Hope is not a strategy. It’s not clear where the quote originated, however, it is a quote that has been used by many leaders including Barrack Obama, Hilary Clinton, James Cameron, and Vince Lombardi to name but a few.
Sometimes, it feels as though the only strategy some businesses we come across have is hope. We prefer to take a more scientific approach to SEO strategy, relying on research and data to inform the tactics that will enable our clients to achieve their goals rather than hope.
Of course, creating an SEO strategy is not the same as delivering one. As Winston Churchill once said, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” That’s why we review our strategies periodically. Analysing the results and looking at where we need to make improvements.
Knowing how to structure a strategy and understanding the tactics you need to include to achieve the goals set out in your strategy can be tricky.
We typically start off by understanding our client’s overarching business objectives. We then look at how SEO can contribute to the business achieving those goals. This is the best way to align your own strategy with the overall business strategy, however, when it comes to the tactics needed to achieve those goals, what should you be including?
We recently came across a great article by Marie Haynes writing for Search Engine Land. In the article, Marie talks about the newly named Google Search Essentials (formerly Google Webmaster Guidelines) and how these essentials can help you to boost your client’s organic performance.
What are Google Search Essentials?
For a long time, Google’s Webmaster Guidelines have provided guidance for SEOs and webmasters about the best practices to deploy to rank well in search.
After 20 years, they recently updated the name to Google Search Essentials as they want to make the guidelines more accessible to more people, moving away from the notion that the guidelines are for webmasters only.
The updated guidelines are streamlined, simplified, and have been updated “to ensure people have clear guidance for how to build sites that serve people well,” a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land.
Aside from the change in name, some of the other major changes include:
- Technical requirements: Google has published a new section to help people understand how to publish content in a format that Google Search can index and access that content.
- Spam policies: Google has updated its guidance for the Google Search policies against spam, “to help site owners avoid creating content that isn’t helpful for people using Search,” Google said. Note that most of the content in these spam policies has already existed on Google Search Central, Google did however make a few additions to provide clearer guidance and concrete examples for issues like deceptive behaviour, link spam, online harassment, and scam and fraud, the company told us.
- Key best practices: Google has also published new guidance with key best practices that people can consider when creating sites, to create content that serves people and will help a site be more easily found through Google Search.
So, how does all of this help you to create a better SEO strategy for your clients or for your own business? Marie Haynes provides some great insights in the article above and we have put our own thoughts on the way you can use Google Search Essentials to structure your SEO strategy.
Structuring your SEO strategy
Once we have decided on the key goals we want to achieve that will help our clients to achieve their overall business objectives, we then set about determining the best tactics we can deploy for us to achieve those goals.
That’s where Google Search Essentials come in.
Now Google has provided guidance on technical requirements and key best practices, it makes sense for us to include these in our strategy document. As tactics go, following the recommended best practices that Google has identified seems like a pretty solid way of improving our overall organic performance.
Key practices for better content
When it comes to the Key Practices guidance, most of what you see is nothing new to SEOs, however, it is still important to include these things in your strategy. The key practices outlined by Google are there to help you to create content that Google wants to rank. Some of the key practices include:
- Use keywords in page titles, headings, and alt text
- Make links crawlable
- Tell people about your site
There is nothing ground-breaking here for SEOs, however, they are integral tactics of any successful SEO strategy.
We have talked a lot in our blogs about a fantastic content tuning hack from Kevin Indig. This lets you look at how your content is performing in search console – which keywords are driving clicks and visibility – and then make tweaks based on performance. Tweaking your page titles, headings or images can really make a difference to your overall performance so this tool is invaluable. Check it out.
Google start their key practices with something that should underpin any content-related tactic in your SEO strategy:
Create helpful, reliable, people-first content.
Stick to this and you won’t go far wrong.
Technical SEO is still important
Websites have come a long way over the past decade. In the main, this has been because of Google and their recommendations for how websites can rank better when they are built well technically.
Whilst many sites meet the minimum thresholds required to rank in Google, there is still much you can be doing on an ongoing basis to ensure your site is performing at optimal levels.
At the most basic level, Google needs to be able to crawl, index and understand a site’s content. To do this, Google has just three recommendations:
- Ensure Googlebot isn’t blocked
- Make sure the page works meaning Google receives an HTTP 200 success status code
- Make sure the page has indexable content
Whenever we onboard a new client, we always perform a technical audit as we need to ensure that all three of these boxes are being ticked. We also run monthly mini-audits to ensure the ongoing technical health of a site and annual deep dives, especially if there have been algorithm changes that could impact the way our client’s sites are crawled and indexed.
We use Screaming Frog, DeepCrawl (now Lumar) and SEMrush to run a comprehensive technical audit of a website. These tools all provide valuable insights into the technical health of a website and with the use of APIs, you can also pull in data from other auditing tools such as Google PageSpeed Insights for a more comprehensive overview.
Technical SEO is rarely the primary focus of our SEO strategies, however, it is an important aspect, as documented in Google’s Search Essentials.
Create helpful and reliable content for people
We touched on this above, however, it’s an important aspect of your SEO and content strategy. Google makes it pretty clear in their Search Essentials that people-first content that is helpful and reliable should underpin the content that you create.
Creating helpful and reliable content is not new to Google Search Essentials. This has been an integral part of the Webmasters Guidelines for some time and is closely linked to E-A-T (Expertise, Authority and Trust).
Google does talk about how their ranking system works, talking about three steps:
- First, Google understands the meaning of your query.
- Next, they find content that appears to be a good match
- Once these matches are found, Google does more work to “prioritize those that seem the most helpful.” They tell us they do this by identifying “signals that can help determine which content demonstrates E-A-T.”
This tells us that we need to create content that matches the queries that people are searching for, answering those queries in as much depth as is necessary to provide people with the information they need.
Focusing on E-A-T factors is another key element to consider when creating content. How can you demonstrate expertise and authority? Do you have those people within your business or can you source an expert to provide added value to your content piece? Which sources are you linking out to? Who is linking back to your article? All of these should be considerations when you are creating a content plan to support your SEO strategy and will ultimately help you to improve your rankings.
Marie Haynes goes into a lot more detail in her post over on Search Engine Land so make sure you head on over and check it out.
Our SEO strategies for our clients mainly focus on the content we can create that makes their website more helpful to existing and prospective customers. Whilst we do include some technical tactics in our strategies, this is typically secondary to content creation unless there are some major flaws in our client’s site.
Focus on creating content with E-A-T in mind and keep your content people-first focused.
If you follow the guidelines set out by Google in their Google Search Essentials, you will quickly start to move the needle for your clients, delivering great results and improving the overall user experience.
If you need help with your SEO strategy, get in touch with the team today and we would be happy to talk to you about how we can help you to achieve your business objectives.