An Introduction to Search Engine Optimization in 2014
Why you should care
Like it or not, Google is an 800lb gorilla holding the keys to the entrance gate to your website. Over half of all web traffic comes from natural searches. Ranking for the words people use to search for your company’s products and services is extremely important. When you rank high in the search results, your site gets more people landing on it. In business, the goals are to increase web traffic and increase the number of transactions taken once they get there (lead generation, purchases, or another action). The transactional part of the process is called “conversion”, which is another topic altogether. SEO is concerned with the first goal: increasing web traffic.
As an agency involved in the marketing and SEO for many companies we get front row seats to the effects. It’s common to see 2x – 4x the web traffic per month after bringing a client’s website onto page 1 of Google search results pages. Wondering what that’s worth? Try this nifty website conversion calculator tool.
The 800lb Google gatekeeper gorilla
Ever been to Disneyland? You know those giant entry gates into the park where 60,000 people pass through every day? It’s a good metaphor for your web traffic. In a very real sense, it’s possible Google’s Gatekeeper Gorilla hardly lets anyone in to your website (translation: Google doesn’t like your website and it’s ranks on page 50). Or the Gorilla simply smiles and points the way as hordes of potential customers fly through the gates (translation: your site ranks high on page 1 search results and you get lots of clicks to your website).
In Part 1 of our series we’ll introduce search engine optimization in 2014. It’s changed a lot over the years, so whether you last read about SEO in 2001 or are brand new to the subject, this 30,000ft view will be a great place to start. We’re going to cover what you need to know in order to maintain good SEO in Kelowna and throughout Canada.
Sorry, no short cuts
Ranking on Google is both and art and a science. Pie-in-the-sky promises about getting ranked on page 1 in 24 hours should not be believed. Search engine optimization is hard work, and there aren’t any shortcuts.
With all the changes in Google’s ranking algorithms it’s easy to become lost in the noise. It’s hard to know if you’re on Google’s good side or bad side. The rules of the SEO game are constantly changing, even more so in recent months and years than ever before.
In the dark ages of the internet we saw some companies create spammy content and get away with it. It was only a matter of time before they were caught. Over the last 2-4 years, “black-hat” tricksters have been punished by Google and often take years to recover (if they ever do). It’s simply unwise to attempt any tricks. Google is one of the smartest companies in the world, and they’re continually working to make searching a more pleasurable experience for their users.
The last thing you want is to be doing (naively) is something that Google frowns up. It’s crucial that marketing directors have a basic understanding of what ranks favorably in the search engines to ensure you don’t get left out in the cold, and see your rankings slip.
How long will it take to rank well?
Between 2 months and forever. No kidding.
Our web design company in Kelowna has seen our clients go from page 10 to the top of page 1 in as little as 8 weeks. This is fast! If your competitors are not trying hard to rank, you might have an easy time ranking. Usually it takes longer – 4 to 6 months to gain page 1. It all depends on what your competition is doing. Sometimes is takes “forever”. What we mean is when page 1 is achieved for your top keywords and phrases, the SEO work needs to be continued indefinitely to maintain the high positions. This is becoming more and more common. SEO in Kelowna used to be a one-time effort. Put a budget aside of $2000-$5000, work at it for 4 months, and then ride your high rankings for years. With a few exceptions, those days are over. SEO should now be planned as an ongoing project.
Quality content matters—Google is a voracious reader
Having well-developed content will continue to play an ever-increasing role in your Kelowna SEO strategy. From the perspective of the search engines, they’re trying to provide relevant content to their users, the searchers, so by focusing on creating good content on your end you’ll be going in the right direction.
You’ll want to provide relevant content that your customers will love. How-to’s, case studies, commentary on current events, product reviews, top Q&A’s, staff or customer interviews… the list of possible articles is endless. Just make sure you’re publishing frequently enough to stay on the radar. A good place to start is with a weekly blog post. When you think about your weekly blog post try to include subject matter that people are actively searching for. Tip: use Google’s Keyword Planner to find out how many people are searching for various keywords and phrases related to your business.
What about images?
Google relies heavily on HTML tags, folder structure, weblinks, navigation, and web copy to figure out what your website is about. What all of these things have in common is text. They are all plain text. But that doesn’t mean images are worthless. Hardly. People love pictures and even if Google ignored images, they’d still have tremendous value in your web content, because content should always be written for people, with search engines being a secondary “audience”.
Images can be optimized though by using ALT tags (descriptive phrases in the web code) and by captioning the photos. Even using a descriptive file name, for example, “Kelowna-SEO.jpg” is worthwhile vs. “image1.jpg”.
Where to publish?
Publishing everything on your own company site or blog is too narrow. Google needs to validate your expertise. Think of your content as an empire of information, not a single skyscraper. Your publishing calendar should include various different websites, social networks and local/national news media sites.
We will dive deeper into this topic in another post.
Social Media will play a bigger role (including Google+)
Social media has continued to grow in importance over the past few years, and this trend isn’t showing signs of slowing down anytime soon. It began with the rise of Facebook and Twitter and slowly expanded across to platforms such as, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr. These social media networks not only allow you to reach new visitors, but they also enable you to grow your authority in the eyes of Google.
Having strong social signals will go a long way towards building and maintaining your authority. No longer is one network enough. You should spend your time on a number of major networks, especially the ones where your customers are hanging out and leaving reviews!
Google+ is also going to continue to grow their influence and power in increasing your rankings. It’s important to establish Google Authorship in all your content and make sure to connect it with your Google+ profile. It’s nearly certain that Google’s own social media network will continue to grow in prominence with time.
Mobile matters even more in 2014
With over half of North America owning smart phones your website’s optimization for mobile phones matters. If you don’t have a mobile website yet, or a responsive website design, now is the time to make the jump. You can bet that mobile will continue to play a bigger role in the future. Check out these stats:
- 95% of smartphone users have searched for local info
- 61% called a business after searching, while 59% visited in person
- 90% of these actions happened within 24 hours
Source: Google’s Our Mobile Planet
If you’re unsure how to make the mobile jump you can always consult with a web design company in Kelowna.
We hope this article has been helpful and you have a better understanding of how you can thrive with your SEO strategy this year. 2014 can be your best year yet. Focus on sharing quality content, growing your company’s online reputation and you’ll have the 800lb Google Gorilla snuggling like a teddy bear.
It should also be noted that you’ll want to have a website that entices your reader to stay on the page and ultimately take an action – fill in a form, buy something, call you, download a file, follow your social accounts, sign up, etc. This is the conversion part of the process we mentioned earlier. Consider meeting with Kelowna web design company to ensure your web design is operating at its full potential.by James Shaw
James is Creative Director/Partner at Twin Creek Media, and integrated marketing agency in Kelowna, BC, Canada