As a marketing consultant to small business owners, I find that many of my clients fit a basic profile. They tend to be aware of search engine optimization – what it is, and why it matters.
They get that in order to bring in new clients, they’ve got to get their websites and blog posts ranked on Google, and they’re eager to do anything they can to make that a reality.
That’s where things get dicey though. In my own experience, small business owners are pretty voracious readers of the latest and greatest SEO gimmicks. They study up on what current search optimization trends are, and come to me with a lot of big ideas about how to make their content rank – ideas that may sometimes contradict one another, or simply be outdated.
What’s important, I think, is helping steer business owners away from these intricacies and reorienting them toward the basics of optimization. With blog posts in particular, it’s very possible to overthink SEO, to the point where you’re focusing on the gimmicks but not on the fundamentals.
What I share with my clients now is a three-pronged approach to proper blog post optimization. I’m not saying this represents everything they need to know about SEO. I’m just saying it’s a good starting point. Everything else needs to be built on these three steps; honestly, if these are the only three SEO points my clients ever master, they’ll be in pretty good shape.
First, understand where the search engines are coming from.
Google is a company that provides a product to consumers; the whole point of SEO, then, is to help Google meet its goals and provide a good experience for its customers. In this case, that means providing helpful, relevant search results to search engine users – period.
That’s the sum total of what Google is trying to do with its search engine results pages – so in order to win Google’s favor, you’ve got to provide content that is informative and actionable, something that offers real value to users. If you write a solid blog post that addresses the real needs of your target audience, that’s a huge step toward effective SEO.
Second, think about how users will search for your content.
The concept of keywords is often one that many of my clients get bogged down by, and I find that I have to pull them back from a strategy that is—in essence—keyword stuffing.
What’s important here is to think about a phrase users might actually type into the search engine to find your content—preferably a longer, several-word phrase. That needs to be the keyword phrase you employ in your headline, meta description, URL, and at least a time or two within the content itself. And yes, that’s an oversimplified view of keywording, but again – as a rudiment on which to build sound strategy, it’s helpful.
Third, make the content engaging.
You need to provide helpful content, then provide a way for users to find that content—but the third step is to keep them on the page. Enriching the content with images and videos is a good way to do that. Formatting for easy skimming – bullet points, subheadings, short paragraphs and short sentences – also plays a role.
With these steps in mind, I find that my clients can start thinking rightly about SEO – and creating blog posts that are optimized without being overcomplicated.