The "Silent Hand" of SEO

By Lisa Hirst Carnes | January 2015

What goes into a good search engine optimization campaign? If you’re like most of the business owners and Internet marketers we know, you probably associate SEO with content, page titles, h1 tags, images, and inbound links.

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Each of these is undoubtedly important, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that SEO also has a “silent hand” that’s harder to detect and predict but every bit as important. What is this unseen guiding force? Searcher behavior.

For a long time, a search result could be considered “good” or “bad” by how closely it matched a set of terms and phrases. AdWords still uses this technique by showing matched search queries words in bold. Side note, this type of indicated relevance often improves click through rates. Now, however, with Google bringing things like location, search history, social, and individual preferences into the mix, it’s getting better at matching up intent to results. In other words, we’re getting past straight formulas and into something that’s more abstract and more meaningful at the same time.

One of the net results of this evolution is that Google doesn’t stop paying attention when it figures out what’s on your page, but it also wants to know what searchers are doing once they get there. Are they hanging around to read, clicking through to more links, or doing something different? The answer could greatly influence your future search position.

So, how do you force Google’s silent hand? That’s easy – by getting readers and viewers to spend more time on your site and interact with it. Here are a few quick tips to help you get started:

Keep your audience in mind. No website is going to be great, or even meaningful, for everyone who comes across it. Keep things like language, interest, and even attention span in mind as you outline your pages and organize your content. If you can't easily identify your audience, follow our persona exercise first.

Post good content. It kind of goes without saying that you need great content on your website – and not just keyword-optimized text and images – if you want visitors to hang around. Remember that interest always comes before action, and you need to engage readers and visitors before you can sell them anything. 

Personalized content & automated workflows. Perhaps one of the biggest content trends in 2015 is personalized content. Simply put, give people what they want, when they want it. For example, if they are new to your site, keep it simple and don't ask them for too much personal information. Each time they return, give them more complex content building on what they already know about your product or services from previous visits. Use automated workflow to get more get more details about who they are. 

Use links within your site. To encourage visitors to stay on your website, use contextual links from one page of content to another. Use links to guide visitors in a meaningful way through your site. The more questions a person can answer from a single visit, the more likely they are to stay now and return later.

When visitors interact with your site, that’s a sign to Google that your content has value and they should continue to send more searchers in your direction. Over time, that behavior could become as important to search engine rankings as keywords and links themselves.

So, if you want to build a great site, don’t just make it easy to find… make it one that your customers will want to use, enjoy, trust and convert.

Topics: Marketing Strategy, SEO

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