The short answer is SEO has not died, but old SEO methods have.
People don’t click on ads and links as much as they used to. The top rankings in Google search results get clicks, but titles further down in the rankings may get none. It’s a vicious cycle. The lower the click-through rate, the lower your ranking, which further reduces your click-through rate.
In addition, Google changes algorithms more than nine times each day, making it impossible to manipulate rankings with gimmicks and tricks.
Finally, users produce so much content that it exceeds demand, so the competition increases, and much content falls by the wayside.
What Can You Do?
You can change your approach to SEO and still get good results. Consider some options.
Move from Transactional to Educational Content
Transactional ads and content focus on getting an immediate sale. This approach emphasizes price, often offering a discount if you “buy now.” The relationship usually ends after the transaction, though the buyer may receive additional transactional pitches to purchase other products.
Educational content informs readers about products, services, and trends. While it may contain a link to your site, you don’t include a direct pitch to make a purchase. This is often called relationship marketing. Educating readers can raise your click-through rate because users may click on your links more often as they come to value your content.
So why switch to educational content? Though Google began as a search engine where people sought out products and services, it has become a knowledge base. Many people use it to learn about something. Articles that explain an issue, topic, trend, or solution get more attention. Instagram has become the home for transactional marketing.
Truly educational content is not just a teaser that promises information and then requires readers to click on your website link to get the important stuff. Offering real information to solve problems improves your company’s reputation, rankings, and public awareness. The idea is that the sales will come as users rely on you for informative content.
“Educational” does not mean dry and dull. Wherever possible, focus on what’s in it for the reader, not the writer’s credentials or your company’s reputation, and not how you compiled the information. Also, don’t dwell on how excited you are to present the content. No one cares. Pay attention to what excites users, not you.
You get a higher ranking with Google for a good user experience—people have to like your content. Mere backlinks won’t help you. “Backlinks” means other websites have linked to yours. At one time, backlinks were king, but today, if people don’t like what you offer, down you go in the rankings.
How does Google know whether people like your site?
- It tracks the average time people stay on your site.
- It tracks how many pages per session readers visit.
- It records whether people take action on your site.
- It watches click-throughs to see if people want to learn more about a topic.
The best way to improve all these metrics is to get emotional. People click on links and explore pages because they desire something, fear something, or hope to solve a problem. Every product or service has an emotional tug you can emphasize. Over-the-top pleas don’t work, but offering to satisfy a need does. Always highlight benefits more than features.
You can see all of the metrics for user engagement for yourself on Google Analytics.
Brand, Brand, Brand
Your Google rankings rise as brand recognition grows. This means you must have a strong social media presence. Once viewers recognize your brand on social media, they become more comfortable with you and are more likely to go directly to your site.
Google pays attention to users who type your URL into a search field or use a browser bookmark. The number of people who go directly to you indicates brand awareness.
You can think of your efforts to reach people in three categories: marketing, sales, and branding. Branding is much slower than the other two and requires patience as you “get the word out.” But you don’t have to flail about blindly and hope it works. Google Analytics tells you the number of people who connect to you directly.
Find a Niche
Before the internet, hard-copy magazines ruled. General interest publications like Life and Look dominated the industry. So the competition flocked to smaller magazines. A publication on woodworking, hunting, or history could gain market share and create a profit.
The market is similar today. If you find a niche, you will be more likely to attract buyers and viewers than if you go up against the likes of Amazon. You may even want to split your enterprise into several smaller sites and market each one separately. Boutique marketing can attract those who search for specific things. Selling poodle clothes won’t make Amazon shake in its boots, but it can allow you to find the people who want to dress their dogs.
Niche marketing lets you focus your dollars and efforts on a target audience. You can gear your keywords to a small but significant type of buyer and go around the head-on competition you face with the big companies. Your SEO will be more effective because fewer companies will be using your keywords.
This personalized approach can help you become a go-to source for a niche.
SEO: The Bottom Line
SEO lives on, but how you use it must change to take advantage of the new habits of Google users. Finding a few keywords that relate to what you offer doesn’t work anymore. If you move your focus from what you offer to what problems customers have, you can use educational content, branding, and niche markets to boost your rankings.
About the Author
This post was written by nDash community member Kevin Johnston. To learn more about Kevin — and to have him write for your brand — be sure to check out his nDash profile.