Search engine optimization is a bear of a topic. Many of us feel like we're staring down a ferocious animal as we try to wrap our heads around SEO optimization of our online copy. It can seem like a daunting task, even when we hire a professional. Today, our goal is to turn that ferocious bear into a teddy bear by the time you finish reading this post. Are you up for the transformation?
SEO Updates: Pandas and Penguins and Hummingbirds, Oh My!
Writing for the web has been said to be a beast of a task. Unlike traditional copy where you wrote for the audience, online copy demands that you write for the search engines too. Google, the king of search engine beasts, makes no secret of their requirements for proper SEO optimization. The guide they provide is great, but suddenly we find ourselves being hit by various creatures. In 2013, we had a panda, a penguin and a hummingbird thrown at us! Since when is throwing untamed wildlife at us okay?
Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird were all updates to SEO. With each one, the focus of optimization and rankings changed. At times, it felt like we were being attacked by wild animals. Now that the dust has settled (and the wildlife seems to be caged, at least for now), the ferocious SEO bear really does look a bit more like a cuddly teddy bear.
The Truth about Keywords
In all the wildlife excitement, someone had the courage to start a vicious little rumor that the days of keyword optimizing were going, going, gone. Based on Google's SEO updates, we respectfully disagree. It is undeniable that how we use keywords has changed, but we have by no means been discouraged from using them altogether. As a result, you still need to tackle keyword research and keyword usage when optimizing online copy.
Keyword research is a frightening topic. "Research" isn't a word most of us appreciate. It brings to mind painful classes and scary essays. What exactly is keyword research? Well, it boils down to discovering which words or phrases your target audience will use when conducting an Internet search. We published an informative blog about keyword research that can open your horizons to this concept in more depth, back in December.
You'll want to pinpoint the top 1 to 3 keywords for your target audience. These words should be inserted into the following places:
- The title tag
- The #h1 headline
- Image alt tags
- The body of the text (usually in the first and last paragraphs)
SearchEngineLand published a fantastic article about optimizing a single page of content with multiple keywords. If you need (or want) detailed information about where and how to place your keywords and phrases, it's a great additional resource.
Keyword usage in copy is a whole new ball game these days. In the past, Google's search algorithms weren't synonym smart. As a result, we had to use specific keywords and keyword phrases. It wasn't uncommon to read copy that made both the writer and editor cringe. Proper grammar? Forget it. Semi-proper grammar? Maybe. Keyword phrases were often out of order or senseless because they had to cater to the search engine.
Thankfully, search engines are smarter today. Not only can they handle synonyms, but they can also adapt to variations! Instead of having to insert "sandwich peanut butter" into a sentence and cringe, we can now write "peanut butter sandwich" and the search engine will still grab this key if someone types "sandwich peanut butter" into a search query.
Keywords and phrases still need to be researched and used, but they don't have to be used at the expense of quality content. The general rule is that a piece of content should have a keyword density of approximately 1 to 2 percent. However, the flow and quality of the copy should take priority because, as CopyBlogger points out when writing about SEO copywriting, "Google treats the truth and authority of your domain, what others think about your content and the words they use to describe it, as an important indication of quality and relevance."
The Importance of Relevance and Authority
The primary way websites are ranked today is through a combination of relevancy and authority. In essence, search engines want to see relevant content conveyed by a credible or authoritative entity. They have numerous algorithms designed to determine relevancy and authority; geo-location, search history, Query Deserves Diversity and Query Deserves Freshness, just to name a few.
Domain authority is growing more and more relevant to SEO. At first, wrapping your head around it can be a terrifying prospect. I'll be honest: the first time I read about domain authority, I felt like I was sitting at a tech conference. I thought, "My god, I'm in way over my head." The SEO bear was growling at me, and I could have sworn he was about to swipe. Then, I started to find resources that helped me make sense of the tech jargon.
Moz published a great article about domain authority. Personally, I had to read it a couple of times to grasp it all. Don't feel bad if you have trouble understanding domain authority at first. The learning curve isn't as steep as it appears, and it really is natural to feel a little lost. Here's what you need to know about domain authority in laymen terms:
- Domain authority, or DA, is very difficult to directly influence.
- A DA rating represents how a website performs in search engine rankings.
- One way to begin increasing your DA is through SEO linking, but don't expect immediate or noticeable results.
- The only sure way to influence your DA is to spend time improving your overall SEO.
The Trick to Improving Your Overall SEO
The ultimate trick, the perfect key, the guarded secret...it all comes down to one primary thing: quality content. SEO is literally all about creating content that is so compelling, so relevant, so current, and so knock-your-socks-off awesome that people want to promote it. They want their friend to read it. Their friend reads it, and they want their friends to read it. Before you know it, your content has gone viral.
Social Media SEO
One aspect of search engine optimization that seems to fall by the wayside is social media. Since the trick to improving your SEO is quality content that goes viral, it stands to reason that a rather sizable part of increasing your optimization is through optimizing your social media channels. Let's discuss 5 things you can do to optimize your social media regardless of the platform-Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.:
- Include keywords. There are those pesky keywords again. Solid keyword research will most definitely pay off! Search engines take cues from social media. By including your keywords in your social media updates, you'll increase your SEO. The more consistently you do this, the easier it will become for people to find you and your content. Don't forget to use hashtags on platforms that support them, like Twitter and Google+.
- Be engaging. The biggest mistake made by businesses today is neglecting to be social on social media. Yes, social platforms are ideal for promoting your content and offers, but you must take time to make posts that are purely engaging. In other words, ask questions, get people talking, respond to them, and then stay involved in the unfolding discussion.
- Be sure to include lead generation content. It's important to do more than promote your website, product, or service. You need to step into the new, leading generation of content. Season your activity with content about offers, downloadable content, and webinars.
- Post frequently. Regularity is vital. You need to engage fans and followers with fresh material regularly; otherwise, they won't have any reason to give you their attention. Each platform has its own "shelf life." For example, tweets don't stay up long because of Twitter's dense activity. So, you'll tweet more often than you'll Facebook.
- Incorporate value. It's easy to start blasting out social network notifications, but you'll look like a spammer if they don't carry some value. Every update you send out should bring value to the audience. Don't waste their time. They'll leave you for someone else! Make it a point to share information that educates, engages, informs, and interests.
Aside from these best practices, you can go even further and optimize per social media platform. If you're interested in learning the ins and outs to each platform, take a gander at The Ultimate Guide to Optimized Social Media Updates from HubSpot.
Linking can be a burly SEO topic because of the consequences if you do it wrong. Improper linking can land you in trouble with Google. Therefore, learning how to build SEO links properly is important.
In essence, links are like streets that connect pages. Search engines send out their creepy crawlies that crawl the web, and they transverse these streets. SEO link building is a bit of an art. While challenging, it is essential. 4 link building strategies to use include:
- Build a blog that is a resource. Blogs are an excellent platform for creating optimized content and building links. In fact, Google's own engineers actually recommend blogging as a SEO link building strategy. Use your blog to consistently publish fresh, informative and relevant material that is both entertaining and educational. Build links to your posts via social media channels. Start and participate in conversations, and you'll soon earn listings and links from fellow blogs.
- Be newsworthy. If you can be and stay newsworthy, you'll earn the attention of bloggers, press and news media. This is a sure way to earn links. Staying newsworthy can be as simple as offering free giveaways, releasing new product, or starting a conversation.
- Be inspirational. People love things that inspire. If you can insight an emotional reaction, you'll like have content other want to share. The SEO world calls this "linkbait." Leverage the combination of usefulness, value, and emotional reaction to create a response. Users who see the content will likely share and link to it. These types of earned reputation are invaluable to establishing credibility, authority and ranking potential.
- Get your customers to link right to you. If you have partners or loyal customers/followers who love your product, service or brand, you can send out partnership badges. These badges are icons that link back to your website. This is a simple, yet respectable means of building SEO links.
Ferocious Bear vs. Teddy Bear
Search engine optimization appears, at first, to be a bear of a topic. In all honestly, it's the technical aspect to it that scares most of us away. As you can see, SEO isn't all about in-depth technical knowledge. The ferocious SEO bear is really more of a teddy bear, once you get to know him. He has a marked appreciation for quality copywriting, he isn't strict about keyword etiquette and he's surprisingly social.
Optimizing your online copywriting can be an enjoyable task, especially when you take into consideration the avenue of social media. You have the opportunity to build your rankings just by reaching out to other people. We all love to stand around the water cooler at the office and chat. We like the interaction, and-let's be truthful-we'd rather carry on a conversation than work. Social media hands you the opportunity to carry on a conversation around the social water cooler, and the best part is: you're doing the optimization work while you chat!
So, now that you see how simple search engine optimization can be across the broad board of copywriting, do you see more of a teddy bear versus a ferocious beast? Hopefully, your answer is yes. Now that 2014 is upon us, we can gear up for a great year of SEO and copywriting. This time next year we can swap stories about the indigenous wildlife Google threw at us and how we survived (and learned) the latest evolution of search engine optimization.
(SEO / shutterstock)