When you begin trying to rank on Google, you run into SEO and a bunch of buzzwords: keywords, link building, content marketing, user experience, etc. What do all of these terms mean and what should you be focusing on for SEO?
A full SEO campaign requires many different aspects to be successful, so it is hard to say that one thing is more important than another. But don’t worry, I won’t cop out. I will tell you what the most important aspect of SEO is.
As we’ve said many times in our blogs, all SEO campaigns need to start with keyword research. Looking into what people are actually searching for within your area is vital to ensuring that Google and other search engines understand what your website is about. To demonstrate this importance, let’s pretend you are a pharmacy. You decide to name your business “Matt’s Drug Store” and in all of the text on your site, you refer to your business as a drug store. If you had done the most basic level of keyword research, you would have noticed that the word “pharmacy” is used significantly more in searches.
As you can see, it’s an important step in the SEO process because, had you developed your site consistently using the keyword “pharmacy” instead of “drug store,” you would have been targeting more than 20 times the traffic than you did by using “drug store.” However, even if you continued to solely target “drug store,” if your website does what it’s supposed to in a simple, effective way, you could have eventually overcome this setback. People appreciate sites that do what they are supposed to, and, with enough exposure, over time, people may have linked to you, very possibly using the anchor text “pharmacy.”
Keywords and keyword research are important. They really expedite the process of getting the right traffic to your site. Are they the single most important aspect of SEO? No, because a good site that people want to link to will overcome any misguided keyword choices. Also, it is not particularly difficult to change your content to utilize more popular and relevant keywords.
Our second core component of SEO is link building. At a fundamental level, a link is a vote for your website. The more votes you have, the higher you appear in Google results. Where those links come from also plays a role (i.e. a link from CNN.com carries more weight than a link from your mom’s cat blog), but relevant links pointing from your site are always good. Relevance is important because if your links are clearly the product of spamming the comment sections of another site or having paid for links on sites that would never naturally link to you, you will get smacked with a manual Google penalty. If that happens, it doesn’t matter how good your keyword usage is, how many links point to you, or how nice your website is, you will not be getting any traffic from Google. So, back to our pharmacy example- your link building campaign might target any organizations that accredit you as a pharmacy, doctors in the area that refer patients to you, or your local chamber of commerce.
Creating a large, relevant link profile for your website is massively important for SEO. With each acquired link, you claw your way up in the search engine rankings. Is it the most important aspect of SEO? No, because while links have a strong effect on search ranking, many SEOs spend an inordinate about of time focusing on them. Just like with keywords, getting this traffic to your site is pointless if your site is not satisfying that traffic.
Content & User Experience
At the end of the day, your content and user experience are what comprise your website. This is what people are actually linking to and what searchers are landing on when they click on your search result. How does your site feel? Is it easy to use? Does it do what I want it to do? Does is satisfy the original search query? Is the content compelling? Does it provide value? Does it establish your site as an authority on your topic area? If the answer to any of these questions is “No,” even with all the keyword research and link building, your site will not be a success.
Content, even without a keyword strategy, will end up getting you traffic. Producing large amounts of quality content will not only establish your website as an authority, but it will indirectly be targeting more and more keywords.
Keyword research and optimization and link building will get people to land on your site. Having a clean, simple site that accomplishes what your visitors expect will get them to stay, tell their friends about it, share it on social media, link to it, and, depending on the purpose of your site, convert into customers, patients, subscribers, or whatever your site is trying to accomplish with its traffic.
SEO begins and ends with your website, and your website is comprised of your content and your user experience, making these the most important aspects of SEO.