This blog was written by Gareth Duddington, Digital Marketing Specialist at Elevate Communication. Gareth works within the Marketing pillar and is passionate about search engine marketing and delivering creative, data-driven campaigns that provide a true return on investment.
“An SEO expert walks into a bar, bars, beer garden, hangout, lounge, night club, mini bar, tavern, pub, beer, wine, whiskey...”
The start of a joke and what I imagine most people think when they hear the term, SEO. I find that many people are under the impression that SEO is just about keywords. If it were that simple, I would be out of a job and anybody with functional English would rank at the top of Google. Fortunately, for me at least, it’s not quite that easy and thankfully so, because I have bills to pay.
The story with content
Content and keywords are often touted as being the most important aspects of SEO. Instead of just focusing on keywords it’s more important to create content with your target audience in mind. The question shouldn’t be what content will get me to the top of the search rankings? The question you should be asking is what content will add the most value to users visiting the website?
Constantly re–evaluating your content and tailoring it for your target market will inevitably boost your SEO. There is always opportunity to improve. It is also worth highlighting that historical decay is a key factor when it comes to content. Google prioritises newer content, which is why it pays to regularly update content so that it remains fresh, engaging, and relevant.
Given content is the most visible aspect of SEO it is often the be–all and end–all of simplified SEO strategies. But when it comes to SEO there are a lot of different variables to consider.
What is SEO?
Before we dive into the technical aspects of SEO, there’s a question looming large. Why should your brand care about SEO? In layman’s terms SEO plays a crucial role in increasing organic traffic. Search Engine Optimisation, or more commonly known by its acronym, SEO, is vital to your website’s visibility on SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).
SEO and organic traffic have a symbiotic relationship. An effective SEO strategy will have a direct and positive impact on organic traffic—meaning you will get more visitors to your website. Given that we live in the age of instant gratification, it’s little wonder that most brands turn to paid advertising before giving any consideration to SEO. Whilst there is always value in running paid advertising, SEO is a sustainable approach for the long term. SEO doesn’t deliver results overnight but like compound interest its value will grow at an ever-accelerating rate over time. By consistently investing in your website, you are laying a solid foundation for future success.
What are the benefits of SEO?
Still not sold on SEO? Here are some of the key reasons it should be seen as a priority rather than a luxury:
- It attracts relevant users to your website.
- It increases your organic traffic, resulting in highly qualified leads.
- It boosts organic traffic, which has a higher conversion rate relative to paid traffic.
- It nurtures leads through the marketing funnel.
- It increases the credibility and trustworthiness of your website.
You might be wondering where do I start? There is no right or wrong place to start but it makes sense to begin with the most critical aspects first if you want to maximise the impact of SEO.
Why should you conduct a website audit?
It’s crucial to assess your current position so you know how to plan your SEO journey. Conducting an initial site audit using an industry–leading tool such as Semrush, Ahrefs, or Moz will provide you with benchmarks figures for your website. These include domain authority, organic traffic, and backlinks. It will also identify any potential issues on your website that need to be addressed.
Not all issues are created equally. Website errors, which can take the form of slow page load speeds (especially on mobile) and metadata (snippets of code that tell search engines important information about your web page) not being implemented correctly (or at all), need to be addressed first. These are strong indicators to Google that either the website is not being maintained properly or the website provides a poor user experience. To assess the user experience on both desktop and mobile it’s worthwhile using PageSpeed Insights. The benefit of this tool is that it will analyse page performance and provide recommendations on how to improve the page.
How to assess your website’s UX?
This, by no mere coincidence, provides a rather fortuitous segway into user experience (UX). UX, a lot like AI (Artificial Intelligence) is now, once dominated digital conversations. With that being said it is still vitally important, although I would suggest that it is just a matter of time before AI starts to inform UX. With the capabilities of AI growing at an exponential rate, I foresee it will soon be able to analyse a website using conditional logic. That analysis will be able to define what the most beneficial user experiences are and map out user journeys based on the conversions that are most valuable to the business.
Focusing on the present, and this is where we delve into technical SEO, user experience, as interpreted by Google, is very much a function of how you optimise your website to meet the standards of its Core Web Vitals. By ensuring your website meets the recommended benchmarks provided by Google, you know it will provide a positive user experience on both desktop and mobile.
This is encompassed by Google’s Page Experience algorithm that focuses on how quickly webpage content loads (LCP: Largest Contentful Paint), how quickly a browser loading a webpage can respond to a user’s first interaction (FID: First Input Delay), and how much the content shifts as it loads in the browser (CLS: Cumulative Layout Shift). These metrics can be obtained by utilising Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. It’s important to pay attention to these metrics and improve them where required as they have a direct impact on your search rankings.
To learn more about the principles of UX design, read my colleague Jess’s latest blog here.
What are featured snippets?
It might just be a rumour, but more people have seen a Tasmanian Tiger than have seen the second page of the Google search results. Whilst this might be tongue–in-cheek, this is backed up by data. The first three organic search ranking positions result in more than 50% of all clicks1, while up to 30% of all results on pages 1 and 2 don’t even get clicked on at all 2. Coupled with this is the advent of zero-click searches. Rather than being an anomaly or a ghost in the machine, a zero-search SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) is where the answer to a user’s search query is surfaced at the top of the search results. What this means in practice is that a user’s search intent is met without having to click through to a website.
This is also commonly referred to as a featured snippet. Featured snippets are small excerpts of content that appear at the top of Google’s search results to quickly answer a searcher’s query. What does this mean for SEO and brands that rely on website traffic? In short, it means optimising your website for featured snippets. This is by no means a straightforward process and will require some careful analysis. You will need to pull a ranking report for the keywords that are most relevant/important to your brand and then identify from these keywords where you are ranking between positions 1 to 10. Once this has been established, you will want to tailor the content on your page so that it provides a succinct and relevant answer to the user’s search query.
SEO is digital PR
Although it may not seem obvious at first, SEO is essentially digital PR. SEO helps build long-term brand equity. A good ranking and a positive user experience on your website will elevate your brand’s profile. Users search for news and related information every day, and having a good SEO and PR strategy means your brand will be seen and valued.
The value of effective SEO can’t be understated. When it is done well and consistently it drives real results and will set-up your brand for success.
If you’re looking to elevate your website’s SEO, then contact Elevate’s Digital Marketing Specialist, Gareth Duddington, at firstname.lastname@example.org.