Within web design and Internet marketing circles, you’ll often find two predominant points of view when it comes to search engine optimization.
The first says that attracting visitors from Google is largely a matter of optimizing your on-page elements following strict technical criteria, and then building a big profile of inbound links from reputable online neighbors. The second states that more and more searches revolve around a long tail of keywords and terms these days, and so the only way to get ahead is by having lots of content. Proponents of this view essentially feel as if technical SEO details don’t matter much at all.
Which group is right? Is it important that you have someone dig into the HTML of your website and format content in a precise way, or should you be devoting your attention to filling more pages and blog posts?
To find the answers we’re looking for, there are a few things to consider…
Marketers Often Look at the Wrong SEO Details
We frequently run into business owners who know enough about search engine optimization to be dangerous. They are familiar with H1 tags, internal links, meta descriptions, and other relatively-minor webpage details. At the same time, they may be unfamiliar or unconcerned with the importance of high-speed web hosting, SSL connections, mobile compatibility, or original content.
The point to be made here is that the details a lot of marketers obsess over aren’t necessarily the ones that make the biggest difference when it comes to figuring out how prominently they’ll figure into Google search results. Having half the picture isn’t a whole lot better than having none of it, so it’s important to have a grasp of the way Google and the other search engines work in a big picture sense. Otherwise, you could miss the forest for the trees and hurt your business as a result.
Content Relevance and Originality Drive Search Visibility
When you’re looking at search engine optimization from the top down, the content on your website is going to be the biggest determinant of who can and can’t find your pages. Specifically, you need to have content that’s original (meaning there aren’t copies of it to be found elsewhere on the web) and that is relevant to your topic or industry. If you have hundreds of different articles but they aren’t clustered around the same themes, then search engines are largely going to ignore you.
This may not be new information to you, but we reiterate here because no amount of tweaking, coding, or altering of your pages can replace the value of content. No matter how your content is formatted and tagged, if it doesn’t offer an original point of view to a defined audience, it’s probably not going to help you very much with search engine optimization.
That’s partly because Google’s algorithms reward unique content, but it’s also because focused messaging is important to actual searchers themselves. If your site doesn’t read as if it were written specifically for them, they’re going to take their attention and money elsewhere. So, when thinking about search engine optimization improvement, prioritize the strength of your content first.
Google is Getting Away From Strict Search Algorithms
Another reason not to go too far with on-page optimization is that it’s becoming less and less effective. While Google used to adhere more strictly to its proprietary search algorithms when determining results, new factors are realigning search parameters in a big way. Mobile computing, local customer preferences, and intelligent supercomputers that “learn” search queries are all breaking the traditional “keywords and links” model that dominated SEO for so long.
The result is a system that’s smarter, more intuitive, and more helpful for search users… but one that makes it difficult for marketers to pin down exactly what search engines want. In fact, you could say that Google rewards websites with lots of content, but doesn’t have a lot of fixed preferences that go much farther in this day and age. Instead, it tries to learn what humans think are good search results and prioritize those over time.
Usually, websites with lots of SEO work are the ones that offer the worst user experience and feel unnatural to live searchers. That’s exactly what you aren’t going for in today’s competitive search market. The moral of the story here is to not overdo it.
Search Optimization Details do Make a Difference
If it seems like we are telling you that the technical details of search engine optimization don’t matter, that’s not the message that needs to come through. Instead, it’s that marking up your pages and blog posts should be a secondary concern.
When you have lots of different competitors trying to attract the same group of buyers, things like exact keyword matching and anchor linking strategies start to factor into the mix. The problem comes when you pay more attention to these details than you do core strategies. The main goal should be to attract the right buyers to your site using informative content. Only then should you worry about the way it’s formatted and put together for the benefit of search engine spiders.
At the end of the day, executing a successful search engine optimization campaign is all about balancing a number of different details and ambitions. The technical on-page HTML elements of your site do matter to Google’s spiders. However, they aren’t all-important, especially at a time when user engagement, artificial intelligence, and local search factors are all weighing in on the results the user sees displayed on their screen.
If you want to take your online marketing plans to the next level, your best move is to generate lots and lots of insightful content, and then have an expert SEO team optimize it or show you how to handle those tasks yourself. That might not be a convenient answer, but it is a truthful one – without both pieces of the puzzle, you’re never going to get as much search traffic as you should.