Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a term that has been around for a long time. Originally coined back in the 1990s, SEO has been used to describe a variety of techniques used to improve how a site positions in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Originally, SEO was just that. There wasn’t white hat, black hat, or any other precursors used to describe the techniques used. It was all just SEO.
Over time, this changed. As search engines evolved, they became more and more aware of the tactics used to manipulate how a site showed up in their results page. As a result, search engines started to penalize sites that were blatantly gaming the system to show up in results. From keyword stuffing to irrelevant internal linking schemes, the list of techniques used to increase positioning was vast and ever-changing to outsmart the changing search engine algorithms.
As the search engines evolved, so did the techniques that people used to get their sites to show up in the SERPs. SEO quickly became a game of people trying to outsmart the search engines by finding new ways to position. This went on for years until search engine algorithms became advanced enough that most of the tricks people were using to position no longer worked.
As these techniques evolved, so did the idea of “Black Hat” and “White Hat” SEO. These were the terms used to describe the tactics being used. Black Hat techniques were those that went against the best practice guidelines that search engines set, and over time, these guidelines have changed. So, whereas 10 years ago you could write a “doorway page” that was designed specifically to position in the SERPs, this tactic will no longer work.
Of course, the algorithms were not perfect, and some were still able to manipulate the results, but the search engines were getting very good at removing irrelevant results. In addition to the algorithmic penalties that search engines were placing on sites manual penalties, those placed by a Google employee that can be removed, but only on a case-by-case basis were also being used to help insure the quality of the results shown.
Jump forward to where we are today. Yes, people still find ways to manipulate SERPs; however, these are usually short-lived solutions that result in penalties when the search engines figure out what is going on.
Positioning in SERPs
So, what do you do if you want your site to position in SERPs? You want to create a great user experience and content. OK, so what is great content? Content is so much more than the words that are on your site. Content is anything that says something, shows something, or in any other way communicates with your audience. Yes, content is anything that communicates a message to your audience.
Let’s look at some examples of content.
- The descriptions you use to describe your products or services – Content
- The story of how your company CEO started the business in their parent’s basement, and grew it to a multimillion dollar company – Content
- Every blog post on your site – Content
- The images you use on your site – Content
- The video of everyone at your company dressed up as pirates for International Talk Like a Pirate Day singing Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me) – Content
Some examples of content are very apparent, others are more abstract. However, they are all very important, and if you ignore them, it will be very difficult for your site to positions in SERPs.
What You Can Do with the Content to Make It Right for Search Engines?
- Make sure you have optimized all of your existing content. Whether you’re selling, promoting or trying to engage with your audience in another way, make sure that you write engaging descriptions for your content. This should include every page of the site, not just the specific product pages.
- Guide your users through the entire process. Don’t just blindly redirect them when content is no longer available. Provide them with an explanation. “Sorry, this product is no longer available. But you might like…” Give them the opportunity to engage with your brand. When content disappears, send your users to what you do have. Content UX 101.
- Continually update your content. Don’t rest on your laurels. If you do, you are doomed to go the way of the Dodo, and slowly watch your positions slip as new relevant content takes over the positions you once held.
- Integrate content that can enhance user experience. Interlink and integrate related content. This includes connecting promotional, branded and other content on your site when appropriate.
This doesn’t mean stuffing your pages with keywords and keyword phrases, it means creating great content that engages your users.
“Content” Done Right
One great example of “content” done right is your local Starbucks. When you walk into a Starbucks, it is much more than just a coffee shop. They strive to provide you with an experience, not just a transaction. Yes, you go to Starbucks for coffee, but so much more goes into the visit from the Starbucks side. From the music, to the chairs and overall environment that they strive to provide, this is an example of “content” done right.
But wait, this is a brick and mortar example. How does this apply to my online store? Well, let’s think about that for a minute. What is Starbucks goal by creating this environment? Obviously, they want you to buy their products. Isn’t that what you are trying to get your site visitors to do as well? Buy a product or service? If not, what exactly is your goal?
Think about it, shouldn’t your online store be doing exactly the same thing? Shouldn’t you be trying to create that connection with your visitor? If you are just providing them with a completely generic shopping experience that does not engage or interact with them, why would they come back?
Think about that next time you get a coffee from your local Starbucks store.