So here’s the thing. Google really wants to read your mind. With just a few innocuous, seemingly unrelated words, Google is desperate to provide people with exactly the web content they are looking for. Fast. Like, instantaneously. It’s not perfect, not yet. But it’s good. Scary good.
I don’t even try to remember the name of the store or restaurant I’m looking for. I know I can type “Palmyra pizza delivery” and, within seconds, my go-to joints show up. Just like that. I start my travel planning these days at Google with a search phrase like “Harrisburg to St. Louis.” And just like that, I see flights, sorted by price, connections, duration, you name it. There’s even a “hint” that suggests changes to my search that might produce cheaper fares!
That, my friends, is the power of Search Engine Optimization.
Google’s algorithm is literal magic in its ability to connect searchers with the information they want. But I need you to understand something. The real magic doesn’t happen at the Google level. No, the real magic starts with your company’s website.
Let me back up a bit and try to put this whole SEO thing into perspective.
Google is in the business of making introductions. And Google is ONLY successful when it successfully completes an introduction. But – and here’s the part too many folks miss – the process does NOT begin when someone types a query into their search bar. (That really would be magic.) No, the process begins with you deciding who you’d like to see visiting your company’s website.
Who are your customers? Who are your prospects? How can you help them? What problem can your company solve? How can you educate people on your product or service?
You can’t optimize your website if you can’t answer these basic questions.
Next, you need to think about those very same questions – but from your prospects’ point of view. I’ll never forget the international electronics company whose website traffic tanked spectacularly, despite offering a wide variety of wristwatches, cameras, even calculators. Turns out, people in the market for a new watch weren’t searching for “chronograph,” and folks looking for new camera equipment were not asking Google to find for them “visual information devices.”
Don’t get caught up in industry jargon, insider slang or company nomenclature. Whatever your service or product may be, describe it the way your customer would – because that’s how your customer is going to search for it.
Finally, remember that solid SEO goes way beyond keywords. Take my example of “Palmyra pizza delivery.” Pretty obvious search query for someone who lives in Palmyra and would really like somebody to bring him a pizza, right? So wouldn’t Pizza Hut, Dominos and everyone else all expect that search query to work for them? Based on three words (and some back-end geo-targeting), how in the world does Google narrow down the possibilities and decide who, exactly, I am looking for?
Short answer: it doesn’t.
Highly effective SEO starts and ends with well-written CONTENT that puts your KEYWORDS in appropriate CONTEXT. Let me show you what I mean. Read these two paragraphs, taken from two pizza delivery restaurants. See if you can guess which one has the better SEO.
A – Each item on our menu is inspired by recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. We take pride in offering our guests a true taste of Italian flavors. We use high-quality ingredients when crafting our cuisine. Our menu contains items that are sure to please any diner. We offer a wide range of classic pizzas, flavorful sub sandwiches and authentic main courses with tastes steeped in Italian culinary traditions.
B – Get It Delivered. Yes, We Deliver. Find Out Where. House made dough rolled thin, baked crisp and golden. A nicely herbed, zesty tomato sauce spread in perfect proportions. Available for Dine in, Delivery or Take out. Order online for takeout or delivery.
If you chose A, I can certainly see why. It’s well-written and very descriptive. Just reading that copy makes me hungry for their pizza. Unfortunately, the keyword “delivery” doesn’t appear in the content (in this example, or anywhere else on the website’s home page)! It doesn’t matter how hungry this copy makes me, because if I am not a regular customer (i.e. someone who isn’t going to search for them online anyway), I will never see that content.
B, on the other hand, manages to offer descriptive copy AND squeeze in appropriate keywords. Contextually, this is content that Google rates well, making this particular pizzeria one that ought to show up well-placed in Google’s search results.
SEO is easy to understand, but very difficult to master. Google is constantly updating its algorithms, and savvy programmers are constantly inventing new ways to automate the whole process. But the underlying tenets I’ve described here are the core of WHY Google constantly changes its algorithm, and why programmers come up with new automation routines. It is ALL in service to helping your customers find you.