It wasn’t a week ago that I had a client asking me how the company website could rank for a specific keyword. I politely explained that focusing on the keyword wasn’t going to lead to the success they really wanted, but this vanity metric, like number of Facebook likes or Twitter followers, is still a common focus of the uninitiated in today’s marketing environment.
There are obvious things we could do for the pages that would be relevant for this client’s keyword, just for best practices sake, but in the end, Google knows better than you do. And people who spent tons of money on SEO strategies involving keywords and link building are trying desperately to fix what they did wrong.
Now, we’re in another moment where something we thought was true is turning out to be false. January’s guest blogging apocalypse certainly had people thinking about their relationship with Google. How could Google level a standard against sites that allow contributions when so many established blogs, news sites and media companies do just that on a daily basis.
Matt Cutts, Google’s head of web spam, eventually clarified saying “There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future.” Still, this begs the question, why should we care about SEO at all?
SEO Isn’t Dead, It Never Existed
Consider this: Search engine optimization was never about providing quality information to people who were searching on the web. It was then and is now a technique that’s designed to game the system. Ranking for a keyword was a great way to make that brochure website worth the money spent on it, but that type of website is dead. Along with it, is what we thought SEO should be.
SEO is a maintenance operation, not a tactic. For each of the clients I work with, my team goes through the client’s pages every month and makes sure that everything has the proper tags and attributes that make for a good web page, not good SEO. Moreover, we take a look at 404s and other errors in Google Webmaster Tools and repair them as well. Most SEO wins, as I point out in this post, are more about keeping the gears oiled so the machine keeps running. It’s not about optimizing for keywords; it’s about keeping a web site in proper working condition.
I recently started working with a client that had a keyword phrase in mind that it wanted to rank for. And my team did due diligence to make sure the pages were properly structured for the keyword. However, that’s not what increased the company’s organic search traffic by more than 100 percent in just four months. Instead, consistently blogging at least three times per week and providing helpful, educational information to potential customers is what moved the needle.
For companies that really want to have Google work in their favor, it’s time to stop worrying about Google. The time spent racking your brain over what Google is going to do next or how their algorithm is going to affect you is what bad dreams are made of. Instead, keep providing quality content and build your own audience. If you build it, then Google will come.
Quality Vs. What?
I used that word “quality” again when it comes to content. I hate having to use that word. Because really, if you want to build an audience that relies on you, what alternative to do you have?
In the Copy Blogger article on the guest blogging apocalypse that I linked to above, Bryan Clark tweets “My point being, treat it like a magazine, with quality standards, and you’re fine.” And that pretty much sums it up. In the era where everyone can become a publisher, what distinguishes quality content from other content, is the standard applied to it.
Most B2B companies should be looking at their industry trade publications for the baseline for what quality is in their corner of the world. Those publications, despite living in a digital age, still exist because of their content. And the ones that fail, do so for the same reason.
The same can be said for any company website that wants to successfully established an online audience. Content that gets people to your site—whether through search or social or even content advertising—and makes them want to return has more value than all the keywords on the web. Success metrics can then be more audience-oriented, like leads generated, customers acquired or subscribers gained.
Audiences know quality when they see it. So rather than optimizing your site for Google, make yourself valuable to your readers. In the end, Google will reward you for it.