Winning The Google SERPS Lottery
No doubt you’ve heard of Black Hat SEO versus White Hat SEO, but what about Old Hat SEO?
Old Hat SEO is what I call SEO that’s still overly focused on ranking for specific keywords. Fact is it’s actually quite possible to rank high on Google and still not get any quality traffic.
Every single company out there wants to be “number one on Google” and, let’s be honest, vanity is often a factor in this. But unless your company is an established multinational with a blue-chip marketing budget you’ll find this next to impossible for single keywords or short-tail search terms like “electronics”, “real estate”, “hotels” or “insurance”.
In terms of sheer numerical competition the odds are highly stacked against you – generally around ten times the odds of winning the EuroMillions jackpot. And that’s assuming a level playing field, which search engine marketing certainly isn’t.
Do you have the monetary clout to beat the likes of Amazon or eBay in a PPC bidding war? Unlikely. The organic landscape often looks equally unassailable, with large multinationals taking the podium alongside Wikipedia entries and other authoritative sources. No matter how much blood, sweat and tears you put into your organic search marketing, it’s fair to say your company won’t be unseating them any time soon.
But do you actually want or need to?
The Secret To New Skool SEO – Anticipating User Intent
The results that Google show appear for one simple reason. It’s the reason why nobody has been able to beat Google in the search game because, when it comes to guessing what users want, nobody else comes close.
Google gives its users exactly the results it knows they want for any given search term. The very existence of the company is dependent on this. Which is why clever SEOs are more focused on user intent, by improving the relevance and presentation of their web content, than they are with their position for specific keywords.
The real challenge is to align your business with the needs of your potential clients and then do whatever it takes to position Google as your middleman.
Simply viewing Google as a mass traffic source is Old Hat SEO. Instead you should think of it more like your matchmaker – pairing you up with potential clients who are most likely to convert.
Which would you rather have; thousands of visits a day from people who immediately bounce, or fifty finely targeted visits that result in lucrative conversions?
The former gives you nothing; the latter gives you immediate results that pay off straight away which you can then scale up in the medium and long term.
So instead of chasing rankings and obsessing about short tail keywords what you really want to do is ask yourself, “What are my clients really looking for?”
Then let the answer to this be the nucleus of your search, social and content marketing initiatives.
Make Your Content Relevant
What kind of information are your customers looking for? What questions are they asking? If you’re not sure then it’s high time you started investigating. Your Analytics and Webmaster Tools data should be the first place to look – chances are you already have a goldmine of such search terms in there already.
Next look for autosuggest terms by using tools such as Ubersuggest to find popular long-tail search terms which can form the basis of articles or blog posts.
Finally use the Google Keyword Planner and similar tools to get a rough indication of the level of competition and traffic estimations for these search terms to maximise both the relevance and quantity of traffic to your site.
Keep in mind, however, that exact match phrases no longer matter, especially where Google is concerned. So don’t be afraid to try out synonyms. Also, you should avoid superlatives, such as “biggest” and “best” – from both a user perspective and for search engines, such phrases are best avoided.
Finally, be careful with the use of the prefix “free”. Sure this can get you lots of traffic, but if what you’re offering isn’t strictly free then your bounce rates will be astronomical. A high CTR paired with high bounces is certainly not the type of signal you want to be sending to Google. So, once again, you need to approach this with a New Skool “user first” mindset. If your users love your content then Google will love it too.
Make Your Content Useful
Time and time again I see puff pieces written by marketers who feel that all their customers want to read are self-congratulatory press releases. You’ve come across this type of content time and time again, “Bloggs Co. Reports Record Earnings” or “BlahtechTo Attend London Widgets Trade Fair”.
Content like this never achieves much, however. So instead you need to put vanity aside and ask yourself these five questions:
1. Why will my customers care about this content?
2. Why will my customers share this content?
3. Will this content result in any sales or conversions?
4. Is this content unique?
5. Does this content position my brand as an authority?
If the content you’re planning doesn’t tick at least one of these boxes then scrap it and start again, because otherwise you’re wasting your time.
Make Your Content Sharable
When it comes to making your content sharable you can go the easy route – the clickbait route e.g. “Top Ten Reasons You Should Be Doing…” This type of content might get shares, sure, but it’s here-today-gone-tomorrow fodder that rarely adds value and almost never converts.
So instead you should aim to create content with lasting value, the type of content that people will feel compelled to share because it:
1. Makes them look good (“look how smart/cool I am for finding this!”)
2. Helps them and/or lets them help someone else (“hey I found a solution/answer for you!”)
3. Provides a simple yet detailed solution or definitive guide to something that people often struggle with.
4. Provides useful facts and/or statistics (based on solid research) about a specific product or industry that both your customers and search engines will find valuable.
5. Is timely and/or related to a popular or trending topic that people are currently interested in.
Once again, if your content doesn’t content tick one or more of these boxes then you should scrap it and start again.
You can spend a lot of time, money and resources trying to clash with the Titans and at best achieve only a Pyrrhic victory marked by junk traffic and low conversions. Or you can outmanoeuvre them by working smarter, while forcing your competitors to work harder and harder.
By focussing on your users first, and discounting old hat SEO considerations like keywords and rankings, you make search engines and social media sites work for you and not the other way round. Not only is this strategy a lot easier in both the short and long term, it’s also far more effective in ensuring you get a constant stream of relevant, high converting traffic. Or, as we like to call it, winning the Google jackpot.