Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an incredibly intricate process that has recently become a crucial component of digital marketing.
Search engines are remarkably valuable to business, with Google dominating more than 80 percent of all search engine users.
SEO is essentially a game between marketers and the search engines: marketers attempt to leverage how search results are collated, and search engines constantly change how that happens to keep things pointed toward quality results.
One disadvantage marketers face in this game is that the search engine companies can essentially change the rules whenever they want.
Marketers may spend countless hours researching the best keywords and building authoritative links in an effort to rank highly in relevant searches.
One tweak from Google can render that work utterly meaningless, forcing marketers to rethink their strategies.
Can the Rules Be Bent?
A recent case study shows how several companies are leveraging the rules of Google in their favor, essentially causing 16 enterprises to completely dominate search results. An example of how this happens can be seen with Hearst, the company that owns several popular websites (including Esquire, Woman’s Day, Popular Mechanics, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Country Living and Redbook).
When Hearst launched Best Products, a new site dedicated to product reviews, it built traffic by creating review links on all of its other pages. The “Product Reviews” links at the bottoms of their other sites led to Best Products, quickly bolstering the site’s Google search result rankings through these authoritative links. The result was more than 600,000 organic search hits for Best Products after just six months following its launch.
Having lots of high-profile and established websites linking to your site is an essential factor of SEO. The parent company also periodically changes the nature of these links. It has tweaked the placement, wording, and nature of these sources in what could be an effort to improve usability but the more likely reason is that SEO experts are probing to see which system yields the best results.
While this seems like savvy marketing, one may wonder whether or not this is unfair. One might argue that Google search results are being monopolized by companies with the resources to tilt the game in their favor.
Related Article: How Small Businesses Can Generate New Customers from Google Ads
How Do I Play This Game?
Unless you happen to own several well-known and highly profitable websites that you can link together, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to invest in the SEO game to such an extent. However, there are a few vital takeaways from this case study that any digital marketer can use.
Relevance and popularity are the two main factors in search results. When a user enters a search into Google, the engine quickly finds every website they could possibly want based on the words entered into the field. The search engine then ranks those possibilities based on their authority and popularity. A well-known brand with an established presence is likely going to rank much better than a small independent blog.
Relevance is established through the content of your site, primarily through keywords and phrases relevant to your company’s industry that is carefully woven into the text. Your brand can also build relevance by having links to your website on other pages. The more you pop up in relevant searches, the higher you’ll rank.
Popularity is the next key factor. You need traffic to build more traffic. Shareable content has become more critical to digital marketing in recent years. Incentivizing your audience to share content across social media and through referrals is a wonderful method for boosting organic hits. Once your site is getting heavier traffic, you should notice a bump in search rankings for your top keywords.
SEO doesn’t stop there, though. Other crucial components to successful optimization include:
- Creating a site that’s rich in useful information
- Building your site with the user in mind not the search engines
- Establishing keyword-rich URL structures
- Producing content consistently
- Never hiding important text inside images or other media
- Focusing on HTML text for important content search engines tend to disregard other coding languages
- Including links for common searches instead of relying solely on a search bar for users to find what they need
Related Article: Why Google Loves Brands and How Businesses Can Take Advantage
This is by no means an exhaustive list of tips for polished SEO. The game is constantly changing, and it’s likely that Google will again alter its algorithms and change things up. SEO is a battle of attrition, and the terms of engagement are constantly shifting.