I was recently asked by a prospective client how they could ensure long-term SEO success in the face of Google’s constantly changing algorithm. This is a brand with some deep pockets, but they are very cost-conscious about their marketing (read: they’re smart). So I interpreted their question to mean, how can I ensure I’m not wasting money on SEO efforts that may soon be considered obsolete or worse, detrimental, for their site.
I could have answered this question in a number of ways. I could have cited that organic traffic is their (and nearly every site’s) largest source of traffic. Ignoring it because you’re risk averse to spending some money will only make you sales averse in the long term. I could have pulled a bunch of quotes from Moz or Search Engine Land or ClickZ or some other big name search publication, making a case for the importance of investing in SEO. I could have done some research to show what their competitors are doing, thus implying that they’ll be left in the dust if they don’t step up to the challenge.
Actually, I did do all of those things. And while helpful in showing in the current landscape and stating the case for SEO, I still felt that this data and expert opinions weren’t enough. I needed to succinctly yet powerfully display what is happening in the industry and what the future holds. But rather than look ahead and make predictions on what changes Google will make next, I decided to go back to the beginning. I pulled up Google’s mission statement--the one-sentence manifesto that is meant to drive everything that business does:
“To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
It’s here that I felt I had the right approach. This mission is certainly lofty, but it’s a simple and straightforward statement when you really break apart the elements. By looking at the three main aspects of this mission statement separately, it becomes exceedingly clear why Google continues to make so many algorithm changes. I also believe it provides clear direction on what a business should do to get behind Google’s mission and thus become successful in organic search.
Let’s break the sentence down to its core elements:
To organize the world’s information...
“Information” can be product or services specifications, instructional documents, entertainment, educational documents or any other type of content out there available on the web. There’s that buzzword we all know and love--content. Google’s all about content, content, content.
...make it universally accessible…
To allow Google to make information accessible to searchers, you need to ensure it’s accessible to Google. This can be done through technical and structural modifications (e.g., organizing and submitting an XML sitemap, fixing server errors, making your site mobile friendly), and by making it easy for searchers to navigate your site, interact with content and share it to others.
Don’t just create content for content’s sake. Make sure it provides some value to your customers and other folks visiting your site. To do this effectively, you need to know who these people are and what makes them tick.
When planning far into the future, it’s not about specific SEO tactics or a channel strategy. You simply have to look to Google’s mission statement to understand the five approaches you should focus on:
- Optimize structural aspects to ensure accessibility
- Provide value to your target audience
- Create and distributing quality content
- Leverage relationships and connections
- Integrate with all other marketing efforts
We will never be able to predict the specific algorithm changes or penalties that Google will enact in the future, but if you focus on these five approaches, rather than worrying about how many backlinks you generated or where you rank on X keyword, you’re sure to weather all the algo updates and manual penalties that Google throws at the world.