“There’s no magic pill for mastering SEO,” says Jim McKinley, principal and co-founder of 360Partners. “How can you increase visibility without spending too much? It all goes back to rethinking your whole offering and the whole customer experience on your website.”
The marketers that are succeeding at search engine optimization today are focusing less on specific paid tactics and more on the customer experience from an end to end basis, and differentiating what customers are experiencing throughout the sales cycle on their site, he says.
Paid search has become more and more expensive for marketers—leads that cost $35 three years ago in pay per client now average twice that, McKinley notes. Content can play a huge role in helping marketers have better results in organic search.
“It all goes back to the fact that Google’s fundamental goal is to provide the most relevant answer to a searcher’s question,” he says. “At the end of the day, creating quality content is the way to win.”
Incorporating relevant keywords into your content is important, but write to your audience first, he says. “Google spends billion each year on making algorithms better, and they’re getting better and better at understanding things like the fact that a copy machine is the same thing as a copier as a Xerox machine.”
Content also needs to be digestible by Google—if Google can’t understand what your site is about, they’re not going to rank it highly. Along those lines, which content management system your site uses doesn’t have as significant an impact on rankings as it once did, he notes.
But what does make a difference is title tags and meta descriptions. These are the signals that you give to Google to show what your site is about, and what will appear on the search engine results pages. This mistake that marketers make here is that they either don’t bother to write them, and let Google do it for them, or they let an IT or website person handle the task. “They could be technically correct but they don’t really tap into your true call to action or mission,” McKinley says.
Colby Phillips, SEO manager, 360Partners, shared some of the most important questions marketers need to ask themselves—and their potential partners and vendors—before they invest in a new CMS.
“The primary considerations are how the CMS treats and allows for the customization of specific elements of the site that impact SEO,” Phillips says.
- Does the CMS allow for a customizable URL structure? Some CMSs automatically generate URLs that are not SEO or user friendly.
- Does the CMS have a URL structure based on folders rather than parameters? Folders give search engines an indication of how the site is structured, making it easier for them to understand it.
- Are meta tags customizable?
- Does the CMS provide the ability to make changes to pages without changing the URL? Some CMSs change the URL when edits are made.
- Does the CMS use heavy or extraneous code? Code-bloat can slow down the performance of the site
- Does the CMS allow for easy 301 redirection? Many CMSs default to 302 redirects which are not good for SEO.
- Does the CMS allow for adding sub-categories (and sub-sub-categories, etc.) as a way to organize the site?
- Does the CMS automatically generate XML sitemaps, and can they be modified easily with additional things like language tags?
- Does the CMS allow for implementing breadcrumbs as an additional method of navigation?
- Is it easy to integrate social media tags and icons?
- Does the CMS provide for internal site search functions?
- Does the CMS allow for adding schema markup tags?
- Does the CMS provide for responsive design for users on all device-types?
- Can analytics tracking codes and tags be easily added where you want them in the CMS? Some CMSs have specific places where the analytics code goes, but it is not the optimal place on the page.