3 Tips for Understanding Your “Courtship” with Search Engines

One of the few difficulties in SEO I often encounter is explaining the process of site optimization to those who do not understand why it’s necessary and how it relates to your overall marketing strategy. Taking it a bit further, this can even apply to conveying the principles of SEO to others.

Whether you are trying to educate people across the aisle in your marketing department, win the sale with a prospective customer or even tell your mother what you do, it helps to portray the core concepts of SEO in a manner that parallels daily life. I’ve found the easiest way to encounter this is with lateral correlation to dating.

Now, granted, I have been out of the dating scene for 12 years now – thank you, Jennifer, for accepting my proposal – but SEO and dating are quite similar and provide an easy explanation. For a search marketing veteran, take this as a fun and handy tip; for the SEO beginner, take this as a lesson.

Indexation and Information Architecture

It’s the first date and if you are lucky to get past awkward silent moments, you begin to gain an understanding of the other person’s life. If you find that they don’t seem to answer questions completely, or if they’re extremely vague in correspondence, it may become difficult to understand the true composition of who they really are. After a good long chat with the other person, you should easily understand what is important to them and what they value. Inversely, if you have any skeletons in your closet or personal traits that are best left unknown, it may benefit you to keep it withheld.

Relationship to SEO

How you are indexed by search engines is the initial first date. Putting it all on the table allows the search engines to take into account everything that makes your site unique, and what keywords you will soon be deemed relevant for. As you learn what your date values and deems important, you should understand how you structure navigation and the internal linking within your site. On the other hand, there are many times when you have issues with your site where you have content that you don’t want search engines to see or crawl.

Make Sure That You…

  • Provide an XML sitemap of all content on your site that you want indexed and visible to crawling.
  • Structure content on your site by importance with supporting content in a clean folder structure. Internally linking is easily crawled and anchored descriptively.
  • Robots.txt file usage should be employed for known duplicate content, non-search critical content and anything you don’t feel is necessary to convey to search engines.

seocourtship1

Content/Keywords

You’ve made it past the first date, but you are far from marriage. Your inquisitive mind wants to know more about what makes this other person tick. You inquire about their music tastes, what movies they like and even what media outlets they frequent. Is it easy to understand who they are? You may have been in their home, seeing it’s organized – or how it isn’t. By this point, you’re seeing a pretty clear picture of how we can categorize this person and if they are quite similar to you. You should be able to sum this person up in a few distinct keywords.

Relationship to SEO

In the previous section, we began to open up the door and let search engines see what we wanted them to know about us, as well as the hierarchical categorization of what our site represents. We also withheld any information we didn’t want to initially reveal. Now, we must instruct the specifics of who we are. We do this with the content on our site. We do this in our keyword focus. We provide different content for each of the different types of users we are trying to service.

Make Sure That You…

  • Create text, image and video content specific to keyword topics to form relevance for ranking.
  • Don’t pigeon-hole content on your site. A quality site contains a breadth of content in several different mediums. Provide resourceful content – such as a mix of articles, blog posts, videos, whitepapers – rather than writing 1,000 blog posts to chase keywords.
  • Understand your keyword composition as Google sees it. In Webmaster Tools’ Content Keywords section, you can see, in aggregate, what terms you portray the most on your site and where these terms are prevalent.

seocourtship2

Link Neighborhoods and Authority

You are falling in love with this person. You like everything about them. Next, you will meet their family and friends. Unfortunately, this is where things could go south. Finding out they spend most of their personal time with their high school pal, who is a drug dealer, might not suit you. On the bright side, they may have many friends of reputable or authoritative character, which can vouch for your prospective soulmate as an upstanding person.

Relationship to SEO

I call link-building and link-earning the right leg of SEO: you have to have it. Where it was once about quantity, over the past few years, it has become much more about quality. If you have a link profile makeup consisting of links from less than reputable sources and topically unrelated sites, you are sending a message to search engines that you are also not a reputable site. In correlation to real life, typically you are who you hang out with.

Make Sure That You…

  • Only associate yourself in link-building relationships with quality sites. This applies in who links to you, as well as who you link out to. This is a process that needs continual monitoring.
  • Don’t try too hard to attain links. If you try too hard in link building, as with your personal life, it’s usually easy to see, as it looks unnatural. The best links are those attained through creating resourceful content.
  • Be relevant; links from topically-irrelevant site make you look very shady. Continually monitoring the topical theme makeup of your linking sites to ensure you are portraying the proper image to search engines of who you are by who you associate with.

seocourtship3

Some may find this example a little corny, but I find it to be an accurate comparison between SEO and real life. At the end of the day, SEO is the process of creating a relationship between two parties where you want to completely convey your entire makeup, as well as why you are a reputable, authoritative entity. Whether you now want to call yourself a “search marketing Casanova” or a “Google Matchmaker”, that is up to you!

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