Several months ago I read a great article that discussed the similarities between high school popularity and SEO. Although some of us might have to reach deep into our memory bank, using basic old-school lessons can help us understand the future of SEO.
It’s happened to all of us –junior high, high school, maybe even your freshman year in college. Staring at those 8-foot doors in desperate need of a paint job, you feel your stomach turns inside out. Although you’ve got your best outfit on, you know that as soon as you open those doors, everything will change. Your friends, your clothes, where you eat lunch, among other things, will define you for years – if not forever.
While these memories may be hazy, a few of those old-school lessons are more relevant today than you’d think – especially in SEO. A company’s success with organic reach, in addition to its ability to continue an upward trend, share a philosophical connection to those years.
Focus on the User – not the Algorithm
Don’t try and be cool – just be cool. I don’t know about your high school experience, but in my alma mater in Utah, the cool kids didn’t try to be cool. It was innate, and the ones that tried to be cool came off as lame. Similarly, securing immediate SEO success and ensuring today’s efforts have a solid ROI down the road, is about being natural. Having been involved in SEO for 12 years, I can tell you there’s never been a more important time to be “natural” in your SEO work. Make no mistake – knowing Google algorithms (as best as you can) is important. But even more important than knowing the X’s and O’s of an algorithm, is to know your audience and adapt to best fit their wants and needs.
Make their experience as enjoyable and as enriching as possible. Google is making significant headway on closing the gap between what its search bots are gathering and what humans are experiencing. The smaller this gap gets, the more important it is to focus on the user.
Quality Trumps Quantity
Content, content, content. Yes, we’ve all heard that for years and we know it’s important. We validate the need for meaningful content 100 times over. But just like that one classmate who used any means necessary to extend their 15-minutes of fame with bottom-of-the-barrel pranks, quantity without quality is rarely a good thing. Content should be written in the mindset of “how will this information help my end user?”. Once that is accomplished – optimize that content.
How often should you post new content? How much is too little? When is it too much? These are questions I get asked all the time by clients. Although there’s no set formula, SEO trends do provide a rule of thumb. It’s much better to have an informative, helpful blog post than to write one for the sake of it. If your editorial calendar calls for a blog post this week, but you don’t have anything really valuable to share (by the way … that should never be the case), research hot topics to share relevant information that will benefit your users.
Be in the Know
At school it often seemed like the cool crowd was always involved in the most talked-about events. It appeared that they knew where to be before everyone else.
When enrolled in the school of SEO, it’s essential to be across the latest happenings. Although Google will never reveal its entire algorithm or how to best optimize a web page, tips and tricks are provided on a daily basis from some of the industry’s most trusted voices. The ingredients to help you stay up to date are at your disposal. Setting up alerts, attending conferences, following industry leaders on Twitter – all of these things are ways to help you stay up to date.
How do I Prepare for the Future of SEO?
Extensive, effective Search Engine Optimization takes time and a lot of work. But the results are real. As with the schoolyard, improving your popularity and getting people to say the right things about you and your brand is about being genuine. Beyond SEO 101 (Page Optimization, building your link portfolio, etc.), you should focus on the end-user. Make sure their experience is worthwhile.
Double-check your work to ensure quality. Few things will tarnish your website’s reputation faster than meaningless, bland content. Use this strategy to get people to talk about your brand and continue to come back for more valuable information.
Finally, stay up to date. The news is new. If you don’t stay up to date, you’re history. Understand the current trends, plan for the future, and grab your paintbrush, because SEO isn’t science. It’s an art that needs to be constantly studied if you’re going to stay at the top of the class.