“SEO is dead,” says Amanda Iglesias with a wry smile. “At least, that’s what sensationalized blog headlines tell us every few years—whenever Google releases a new algorithm.” Amanda, Product Manager at Hubspot, spoke to members of the Charlotte Hubspot Users Group last night on “SEO: How to Know What’s What in an Ever-Evolving Web Environment.”
She contends that not only is SEO not dead, it hasn’t fundamentally changed much since the early 1990’s when the first web search engines were developed. The goal of search engines has always been, she says, to deliver useful content to the user. The only thing that has changed is that they’ve gotten better at it, and made it increasingly difficult to “game” the system.
Why some people insist that the sky is falling each time the algorithm improves…
Historically, “black hat” and “grey hat” SEO firms have found ways to exploit weaknesses in the algorithms to boost a client’s search rankings artificially. Amanda says that was never the intent of Google’s—or any other engine’s—algorithms. These black hat methods can yield immediate results in the form of a quick search engine boost, but they fail to deliver long-term benefits. In fact, as algorithms improve, such techniques increasingly backfire on their practitioners.
Instead, SEO has to be earned. “You can’t just buy it,” she says. “It has to be built over time. We’re building a house here, not renting an apartment. It’s going to take time to put all the pieces in place, but when it’s done, the house is going to be there for you.”
The critical first step in developing an SEO approach that works…
Most importantly, she says, a great SEO strategy begins with the user. She touts the importance of personas, the use of which is fundamental to Hubspot’s (and, incidentally, my content agency’s) approach. Identifying individual buying decision makers and influencers, understanding their buying process, their emotional and psychological triggers, and the obstacles they must overcome to make a purchase, is fundamental in knowing how to talk to them on your website. Connecting effectively with the buyer leads to higher quality engagement, which ultimately leads to long-term SEO.
The good news for marketers is that developing effective SEO content is essentially the same as developing effective user content. No need for keyword stuffing or aggressive back link building. Meet the needs of the user, and you’re already most of the way to good SEO. Of course, she did add that attention to the technical details—effective meta-tags, for instance—supports SEO efforts and should not be neglected.
Amanda also shared quite a few useful hints and details that were new to me…
- Currently, search engine bots can’t crawl video and audio content, so it’s important to include a transcript and appropriate tagging for your video content.
- Both users and search engine crawlers prefer content with a real person’s name attached to it. An article with a Google-friendly byline will show the author’s image in the search results, significantly improving odds that people will click on it (I think the number is 150% improvement in clicks). Including Google-linked bylines provides two additional benefits: The author’s “authority” rating improves the page’s SEO, and the page’s “authority” improves the author’s rating. Win-win.
- The “Next Big Thing” in SEO may be UX. Sites that successfully capture their audience and hold their attention gain significant SEO benefits, and user experience is a big part of that equation. It’s not enough to have great content if the user can’t easily access it.
Response to Amanda’s presentation was warm and attentive, with lively discussion following. Combined with great food, good beer, and a delightful ambiance, the event went off beautifully. I for one hope there will be many more like it.
About Heather Head
Heather is the founder of Scopcity, a marketing content agency focused on eliminating content bottlenecks for marketers. Heather recruits, develops, and manages a team of highly talented writers to serve the content needs of Scopcity’s clients. A nationally published author with more than thirteen years of B2B marketing experience, Heather Head lives and breathes her passion for stories, storytellers, and the businesses they serve.
When Heather is not leading training sessions, speaking on content-related topics, or writing kick-butt copy of her own, she can be found working on her next novel, assisting in the education of her homeschooled boys, and avoiding the kitchen.