We had a brief overview of SEO, but let’s get a little more into what exactly SEO is and how we can improve it. In this blog, I’ll start that discussion, revealing a little more about how I approach thinking about Search Engines and building a foundation. In a later post, I’ll talk about actual elements of your website and general web presence that build a solid foundation for SEO regardless of the changes in algorithms, platforms, and trends.
The internet has changed a lot in the last 20 years… and months… and weeks. At one time, having a website was “good enough,” but with developments in algorithms and with our society making vast changes in the way we interact with information and one another, strategies have had to adapt.
And that can be daunting.
How do you build and maintain a website that meets the needs of the current demands without making your website your job?
There will always be updates to be made. You have to stay on top of new expectations and platforms. You will need to overhaul regularly (ranging from every few years to every few months depending on your business). It’s just the facts. If you want a web presence, this is something you will need to accept.
What Is SEO, Really?
Briefly, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is your/your business’ ranking when someone does a web search.
By now, you probably know that.
But while we usually think Google and the like, there are lots of platforms used as search engines that get ignored, including Pinterest, Yelp!, YouTube, map apps, and so on. There are even platforms primarily used for social media or content sharing that are used more and more as search engines, such as Facebook, Instagram, DeviantArt, etc.
So, Search Engine Optimization is making sure you show up at the top of results:
...when people search
...in the platform where they are searching
...for what they are searching for.
Always keep in mind these search engines and search features are working to ensure their customer is thrilled with the results. They want their customers to find exactly what they want (or didn’t know they wanted but do now) in a quick and orderly fashion and enjoy doing it. The search engine looks at your website as well as your presence off your website and matches it with the specific customer’s search, preferences, and activities. But, of course, it does it all through data collection.
And that’s where the algorithm comes in.
An algorithm is essentially a math equation that collects data from multiple sources and compiles it to rank websites/accounts as most likely to please their customer. Most algorithms have secrets, but there are strategies that should always help rather than hinder.
Oh yeah. You can actually hurt your results in the algorithm. But more on that later.
But before you can create this foundation that will last through algorithm changes, you have to focus on your target audience.
Why Is Target Audience Important to SEO?
If you don’t know your target audience and what they want, you’re jumping the gun and probably wasting resources. Building a solid web presence is an investment of valuable resources--time, money, energy, hope--you could be spending elsewhere expanding your business, making profit, and investing outside your business. The last thing you want to do is use all those precious resources making indistinguishable noises to a large, nondescript audience who is already being bombarded with indistinguishable noises from others.
And search engines know this.
Remember, search engines are looking to deliver the best search results to their customers at the moment the customer is engaging in their search. So they use lots of information, including where the customer has just been, the season and weather the customer is experiencing in that moment, if they recently bought a new car, etc.
Algorithms target their customers’ needs based on the customer’s activity and demographic information, and so should you. If for no other reason than to appease the algorithm gods.
But, if algorithms do it, it’s probably a smart thing to do. And in this case, it certainly is.
Think about it:
If you knew Taylor wants what you have and is ready to buy it, you would research Taylor’s specific situation and craft your pitch accordingly.
If you had an audience of 100 random people, not knowing what they need or where they’re coming from, you’d have to say more, say it louder, and water down your message so everyone could identify with it. You might get a sale, but you’d be spending a lot of energy for shaky results.
But, if you knew Taylor would be in a group of 100 similar people, and you targeted your message to Taylor, others in the group would be much more likely to hear it, identify with it, and turn to hear more.
Knowing who is most likely to buy your stuff, where they will be, and what they want is essential to effective communication… and effective SEO strategy.
Once you know your target audience and have developed strategies around it, your SEO is dependent upon two things: your website and everything connected to your website. And of course that gets complicated as we take a closer look.
Which we will do, but this blog is getting long. Stay tuned!
Developing Marketing Strategies can be a challenge, especially without a solid foundation of brand, identity, core values, and knowing your target audience(s). I can help with that. Let’s talk about where your business is and where you want to be!
Tara Cloud Clark provides freelance consultation, strategy, and implementation for Branding and Identity, Social Media and Content, and Project Management. Here she provides tips on these topics.