This morning, on one of my favorite podcasts about positioning for tech professionals, the host was interviewing a successful consultant and asked him how he managed to attract so much traffic with so little investment.
He said, “I don't care about SEO, I care about my audience.”
In fact, he gave only one “non-SEO” SEO tip. He said, “I simply look for questions people in my audience are asking, and I answer them. That's it.”
His answer was perfect.
The key to attracting higher levels of targeted traffic is to focus on your users, not Google. Even Google themselves have said so.
Applying SEO should do exactly what it says: “optimize for the search engines.” That is, SEO should make it easier for engines to find, parse, and gauge the value of your content as it directly relates to your users' questions.
It's not some hack to shortcut your way into higher search results. You simply provide good content that answers your users' questions as best as possible, and make sure that your users can find and consume your content.
I've said this before: SEO only boils down to two essential things:
- The quality of the content, and
- The quality of the experience.
Simple as that. No backdoor tactics or coding backflips necessary. Make sure your website covers these two things, and you're golden.
Granted, there are various levels and degrees of complexity of SEO. Optimizing an ecommerce site with 80,000 product descriptions is going to be different, more complex, and a lot more involved than a local dentist's site, for example.
But as long as you provide solid, relevant content that specifically answers your audience's questions, and does a better job of answering those questions than your competitors, you're halfway there.
For content ideas, simply start by looking for questions that people are asking in your field. Use Quora, discussion groups, or answerthepublic.com.
The second part is where user experience (UX) comes in. But this, too, comes to about five or six essential things. You simply need to make sure your content is:
- Easy to navigate,
- Easy to find,
- Easy to read,
- And secure.
There are several ways to do this, and it can get quite granular. I've seen SEO audits with checklists so long, it would take several articles like this one to go through them all.
But let me share some high-level ideas to improve your users' experience.
1. Make sure your website loads fast.
People hate waiting for sites to load. Google does, too.
Without getting too technical, use a tool like GTMetrix.com to analyze the performance of your website. When it spits out the speed score (don't worry about the score), look at what it found. It provides you with a lot of fixes, suggestions, and best practices.
There are multiple ways to achieve more speed, which will depend greatly on your platform (CMS), the server that's hosting your site, and, unless you hire a web person to handle this for you, your level of technical familiarity.
2. Make sure your website is easy to navigate.
If your site is difficult to browse, even if only a little, people will leave.
Good navigation is at the heart of UX. But this is more than making your navigation menu easy to find. You need to make it easy for users to identify and use all of your site's navigation markers (e.g., menus, buttons, links, forms, etc).
To save time, there's a good article about it here.
3. Make sure your content is easy to find.
Nothing is more annoying than struggling to find what you're looking for.
Offering content that answers your user's query should be the priority, but don't hide it or force your users to jump through many hoops to get it. At least, use internal linking to connect content together.
Whether you use the silo method (i.e., grouping related information into distinct sections) or the hub-and-spoke model (i.e., clustering content together based on related themes or topics), the key is to structure your content to make it easy to find.
4. Make sure your content is easy to read.
Aside from being more comfortable to read, readability makes your content easily actionable, too.
As professionals, we can easily write long, technical articles with huge, dense paragraphs meant for industry journals. But online, users never read at first. They always skim, scan, and scroll. Don't invite them to scan more with long, blurry blocks of text.
Here are some common guidelines: use whitespace (to frame content), markers (such as subheads and lists), large fonts, more contrast, adequate line-heights (so text doesn't appear dense), and shorter paragraphs (break them up into 4-5 lines each).
5. Make sure your content is mobile-first.
Not mobile-friendly. Mobile-first.
Over half of all Internet traffic is mobile. When you take out other non-desktop devices such as TVs, wearables, security systems, etc, mobile is even more. Likely 80%+.
In 2018, Google started indexing the mobile versions of websites instead of desktop ones. So the less mobile-friendly yours is, the less value it will offer — and the less likely it will rank well, too.
You can make your website responsive, meaning it will flex according to the users' window size. But don't have desktop versions load on all devices (such as loading large images in the background that stay hidden on mobile devices).
This can get technical. But to be simple, be simple.
6. Make sure your website is secure.
Pretty self-explanatory. You need a valid SSL certificate.
Aside from browsers warning users when visiting insecure sites, search engines are becoming more and more reluctant to send traffic to them. Again, Google wants to provide users with the best experience possible. Lack of security hinders that immensely.
Not only that, but if you're a professional, you will likely deal with sensitive information sent via your site, whether it's from clients, patients, or colleagues. Security is not just an SEO or compliance issue. It can also be a legal one.
So, there you have it.
If you have any questions on any of these, perhaps you want me to dig a little deeper or provide some additional tips, let me know. Tag on the social networks or email me at email@example.com.