By: Noam Fixler , Head of Search Marketing
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is tricky; or rather it used to be. Once upon a time, manipulating your website in order for it to rank higher in Google SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) was easy. It was so easy, that all you had to do was create a “meta tag” called keywords and literally stuff in all the keywords you wanted your site to rank for (black-hat SEO). It was sloppy but it worked.
But what happens when website owners from the same industry, or different industries decide to use the same keywords? How does Google determine which of the websites is most relevant for the search? In response to this issue, Google changed its algorithm. Quickly, marketers responded to this change and found new ways to manipulate the algorithm. Again, Google changed it and again, marketers responded and manipulated it. And again, and again and again.
What is Google trying to do each time they change and update their algorithm? They are trying to present the best results they can to the end user. However, Google has a problem: Their users are human, while Google search engine is… well not. It is an engine run by robots crawling the web. This is Google’s biggest challenge, and many of their algorithm updates and changes are geared towards closing that gap, making their robots as human oriented as possible. This, for example, is one of the reasons why having a strong social media presence (integrated with your website) is important to your overall “white-hat” SEO efforts.
This battle with Google is a game of “black-hat” SEO vs. “white-hat” SEO. There are two ways to do SEO: Optimize your website for the Google bot (black-hat), or optimize it for the human user (white-hat). More and more, Google is fighting the black-hat SEOs and embracing marketers to use the white-hat strategy. This is the primary focus for their updates; Google is trying to close the gap between their robots and the human end user. Google can manage through the technical aspects, but they cannot control the quality of a website, the content or the design. Good marketers can, and good marketers do.
So what should “white-hat” SEO look like?
There are three main pillars which “white-hat” SEO is based on: Content, Design and User experience.
I think the saying “content is king” is overused, but that is only because content is, in fact, king. Write content. Write high quality and unique content that adds value to your target audience. Content has many benefits for marketing as a whole and specifically for SEO. SEO is (still) based on keyword phrases. If users are searching for phrases that are relevant to you, make sure you use them in your content. As an added benefit, good content gets shared across the web and increases user traffic.
All that amazing content you write means nothing if when a user reaches your website they feel the need to look away. The design is the first thing the user’s brain will take in, way before the content. Make it engaging and attractive. Make sure your design is responsive and allows your user to view your website clearly from any device (computer, tablet, smartphone, etc.).
UX (User Experience)
So you wrote all that great content, and you have a gorgeous website. Would your users know where to click to find what they are looking for? Is it clear to them what your website is about? Is it obvious to them what actions you want from them to do and how to do it? It should, so make sure it does.
Yes, there is an overlap between design and UX, but they are not the same, and you shouldn’t assume that good design guarantees good user experience. In some cases, your designer can even hurt your UX, so make sure you know the difference.
SEO today is very much alive and thriving, but SEO from once upon a time, manipulating Google or Google’s user, is indeed dead. Google is actually killing it by penalizing SEOs who are using “black-hat” techniques. Make sure that your focus is correct: creating engaging content, great design and just smart marketing.