SEO can be confusing. With dozens of acronyms, technical jargon, tools, programs, statistics, techniques, and all the talk about pandas and penguins, it’s pretty intimidating. Let alone the fact that SEO is a field that is in constant flux! In spite of the confusion, there’s a simple way to think about SEO campaigns today and beyond: as a set of three core elements which support each other to support an SEO campaign. Let’s take a look at each of these elements, as well as how to implement each of them to increase traffic, conversions, and ROI.
What are the three core elements?
Discussed in detail below, but provided here in survey form, the three core elements are as follows:
- Content – Create and Publish Great Content
- Inbound Links – Gain High-Quality Links
- Social Media – Be Active and Engage on Social Networks
I call these the three core elements because they are necessary for any modern SEO campaign to succeed. Without each of these three core elements, your SEO campaign won’t be properly supported and will likely fail. Before launching into an explanation of the three core elements, there are a few things to understand about how they work together.
- You must have all three core elements in order to have a successful SEO initiative. When performing SEO triage, you can’t simply decide to leave off one or more of these elements. Good SEO means being diligent in each of the three areas.
- Each core element strengthens the others. When you build each of the SEO core elements in the right way, you are actively strengthening and supporting all of them. These SEO practices possess synergy. For example, when you create outstanding onsite content, you render it more likely that you’ll gain inbound links. More links usually mean additional social shares, which translates into more and stronger social signals. All three components are in play, and each is working to enhance the other two.
- There are no shortcuts. You may finish reading this article with a sense of fatigue. Admittedly, doing SEO the right way is a ton of work. The hard-to-swallow truth of the matter is that you can’t take any shortcuts. Thankfully, you don’t have to do it all yourself. You can hire an in-house SEO specialist if your company is capable of it. Alternatively, you can contract an SEO firm to cover your needs.
Core Element #1: Content – Create and Publish Great Content
The first core element comes first logically, because it involves your own website — the hub where everything happens. This element can also be called “onsite SEO” to distinguish from SEO practices that happen off your site, such as external content that garners inbound links (such as guest blog posts) and social media involvement. Here are the essentials:
- Site Design. Good SEO can’t exist on a shoddy website. The design must be clean, simple, and intuitive.
- User Experience. Hand-in-hand with a great site design is user experience or UI. Keep your user in mind with every action that you take on your website. If your site fails your user, you’ve failed with SEO. The whole point of SEO is to give the user what he or she is searching for. What’s more, if someone clicks through to your site and sees a load of ugliness, they’ll quickly close your website. This action is called a bounce. The search engines record every bounce, and a higher bounce rate can lead to decreased rankings.
- Keyword Research. Many people are familiar with keyword research, or at least the idea of keywords. Keywords have been one of the few unchanging aspects of SEO. A site must regularly use, but not overuse, certain keywords that users are searching for. Be sure to use plenty of longtail keywords, those search strings that consist of three words or more. Additionally, you must never commit the cardinal SEO sin — keyword stuffing. Worrying about saturation rates and keyword frequency is a thing of the past. Use the keywords, yes, but don’t overuse them.
- Content Optimization. Every website has content that only crawlers and browsers see. This is called the meta content, and it’s crucial for SEO. Even URLs are part of your content. Make sure you’re using best SEO practices in the following places:
- Meta titles
- Meta Description
- Meta Keywords
- High-quality and frequently updated blog. Although you may have a spiffed-up website with all the right SEO meta data in place, you’re not done with SEO. A blog is a powerful weapon in the SEO arsenal. Without it, your SEO initiative will be severely hindered. Great content engages users; don’t neglect blogging. There are two important laws of blogs:
- Update it frequently. The more frequently a blog is updated, the better it registers with the search engines. Keep your blog fresh.
- Publish great content. A blog is only as good as the content on it. To put it bluntly, people don’t want to read crap. If you can’t write, hire someone who can. Content has to be so good that people are compelled to both read it and share it.
Core Element #2: Inbound Links – Gain High-Quality Links
How do search engines decide to bring your website up to the top of the search results? Top-notch onsite SEO is only the beginning. Search engines recognize that your site is important based on who is linking to it.
Take this example. Let’s say you’re a yoga instructor. You have a website, and you start publishing some sweet articles about yoga. Somehow, Whole Living picks up on your content and asks you to do a guest post on yoga. You write a piece for Whole Living, and link back to your website.
Whole Living has a domain authority of 80, which is way higher than your site. Bingo. As soon as they link to you, your website gains credibility and authority. Then, you interview a health instructor in a local private college and post the interview on your website. The yoga instructor, in turn, writes about the interview on her college blog and links to your site. Boom. You just got a link from an .edu website.
Because you’re now a recognized authority on yoga, you publish an article in Lifehacker about the positive impact of yoga on work productivity. This article, of course, links back to your website. Another power move.
All of these links to your site are driving up your authority. Your site has proven to the search engines its authority and recognition. Your rankings go up.
No site will succeed in SEO unless other sites are linking to it. It’s just that simple.
Here are the best ways to gain quality backlinks:
- Guest blogging. Far and away, your best option for backlinks is guest blogging. Look for high-quality sites that allow you to submit your content including a link back to your site.
- Press Releases. Creating a press release is a relatively simple way to create a link that possesses authority. The process is as simple as developing a well-written piece on something eventful in your company and submitting it to a press release distribution company such as PRWeb. The service comes at a cost, but it is well worth it.
- Publish amazing content. All of the best websites have one thing in common: They have rockstar content. Your site will succeed if you consistently publish outstanding material.
- Get listed in local or industry directories and professional organizations. If your site isn’t yet listed in business directories, you may want to give it a try. Links from any reputable source will help to improve your site’s rankings. Yext.com offers a fantastic service for building links from major local directories.
Links are crucial. Ensure you have a solid strategy in place for building links.
Core Element #3: Social Media – Be Active and Engage on Social Networks
More than ever before, social media is an integral part of SEO. Search engines can quantify the amount of social clout that your site possesses. Merely getting a few dozen tweets can ramp up a page’s authority, and therefore its rankings, resulting in more traffic to it. The increasing market share of Google+ is a major factor in social ranking, including the power of Google authorship. Social signals matter for SEO.
Keep these two points in mind.
- It’s not enough to be present on social media. You must be active. If you want to succeed in the social arena, you need to monitor your social networks with vigilance. Twitter is a de facto complaint hotline in the minds of some users. Facebook serves as a place where customers ask questions. Neglecting these channels is like failing to respond to an important email from a customer.
- Find the social niches that are right for your business. It’s obvious that you should be on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. But these four sites are but a fraction of the social sites available to you. There are other social sites which serve niches of targeted customers. Find what niche sites best match your company profile, and jump in.
The power of social for SEO can be subtle, but is nonetheless important. Provide sharing opportunities on every piece of content that you publish. The greater the social signals, the better your SEO.
This is the state of SEO in 2013. SEO success is possible, but not without each of these core elements present and properly being engaged. It’s no longer easy to game the system and jump up the search engine rankings in Google with a few slick tricks. You’ve got your work cut out for you.
But you do have a game plan — understand and design your strategy around the three core elements of SEO. As long as you 1) ensure that your onsite SEO is rolling smoothly, 2) you possess a robust and effective link building strategy, and 3) you’re staying active and engaging within social media channels, you’re going to succeed.