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How to Future-Proof Your Search Ranking

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John Faber Managing Partner Follow
April 02, 2018

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comes up as a topic at some point in every one of our client relationships, usually before we even kick off. In our decade of doing business, SEO tactics have changed drastically, and we’re always adapting to support our clients along the way. With roughly 80% worldwide market share, “Search Engine” mostly means Google.

Google’s fortunes came from its ability to guarantee placement of ads next to relevant search results. Google’s first search and best known algorithm is PageRank.  As the most popular search engine, a successful SEO strategy was therefore driven by PageRank tactics:

  • Backlinks
  • Keywords
  • Meta tags
  • Sitemap submissions

In particular, the more backlinks, keywords and meta tags you had, the closer to the top your page would appear on Google’s Search results. There was a critical flaw in PageRank’s algorithm– content producers and SEO consultants could game the system. And that’s exactly what they did, putting irrelevant backlink spam all over the internet, stuffing content with irrelevant keywords. Irrelevant search results began to rank high, threatening the success of Google’s primary product.

So Google adapted. Learning from PageRank’s mistakes, Google Search uses a multitude of algorithms, which are kept secret and change constantly. This way, Google can better ensure search results are relevant to searchers. More and more, reports indicate Google relies on sophisticated AI, like RankBrain, to make decisions about what content is relevant to search queries.

What should companies do today to have the best possible search result rank? The answer is simple: Create and maintain relevant, high quality content. From there, the solutions are pretty clear.

Rumor has it Google Search now focuses on engagement by measuring two things:

  1. How long someone spends on your page (Time on Page)
  2. The percentage of people that click on your result (Click Through Rate)

Shorter times on page and less frequent click throughs indicate your content is not relevant to searchers, and Google remembers this.

The obvious tactic in improving engagement is crafting enticing, readable content.

To do that, you will need a flexible Content Management System (CMS) like Drupal 8 to manage your content. With the help of an agency that specializes in web content strategy, a well-architected CMS sets up beautiful, enticing pages for your audience, but also gives Google’s algorithm readily digestible information. With a strong CMS and a smart strategy, you can focus on content creation. 

Crafting great content may seem hard, but with a little forethought, you can make it a replicable formula. Before writing content, think about your audience:

  • Who are you speaking to?
  • What are they trying to do? Why is it important to them?
  • What are their circumstances? In a bind or taking their time? 
  • Are they on their phone or on their computer?

There are also more universal guidelines for quality content:

  • All content should always be clear, concise and correct. All content on the site should have a reason for being there, and should be archived once out of date.
  • Copy should share a common voice.
  • Videos and beautiful images should use the same tone. Creating a library to reference prevents non-designers from selecting off-brand media.
  • Use Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords to improve your matches. LSI keywords are like synonyms for search queries. For example, on your site about insects, if you think the reader for your page may search on the word “bugs”, you should probably use it in your content where appropriate. But be careful, don’t let it degrade the reading experience! 

Without content to entice them to click on your link and keep them on the page, all other SEO strategies fall flat. Content is among the most important commodities an organization has, so you should want to own the responsibility!  A forward-thinking organization invests in staff who love to create excellent, topical content as a measure to future-proof their own long-term relevancy. 

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