Search Engine Optimization is snake oil

Today we’re talking about search engine optimization. Do not be confused, good SEO is snake oil. That said, analytics, and data driven search engine optimization is like driving into the open road with a map in your glovebox. If you lose your cell phone, and get lost, at-least you can find your way back home.

I’m not going to talk about the pragmatics of search engine optimization. There are developer rules to follow, but honestly, most of the publishing platforms have pretty good support either out of the box, or with a ubiquitous plugin, such as Yoast. What I am going to talk about is the curatorial presence of running a good SEO campaign.

Good SEO is driven by analytics. Having lots of clicks, or better yet – meaningful clicks and context are how you gain traction. Landing pages are one strategy I’ve seen the trade-off between efficiency, and time on site. Having a index page, like a blog index, or a page catalog is a good piece of content to add to your site, allowing people to find what they’re looking for. Once you have the landing page in place, don’t forget the narrative presence on the page. Your SEO campaign needs keyword content. It may seem counterintuitive, but adding a CTA or a brief hero piece of content can do a lot for the information architecture of a site.

I’ve you’ve worked with me, you will hear me say this – every keyword strategy needs its own landing page. Drill this concept into your mind and your process. Having at-least 1000 words for every keyword / search result you want to target is the minimum you need to be competitive.

Down the path less traveled, you’re going to want to be targeting location based results, or rich snippets. THESE CAN BE TARGETED SEPARATE FROM KEYWORD STRATEGY. Meaning, you can rank on page one, because of a schema or a rich snippet.

Evaluating your results is partially how you survey your business. Think about SEO like a narrative mind map. When you look at the search results, your pages and pages of data, your data should give you an idea of what people are interested in. If you’re not getting the traffic deep into the nooks and crannies of your site, you’re either not making that information available to your users, or it’s not interesting (to your users). Both of these issues can be addressed with narrative content. Websites don’t need to fall at opposite ends of the narrative spectrum. They don’t need to be darwinian novels of your business, and they don’t need to be literary card catalogs. The golden ratio is somewhere in between. As you weave these two narrative extremes into an “entertaining” experience. When you address the entertainment factor, you don’t need fancy heat maps, or complex analytics, you need data on what pages are being viewed, when they’re being viewed, and the narrative path of travel. The last metric will help you address navigational challenges. If you want a page to get more traffic, it needs to be more visible.

That said, visibility on a site is really a usability issue in present day SEO. While search engine optimization is the scope of this conversation, it should be addressed that evaluating visibility, design, and speed of your site is part of the experience which Google addresses when it scrapes your site. If you’re site is visually complicated, not conducive to screen readers, or the type is too small, etc – Google, and other smart search engines, are going to disregard your site. Your site, your experience, needs to be lean and fast. If you’re using video, and you should be, serve it from a CDN, Youtube, or Vimeo. These usability issues should be considered site wide. Your site should be able to scale it’s server performance at least four time it’s peak hours. You site should run fast, and the content should be visually elegant.

Lastly, CTA, or call to actions, these should be you’re special teams play. Adding social media CTA, or CTA to related content can engrain your content with context. Make sure your schemify this content whenever possible. This should be straightforward at this point, but in practice, efficient CTAs can be the most challenging opportunities to capitalize on. Review the schema and rich snippet docs regularly, or during strategy meetings. Address your goals, and pair them up for developers to tackle.