Is SEO dead? How to get ahead of Google
This post is to help you answer a question we’re frequently asked: “How do I get my website to the top of Google?”
My short answer?
Forget about the search engines and start thinking about your customer.
To understand why, there’s a quick story for you, a list of fundamental questions you need to consider and then an outline of how you can tie it all together.
Once upon a time, Bluewire Media’s website was nowhere to be found on Google when you typed in “web design brisbane” – a pretty competitive keyword. This was not acceptable for a web strategy consultancy, so we set out to improve our ranking.
Armed with a better understanding of how the search engines worked, we were able to get to the first page of results. It was a good step but we still wanted #1.
We then focussed on “thinking like a publisher” courtesy of David Meerman Scott’s “The New Rules of Marketing and PR”. We co-created the Web Strategy Planning Template with him and started to share much more content with our audience. The number of our back links increased dramatically and from high quality web sites like News.com.au courtesy of journalists and other visitors finding our blog and content useful.
In the process, we saw major fluctuations of our rankings and our competitors’. Some websites that had been on the first page for years vanished to the anonymity of page 4 or 5. Our own ranking bounced around as Google changed their search algorithm with countless small tweaks and a couple of major overhauls.
Ultimately our ranking improved over a few months until we were #1 for “web design Brisbane” (where we stayed for 3 years) and quite a few others. We’ve recently dropped to #2 but that’s ok, we’ll be back (my logic is next).
It’s time to consider some fundamental questions:
Why does a person use a search engine?
To find information.
What then is the purpose of a search engine?
The sole purpose of a search engine is to help a searcher find the information they are looking for.
Why will a searcher return to use a search engine again?
A searcher will return if the results of their search are useful.
How will a searcher choose one search engine over another?
Primarily by the usefulness of the results. A secondary consideration is the speed of the delivery of those results.
How does a search engine make money?
By having searchers click on sponsored links or pay per click advertising. The more people search, the more likely they are to click on the paid links. The more often people search, the more often they will click on the paid links. The more often they click, the more money the search engine makes.
Who is the searcher?
The searcher is YOUR customer, YOUR prospect, YOUR future No.1 referrer, a journalist looking for a good story in YOUR industry. The list goes on.
So if the searcher wants useful results and the search engines make money by delivering useful results, what do you think will drive your business’s long term search engine rankings?
USEFULNESS, to your customer or buyer persona, in everything you do on the web will drive your long term search engine rankings.
How can you do this?
- By genuinely knowing your customer or buyer persona.
- By understanding your customers’ problems and providing great content to help them solve it.
- By structuring your web strategy around your searcher or buyer persona not around your products (try using our web strategy planning template if you need help).
- By knowing what they a looking for and knowing what they are typing into the search engines and using their language, not some mumbo jumbo, jargon filled rubbish.
- By providing such interesting/useful/entertaining/valuable content that people will link to it and share it – thereby building QUALITY back links that create long term sustainable rankings, not junk links from an unrelated forum.
- By building content so it will be picked up not just by your customers but by journalists who will share it with a larger audience.
- By having landing pages that your customers find useful and that are relevant to what they are looking for.
- By refreshing your content regularly to demonstrate that you care about the issues your customers are facing.
Yes there is a place for Search Engine Optimisation to achieve short term results using technical changes, backlinking and other techniques. But do you seriously think trying to keep up with every change made to the ultra secret search engine algorithm by Google’s 31,000 employees (qualified by this type of entry exam) is a sustainable strategy?
Their algorithms are going to continue to refine, to reduce the impact of technical details like metadata, to build in the social proof as demonstrated by the number of tweets and likes and comments and check-ins and reviews and ratings and quality of authorship….. Then the next big thing will come along and swamp everything we know about today and demand more change from our businesses.
But the one thing you can count on is that search engines servicing their customers will be at the heart of it.
Don’t waste your time trying to keep up with every tweak made by collective brain power of the world’s best and brightest – get the basics right and then focus on your customer. If what you do is in their best interests, if you’re genuinely adding value with everything you do, then you can be sure the search engines will catch up and reward you handsomely for it.
So… what do you think? Is SEO dead?