By Jeff Rumage
The importance of web visibility in our digital world cannot be overstated. So it’s no surprise that search engine optimization has become one of the most sought-after marketing skills – but it’s also one of the most misunderstood.
I personally have used SEO to a high degree in my last job as an online news editor. Coming from the newspaper world, it was a bit of a shock the first time I saw a short article about a peanut butter recall climb to the top of Google News. Because the article was filled with keywords about a nationally trending topic, that short article attracted 10 times the web traffic of a hard-hitting police article that required much more journalistic elbow grease.
So, how can we ensure our topics get as close as possible to the top of Google’s page ranking system? Luckily, Joey Donovan Guido, the founder of Cuppa SEO in Madison, was able to shed some light on SEO best practices during our PRSA chapter’s January luncheon.
I was already aware that Google places greater SEO value on things like headlines over body text, but Guido shared some interesting tips to give those title tags gain more SEO value, like using rich keywords (maximum 70 characters) and separating them with sticks (press “shift” and “\”).
I also was unaware that people who “stuff” title tags – a.k.a. the “black hat marketers” among us – are caught and punished by Google. That’s certainly an incentive to make sure your keywords are representative of the content you are providing.
As far as the body text, I already knew that linking to other reputable websites is important, but I did not know the location of the keywords mattered. Guido told us that you should ideally aim to have keywords in the first sentence, middle paragraph and in the last sentence.
The thing I think I enjoyed most about Guido’s presentation had nothing to do with keywords or tagging. It was a broader point about the importance of good, quality content. Believe it or not, good SEO is ultimately an exercise in knowing your audience and developing relationships.
You’ve already done most of the heavy lifting if you know your product and the market’s “pain points.” Talk with company officials and their customers about what information is most sought-after, and then capture those subjects in a relevant, informational and truthful way.
Search engines can’t entirely predict what information will be relevant to each user – not yet anyways. But the ability to provide information that is useful to another human being is going to continue to be an important skill – even if that conversation is happening through the screen of an iPhone.