7 insider tips on SEO

To many of us, great SEO seems like magic. But there are certain tricks to the trade that help.

To many of us, amazing SEO seems like magic. But there are certain tricks to the trade that help.

Recently, I attended a “how to” workshop on search engine optimization (SEO). I really enjoyed it, even though the techno-babble made my temples throb at times. And you know how these things work—you not only learn from the workshop’s presenters, but also from the marketers and ad folks sitting at the table around you who spend their days in the trenches. You show each other your battle scars, compare notes, exchange cards and connect on LinkedIn.

The workshop covered keywords, mobile, Google’s massive hold on everything, and more. And throughout the day, I picked up some fascinating facts, tidbits and insights—they earned a star next to them in my notes, because they changed my perception of SEO. Here they are, and I hope you get something from them, too.

1. The search engine numbers are very telling. Google owns a whopping 67% of search right now. Bing and Yahoo share a less impressive 30%. You can’t forget the smaller players, but when it comes to SEO success, the beast to feed at the moment is Google.

2. Yes, yes, content is king in SEO. But its queen is technology. First, your content needs to entertain, inform or educate. Make it worth reading or watching. But the technical stuff is really important, too… like keywords, backlinks from your content to major websites, how you program the text on your site and more. One example I didn’t know: A website’s load speed has an effect on its SEO ranking. The slower the load time, the worse the SEO ranking.

3. Google has its favorites, even though it denies it. Google’s other products and entities—like YouTube and Google+—move the SEO needle more in your favor. Even though Pinterest is increasingly popular, a robust Google+ page will do more for your business from an SEO perspective.

FYI, Bing and Yahoo tend to put SEO weight on social media and the quantity of content you produce. Google values the depth of your content and how many major sites link back to you.

4. If you want SEO success, think like your audience. On a laptop or desktop, people tend to type keywords into search engines. (For example: Thai restaurants in NYC.) But on mobile devices, they tend to ask questions. (Where’s the closest Thai restaurant?)

Just about all search, however, falls into three categories:

Transactional – Searching for a place to buy shoes, for example.

Informational – Looking to compare, get instructions, information or entertainment. (Video is HUGE here. It can increase search ranking by 50% or more.)

Navigational – Searching for a specific URL, brand name, etc.

When you’re crafting your keywords, think of the INTENT of those words… the result your audience is looking for… and write accordingly.

5. Brand reputation and search are strange bedfellows. A brand’s reputation and awareness are definite players in organic search results. If a brand appears higher in search engine results, it can enjoy up to a 30% lift in perception from searchers. The moral of the story: Reputation matters. Guard it well.

6. Search engines adore rich content. Things like video, Vines and more get serious SEO attention, because they yield a 41% higher click-through rate and 61% higher conversion. But remember, video files are invisible to search engines. To get around that, surround your video with rich descriptions, text, links, and even a transcript if it makes sense.
(Huffington Post does this really well. Even if they post a video, there’s always an article under it describing the video’s contents.)

7. Google’s on to all of us. Its goal and purpose is to give users highly relevant content, quickly. Thing is, people are always trying to figure out ways to game Google’s algorithm and edge up the ranks on search results. In response, Google makes up to 500 tweaks a year to its system. With each passing day, its algorithm gets more sophisticated in recognizing true content vs. SEO tricks. Tread carefully, be honest and produce good stuff.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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