Don’t Strike Out with SEO

Shaun Scheepers, a Digital Specialist at MediaCom South Africa
Shaun Scheepers, a Digital Specialist at MediaCom South Africa
Shaun Scheepers, a Digital Specialist at MediaCom South Africa

One peaceful night in Iowa, farmer Ray was walking through his cornfields. Suddenly, he hears a mysterious voice saying, “If you build it, they will come…”. Despite being taunted and teased, Ray decides to heed the voice’s advice and builds a baseball diamond on his land.

For those of you who are Kevin Costner fans would know this iconic instruction is from the movie, Field of Dreams. Unfortunately, many of us are living in a field of dreams when it comes to SEO. Embracing a “Build it and they will come” mentality with online content, such as websites and blogs, will very likely rather lead to an SEO nightmare.

The reality is that the momentum needs to be kept going once the website is live, and the hard work and dedication need to remain consistent long after the website is up and running.

Covering all bases
According to NetMarketShare, Google accounted for over 94% of all mobile/tablet search traffic globally in 2016, followed by Yahoo at 3% and Bing at 1%.

Why then wouldn’t you want to make Google your proverbial friend? Statistics like these just highlight the value of a website and how it can enable your potential customers to learn more about your business, engage with your brand, and ultimately convert to a customer. Logically, this won’t be possible if no one can find your website to begin with.

A whole new ball game
If Ray (Kevin Costner) was living in today’s digital era, he would have probably started by ‘googling’ phrases like “building a baseball diamond” or “cheap construction supplies”. The first results – and therefore probably the most relevant results – that appeared on his search engine would be because of the amazing (and often misunderstood) thing, called SEO.

There are many misconceptions regarding SEO. Many marketers think that SEO falls somewhere between title tags and meta descriptions, although it is much more than that. It is a system of strategies, techniques, and tactics that are working together to increase the visitors to your website by placing your website front and centre on the search engine results page (SERP).

Search is playing in the major leagues
The reason why SEO is so important to a business is that living in the era of instant information we’ve become so accustomed to having information at our fingertips, and the very tool that facilitates, this is search engines. No matter the question, we search. The amount of information that is available has changed the way we live. In his book, K. Hillis states the following: “The rise of Google as the dominant Internet search provider reflects a generationally-inflected notion that everything that matters is now on the Web, and should, in the moral sense of the verb, be accessible through search.”

It’s this ‘if it isn’t on Google, it doesn’t exist’ mind-set that makes search and optimising your website so important for business, and not having an online presence when your customers are searching for products and services is no longer an option.

Hitting a home-run with SEO
There are three key areas that need to be looked at to truly get into the swing of SEO:
Content, technical, and PR.

Content: Get it right, right off the bat
According to Andrey Lipattsev, who is a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, high-quality content and link building are the two most important signals used by Google to rank your website for search. (Source: Search Engine Watch, 2016). Hearing it from the horse’s mouth should definitely be a reason to take notice of why content is very important. It might be a cliché, but content remains king.

The entire web is a content-based platform, so your customers are consumers of this content. The higher quality content you’re able to deliver, the better your website will perform in many different areas, including SEO. However, we need to move past things such as ‘keyword stuffing’ and writing for search engines only. At the end of the day, it is crucial to remember that people are our customers, not search engines.

Technical: The heavy hitter
Although search engines and the algorithms accompanying them are becoming more complicated, we need to remember that they rely heavily on software programs that help to decide whether your website will rank on the results page. This means that even though content is extremely important, any technical issues that could hinder your appearance on the search results need to be addressed immediately. Ensure that all technicalities are addressed and sorted out.

PR: Fielding questions
Online PR should be a team effort and should be helped along with other marketing channels, such as your social- and paid media. Social media can also lend credibility to your offerings or inspire potential customers to find out more about your offerings, therefore working hand-in-hand with SEO and your website. If your customers see you on social media, it might lead them to search for your brand using Google, with them then either finding a blog or article by a third party that leads them to your website. This is why the active promotion of your website becomes critical in this process.

As we can see, SEO might be a complicated world to understand, but it has become part of our daily lives and influences us more than we like to admit. Getting your business out there and paying attention to SEO might just be the best decision you have ever made.

by Shaun Scheepers, a Digital Specialist at MediaCom South Africa