There are two sides to SEO (search engine optimisation).
The first is highly-complex, sprawling, and almost incomprehensible. A ball of algorithms, which change daily, and are guarded more vigilantly than the Enigma Code. The only way to determine the gears behind these gargantuan beasts of search is by: trial, error and billions upon billions of records, analysed for months at a time.
Whilst the other can be summarized in three words: content, context and conversation!
We’ve been producing content since man first discovered that chisels work pretty well on cave walls. Content should be easy, because content is everything! From a scrappily taken photo in the small hours at an office party, to the magnum opus you’ve spent a decade writing, it’s all content, and it all tells a story.
That’s why content is arguably the hardest part of SEO. You can produce: blog posts, videos, graphics, etc, until the cows come home, but if it doesn’t enrich the story of your business, it’s as good as useless. Or worse, degrading to your audience, confusing to Google, and detrimental to your brand. This is why many content producers give up, they find their content doesn’t resinate and it becomes little more than white noise: all because they don’t understand their audience.
Google is becoming better every day at understanding whether a piece is well written, a video is exciting, or a graphic is engaging. It’s all about telling a story for your clients.
If content is king, then context is his closest advisor.
Google’s approach to understanding the connections between content online is becoming increasingly human, and whilst that’s terrifying for anyone trying to ‘game’ their way onto the first page, it’s a hallelujah moment for the rest of us. Dozens of sources are used; maps to determine if your site is relevant locally, on page data to understand if content is enjoyable, but overall, the most important are links.
These links between pages are measured in two main ways:
Domain Authority – how trusted and influential your site is, determined by the breadth, relevancy and quality of the people who link to you.
Page authority – similar to domain authority, but focused on the topics covered on a particular page.
The best way to describe context online is like a friend at the pub.
Let’s call him Guy. Guy is a builder. He has a strong knowledge of his trade, you know this because you’ve known each other for years. Guy has a lot of recommendations from a lot of important sources, who support what he says with relevant information. This is domain rank.
Guy now (slightly drunkenly) starts a conversation with you about homing pigeons. You trust Guy as a person, but he has never talked about this topic before, so you take it with a pinch of salt, until people who are influential in the field support the conversation. This is page rank.
Search engines are rapidly developing the way they form links between content, to create connections which are similar to the way we do offline, with the goal of making your experience more natural and tailored to your tastes.
SEO is rapidly becoming more socially focused, both online, and off. When I talk about conversation and SEO, it’s so much more than an odd tweet or acquiring Facebook likes.
Conversation, at least in my eyes, is a culture. Conversation is about having the confidence to actively engage in discussion, not just about your site, but around it. Demonstrating that you’re so knowledgeable about your business that you can make conversation; and ultimately direct people to your website.
This is where SEO comes full circle. Make content, provide context to fuel conversation: your customers will ask questions, which helps to define your content. This is not about throwing links into every corner of the internet, or spamming social media until your followers run away screaming, it’s about proving credibility, and overwhelmingly showing that you’re respectable people to do business with.
Search engine optimisation is becoming less about finding out how search works, and more geared towards a great experience for your customers. For now, in 2014, search still treads a line between code-breaking and content-driven simplicity. Every day Google is taking steps to make using their service better for users, which ultimately means a more effective channel for lead generation — but only if you create the content, context and conversation that Google is clamouring for.
Optimised content, rich context, and vibrant conversation should be your SEO goal for 2014… as for 2015… I’ll let you know when Google changes its algorithm… again.
If you have any questions about search and how it can benefit your business, I’ll be happy to answer any questions in the comments below.
…0r if you fancy a chat I’m always available @YianniPelekanos on Twitter.