I remember when I first jumped into the web development and digital marketing game. I learned basic front-end languages, some architecture principles and went on my way. I had a few freelance clients I did design work for at the time and immediately started pitching them web work. As soon as I had a few sites live I got into analytics. This is where things really got interesting to me. Seeing the impact of design and development decisions in analytics was like a contact high… it became a drug to me.
Search optimization quickly became a huge point of interest. At the time it was still cool to keyword stuff and hide back links in your footer. Add some basic HTML structure to your page, stuff the title and the description and… bingo! First page. The more web properties I got my hands on the larger my back link network became and all my clients saw an impact from it.
I was addicted to the SERP. I still am, actually.
Since then, Google has grown up. Most of the web has been forced to as well. We should all be thankful. What was happening was Google results no longer served their purpose. Their search credibility was diminishing. Nine times out of ten the entire first page of results for whatever you were searching for was just a huge bank of hidden backlinks, stuffed keywords and Adwords ads. Some kid (ok, maybe me) was making good money hacking the search system.
It was fun while it lasted, right? Try any of those techniques now and you’re better off finding yourself a new URL. Google will do just about everything in it’s almighty power to make sure no one sees your content if you’ve even got black hat sites linking to yours. These days it takes quite a bit more effort to stand out. The good thing? Search for something you need today and find it, immediately. Find it from your phone, your tablet, your phablet, your watch or even your computer if you still own one (and use it). No internet connection? No worries. Google is there for you with good, reliable and quality answers.
Quality is our focus keyword here. Hear that Google? Quality.
Google has made an honest internet out of us. Most of us, anyway. On todays internet, it takes caring about what you do to really stand out. And it’s awesome. You can’t fake it anymore and get results. Today, your digital presence must be holistic in order to survive. Your content has to be consumable by humans. Shareable because people care about it. Or need it. And it has to be real. The internet today allows us to research, find peer evaluation and form a structured opinion so quickly that if you’re bluffing… you’re done.
Ok, cool. Got it. I care about my widget. What now?
First things first. Define yourself. Whether you’re a person, a place, a product or a service. You are ultimately a brand.
As it pertains directly to search optimization, this means defining your core keyword set. Once you’ve defined your brand, define it in keywords.
Second. Define your audience. If you’re going to put effort into creating your brand, you must have insight into whether or not people care about or need it. Define your audience.
In search terms, this is where you validate your keyword set. Make sure your brand’s definition (in keywords) is relevant and people are searching for it.
Third. Define your competition. In order for your audience to care about your brand, you have to be distinguishable from your competition. If there’s no competition you’re either not looking hard enough or have the next Instagram on your hands. If you do, contact us immediately! Seriously though, your brand has competition. Define it.
In your keyword discovery, this is where you need to start finding own-able keywords. Find your long tail keywords, your niche keywords and start being realistic about where you can stand out. This is a good time to start benchmarking your current traffic and setting some long term goals for your search visibility.
Once you’ve done those three things, the work begins. For the purpose of this post, we’re going to stick to getting your brand high on Google. We’ll assume you’ve got your business model defined, have a website and social accounts setup and a good amount of other things in place. Before I start my rant, there are quite a few fundamental details your website needs to address to perform well in search. We’ll cover those in a separate post.
Looking for more technical details on Search Engine Ranking Factors? Check this MOZ survey and correlation data study 2015
The first thing to understand about your brand’s digital presence is simple. Well… kinda. Your brand exists in a bunch of places on the internet. You should be there. You should be listening. More importantly, your brand should be engaging. Google is listening and they care deeply about social media and everywhere else your brand gets mentioned. So much so, in fact, they’ve started indexing all the nooks and crannies (like individual Tweets) which may or may not mention and or link to your brand. Find the conversations and join them. Engage them. They’re not going away.
Pro Tip: A great tool to help discover brand mentions is the Fresh Web Explorer
Next, your digital presence needs to be based on quality. Every syllable. Every letter. Every pixel counts. Content is king, right? And Community is the Kingdom. Well, quality is the key connection point to user experience. Take a second to think about that term. The experience of the user defines your brands presence and what it stands for online and beyond. User experience is how your customer feels pre-purchase, in-purchase and post-purchase. That feeling is dictated by all the decisions you and your brand have made over all the late night debates. They all play a massive part in the communication of your brand, product or service. On todays internet, quality and attention to detail is what sets you apart. It’s what defines the truth on the internet. And it’s measurable.
We used to be able to setup content repositories (blogs mainly) to dump a whole bunch of keywords into one place and watch their search rankings skyrocket. The dog bot days are over. You’re better off posting less frequently and spending more time on the quality of your content… the truth of your content. If you don’t it’s a waste of time. You shouldn’t have to ask your employees to share your content, product or service. Ever. Good content is shared by nature. Not process.
Good PR and Influencer Marketing are great aids in creating quality content. Both can serve as kick starters for getting your brand noticed when done well. So get the band together. They’ve got social clout and some influence on the community. Find people who are endemic to your industry or brand and ask hire them to help be a part of your story. If no one is passionate about your brand, there’s a problem. You might be passionate but unable to properly communicate it. Understandable. Recognize it, though. Address it. The only way for your brand to survive in this digitally immediate world is to engage everything that exists around it. Good or bad. Engage. It’s your brand story.
Pro Tip: Try using Buzzsumo to find the influencers in your industry.
Once you get the quality & passion part down, be consistent. When you define the true quality, consistency will become addictive. This is when you’ll start getting high on Google. Social engagement will skyrocket. Sharing of your content will be inherent. And you will succeed. Not because you learned some secret hack or shortcut, though. Because you believe in what you do. Because you can accurately convey why you believe in what you do. Because others believe in what you do. Because of passion. Because of quality.
When you’re high on Google you can’t stop. You won’t want to. Because you’re succeeding.
While I want to say we can get your brand ranked on Google quickly like we used to, I can’t. We can do it though. It’s just a little more work… more fun… and more authentic than it used to be. It’s a game. Just like it always was. Except now it’s a game of truth. It’s a game of doing it right. You can get high on Google. You just have to believe in what you’re doing. There aren’t any shortcuts. There’s hard work. There’s passion. And there’s quality. Everything else is on page two or behind it.