Optimise for Google

Gavin Hirst - Tuesday 30th November 2021


Who do you optimise for – Google, your customers, or your business?

Search engine optimisation is not easy. Let’s put that right out there to begin this post. There are so many facets to SEO than getting everything right is virtually impossible. It always feels as if you are compromising on something or someone whenever you are optimising a website or even an individual page.

That’s because there are lots of people to consider when you create content for a website.

Ola King from Moz has identified three key pillars to consider – what he calls the three bosses of SEO – your business, your searchers and your search engines.

In this post, we are going to take a closer look at each of those bosses and try and help you to ensure your SEO strategy is focused on optimising content for the right person or people.

Optimising for Google

When most of us think about SEO, we think about optimising for Google so let’s start there.

SEO is the strategy of optimising content on your website so that it ranks better on Google (and other search engines). That’s the basic core premise of SEO. Of course, there are hundreds of other factors that come into play, but at the end of the day, as SEOs, it’s our job to identify a set of keywords that we feel will drive the most relevant traffic to the websites that we manage and the keywords that are most likely to lead to someone buying something from us – whether that’s products we sell or services we provide.

In order to drive more traffic, we need to rank on the first page of Google for as many relevant keywords as possible.

When it comes to optimising your content for Google, there are different factors to consider when you optimise for your customers.

Your customers don’t care about acronyms like E.A.T and NLP. Whilst these things impact the way you optimise for customers, it is an indirect result of creating quality content rather than a primary focus.

When it comes to optimising for Google, there are a number of factors that we need to consider including:

  • Pagespeed – as this is a ranking factor, we need to make sure our pages load quickly. Google rewards fast loading pages and this obviously benefits your customers and visitors as they get a fast-loading experience when they navigate through your website.
  • Core Web Vitals – taking page speed one step further is Google’s new ranking factor, Core Web Vitals. These three metrics should be a focus for SEOs looking to gain an advantage and provide a better user experience.
  • E.A.T – we’ve touched on this already, however, E.A.T (Expertise, Authority and Trust) are three key elements to focus on when you create content on your website. You need to demonstrate all three of these elements if you want to have a better chance of ranking well, especially if you are working in the industries of health, finance and fitness – industries Google calls “your money or your life”.
  • NLP – this stands for natural language processing and is something Google has been working towards for a number of years. They are trying to make search results more intuitive to the way people actually search – the natural language they use so there is a definite shift away from keyword stuffing and a move towards using the keywords that people are actually using to find things.
  • Links – still as important as ever are links. External links, as we know, are a clear indicator to Google about the trustworthiness of your website and when they come from trustworthy sources, they can add a lot of value in terms of SEO. Internal links are becoming just as important. They help you to show Google which pages on your site are important and help them to crawl those pages more often.
  • Schema – another SEO “tool” that has been around for some time is schema markup. It basically allows you to enhance your search results page listings by telling Google more about the content on a page. Use them as and when you can on relevant pages.

Optimising for your customers

As you can see, Google is definitely helping to push website owners down the route of optimising their website for customers – most of the elements listed above have a focus on creating a better experience for visitors – improving page speed, providing trustworthy content, writing content that matches the way people search – all of the latest Google updates are visitor-centric and that makes it easier for you to please at least two of your bosses at once – Google and your visitors.

There are other things you need to focus on, however, when you are considering how you optimise your content for your visitors. It’s important to understand the type of visitor you are trying to attract to your website, as this will impact every other aspect of your optimisation work. There is no point in ranking really well for a set of keywords that send visitors to your website that have no interest in what you are selling.

Personas are a great way of identifying your target audience and they allow you to focus your SEO efforts on specific personalities, helping to ensure you are targeting the right keywords and creating content that meets the needs of those prospective customers.

Like with Google, there are a number of factors you need to consider when optimising content for your visitors including:

  • Relevance – all too often, we see websites that have been optimised for keywords that are relevant or don’t match the search intent. With so many keyword tools to choose from, keyword research is still an important aspect of successful SEO for your visitors so use it and make sure you target the most relevant keywords and intent.
  • Identify topics – one of the big things we focus on for our clients is identifying topics that are important to them. Then we look to make ourselves an authority for those topics. Rather than focus on individual keywords, we look at a topic as a whole and look at potential content gaps to support key landing pages such as product or service pages.
  • Brand affinity – the power of brand should never be underestimated. If people are more familiar with a brand, it impacts the way they interact with your site. As you grow and build your brand affinity and trust, you can start to put the brand more front and centre and let the brand do a lot of work for you.
  • Customer journey – it’s important to understand the journey visitors go on, both in terms of the way they navigate through your website, but also the journey they take before they get to your website. What does their research look like? Are they using social? What type of content do they like to consume? Come back to your persona and fill in the blanks when it comes to the customer journey and look to create content on your website and other touchpoints that meets the needs of your customers.
  • Empathy – try and understand your customers’ pain points so you can empathise with them and create content that can help to ease those “pains”. Look at the questions people ask your customer service team, the questions you get on social media as well as external resources to help guide your content strategy and help you to create content that really speaks to your audience.

Optimising for your business

Last, but certainly not least, there is optimising for your own business. Your SEO strategy needs to be focused on making your business successful. Unless you are running your website as a hobby (which is fine by the way), then it’s important to set goals otherwise you can never truly judge how successful your SEO efforts are.

These goals will typically be business goals which then feed down to all aspects of your business including sales and marketing.

Once you have determined your business goals, you can set appropriate SEO goals to help you to achieve those business goals. This could be as simple as getting more people to your website to improve your brand awareness or more specific in terms of driving more leads or conversions. Whatever your SEO goals, this will help to determine the strategy and the tactics you deploy for your strategy to be a success.

When you are considering optimising your website for your business, there are a number of factors to consider including:

  • Strengths – most businesses will conduct a SWOT analysis when starting out and it’s important to recognise your strengths so these can sit at the heart of your SEO strategy. Which areas are you really strong in? Creating videos? Writing blogs? Taking photos? Play to your strengths on your website and you will find the content you create is better optimised for your audience.
  • Expertise – we’ve already talked about the importance of E.A.T. and it’s important to recognise the areas of expertise within your business and tap into these on your website. If you have a product developer that is super passionate about what he does and a leader in the field, showcase him on your website or social platforms. If you don’t have the expertise in-house, can you use outsiders to help to build your brand and showcase expertise through your website?
  • Brand – we’ve already talked about the power of brand for customers, but it’s also important to understand your own brand and ensure you are optimising your content around the strengths of business and brand. Your brand identity determines the type of content you want to create and optimise.
  • Age of business – the age of your business will definitely dictate your optimisation strategy. Established businesses will typically have more brand awareness and more trust and authority so it’s easier for them to maximise those opportunities. If you are a new business, your strategy is going to be very different in order to establish yourself in the market.

Summary

If we had written this post five years ago, the story above might have been quite different, however, what we have definitely seen is that the three “bosses” are slowly merging into the same boss. What’s good for Google is definitely becoming really good for your customers. Google has evolved and ranking factors that focus on user experience mean that your visitors are getting a much better experience across the web when developers focus on meeting Google’s needs.

Whilst Google and your visitors are definitely important, sitting above all of them is your business – the big boss. Any decisions you make have got to be right for your business and the chances are, these will keep your visitors and Google happy anyway so win-win.

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