Business professionals from CEOs all the way down to marketing interns have, as a rule, too much to do and too little time in which to do it. Because of this, one of the most critical aspects of a company's marketing success, search engine optimization (SEO), often gets swept under the rug. Years ago, SEO consisted of little more than manually adding your website's URL to a search engine directory. Today, it has become a massive wheel with a multitude of cogs to keep it moving.
Rather than looking at SEO as being too unwieldy to handle efficiently and thinking that your company will be just fine because you do, after all, have a website and a social media page, you should look at SEO as the bazooka in your cap-gun marketing arsenal. When done right, SEO can - quite literally - put your company's online presence at the fingertips of millions of consumers around the globe. On the flipside, lackluster SEO or a lack of it entirely can leave your internet marketing efforts in the rapidly disappearing dust of your competitors. With that in mind, here are seven key components that are key to today's SEO to help support and enhance your overall marketing strategies:
1. Content: If SEO had a heart, it would be content. Comprehensive, engaging, informative content that provides value to your audience is the life-blood of your SEO efforts. Without content, or with content that has no substance, your optimization efforts are largely wasted. Search engines, in their quest to deliver hyper-relevant results to searchers, are looking for in-depth content that meets a user's needs as precisely as possible.
2. Backlinks: Along with content, backlinks are one of the top three ranking factors for Google. This lets you know how significant they are in terms of getting optimal visibility for your online presence in search results. Search engines are becoming more particular about where your backlinks come from, too, which means you should strive to acquire links to your content from valuable, reputable, and authoritative sources.
3. Social Media: Like it or not, your company needs a strong social media presence. Many consumers today are using social media to form a large percentage of their buying decisions. They are most frequently doing so by asking friends, acquaintances, and peers, or by feeling out a company's presence, activity, and consumer engagement on various social networks. It is not enough just to have a page on a social network. You also have to have an active presence with high levels of engagement with your audience and within your social media community.
4. Keywords: Keywords have long been an important part of search engine optimization, and they will remain so in the future. Keyword research has evolved, however, to incorporate natural language and conversational queries which use more specific and relevant keywords and phrases. The importance of long-tail and geo-targeted keywords cannot be mentioned enough, because the more precise your chosen keywords are, the better able a search engine is to deliver your online content to users who are specifically looking for it.
5. Mobile-First Design: Google has already stated that it delivers mobile-friendly results to users before standard results. If that isn't enough to convince you to make sure your content is optimized for mobile viewing and usage, the sheer number of people using mobile devices should cinch it. Users want immediately accessible data at their fingertips, and with so many people now searching, surfing, and shopping while they are on the go, mobile-first design should be a given rather than a suggestion.
6. Page Load Speed: This should be another given, like mobile-first design. On-the-go users will generally give a web page less than three seconds to load before they click away to find content that does deliver on demand. If users have to wait for your content, the simple fact of the matter is that they won't (wait, that is).
7. Functionality: An incredibly frustrating facet of excellent content is when functional components or options fail to work as intended or designed. Part of your ongoing SEO efforts should be to initially ensure the functionality of all your web page's components (navigation panes, links, images or video, forms, etc.) and periodically audit your online presence for continued functionality. Don't wait for a drop in click rates, conversions, or sales to start wondering what happened; perform preventive maintenance on your digital content on a regular basis.
There are a variety of other SEO components you can add, modify, or eliminate from your web pages and online content to improve the overall user experience, but these seven items here should be considered essential to an effective SEO strategy. While it is an unfortunate fact of living in the information age that what works today may not (and often does not) work tomorrow, these seven components have demonstrated long-term success. You can apply them to your own SEO efforts and marketing strategies with a reasonable assurance that they will still be just as vital and effective weeks and months (perhaps even dog years) from now as they are today.