The ultimate goal of SEO is to show up at the top of a Google search when a user types the phrase or keywords most important to your business, such as “Portland plumber,” “discount software” or “local wineries.”
Play your cards right and that could happen — at least in theory — but competition is making that increasingly difficult. In short, the game of SEO is different than it was even just a few years ago, so it’s important to have reasonable expectations.
It’s definitely worthwhile to do basic SEO whenever you create content. That involves thinking about how people might search for what you provide. Then use likely keywords and phrases in a natural-sounding way as you develop your content, page titles, headers and so on. All these strategies increase your chances of getting good search rankings.
But do you need to do more than that? Maybe not.
After talking about SEO with clients for some time, I’d like to offer a few observations from the real world:
- It’s constantly changing. While experts can make some pretty good guesses, nobody actually knows what the algorithms used by Google and other search engines are looking for. And on average those criteria typically change two or three times every day. So gaming the system to “own” a particular keyword can quickly become a waste of time, money and effort.
- It’s expensive. Competing for popular keywords can get expensive very quickly, especially if you’re in a particularly competitive or highly-saturated industry. (And if you don’t know which keywords might be right for your industry or your audience, you’ve got some homework to do before you’re ready to play the SEO game.)
- It takes time. No matter how well your SEO strategy begins, it won’t have much value unless you’re willing to invest the money and human resources to track and modify your content continuously over time.
- It doesn’t guarantee sales. More web traffic won’t do you any good if you attract the wrong people. Many flawed SEO strategies significantly increase the number of visitors to a site, only to see them leave immediately because they didn’t find what they really wanted.
Don’t let these facts discourage you, because there’s one SEO strategy that still works consistently for any size organization.
Just write good stuff
Click on any reputable guide to SEO and you’ll see the same advice: write good, solid content that people want to read — and do it on a regular basis. Start a blog, publish white papers, or write online articles. There are only two rules:
- Write content your prospects and customers are interested in, and
- Publish regularly — at least once a month.
No major search engine will penalize you for using these strategies. Relevant content not only generates the type of traffic that search engines want to promote, it encourages referrals to other good prospects. Publishing regularly encourages more frequent visits from the software that generates search engine rankings, and the humans you’re trying to attract in the first place.
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