Occasionally we’re asked how to better optimize a website for search as a way to drive more traffic. Yes, your site should be search optimized, but in terms of traffic, this is just one tool in your toolkit to get exposure online–it’s not a magic bullet. If your site is well-structured and you’re creating quality content that satisfies user intent, rest assured Google is smart: they’ll make sure your content is found by the right user.
What people are usually really asking us, though, is how to game the system by employing tactics that will help them rank higher in search. Which is just not a very good idea, Google no like. They’re always looking for ways to penalize those who attempt to appear more relevant than they really are.
Yes, there are SEO best practices that will help you suggest to Google how to display your URLS when they come up in search, and even help you think strategically about your content and online marketing activities which may lead to more traffic. But some of the tactics that are commonly asked about (such as stuffing keywords into titles or using meta descriptions on each page) aren’t going to rocket your site to popularity.
Not only that, these tactics are becoming obsolete as Google gets smarter — updating their algorithm 500-600 times per year to stay ahead of the “gamers”.
Google gives webmasters guidelines to follow and the rest is speculation. We can tell you that clients who get fantastic SEO results are creating quality content on a regular basis over a long period of time on specific topics that are valuable to their readers.
Taking a step back: Ask yourself why (or whether) SEO is important
When an author asks me about search engine optimization (SEO) for their website, I always ask several questions:
- Who is your audience and what do they want to know or do? (And does your content satisfy their needs?)
- Is this (using search) how people will look for you? (Does it matter if you’re easily found if nobody’s looking?)
- What content (keywords) other than your name or book titles do you wish to be found for in search? (Are you positioning yourself as a thought leader on a specific topic?)
These are important questions to ponder, because they will help you create a winning content and SEO strategy. But are you worried about SEO when you should really be more concerned with writing good content your readers will be excited to share and talk about?
If you’re a novelist, for example, and you are writing stories on your blog for the sole purpose of entertaining your readers (“And by the way, buy my books!“) it can be particularly tricky to get quality hits from search engines–we know that readers aren’t necessarily looking for this type of content by querying Google. But they may have heard about your latest release and look for you or your book titles, but chances are, unless you’ve got major problems with your website, you will rank high for these terms organically.
What Google teaches us about online marketing
There are no SEO “magic tricks.” But Google does teach us an important lesson about online marketing: have something great to say and then go out and tell people about it. Build your social network and your email list and let your fans know about the great content you’ve written. Focus on creating value for them and create it consistently so they will want to share with their friends and followers. Not only will you benefit from increased traffic, but you’ll benefit from more search traffic as well, because we know Google likes websites that are relevant and linked back to from external sources. Full circle.
Marketing expert Jeff Bullas sums it up:
Those extra website visitors are the results of real humans sharing your post and enjoying it, which the search engines watch for and reward.
If people don’t like your content enough to link to it, share it, or comment on it, it’s not going to have the same impact on your business as truly great content will. If you want the benefits of having great content, you must put in the time and effort to produce it.
Then just keep at it, because “driving traffic” takes effort, patience, and time.