The search marketing landscape is constantly changing. Google will continue to strive to stay one step ahead of companies trying to find an easy trick for achieving page-one rankings — and it will continue to succeed. Google is very open about what its algorithm is looking for in a quality site. It is also very willing to share what tactics it considers to be spammy and what can earn your site a penalty. Regardless, some old SEO habits are hard to break. Here are four SEO myths that should finally be put to rest and four tactics you should be employing to help ensure long-term success.
Myth: More is better.
The belief that putting out as much content as possible will automatically make your website rank well is based in a semi-truth. This approach worked for a brief period of time. A site that contained a lot of content filled with a lot of keywords — even if much of it was irrelevant or nonsensical — could trick Google’s algorithm and achieve the top ranking for some terms. The result, however, was that many high-ranking sites provided no real value to searchers — a reality Google worked hard to change. Google has addressed the issue of spammy content through many algorithm updates, and just pushing out content for content’s sake will no longer produce results.
Evaluate your posting schedule to develop a realistic plan that allows you to present in-depth, useful content to your readers. A strategy of writing fewer, high-quality articles can do more for your marketing efforts than frequently publishing thin content. You are more likely to become a trusted resource, even if you cannot speak to your readers every day.
Myth: I should be doing what [insert competitor] is doing.
Competitor research is helpful in that it allows you to understand how others in your market are successfully or unsuccessfully targeting clients. Copying competitors, however, is not recommended. Just because a tactic is working for one firm does not mean it will translate to yours. Your marketing strategy, branding and visuals must be unique to your firm and your clients’ needs.
If a competitor is doing well despite using questionable, seemingly black hat tactics, avoid the temptation of trying the same tricks. Losing out in search rankings to someone who appears to be gaming the system is frustrating. Take comfort in the knowledge that in the long run, sites that try to beat Google at its own game pay the price in terms of ranking penalties. Try to focus less overtly on rankings and more on building a strong brand both on-and offline. Good press, valuable resources, helpful content and beneficial connections will help grow your firm the right way — and provide organic SEO benefit.
Myth: Adwords helps (or hurts) organic search.
The idea that Adwords purchases affect organic rankings in any way is a conspiracy theory, according to Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team. Ad buys neither help nor hurt organic rankings; the two process are separate. Google wants to return good results so users are happy. Without the repeat business of satisfied searchers, ads are irrelevant. Of course Google wants to sell ads, but not at the expense of a good user experience.
In an April webmaster video, Cutts said, “We want to return really good search results to users, so that they’re happy, so that they’ll keep coming back. That’s basically it. Happy users are loyal users, right?” He continued, “And then, along the way, if somebody clicks on ads, that’s great. But we’re not going to make an algorithmic change to try to drive people to buy ads.”
Myth: Marketing is about me.
Marketing is about your customer. Your website must speak to your visitors and provide them with the information they are searching for. Think about how your experience and specific talents help your clients. Use the defining characteristics of your firm as a foundation for building trust with your audience. There is a place on an attorney website to discuss accolades and experience, but the core of your message should be about the client and the benefits you offer.
Now: Forget all of these myths. What should your firm be doing? Start by realigning your thinking about search marketing. Do not make rankings the center of your attention. If you are build a strong brand and good relationships, rankings will follow. Try these tactics to achieve sustainable, organic results.
1. Avoid toolkits and software packages. If you come across a company offering a foolproof kit for ranking at the top of Google’s results, be wary. These types of packages are often sold by companies using black hat tactics — those Google considers to be cheats or spam — and despite promises to the contrary, your site is more likely to suffer from a penalty imposed by Google when using questionable techniques.
In the same webmaster video mentioned above, Matt Cutts addressed the issue of spammy SEO software. According to Cutts, relying on automated tools to help solve your marketing problems is a bad idea because they simply do not work as promised. Cutts said, “I read an article recently where someone was talking about using some automated software package, and trying to do white hat SEO with it, which to me sounds like buying a gun and trying to use it as a hammer.”
2. Focus on an area of expertise and diversify within that area. Put out videos, reports, articles, seminars, infographics and anything else you can think of that offers value to your audience. In a separate webmaster video that discusses the performance of small sites against large brands, Matt Cutts addressed the importance of niche marketing for smaller sites. Small sites, he said, can overtake large sites by doing specific things very well. According to Cutts, small sites, “do a better job of focusing on user experience; they return something that adds more value. If it’s a research report organization, the reports are often higher-quality, more insightful, or delve deeper into issues.”
Work on producing content within one niche, then move on to another. This will help your site grow naturally and sustainably.
3. Think long-term. Search marketing is a long-term endeavor that requires a lot of work. If there were a magic bullet that helped everyone make money online instantly, everyone would be doing it. Rationally, people know this. But the temptation to try the latest fad can still be strong.
Any short-term gain you may achieve by jumping on the latest craze is not worth the damage it could do to your site in the long run. Google is very good at catching cheaters, and eventually your ranking will be affected. All of your efforts must be sustainable: build a repertoire of high-quality content, publish videos or podcasts, study your clientele to determine their needs and offer great client service. These things all take time but pay far greater returns than short-term stunts.
4. Try to return great results. Align your goals with Google’s to position yourself for the best performance. Its formula is simple: provide good results, keep users coming back. Google is highly focused on user experience and is constantly adjusting all of its products to ensure user needs are met.
Rather than viewing SEO as a competition with the search engine in which you try to maneuver your way into higher rankings, try working together on the same playing field. Provide your audience with quality content that they want to read and share. Give visitors a good experience. When your work resonates with visitors, it is more likely to rank well.