Some years ago, when I was in the web design business and had not stepped into the field of SEO, I often received feedback from clients who had been advised by SEO agencies that SEO is all about building links.
Over the years as I went deep into SEO and did my own research and experiments, I realised that many people have a lot of misconceptions that SEO involves html program tweaking and you need technology people to work on that. I have also analysed several successful online businesses, and understand that Google has only one simple objective—-help people find what they are searching for. Hence, to be successful in SEO, the one important focus is content building. So if you ask me what is the SEO strategy to focus on, it is this:
“To achieve a high Search Engine Result Page (SERP) ranking, the key focus is to consistently create and publish useful and original contents that your target audience are searching for.”
According to Evan Bailyn (CEO of FirstPageSage) ‘s blog on “Link Building in The Post-Spam Age: A Strategy for 2016 & Beyond” he wrote that from 2007 to 2011 Google was on a clean up against deceitful link building tactics beginning with those that hide links on page and progressed to those that distribute press releases with lots of links in them. Hence, in 2016, the key focus should not be anchored on building links but on building contents that answers the questions of your target audience.
My Own Experiment
In fact I did an experiment on this. I started a new website, submitted my site to Google Search Console and set up the Google Analytics monitoring. I downloaded the Yoast SEO Plugin so as to enable me to specify the title and meta description of each page and post of my website easily. These are the most fundamental steps that anyone working on SEO must begin with. Apart from this, I do not set any other SEO strategy.
Then I began to write and publish a post every 2-3 days for two weeks. Then I stop publishing posts but did daily updating of the pages. I added contents in terms of slides on pages for the next three weeks. I noticed that during the period when I did not publish posts, visits to my site remain consistently low. Next, I began to write posts and publish them every 2-3 days again and the visits spike up again, as you can see from the chart below.
The conclusion from this experiment clearly illustrate that even if we were to comfortably hide in our nutshell and simply posting contents regularly, Google would have detected it and make our posts known to the world.
How To Achieve Excellent Contents? Know Your Target Audience!
We talked about publishing contents regularly. Some years ago, I have a real estate client who once showed me how his competitor would extract real estate news from the news website everyday and posts them on his websites. As he had a website for each of the condominium he was selling, he felt the simplest way to boost the search ranking for all his websites was simply to post the same piece of news in all his sites. Such tactics may work in the past. However, now Google has their way to deal with duplicate contents by choosing only one of the version as stated in Google Webmaster blog. In fact Google is consistently working to improve their search and help people find answers they are looking for. Hence, beside using Google algorithms, they have human reviewers to manually review pages and take actions on low quality pages with thin contents. This video by Matt Cutts explains it very clearly.
What is defined as excellent contents? Excellent contents are contents that are useful and provide answers to people’s searches. Then how do we achieve that? From my years of working with clients in Digital Marketing, the secret lies in knowing your audience. It is back to the same old marketing theory as depicted by Kotler — segment your market and position your products to your target market. Hence, if you want to draw traffic to your website, the most fundamental questions to ask and to keep checking back are:
1. Who is my target audience?
2. Is this content of great interest to my target audience?
AJ Agrawal wrote an article on Forbes that one of the most important pieces of usage data in 2016 is dwell time. This is what he wrote in his concluding statements:
“If you want to rank high, the needs of your customers must come first. Fulfill their needs and the rewards of Google will soon follow without any prompting on your part.”
My Experiment on Useful Contents and Returning Visitors
Here is another experiment which I carried out. I had a website where I provide illustrated bible scriptures. I placed the illustrated bible scriptures on slides. If you are familiar with this industry, you will know that there is hardly any site where you can read an illustrated bible. However, I believe, many would welcome such a site, particularly if they are reading the scriptures with kids. During the experimental time period, I deliberately do not publish any new posts. However, I will regularly update the slides with new scriptures. Interestingly, while there are very few new visitors, the returning visitors continue to revisit my website, viewing some 20 pages per session and with less than 5 % bounce rate.
Drawing traffic is not just about drawing new visitors’ traffic. Equally important or if not more, is drawing returning visitors’ traffic. The fact that they are returning means your website is providing them with the information they are looking for. Their needs are being met and they will keep coming back for more. These are the most valuable visitors who will become our fans and for an online business, they are the ones more likely to make a purchase.
How To Know The Needs Of Your Audience? Google Keyword Planner!
There is an excellent book on SEO written by Caimin Jones, entitled “SEO Step-by-Step”. In his book, Caimin shared very honestly, straight to the point, his experience and the wisdom he has gained from his 15 years working with clients on websites and SEO. The first item mentioned in his book is using Google Keyword Planner to find out the keyword searches of people. It is a free tool that tells you about your industry, your customers and provides even insights to what your competitors are doing to woo customers online. Below is a sample of what you are in the Flower Bouquet delivery business and if you use the Keyword Planner to check out the demand in Singapore.
In my opinion, every marketing manager in today’s era has to know something on Digital Marketing, and every good marketing manager should know how to use the Google Keyword Planner.
Learn Directly from Google
The best place to find out on SEO is of course from Google’s own resource. If you study into Google’s SEO materials, you will realise that although there are a long list of SEO to-do as spelt out in Google’s guide to SEO best practices, the most fundamental concept is about knowing your customers before building your contents as taught in Google Webmaster Academy.
From my research, and the more I read into Google’s work, SEO is not something to achieve by developers and programmers with some coding and program tweaking. It is down to basic marketing principle 101 of know your audience (or target customer segment) and knowing what they are searching for and providing them the answers to their searches. In fact, if you hid in your comfortable shell and focus on writing out your thoughts, your wisdom, your findings and what you have learned, Google will still find you and able to make your works searchable by the world.
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