find out what your audience needs. How to do that? An easy (and free!) first step is via Google itself. Type in keywords (or even beginnings of phrases) and see what the suggested searches around that word are.
  • Sharing is how you win at modern SEO. Tell people about your awesome content and build genuine links back to your page. Google will love it. Read a great article? Tweet the author. Share the love and it will come back to you. Social media can help but you get even more points if people link to you via their own organic content!

If you need an easy introduction to SEO that is both conceptual and practical about the why and the how; if you are a content marketer developing content to enhance your results; if you are an SEO expert who wants to learn how to share your expertise and insight more effectively to your clients: this is for you.

5/5 points. Would recommend.