Every small business wants to rank high on a Google search, but it seems nobody wants to work hard for it. It looks to me like everyone is always trying to trick Google. However, the search engine is smarter than we are, so this makes no sense. Instead we should be trying to please it.
You are probably wondering: why is a bookkeeper talking about inbound marketing and Google searches? Should I trust him? Those are great questions. I am not an inbound marketing expect, guru, or whatever tag you want to throw on me. I'm simply a businessman who has been in the trenches of inbound marketing for the past 5+ years, learning through experience. My advice is to stop trying to trick Google and just help people.
Is SEO Dead?
Everyone is asking: is SEO dead? I can't answer that for you, but certainly SEO has changed. SEO used to be about link building, keyword stuffing, and the like. It's not that link building doesn't matter anymore, but there are no shortcuts. Links need to be built naturally over time and should come through a solid link-building plan. Back when searching for goods and services via the Internet was really new, a common SEO strategy was to use keyword stuffing practices to try and boost the rank for those words. Companies would also buy backlinks, which we all know Google frowns upon. The death of SEO began with Google's constant algorithm changes.
Algorithm Changes Are Here For Good
If you are involved with inbound marketing at all, you are aware of the search algorithm changes that Google initiates. Maybe you have heard of Penguin, Panda, Pigeon, and maybe even Mobilegeddon. If you are an outsider, this probably sounds like some kind of messed up zoo that possibly hosts warlocks as well. If you are interested, Moz put a great list together of the Google algorithm change history.
When a new algorithm change is brewing, it is all you hear about. And as a small business, you are probably thinking, "Great, I don't have the time for this. Who is going to do all this work? Won't I be too late anyway if everyone already knows about it?"
I've come up with a simple solution: stop trying to trick Google with phony boloney content and put out genuine, quality, one-of-a-kind content whose primary goal is to help your target audience and customers.
Solution: Offer Quality Content That Helps
Obviously, ranking high with Google and being findable on the Internet are extremely important. So instead of obsessing over SEO and algorithm changes, just put out high-quality content that is helpful for your audience. I'm not suggesting that you ignore algorithm changes completely; as with anything, you should be well informed with regard to changes. However, if you are putting out original and genuine content, there are probably just a few minor adjustments you will have to make with each algorithm change.
When I became aware of Panda or Penguin or whichever was aimed at punishing sites for the quality of their content, I was a bit worried. It wasn't that I was worried about our content quality; I was just worried about what the invincible Google machine would think. We were ranking really well and I didn't want things to change. So after that algorithm change occurred, I didn't make many adjustments and guess what happened? Our Google rank went up, noticeably and significantly.
We didn't make any major changes. We just continued to put out relevant content that we thought was useful and would help grow a small business.
Listen To Your Customers
It's the million dollar question: What should you be blogging about? In summary, you need to produce useful information for your audience. However, what you think is useful and what your audience thinks is useful can often be different. So what should you do?
Listen to your audience to develop content for your blog. Instead of asking for referrals at a networking event, ask what they are struggling with. When your customers or prospects email you a question - BAM! - new blog post right there.
In fact, we are adamant about recording ideas internally for our blog and many of them come from our customers and audience. Set up a shared document for your staff to record blog content ideas. Make sure to have a space for the name of the person recording the idea, so that if there are follow-up questions, it is easy to ask the right person.
Are you trying to trick Google into liking you or actually trying to help your audience?