SEO: What to Really Expect
SEO, I think, is sometimes the hardest technology service to understand. While it seems simple on the surface, in reality, it is a set of strategies that are constantly changing at the whims of search engines. In my opinion, it is often the most over-promised and overpriced service offered. This is not to say that SEO is not of extreme importance, but that I have seen companies that take advantage of users misunderstanding the process to overcharge and make promises that no one can guarantee. Today we will be learning a little more about what the reality is with SEO and what to expect so that you can make an informed decision and not be taken advantage of by SEO companies.
I know you will hate me when I say this, but content is the key to starting the SEO journey. If you don't have useful content for your customers that keeps them coming back, then all the SEO tricks in the world can only improve your rankings so far. Once you have that great starter content, you need to continue producing new content regularly for SEO optimization to truly begin to work its magic.
As you write your new content, I want you to pay close attention to how often you use the keywords you want to rank. There is an art to using keywords: too few, and the search engines won't notice, too many, and these engines slap your hand and lower your rankings. There is no set rule, but a good guideline is to read your content and ask yourself: are the keywords naturally placed? Do you use the same word repeatedly when another word could be used to describe what you are talking about? If it feels natural and normal, then you are likely in the sweet spot.
Now we have the content ready to launch on our site, what's next? Write content for other sites! Not more content??? Yes, it's that ugly word “content” again. You need backlinks! Backlinks are a key feature in showing your reliability and authority on the web. The most productive way to get high-quality backlinks is to be featured on other people's sites. I know what you’re thinking; easier said than done.
You’re right; guest blogging takes time and energy to build relationships with thought leaders in your business community. Don't get overwhelmed; start small, join community groups, and take part in conversations. If there is a blog you really want to be featured in, start following that blog, comment, and get that relationship growing before you make the ask.
Core Web Vitals
Content is just one key feature in improving your rankings. Core web vitals are, you guessed it, vital to ensuring that your page ranks. Core web vitals can be broken down into loading speed, interactivity, visual stability, device friendliness, and safe browsing, making up the page experience.
Let's start with the easiest of these, device friendliness. I am sure that all of you have heard by now that Google has moved to mobile-only indexing, meaning that they will look at the mobile version of your site only to determine rank.
It has been common for sites to have their mobile version less focused on providing content and more concentrated on contact/visiting information. This, however, must be a thing of the past. Mobile is on the rise. As you can see from the report by Hootsuite and We Are Social, Mobile usage is 55.7% of web traffic. If your mobile site is not offering all your content, this content runs a high risk of never being seen.
To see the full report, Digital 2021 Global Overview Report https://www.hootsuite.com/resources/digital-trends
Load time is extremely important to your rankings. As we all know, in today's world, patience is no longer in existence. We expect to have everything the moment we want it, and if we have to wait, we give up and move on to the next company that fulfills our needs and does it quickly. The lower, the better with load times, with 1-2 seconds being good, but anything over 3 seconds can dramatically affect your bounce rate. More bouncing = less revenue!
Interactivity is a prime function of keeping people on your site today. Like patience, attention spans are on the decline. There are a million sources out there that tell you that the human attention span is 8 seconds these days. While there is some debate on the validity of this, as obviously, if you have made it to this point, you have been here longer than 8 seconds. It is fairly safe to say that the more interactive and engaging you can make your website, the more likely people will stick around to find out more about your company. Take the 8 seconds as the rule to capture attention and take steps to make your content as interactive and engaging as possible.
Visual stability is another feature that can affect your rankings. Be aware of how banners, ads, and other images move on your page as you load one page to another. This visual stability is a signal that Google is looking out to ensure a streamlined, user-friendly site.
The last feature of Core web vitals I want to discuss is security. Does your site have an SSL certificate? If not, stop everything that you are doing, and go get one now! Not just for ranking but for customer peace of mind, an SSL certificate is required!
1) Google algorithms prioritize sites with the SSL certificate, meaning without one, you will rank lower and not reach as many customers.
2) Without an SSL certificate, Chrome and Firefox display a not secure warning, limiting the number of people willing to stay on your site.
3) SSL certificates authenticate your websites and limit phishing.
4) SSL certificates encrypt personal data, passwords, addresses, and credit card numbers, protecting your customers.
What Doesn’t Work
Once upon a time, SEO was easy! You could stuff keywords everywhere, even hidden in the white spaces of your site, and buy backlinks, and you would rank in a heartbeat. Nowadays, those same tactics will destroy your rankings.
What else doesn't work, getting everything all set up and then not doing the upkeep. SEO is not a one-time fix; algorithms change, and keyword competitiveness goes up and down as you add new content and new pages to your site. It takes sustained work to grow and maintain your page authority.
Being impatient with SEO does not work! I don't know about you, but it can be depressing to put in a lot of work and not see a return right away, but that is the way of SEO. You should start to see improvement within 4 months, but full results may not be seen until 12 months or more. SEO is a slow game, challenging in today's low patience and 8-second attention span world.
The biggest issue that I have with SEO is the promises that I see companies make. They promise that you will rank in the top three results on Google. “Within one year, you will rank the first page on Google.” “With our tricks, we can rank you in less than 3 months.”
Here is the thing: no company can guarantee anything when it comes to ranking! Honestly, it depends as much on your company and the content you create as it does the SEO company as to how well you rank. SEO is no more than one tool in the tool kit to help you rank.
Content is first, and SEO is second.
A good SEO company will tell you what they see could be affecting your site and how fixing these issues will improve your rankings. From titles to meta tags to site speed, there are many things that a technical SEO company can help you resolve. Fixing these issues will improve your ranking over time.
Be wary of snake oil salesmen! But be just as wary of companies that do not help you achieve improvement.
In reality, you can expect to see a steady improvement that can take 4- 12 months to truly take effect.
If you are not seeing improvement at all, your SEO partners better have a good explanation! But don't expect to wake up one morning, even a year down the road, and see that you are #1 on Google. I mean, it can happen, but it will more likely occur with more targeted keywords and not your most competitive ones.
Things to look for in an SEO Company
When you are looking for a company to assist you with SEO, you want to be sure to find a company that takes an active interest in who your company is and what your goals are. When you are interviewing them, and yes, you should be interviewing the company, the SEO company should be more interested in learning about your company and than in selling you on their service.
SEO is not a one-size-fits-all. Your company's strategy should be designed specifically to your needs with deep insight into your industry, keywords, and website functionality.
Make sure that their proposals offer real insights that you can take action on.
Think of SEO not as a service but as a partnership; with this in mind, you will have no difficulties finding the right company to assist you.
For some advice from Google about what to look for in an SEO company, check out this helpful video
Modern SEO is a multifaceted strategy to improve your search engine rankings through improving user experience. Whether you go it on your own or utilize an SEO service, the key to improvement is to think through your customers' eyes to ensure that your site is geared toward their needs with useful content, speed, and safety in mind.
Here it is! You have been expecting it- the sales pitch. As I am sure you have discovered this blog is created by Lionzone Digital Marketing, which means that we would be more than happy to assist your company with their SEO needs; for more information about our services, please see lionzone.com. My favorite feature of our services, no long-term contracts! If we don't earn your business every day, we don't deserve to keep you!