SEO Is More Than “Just SEO” In 2015

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Craig Smith  |  Founder & CEO

The job of an SEO firm is one that’s constantly in flux. In an effort to perfect their search results, Google updates their infamous algorithm several hundred times each year. These updates, often with cute names like Penguin, Pigeon or Panda, can wreak havoc on agencies and their clients, impacting real world revenue with every drop in organic search.

Trying to rank for valuable keywords isn’t going away, but if optimizing for these terms is only a fraction of what an effective SEO agency can provide to their clients. As shoppers begin receiving their tax returns and start looking for what they can spend them on, it’s time to rethink your outreach strategy. What worked last year may not work in the coming months. To paraphrase Heraclitus, the only thing constant in SEO is change.

Fight For The User

Conversion is what drives online sales. A site can rank for number 1 for all of the terms they want, but if customers don’t end up purchasing from them, the web developer will quickly find themselves looking for work.

In the past, SEO gained a reputation for prioritizing search engine visibility over customer experience, and that reputation was largely well-deserved. Hidden text, site wide links and keyword stuffed content made many “optimized” sites terrible to view. In those early days though, the tactic worked because Google bumped these pages up to number 1 and since everyone was doing it, most shoppers put up with it.

But the algorithm for 2015 isn’t the same one that helped these sites rank in 2012, or even 2014. Not only do these spammy tactics no longer work, but Google now penalizes sites for employing them. This means that your quick fix is now harming clients instead of helping them thanks to the search giant getting better at understanding website context and identifying user-hostile optimization.

As an SEO professional, every suggested change should take the experience if the viewer into consideration. It’s still important that you optimize the content for SEO, but it’s increasingly important that it’s optimized around conversion as well. Not only will this help your rankings as Google improves their algorithm around search behavior, but the days of “everyone is doing it” are long gone, and your users have thousands of options when it comes to buying the products they want.

Google is still a computer, and it’s search engine can’t react exactly like a customer would, but it’s improving all the time. Good user experience might not have a direct effect on our SERP’s, but bad user experience will.

Make Content A Priority

A strong backlink profile is still the best way to improve your website’s authority in Google’s eyes, and it doesn’t look like this will change in the coming year. Traditional link building, however, is becoming an increasingly riskier business as the search giant’s algorithm gets better at detecting “unnatural” endorsements and the Penguin update saw Google introducing punitive measures to deal with websites it felt were spamming search results in this way.

This past week John Mueller, web developer advocate at Google, said this week that building links to your website could do more harm to your website than good and suggested against it. This is similar to what Matt Cutts and others at Google have said over the years, but in 2015 that suggestion has the backing of an ever more intelligent Penguin Algorithm.

Link building isn’t going away, but it’s likely no longer a good idea to put most of your focus into it. Instead, take the time to make sure that your content is worth linking to. Write engaging, informative or though-provoking copy and then promote it. Engaging with your audience on social media and becoming a knowledge resource for them will help those strong, natural links develop.

While it’s true that no one will see your amazing content without links to help boost its visibility, no amount of links will make up for content that your potential customers don’t find worth reading.

It’s not enough to simply rewrite the product descriptions the manufacturer gives you. Instead, take some time, particularly on your best selling items, and get creative. Not only will this make your content original, but it will also become more engaging and informative for your customers, making it more likely that they’ll buy the item instead trying to find their answer else ware.

Become A Digital Consultant

The technical side of SEO is familiar territory for most agencies. Even if your focus was link building in the past, you know how important a properly coded website is for SEO. Optimizing titles, meta’s, streamlining CSS and canonical tags are still as important as ever and one of the easiest ways to improve a poorly performing website at the first pass.

What’s less familiar for most agencies, however, is being an active partner with their clients as they plan to update and promote their website and digital strategies. Our focus on content, site structure, and code efficiency gives us an intimate knowledge of their products and target market. This means that an effective SEO company should know how any proposed changes will impact a site’s traffic even before they go into effect.

In the past, we’d offer this information as suggestions to our clients, but it could often be overlooked since many companies still think of SEO as “just” how their website performs in Google, even though we know that it’s so much more. It’s up to agencies to help break this misconception, to pitch ourselves to webmasters as more than keyword research and link builders.

Instead of viewing SEO as a portion of a company’s digital strategy, it should be pitched as the overarching theme that will help to decide how every change will take place since they will all impact organic traffic.

Laying The Groundwork For 2016

Google’s Algorithm, Our users and the way they access the web is constantly changing. It’s important that our approach towards reaching them changes too. The job of an SEO is still the same as it always has been, our toolbox just got bigger.

Acquire potential users for our clients through creative advertising and Search Engine Optimization. Convert users into customers by building informative landing pages with compelling calls to action. Measure the effectiveness of each campaign and use those results to build the next iteration. SEO isn’t going anywhere in 2015, but it’s changing. Is your company prepared to change with it?

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