There are two types of SEOs, and no, I am not referring to the Black Hat and White Hat practitioners. It used to be that online marketing and technical professionals who had very different skillsets. Marketers created content. Techies made that content available online. As more companies came to realize the potential of organic visibility, a niche speciality utilizing both skillsets blossomed into demand: Search Engine Optimization.
Ask any SEO specialist how they ended up in an industry sometimes confused with search-algorithm hacking, and an interesting story never fails to arise. Nevertheless, behind these intricate biographies, an uncanny common denominator frequently reveals two groups of people:
The technical web-savvy expert learning the marketing side of SEO.
The marketing expert learning the technical aspects of the SEO industry.
At one time, neither marketers nor techies would consider themselves SEOs. Turns out that blending both disciplines creates a set of skills that typifies the most knowledgeable SEOs — art and science are beautiful together. So what does each type need to learn to turn themselves into an SEO-superstar?
Marketing Case: Josh obtained his BA in Communications and Marketing. He learned to define his message, identify his audience, properly design his product and use the most effective channels in the marketplace. Josh thought he was prepared to tackle the world. Yet increasingly, Josh’s company began to depend on its website to sell services and merchandise. He was confronted by a whole new set of SEO concepts, such as keyword targeting and the importance of links, which inspired him to launch his career as an SEO.
Technical Case: Katie went straight to a technical institute after graduating from high school. Her love affair with code brought her an interesting job at an online merchandising firm. Already prepared with an innate understanding of HTML, she easily mastered the science behind SEO and getting pages to rank high. Soon enough though, Katie discovered that if she wanted to achieve better results, she would have to learn more than optimization tactics, and understand marketing aspects, like what verbiage will (do) to entice someone to click, and techniques to convert visitors into customers.
Both Katie and Josh have strong core skills in their respective areas of expertise. However, they are also lacking important information that can have a strong impact on the outcome of their efforts. Armed with new knowledge, Josh and Katie can understand the broader scope of SEO and how it impacts the bottom line. And knowledge, as they say, is power. So how do each of these groups grow into a stronger SEO practitioner?
For the techie learning the marketing side of SEO
Constantly viewing content as a bunch of HTML dripping down the page like a scene from The Matrix, or obsessing over-optimized page formatting and HTML tags are great skills, but a far cry from the full picture.
Turn off the code and check out the “normal” view. Words DO mean something more than a density percentage. Strategic marketers go through a great deal of trouble to craft messages that meet very specific criteria, and good SEO is a place where science and art intersect.
Online behavioural psychology concerns itself with the study of user behaviour and how it can be better understood. Website viewers have been conditioned to recognize certain cues on web pages, which can be aligned with SEO best practices, tackling the best of both worlds:
Bolded or underlined phrases are generally interpreted as links to other pages. A few of them sprinkled throughout the content shows readers that more info is available, even if they don’t follow the links. Algorithmically, links and formatting practices can pass authority and inspire relevance.
Short paragraphs are psychologically more appealing to readers since the spaces between paragraphs are unconsciously interpreted as “exit ramps.” In readers’ minds, if content proves uninteresting, they can quickly leave at the first exit they encounter. Using short paragraphs actually encourages viewers to read more. Long, unbroken paragraphs should generally be avoided. In SEO, this interprets into a longer time spent on the page, which is a signal favoured by the algorithms.
Bullet lists, captions, images, videos, and headings garner much higher readership than body content. Many viewers are lazy readers. Offering the most important messages in forms of heading tags ensures the most exposure by its viewers. In SEO, using heading tags to structure your data is also a tactic welcomed by search engines. Additionally, while images can be used to enhance a user’s experience, search algorithms favour pages that offer multifaceted content.
Certain words trigger more positive connotations than others, even if they mean essentially the same thing. Discover is a positive word – it’s fun. Learn is a negative word – it means work. Tons of research exists regarding words. Making sure you are creating high quality and engaging content will not only benefit your users, but also inspire shares, and gain natural links which are great for SEO.
Optimizing for the click is an effective method SEOs use to enhance their snippets on the search engine result pages, to gain a higher click-through rate. The result is an algorithmic signal indicating that the snippet (if frequently clicked) is well suited to rank high for that particular keyword. Understanding how to wordsmith buzzwords and inspire engaging verbiage is a marketing asset that will greatly improve your SEO results.
Crafting website content is like walking a tightrope, balancing between giving search engines what they want, and providing website viewers the information they need to move them along in their purchase journey.
The purchase funnel is one way to describe the way viewers are moved from entering a website to finally making a purchase. There are many variations of this paradigm, but it can simply be broken down as:
Awareness – Seeing a link and clicking on it
Interest – Deciding to spend the time to read website pages
Desire – Wanting and considering buying whatever the website is selling
Action – Actually buying the product/service offered
Each of these stages embodies an entire realm of research. Specific content, links, illustrations and testimonials are developed to move the viewer through these stages to the final purchase. Apply these concepts when assembling your SEO landing page strategy to see even better conversion results.
For the marketer learning the technical side of SEO
Search algorithms are complicated mathematical computations used by search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing to rate, categorize, and rank websites. When people search for a specific term, Google dives into its massive index and returns results based on over 200 algorithmic signals.
Mastering the criteria used by search engines to rate and categorize webpages is one of the most important things an SEO can do. Learning which of heavily weighted algorithmic elements influence search engines, and understanding key factor like PageRank is extremely important.
HTML architecture is the map and structure of a website and every element on it. Although you can’t see it without viewing the code in which it is written, the structural design of your website can have a huge impact on algorithms much like a viewers’ ability to load pages, view images, quickly find topics, travel from page to page, and logically progress through the purchase funnel. While it’s important to keep the user experience in mind, it’s equally imperative to have a fluid crawler experience (for search bots) as well.
Properly designing the structure of a website is an art and a science. Knowing search engine best practices and aligning them with good user experience is in the best interests of SEO and marketing.
Systematic markup and structured data allows search engines to parse and understand webpages better. Understanding how to implement vocabularies such as Schema.org and protocols like Open Graph can be very useful.
It’s important that the savvy marketer learns to align these concepts with the technical best practices to get the most impact on improving website performance. By comparing the performance of various pages with data gathered from analytics, content can be tweaked to increase performance dramatically.
As you can see, there is little room at the inn for those who aren’t willing to stretch their minds, cross the aisle, and learn new things from both industries. Every word, graphic, heading, and link are developed for defined purposes based on solid research by the savvy SEO marketer. Understanding the behavioural WHY can help techies enable their websites to reap more traffic and sales from high rankings. While understanding the technical HOW can help marketers ensure that viewers travel a smooth road from the first to last click, while achieving maximum visibility in search engines as well.