The Secret to Effective SEO in 2019
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. In Plain English, it means putting your website in the best position to (a) be seen by Google and (b) be seen by people looking for what you offer the moment they’re looking for it.
Since the dawn of the internet era, SEO has intimidated regular folks. They thought (and often still think) that SEO is rooted in math. “How many keywords should I use and where should I use them?” “How many words should my content be?” “How many pages should I have on my website?” It prompts them to seek help from computer scientists and math experts to game the algorithms and boost their rankings.
They do this because they think SEO is a science. And in many ways, it is. SEO is about understanding those algorithms and what those algorithms take into consideration when evaluating where to rank a website. Most SEO specialist providers are well-trained in this, and will be able to come up with a keyword strategy to make the SEO science work.
Here’s the problem with SEO science: all it can do is get people to your website.
Yes, driving people to your site is important. But it’s only one half of the equation. Think of it like getting someone to test-drive a car. It’s a good start, but if they don’t like how the car drives or how the seats feel, the experience ends there.
This is where the “art” of SEO comes into play, and it has nothing to do with keywords.
The art of SEO is where many SEO agency providers fall short, and why so many companies spend so much money on SEO support with less-than-stellar results. These providers spend all their energy on strategies that drive traffic, and give very little thought to what happens after the traffic is successfully driven.
The Secret to Effective SEO in 2019 is to KEEP traffic.
Before I go any further, I want to take a minute to explain how Google works. Because understanding that will go a long way to understanding the secret.
Google is a service business
Even though everybody sees Google as a tech giant (which they most certainly are), at their core, they’re a company that provides a very valuable service: relevant, credible information when you need it.
Today, nine out of every 10 online searches are done with Google. They completely dominate the space, which is why they’re worth $739 billion. But they didn’t start out that way. In the early years of search engines, AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, InfoSeek, Excite, Yahoo and so many others let you type in a query and get relevant information.
But what you couldn’t get was credible information. And that’s where Google was different. Google’s founders correctly realized that people’s experiences with other search engines were negative because the information they served up wasn’t trustworthy. And so people would either have to jump from entry to entry to find credibility; or worse, they’d trust what they were given and lose credibility themselves when they used the information in a presentation or essay or whatever.
So the Google team’s approach was to index pages based on trust. And they ascertained trust through recommendations by other users in the form of linking to a page from their page — the thinking being that you wouldn’t damage the credibility of your own site with untrustworthy material.
And surprise, surprise, people appreciated what Google did. It saved them time. It kept them from looking foolish. And it helped them find answers to the problems they had.
Giving searchers results they can trust is still Google’s mission today. It drives every decision they make, the most important of which being how they set up their algorithm for determining what gets ranked highest in a SERP (search engine results page).
Ok, now that you understand what’s important to Google (and more importantly, what’s important to Google users), let’s get down to the secret.
Only you can hold on to the traffic your SEO provider generates
You know the value you bring, what makes that value unique, why your customers like working with you and why they keep coming back. Convey your value succinctly, and as soon as possible on every page so no matter where a user goes first, they’re compelled to stay, read and recommend your site to others.
If you can do that, you’ll be miles ahead of anyone who focuses strictly on the science. Because like I said above, it does you no good to drive people to your site if they have no reason to stay.
But I’m not the only one to say this. Google said it pretty loud and clear when they announced that dwell time would be a significant factor in page ranking. Let’s dive a little deeper into dwell time because it’s an important concept.
Dwell time and trust
Dwell time is the amount of time a visitor spends on your website before going back to the SERP. In retail terms, think of it like how much time you spend browsing in a store. According to Hubspot, the average dwell time on a site is less than 15 seconds. Google sees a less-than-15-second visit as an indication that their customer’s time was wasted — or, more specifically, that you wasted their customer’s time. And so they penalize you for that by saying “we don’t want you wasting more of our customers’ time so we’re going to make sure fewer of our customers see your site.”
Longer dwell time indicates to Google that their customer is finding what they’re looking for. They’re reading the content, watching the videos and getting value from their visit. Google likes this.
Google believes that the longer you stay on a site, the more trust you must have in what you’re seeing there because you wouldn’t be wasting your time on a site you didn’t trust or that wasn’t giving you what you wanted.
So how do you increase trust and dwell time?
To keep your reader on your site longer, the first step is to understand what they want. And to do that you have to understand them. Creating customer personas helps greatly in this regard.
A customer persona is essentially a breakdown of who your visitor is, what’s important to them and what kind of content they’d respond to. For example, one group might appreciate fact-heavy content with lots of references to imperial studies; and they wouldn’t be interested in fluff. Another group might want image-heavy content with broad stroke copy. Knowing this before you start creating content for your site puts you in a much better position to keep them around.
Now that you know what kind of content to produce, the next step would be to make sure every piece of content is crystal clear about what it is, what it offers and how it will benefit the reader.
This is called an “elevator pitch” or a “hook” or a “value prop,” but it’s all essentially the same thing:
“This is what you can expect to gain from entering into a relationship with us.”
Conveying this quickly and succinctly gives your visitor context. This makes all the other content on your site easier to understand, and increases the possibility of them sticking around.
Not being clear is one of the big SEO mistakes so many companies make. And that mistake usually happens because more emphasis is being put on keywords than clarity.
So let’s be clear again for a second:
Keywords get people to your website, but clear content keeps them there.
And Google rewards sites that keep people by making them more visible.
Ok, so we know about dwell time, but what other metrics does Google value from a website? Bounce rate is a big one, and this is how often users will go back to the SERP from your site.
A bounce is when someone comes to your site and then leaves without going to another page on your site, be it a sub-page or an order form or your blog.
A bounce is an indication that the user didn’t find what they were looking for. Think of it like taking a product off the shelf in a store, looking at it, not liking it and putting it back.
Like with dwell time, bounce rate is directly related to the quality of the content on your website, and how clearly you’re defining your value. If you make it easy for the user to understand what you’re offering, and you make it easy for them to learn more about what you offer, you can reduce bounce rate.
Increasing dwell time and reducing bounce rate has nothing to do with keywords
It’s worth repeating this again: keywords can only get people to your site. A clear elevator pitch is what’s going to keep them there:
- This is who you are and this is what you do
- This is how what you do will improve their lives or solve their problems or make them happier
- This is how they learn more or buy what you’re selling or get in touch
So is your website an effective example of SEO?
Will it get people to stay? Will it make Google say, “yes, we like this site and we want more people to see it?” We don’t know yet, but we’re happy to find out.
Request a FREE in-person custom assessment of the “art” and the “math” of your website.
We’ll look at the keywords. We’ll look at the elevator pitch. We’ll review your website like a visitor would and we’ll give you tips to keep more visitors dwelling longer, bouncing less and buying more.