With the explosion of social media’s popularity and the advancement of search algorithms’ ability to account for personal thought, motive and behaviour, it’s no wonder that the blogosphere is cluttered with hip jargon like, “forget about SEO, it’s all about the user experience“.
As a Director of Organic Search, I’ve noticed a significant shift in the mindset of brand new search marketers and content developers who, at no fault of their own, are largely left to their own devices to learn what search marketing is all about.
Because of this, most recent college grads turn to various online journals for information on how to go about building content, developing key-phrase strategies and creating the “best” possible experience for the end user.
While most experienced search strategists understand that organic results are relative to a particular vertical and brand, college grads and those with one to two years of experience seem to genuinely believe everything they read online, despite the well-known concept that just because something is on the Internet, doesn’t mean it’s true.
This is where I often hear new employees regurgitate popular, sexy taglines about how strategies should be put together and what makes sense in 2014.
“Well, I read that word count doesn’t matter on landing pages and that you don’t need more than 200 words to rank”.
“I saw a video from Matt Cutts that said guest blogging is dead”.
“I saw a blog on Moz that showed every single ranking factor in Google’s algorithm”.
While all of these statements carry some weight, it is critical for the success of our industry in the long-term that those who are in positions of mentorship train their teams to discuss strategy based on experience and continuous testing.
Why Popular Belief Is Not Enough For Results
Let’s take a look at the validity of the three statements I offered above since they seem to be what I hear more often than not.
Popular Belief #1: Word Count Doesn’t Matter For Organic Visibility
This concept seems to stem from the rise in content developers who originally left college wanting to be journalists or writers, but quickly discovered just how difficult it is to find a job at a newspaper or publishing company.
Now, I left college wanting to do the same exact thing so I certainly don’t mean any disrespect to my fellow journalists out there. However, it is very important to understand that just because you may be a great writer, doesn’t mean that automatically equates to understanding the intricacies of organic search.
Yes, to a degree word count does not matter and search strategists shouldn’t take the approach of creating landing pages and blog articles squarely for the purpose of cramming in as many words as possible.
However, there are a tremendous amount of studies that demonstrate how lengthier content does successfully attracts more traffic, social shares and influences conversions at a much higher rate than shallow content.
According to a 2012 study conducted by SerpIQ, landing pages that contain 1,500 words dominate first page search results, while those that only had 400 words or so were stuck in the “dead zone” on the eighth, ninth and tenth page listings.
Considering the ever-growing influence social shares has on organic visibility, Quick Sprout reviewed over 300 landing pages, dividing them into two groups between those that had over 1,500 words and those that had less.
The results demonstrated that posts with more than 1,500 words received 68% more tweets and 22% more Facebook likes than those with less.
Even in my experience working with brands like Duracell, when we were able to create in-depth landing pages that described a particular battery’s:
- Storage Instructions
- Competitive Advantages
We typically saw 25% more organic traffic than those that were limited to a few bullet points and a couple of images.
As I said before, no one should create content with the intention of only building something that has a tremendous word count. Search strategists and marketers should of course consider the end user and figure out what language, terms and incentives solicit the highest levels of engagement and interest.
You also have to be realistic about organic search and understand that at the end of the day, you need to please the “Google Gods” before they will introduce you to their client, the online user.
When search crawlers assess the authority of a particular landing page or website, they consider a number of factors including depth, size and diversity of information.
So strategists can kill two birds with one stone by simply researching what a particular brand’s target audience demands out of their online experience and write 750 – 1,500 words about:
- The history of the brand, product or concept
- Competitive advantages
- Use, purpose and/or directions
- How the brand and its products affect particular demographics
- Customer testimonials
- Ratings, awards and/or affiliations
- Location, geo-relativity
And the list goes on and on.
Just remember that you can’t offer a phenomenal user experience if your content isn’t found first.
Popular Belief #2: Guest Blogging Doesn’t Work Any more
This is a topic I’ve discussed in previous posts and is a concept that doesn’t seem to be disappearing.
The fact of the matter is that the form a particular piece of content takes on does not matter as much as its authenticity, originality and intelligence.
Guest blogging remains as a critical key for improving online authority as long as the right connections are being made.
This refers to search strategists using intuitive tools like GroupHigh to carefully research and identify particular voices of authority that are dedicated to specific verticals.
Tools like this allow you to understand:
- The domain authority of a particular host
- How many social connections they have
- How often they engage their followers
- How selective they are with publishing third-party content
This insight allows you to be in complete control over whom you work with. As long as you connect with relevant consumer advocates who possess a significant amount of online credibility, guest blogging will continue to offer excellent results around building keyword and online authority.
The fact of the matter is that the Internet is only becoming more social with each passing day. The idea that connecting with other relevant hosts to create meaningful dialogue and to exchange rewarding information is somehow frowned upon by search engines is contradictive to the nature of what the World Wide Web is all about in 2014.
Just remember to diversify your search tactics and do not only use guest blogging as a means for increasing visibility and rankings.
Popular Belief #3: We Actually Know All 200+ Points of Google’s Algorithm
Back in January 2013, the founder and CEO of SEOMoz (now just known as Moz) Rand Fishkin performed a Q&A with his audience, which I participated in.
At the time, I had been in the industry for about five years and was managing and directing P&G’s home care lines in North America.
I asked Rand,
“In an industry that only ever knows about [a handful] of Google’s 200+ algorithm, the term “expert” seems to be used very frequently in the SEO world. Do you think anyone is ever an “expert” in SEO besides Matt Cutt and Google’s webmaster team, do you think we should take on a more realistic approach like Doctors and Lawyers and say we “practice” SEO?”
Rand responded by saying,
“I suspect you’re very new to the field Jason. Most good SEOs know most of the major factors that Google uses to rank pages”.
It was at that moment that I stopped reading Moz.
It’s not that I have an issue with Rand or Moz, it’s just not realistic to believe that we do in fact know most of Google’s algorithm.
The cold hard truth of this concept simply rests with the idea that if anyone did know Google’s ranking factors, two things would happen:
- Those with the insight would write a book and become millionaires working as consultants
- Google would change it, leaving the book outdated and the consultant out of work.
The SEM/SEO blogosphere is an excellent channel for understanding the delicacies of digital marketing and for staying up to date with growing trends, industry updates and case studies.
If it weren’t, you would not be reading this article and I would not have an interest in contributing!
But the fact of the matter stands that continuously testing tactics, measuring their results and teaching others about your findings is the only way to really understand what actually influences visibility, traffic and conversions.
Just like anything else, practice makes perfect and offering opinions without experience just creates noise.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.