Search engine optimization (SEO) is a time-tested inbound marketing strategy that focuses on bringing more high-quality traffic to a website through organic search engine results.
But there's so much more to understand about it than 'setting and forgetting' a simple tactic or two."New clients recognize SEO as something they need, but there's a good deal of confusion surrounding the concept," says Jed Morey, president of Morey Creative. "Great SEO companies use a multi-faceted approach that involves strong site architecture, a robust and consistent content plan, and direct tactics to draw attention to your site, such as paid media and email marketing. It all matters in the mosaic of SEO, which is a largely misunderstood umbrella term."
In this article, the Morey Team came together to talk a bit more about several of the most common best practices, the reasoning behind them, and some of their benefits.
Let's break 'em down:
#1 Best Practice: A well-designed, responsive site
“Good design matters when it comes to SEO performance," says Jeff Main, senior designer and leader of our Main Street Hive. "We’ve all been there, where we click a search result, load a website that looks like it’s from 1997, and immediately rush back to our search results [to] find a competitor’s website. That’s a bounce, and it’s bad for SEO."
A well-designed and responsive site means a few things. It means your site is organized and easy to navigate, with clear paths for your visitors to follow, beautiful images/video, and copy that tells a story. But it's also responsive, meaning that it's built to be mobile-friendly, and with mobile-first indexing at the forefront these days, being responsive is crucial.
"That's a huge ranking factor, so responsive design is a must," continues Main. "The end. Non-negotiable :slightly_smiling_face:"
Benefit: "Building a beautiful, well-organized, and engaging website that speaks to your target audience will improve the time your users spend on site, and lessen your bounce rate," he adds. "This shows search engines your site provides value, which will help with rankings.”
#2 Best Practice: High quality + well-researched content
“As a strategist, there is simply no substitute for comprehensively researching a given topic," explains Jamie Lynn Ryan, senior strategist. "Without solid resources to provide the backbone to our content, we run the risk of producing articles light on context, which ultimately does a disservice to the reader."
We always stress quality over quantity when it comes to our pieces, and that's because Google appreciates content that truly answers the searcher's query. Rather than focusing on tons of thin content, stick to well-thought-out and highly researched pieces.
Benefit: "Great writing is derived from quality sources, and search engines are taking a more proactive role in holding content to a higher standard than ever before—a win for everyone in the long run,” she says.
#3 Best Practice: Focusing on topic clusters over keywords
This one is a little newer to the SEO world, but it's a highly effective strategy that focuses more on being an authority on an entire topic rather than simply trying to win over just one keyword per blog post.
"Topic clusters have been a natural progression that takes into consideration both how people actually search today and how Google delivers results," says Danielle Esposito, senior strategist. "Where people used to search just for a broader topic, it's become more and more common that searchers are looking up much more specific, long-tail questions. To combat this, we create content strategies based on owning an entire topic cluster rather than writing a bunch of self-serving individual posts. Having them all tie in together will allow them to help each other gain more momentum by having a deeper understanding of the topic as a whole."
Benefit: Search engines are smart, and shifting focus from writing just for keywords to writing for an entire topic based on what your visitors actually need and want to know will not only help them, but it will allow your entire cluster to rise in rankings together.
#4 Best Practice: Creating crawlable URLs + clear content mapping
"A well-thought-out URL strategy also ties into the overall information hierarchy and content mapping strategy," says DellaB, account manager for the Chive Hive.
Creating crawlable and clear URLs means that you're keeping them clean and consistent, allowing both the user and search engine to easily read the URL to understand what the page will be about.
"One of the things I love," she continues, "is that along with boosting your rankings and favor with search engines, certain best practices also enhance user experience, with 'readability of URLs for humans and search engines' being the specific example I'm thinking of."
Benefit: "Like the individual URLs, mapping all site content in a clear, logical, and uncluttered way provides SEO benefits in terms of indexing and ranking potential, while also ensuring that users have the best on-site experience possible," adds DellaB.
#5 Best Practice: Investigate the SERP to find user intent + Google relevancy
One of the worst things you can do when creating content is to simply assume what you think a keyword will deliver when being searched. The fact is, Google is in control here, so investigating your queries in Google is one of the the most crucial things you can do to make sure that: 1) The intent behind your keyword is there, and 2) Google is serving something relevant to you.
Benefit: According to Nikki Schwartz, strategist: "Your boss isn't your boss. Google is your boss. So when you investigate SERPs [search engine results pages] for Google relevancy, you're saving valuable time that you may have otherwise spent creating content that Google will never serve."
#6 Best Practice: Optimize for page speed
Let's be honest here: Time is money. And because of this, users aren't trying to sit there and wait for your site to load. If your pages aren't ready to go in three seconds or less, visitors are most likely clicking back to find one that will.
Benefit: "Search engines love quick, efficient webpages, and in turn, factor load time and page speed in when ranking," he explains.
#7 Best Practice: Adding Schema
"Schema is an essential part of optimizing a website," says Jon Sasala, creative director. "Yes, search engines are incredibly intelligent, and can understand exactly what a webpage is about, down to the disposition of the author: Is it a positive or negative opinion?
"So why would we need Schema?" he continues. "Schema is a way developers can tell search engines what the elements on a page are, i.e. this is the headline, this is the author, this is the image, etc."
Benefit: "This may seem like an unnecessary step, telling Google info it is built to figure out," adds Sasala, "but by volunteering this information, we optimize how quickly Google can document your content. F#$king A, right?"
Remember: "SEO is more than a tactic or event," explains Morey. "It's a process that requires time, attention, and an ever-evolving strategy. Google is incredibly powerful and a wonderful tool for business. But Google moves the goalpost more frequently than one might imagine. So you have to be on top of your game and recognize that long-term trend lines are more important than short-term traffic spikes, either up or down."
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