All webpages are equal
All webpages are equal, but some webpages are more equal than others
Those lines are a play on Animal Farm, George Orwell’s dystopian satire of Stalin’s dictatorship. On August 17th, it will be 70 years since the book was first published, and I was planning on waiting until that anniversary to post this blog, but I’m impatient.
If you haven’t read it, the book is about a farm of talking animals led by the pigs, who make laws and paint them on the wall for all to see. As things start to change on the farm, so do the laws. Stay with me here.
If the Internet is our farm, then Google are the pigs making and changing the rules. Sure, other search engines exist, but Google is the only one that matters. (Just Ask Jeeves.) Don’t worry, this blog isn’t about Google being fascist pigs—far from it. It’s about Searchism, my term for a new ideology about all things search in this Google Farm we live in. Searchism is about accepting a truth, keeping your eyes open, and adapting techniques with changing rules. We Searchists embrace Google’s ever-evolving algorithms in the pursuit of becoming optimal search engine marketers.
While many of Google’s laws are hidden in algorithms, some are written on the wall for all to see. Here are five of the latest.
(Or they bid a helluva lot more than others, at least.)
It’s a hard truth to face but it’s one you can’t ignore: you’re competing and you will be outbid by bigger budgets. There are approximately 45,000 Google searches every second and counting and getting yourself on the first page is going to cost some dough. Start with the first page. Get there, and then worry about the top result.
Bidding is an easy place to start. If you’re spread thin, then you need to be crafty. If you can’t bid rich, bid smart. Pick a small set of the most searched for keywords and put your chips there. Forget about all the other variations and outliers.
What are the most searched keywords? Google Analytics tools can help you find these metrics. You have to put your ego aside and learn how users think they should be searching for you, not what you think they should be typing in. And the next day, start all over again. Adjust your top keywords and bids on them regularly. The fluctuation will blow you away.
That said, your page copy and SEO methods need to stay in sync with your bids or you’re nothing but a liar. Or so it will seem when users see your high-page search result, click, and see that the text and phrasing they used in their search is nowhere on your page. That brings us to Law 3 of Searchism.
All that research you’re doing on all those top-rated, hot, popular, buzzy words, and phrases is not just so you know where to bid, it’s also so you know how to optimize your own content. Keyword-rich content is essential to maximizing the efficacy of all that smart PPC bidding you’re doing.
And so you snag a user. They’re on your page and now they’re a friend! So, treat them like one and give them what they came for. This does not have to mean a complete warping of your messaging. It simply means some time spend adjusting copy and sub-heads, primarily.
Consider how Alan Rabinowitz, CEO of SEO Image puts it: “The idea is to identify the primary keyword(s) that you will be targeting for the page or website and then support those keywords with semantically and topically related keywords and phrases.”
Your treasured taglines, the headlines that are the roots of your brilliant campaigns do not have to change. You just need to make sure that you’re speaking the language that your customers and prospects are, because that’s how they’re searching. Then reflect that language somewhere in your copy in an appropriate frequency.
“WAIT!” I hear you say. “These laws are just like any set of commandments!”
Well, you can’t just pick and choose. Law 2 is important, but so often digital marketers obsess over this rule and cannibalize themselves and their companies when they ignore Law 3.
Why would anyone want to kill a lead? The fact of the matter is these deaths often take place without intent. There are many ways modern Searchists can kill a lead. However, a prominent cause is death by exposure to SEO-laced copy. What was once targeted, strategic, naturally-flowing, user-friendly, relevant, focused, and appropriate copy can often be poisoned by short-sighted marketing professionals who focus solely on the Law 2 portion of SEO and nothing else.
The idea is to write your best copy that represents you, your product or service, and develops your campaigns. Then attempt to incorporate and swap-in the latest industry speak and changing buzz into your original messaging. Do not contaminate your messaging with SEO, SEO, and more SEO.
Users are not like they once were. They know copy that was web-mastered to ensnare a searcher. Even if they don’t recognize the tainted copy, their experience is going to be less than ideal, and it’s likely the lead will be killed.
Social media is a noisy beast and, in keeping with form, Google hears everything. Yes, the search gods have spoken to deny any direct relationship between social actions and higher ranking content, but they have also admitted to attempting to factor social signals into their algorithms, and they may do so again. While Google many not directly count all of your Likes and Tweets, a well executed social media strategy has all kinds of indirect benefits on SEO, such as higher rankings for brand profiles and more targeted traffic with personalized search results.
A few key tactics are proving to be integral methods in improving your rankings. And yes, this may be simple stuff and insulting to some, but Searchists should never forget the basics (and should always leave their pride at the barn door). Firstly, the goals: increase followers, friends, connections and circles; increase the number of sites linking to your site (and remember to return the favor!); and increase the high-authority mentions or links to your content or sites. Next, the tactics: create branded social pages across various platforms; produce content worth sharing; make sharing easy with easy UX, social buttons, mobile responsiveness and easy linkage; and have a human tone of voice, not a robotic one.
OK, this may not be “a complete system of thought.” But, to quote journalist Carole Cadwalladr: “The future, in ways we can’t even begin to imagine, will be Google’s.” So, it’s something to familiarize yourself with. Keep watching, keep listening, keep adjusting, and keep rewriting your laws until you’re an expert in Searchism. And most importantly, keep your eyes on the barn wall. Unlike the pigs in Animal Farm, Google creates and changes these laws, both those on the wall and those hidden, for the overall good of Searchism, not for power. The battle for power has long been over.
Words by Andy Sproule