Do you truly know your audience? When is the last time you asked your customers what they wanted? Do you encourage feedback—bad as well as good? Are you engaging with them on social media? At Adobe we’re striving to change the world through digital experiences, and customers are central to everything we do. Through my time here, I’ve concluded that customer experience and SEO are intrinsically linked.
While marketers know that search engine optimisation (SEO) improves organic search, they’re confused about the best way of getting their websites seen. The prevailing misconceptions preventing marketers from maximising their returns include:
- SEO involving little more than keyword placement and back-linking.
- Throwing money at organic search, much as you would other marketing channels.
- Taking short-cuts, such as using black-hat techniques.
Organisational hurdles may also hamper effective SEO:
- Disconnects—sometimes wide—between public relations and SEO teams.
- The role of the SEO team is often limited to firefighting, rather than guiding content creation.
- Marketers often do not understand SEO.
The Path to the Top
People often ask me how to “get to the top of Google by doing SEO.” I tell them, “Focus on the customer experience and write good content.” They say: “Okay, what do I really need to do?” Face it, there are no quick wins or shortcuts. Write compelling, useful content and make your website a good experience for the customer. The same rules that apply to a one man show also apply to large corporations.
To increase your organic traffic, you need to be in it for the long haul. To use an analogy, think about it the way you protect your health. Increasing traffic to your site is not a one-time issue, such as a headache, quickly resolved by taking an aspirin. It is long term and ongoing, exactly like the steps you take every single day—brush your teeth, eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep and exercise—to stay healthy. For optimal website health, focus on your customer, on what they want to read or look at, and the experience that they have engaging with your content. That’s how to win and retain their loyalty.
One company I worked with saw an uplift in traffic of 2000% on an already highly-trafficked site. They did this by strengthening their blog, hiring writers to produce excellent, timely articles that occasionally managed to scoop the major news outlets thanks to their unique insider perspective. When they ran an offer, they launched it via this blog, driving traffic back to the sales portal.
Here are my top six tips for healthier SEO:
- Have a great topic. Write something new and different. If you have a point of view, put it out there. Your perspective is. Google loves active sites that regularly update their content.
- Don’t use link bait. That’s right—don’t. Ever. Nothing frustrates customers more than a title that is ludicrously off the mark. Pages with high bounce rates are deprioritised by Google. Do make your story sound interesting, but also make sure the title is relevant and realistic.
- Get to the point. Don’t pad. Say what you have to say without waffle. Value quality over quantity.
- Chunk it out. Make content easy to read and visually appealing. Use spacing and consider numbering your points, as I’ve done in this post. Include graphics and photographs. If your content is readable, visitors will spend more time on the page. Google uses time spent on a site or page as a signal to judge how worthy your content is of prioritisation.
- Focus on the customer. Research shows that you have about ten seconds to grab a visitor’s attention. Holding it is even harder. Think about how you, as a customer, interact with your own favourite brands. Why are their websites compelling? Why do you feel comfortable on their mobile sites? There are dozens of reasons to leave a site, fewer reasons to stay. Again, it comes down to great user experience.
- Try things—and fail. Experiment with different approaches. Work with your testing and optimisation team. Share great examples that you have found online. Not everything will succeed, but if you don’t try, you will never know. Failure is frightening, but it’s worth recalibrating your way of thinking about it. In my experience, out of the many teams I’ve worked with, those who accept failures—and even shout about them—are the most successful.