Here at Leapfrogg, we’ve always followed the mantra ‘users first, search engine second,’ when it comes to natural search. In other words, whatever we do to improve the visibility of your website should also benefit the user. You can read more about our customer-driven approach in one of Ben’s guest posts for Econsultancy, found here.
It used to be the case for many others that by simply building lots of links to your site – no matter where those links came from – you’d be able to “game” the search engines into thinking that your website was worthy of a high position in the search engine results page (SERP). Targeting specific keywords with links to specific pages would see your Google rankings steadily climb for those terms. Unfortunately (and quite rightly) it’s not that easy anymore. Your website has to genuinely add value to your readers if you want it to be noticed.
Since Google released its first Panda update back in 2011 with the aim of filtering out low quality content from search results, increasing emphasis has been placed on building a content-rich, well-structured website as a starting point for any natural search strategy. Following the latest Hummingbird update, which very much places users’ needs at the centre of search, Google is going to notice faster than ever before if your site doesn’t cut it when it comes to content.
Links are still important, there’s no denying that. Links count as editorial votes of confidence, but whereas this used to work in a silo Google is getting better at catching you out if you’re building links to a less-than-brilliant site. We’ve put together the accompanying graphic to illustrate the key aspects of a holistic natural search strategy. It’s not about gaming Google, it’s about creating a site that’s worthy of its position in the SERPs and making sure that the right people know about it.
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Make your website awesome
Your website shouldn’t just be the place where people can buy your products; it should be an indispensable information resource for your customers. User-focused content that sits on your site such as how to guides, a comprehensive FAQ section, customer competitions, white papers, surveys, videos, news stories, images, infographics and an active company blog – provided it’s all properly structured – will significantly increase the size of your site and give you a wealth of content that people will naturally want to link to.
Share your content with the world
Now that you’ve built an amazing site, it’s time to shout about it. Ensure that you are regularly sharing links to your on-site content via your social media channels – Google will notice when links to your site are being shared on social platforms and these positive social signals generally correlate with the authority of your site and your natural search visibility.
Encourage the world to share your content
It’s not just about YOU sharing your content though; it’s about getting others to share it. Use your social media channels to reach out to influencers including industry publications, potential and existing brand advocates, bloggers, influencers and – most importantly – customers by initiating conversations and volunteering links to your content. Also, ensure that every page of content on your site has sharing buttons, making it possible for others to promote your content with one click.
Nurture your brand advocates
Social media is undoubtedly the most effective way of building your army of online brand advocates. If you deliver a great experience via your social channels as well as having an amazing product or service, you’ll find that you’ll reap the rewards in the form of online recommendations which goes towards maintaining that all-important social buzz and engagement around your brand.
Get the links you deserve
By having a well-structured website with fantastic content, you will likely find that sites will link to you naturally as a result of discovering you via social media or natural search. Most of the time, however, securing links needs a lot more work. Do something that’s newsworthy, come up with a killer content collaboration idea, host an event for fans or influencers or launch an exciting competition and actively reach out to the people you want to links from – whether that’s news sites, industry publications or bloggers.
Get on Google+
Unsurprisingly, Google really wants you to use its own social media platform. Having a Google+ page for your business will help to enhance your presence in natural search. Firstly, by tagging your site up with rel=publisher, your Google+ page and latest Google+ post will appear in search results for relevant queries. Secondly, tagging individual content pages on your site (e.g. guest blog posts from industry influencers) with rel=author promotes the transparency and integrity of the content, helping users scan and read content by people they want to read more from. It also helps pages stand out in the SERPs by having the author’s image next to the listing which can help improve CTRs to your site. Additionally, blog owners should contribute to others’ blogs as an author which adds more weight to your brand and improves individual identity.
Securing links should still be an integral part of your natural search strategy. We’ve known for a while that buying hundreds of links from low-quality sites won’t work, but now the quality of YOUR site is of primary importance. Even if you’re regularly gaining links from blogs and other online publications, Google will be looking at a whole host of other factors including your on-site content, how your site is structured, how many times links to your content have been shared on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest etc. and whether or not you’re making use of Google+ as a social brand hub.
By getting all of these elements right, you’ll drastically increase the chances of your content being seen by the right people: your potential customers. What’s more, as is always the end goal, this should ultimately have a positive impact on your bottom line.
Alice Reeves on Google+