07 Dec 2016 16:57 IST

Cracking the SEO code

Though an important aspect, it is one of the least understood terms in marketing

Optimising your website’s Google search results is possibly one of the most important things a brand can do. This is called SEO (search engine optimisation) and is, ironically, one of the least understood concepts in the marketing world.

While SEO has changed over the last 10 years, its fundamentals remain the same and I have highlighted some of the key things you should keep in mind when getting started.

Understanding what your customers or users are searching for

The first step is to understand what content your customers or users want. You could use the free Google Keyword research tool or a paid tool like Moz Explorer to get a feel of what they are looking for. You could also use interesting tools like Answer the Public , which groups search terms together, to give you a better understanding.

Using Buzzsumo too can be useful in trying to understand what kind of content consumers are viewing and sharing via social media channels.

It’s important to understand that content here doesn’t mean only written content — it could be infographics, videos , interactive graphs, tools, calculators or other media.

Creating content that caters to the user’s need

Almost everyone in the digital marketing space has jumped aboard the content marketing bandwagon. It is but obvious that creating good content for a brand is the best way to get a top ranking in the search engine’s results. So writing ‘good and unique content’ should do the trick, right? Well, not any more.

Content marketing and blogging has risen by leaps and bounds in the last five to six years. The rules have changed and merely writing ‘good and unique content’ is just not enough. Content that covers only the basic of any topic is very easy. A user may probably visit your blog and feel they know something about it, and choose not spend more than a few minutes on it. Chances of such blogs making it to the top 10 of the Google search results are very slim.

Modern SEO’s demands are much higher. You need to have the best content in your category to make it into the top results organically. Take your regular content, make it 10 times bigger and better, and you may just fit into the top results slots. User experience too plays a big role in the ranking algorithm, making it even more important to move on from just creating good content to a ‘10-times better content’.

Here is a detailed guide on ensuring that your content is 10 times better than anyone else’s . You could also explore creating articles or videos in multiple languages if you feel your users will engage more with regional content.

Amplify content to ensure it reaches the audience and gets backlinks

A content is only as good as the number of people its reaches. If you create, say, a 10-times better infographic that anyone else, you are likely to start showing up in search results in a few weeks (eight to 10 weeks for sites that have been around). Till then, the key is to amplify whatever you create, via social media, paid advertising, social bookmarking as well as link building requests.

Social media and SEO are interlinked strategies, as both are organically driven and are dependent on appealing fresh content. Google hasn’t directly mentioned that increase in social media followers will directly improve the rankings. But it always insists on quality links and content rather than the quantity of shares and links.

Read this blog on why social media matters to SEO to get a better idea of how to leverage channels like Facebook and Twitter to amplify your content.

Lastly, it’s important to build backlinks as it is one of the cornerstones on which rankings improve. Backlink is essentially any link that points from an external site to yours.

Though the number of backlinks is important, poor quality or spam backlinks should be avoided, since it can result in a negative penalty for your website. Influencer marketing is also an effective tool to get relevant backlinks. Social Bookmarking is another way to ensure you not only get more backlinks to your site but also improve the chance of being found online. Quora is an interesting platform to do that.

Ensure that website is fast and mobile responsive

One common mistake brands and websites make is to ignore the speed of the website , which, accordingly to Google, is one of the most critical aspects in ranking. They even have new features like AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) to help websites overcome this issue.

Having a website which is mobile and tablet responsive is a must. Users consume content across devices, and websites need to be device-friendly. Brands must leverage every mobile micro-moment of consumers , for which they require an amazing mobile website.

Technical SEO elements

This involves help from your digital team, as it requires SEO knowledge as well as technology and development expertise. Elements like headings, tags (to allow Google to understand what content and images you have on your site), structured data (to tell the search engine what kind of content it is), implementing speed elements including AMP and redirecting old URLs to new URLs, are some examples.

Track results and be patient

It’s important that you track your return on investment for such SEO activities . This is usually done by following not only the rank of your keyword (which is less important these days), but by checking the growth of traffic from Google over a period of time.

It takes about four to six months to see substantial results. Regular creation of great content is key to growth in traffic from Google, and that should be the focus area on an ongoing basis.