When asked what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics will guarantee the best results, my preferred response is, “well, it depends,” because, in digital marketing, there are so many variables to consider, such as the industry, seasonality, site speed, your competitors’ efforts, among many other factors. However, understanding a few essential SEO principles can help in (nearly) all cases and (almost always) guarantees SEO success.
1. Knowing your customer is the most important first step in any SEO campaign.
Understanding your target audience should always be your number one priority; it’s an essential first step before you start any marketing campaign and important to remember as you implement, test, and evaluate. You need to know how your ideal customers are searching, which includes:
- The search engine and keywords they are using
- Whether they are on a mobile or desktop device, using voice search, or searching at work or home
- How informed they are on the topic and the way they talk about the topic
- What qualifies them for your product or service
- What types of resources do they use when they search – video, image, text, article, etc?
- What their intention is when they search; is it navigational, informational, or transactional?
Each of those responses directly correlates to a component in your SEO strategy, so having definitive answers takes the guesswork out of your approach.
2. Generating quality content that puts the user first is another key component.
We frequently see people getting hung up on the on-page technical components of SEO, like meta titles, headings, and schema markup. While these elements are important, quality content has to come first. Why? Good content answers questions, and people search online for the answers. Great content helps you achieve Google’s mandate to post content that builds trust because of its relevance and authority. Many recent Google updates focus on providing quality content that prioritizes the user experience, so this will only become more critical over time.
Relevant content answers online users’ questions as thoroughly as possible. Authoritative content gets in front of the right people and is valuable and shareable. The frequency of posting, timeliness of the content, and accessibility of the content (ADA-compliant) all fall under this authoritative category. Creating high-value, helpful content for users ensures that Google will reward your efforts by including your content in the search results.
3. The technical elements still matter.
I am aware I just said you shouldn’t get hung up on the technical aspects of SEO. However, many components in the technical SEO arena are critical. For example, measuring and testing SEO performance is essential. If you aren’t measuring your SEO efforts’ success, you aren’t marketing.
When assessing performance, it’s vital to have a defined start and end date and clear variables to test. It’s also essential to use the scientific method. Additionally, proper keyword research, competitor analysis, and analyzing the results will profoundly affect the performance of your SEO campaigns.
When you make back-end changes to your website, ensure that you have tags for everything, check that the load time is smooth and that your metrics are going in the right direction. Optimize your internal links and backlinks, give Google a roadmap with your sitemap, and build a solid, holistic SEO strategy that focuses on targeted keywords.
With 210+ known ranking factors, this list does encompass more than three minor tasks, but SEO is complicated, and these big-picture components of an SEO strategy are the ones that have been the most consistent for the last twenty years. They also are very unlikely to change because they prioritize the user and their journey above everything else.