SEO: Could What You Don’t Know Hurt You?

We recently got a call from a resort company’s chief marketing officer requesting copywriting services for news releases and magazine articles. A good start, but we recommended attention should also be paid to their online presence. After all, a Google search is the first thing a prospective customer does when planning a vacation.

Maybe, like me, you’re not a SEO professional. But tremble as we might, we know the buck stops here. We need to be aware of some common misconceptions about how Google’s algorithm works and learn all we can about how to make it work for us. Whether or not you’re doing the actual hands-on work, or entrust these activities to an expert, understanding the world’s most prominent search engine is just about the most vital thing you can do to make sure you lead that race to the top of the search page.

In the case of our new client, we needed to review their online strategy and help their webmasters improve their ranking on Google.

Today, Google algorithms are looking for 1) authority in the form of your site’s overall strength in the market; 2) trustworthiness, as in hosting high quality content and backlinks from reliable sources; and 3) the relevance of your site to your product and your users.

According to SEO 2019: Learn Search Engine Optimization with Smart Internet Marketing Strategies, by Adam Clarke, Search Metrics (https://www.searchmetrics.com/glossary/google-keyword-planner) provides the following short list of the top Google ranking factors:

1. Overall content relevance
2. Click-through rate
3. Time-on-site
4. Bounce rate (lower is better)
5. HTTPS – security certificate installed on the site
6. Font size in main content area (larger is better)
7. Number of images
8. Number of internal links
9. Total social media activity
10. Number of backlinks

These factors are from a study released in 2016. After its release, it was announced that Search Metrics would no longer publish their rankings whitepapers. But odds are good that the above factors remain in effect with the notable addition of mobile support. In fact, we’re constantly hearing about more emphasis being placed on the need for sites to be mobile-friendly.

The Internet and Your Marketing Mix
Prospective customers are learning about the world around them through the Internet every day, whether consciously or otherwise. Your challenge is to educate them about the value of your services, but first you need to show up on page one of a search results page. Advertising on Google will certainly help and brings with it some additional access to Google reporting.
But with or without advertising, the first step would be to identify your optimal keywords. Gone are the ‘90s when you could cram keywords into a page of copy. These days, keyword stuffing’s about as passé as spats and suspenders. But relax, there are plenty of tools to help assess the most effective ones for your business.

Next on your to-do list would be to ensure your site is readable to Google’s spiders through on-page SEO. Among other tactics, this entails using search engine-friendly URLs. Your URLs should accurately reflect the content of your page. Next, make sure your site’s easy to navigate. “For an additional SEO boost, include links to pages you want visible to search engines and visitors on the home page,” adds Clarke.

If your site loads like you’re waiting for a red light to turn green, this could hamper your search engine results. Plus, beware of duplicate content that might cause you to be penalized. Other tricks of the trade include controlling your site’s snippets, building backlinks, and maintaining an active and consistent social media campaign.

Blogging and Other Secrets
In her book, Own Your Niche: Hype-Free Internet Marketing Tactics to Establish Authority in Your Field and Promote Your Service-Based Business, Stephanie Chandler notes that the number one tactic to build your audience and establish your authority online is to produce a lot of content. “This includes writing on blogs. And today you have to not only have your own blog – so that you can publish whatever you want, whenever you want to – but you must also guest post on other blogs.”

As I wrote in my May 2018 Resort Trades article, “4 Reasons Why Blogging is Still Relevant”, blogging helps you 1) optimize your website, 2) connect with the right customers and connect more frequently, 3) maintain archived content that continues to work for you, and 4) connect with customers.

Remember to focus on quality, not just volume. This includes composing blog posts that are of the right length. In my September 2018 Resort Trades article, “Online Lead Generation: Pipe Dream or Full Pipeline?,” I discuss ideal article lengths by referring to an article in Forbes written by John Rampton in 2016. Rampton says, “Searchmetrics, for instance, found that the top 10 pages contained an average of 1,285 words. serpIQ, on the other hand, has found 1,500 words to be a good target length.”

Another article suggests the number may eventually change as more readers sign on with mobile devices. According to a post by snapagency.com,  “In the past couple years, the best post length for SEO was around 2,000 words. Longer blog posts ranked better, but evidence also seems to suggest that readers don’t typically want to read posts this long.”
“One of the most powerful on-page SEO strategies is adding more unique, fresh content to your site,” observes Clarke. “If you consistently add new pages to your site, you are going to receive more traffic. In fact, not only can you increase your traffic, you can receive an exponential traffic increase as you publish more content.

“It’s a no-brainer when you think about it. This is why blogs, publishing, and news-type sites consistently get good results in search engines. More contact means more rankings, more visitors, and more sales.”

Finally, a word about quality: If you’re planning to handle the creation and distribution of content, yourself, you may wish to reconsider. Are you going to be able to produce and distribute quality materials consistently? You may well have the intellectual capacity on staff to research, write, post and follow through with the various tasks to optimize your blogging activities. But, before tossing a new, and fairly weighty, additional burden into your team’s in-basket, make sure they have the time to make it a priority. Otherwise, you may be better off outsourcing your company’s online content production.

Sharon Scott Wilson is Publisher of Resort Trades and Golf Course Trades magazines. Her firm, SharonINK – providing clients with B2B and B2C content – is currently in the process of becoming a subsidiary of The Trades Publishing Company.