Creating Results attended and sponsored the informative SMASH conference held in Chicago earlier this month. For the senior living industry, this conference is innovative and refreshing.
Among all the keynotes and sessions I attended, I noticed an underlying theme: the concept of being prospect-centered in every marketing interaction.
This is especially important in the digital arena. Keeping this prospect-centric concept of at the forefront of your SEO and SEM strategies will result in tremendous success. Over the next few months, I plan to explain and give examples of such success with this concept through this blog series.
SEO. Search Engine Optimization. Why is it so hard and confusing? And why can’t I find a basic checklist that I can comprehend without being an SEO expert?
SEM. Search Engine Marketing. Why is it important to have a search marketing strategy? Can I really compete with a small budget? Is Google the only game in town, or should I also think about others, like Bing?
I’m going to answer several of those SEO questions today. And — BONUS! — I will even share with you my favorite basic checklist.
In later posts we’ll address these SEM questions and more.
First Step, Algorithm 101
The goal of SEO is to have your site served up as high as possible on the SERPs (search engine results pages). In order to optimize for search queries so that goal is met, it’s important to understand what factors the search engines evaluate.
Focus on Google.
Google is the major player and truly guides the industry, so optimize for Google and it will work for the others.
Basically, Google wants to serve up the most relevant results for every query. It considers 200+ factors, especially the user’s intent based on their query, the device they are using and their physical location. In other words, Google is putting the searcher (prospect) at the center of the algorithm. This guides decisions about which results would be most relevant to the prospect at that moment.
The algorithm changes frequently, so staying up-to-date can be a struggle. Subscribe to major search marketing blogs (like Moz or SearchEngineLand) to be alerted of changes right in your inbox. Major Google updates receive names like Panda, Penguin, Rank Brain and recently Possum.
The most important thing to realize is that if you are delivering the most relevant information, with a positive user experience, and have set up your website so that Google can know that, then these major changes will only help you. For reference, Moz has a great timeline tracking all of Google’s algorithm updates.
Understanding the Factors Involved
All of the updates to the algorithm have to do with the prospect and their experience. If you lump them all together, here are the main factors that you need to keep in mind.
User Experience –Mainly revolves around the ease of functionality of your site and its speed of load. Your prospect wants info quickly and easily, no matter their device.
Does your site display and navigate properly regardless of the device? Responsive sites are obviously the best. Mobile-friendly at minimum.
You can instantly check to see how Google (and Bing) view your site’s mobile friendliness by inputting your URL in their tools.
Relevant, Regular Content – Is it clear what your site and pages are all about? Do you have enough naturally-written content so that a user (or Google search bot) understands what you offer? Did you write the content with the prospect in mind? Are you using their language?
Don’t stuff the page with keywords just to get them on the page. Do use keywords in your page title tags and somewhere naturally within content. A recent study by Backlinko discovered that the average Google first page results were for sites that had 1,890 words of content on their linked page.
Longer, in-depth content matters.
Do you have regular updates to your content? Google wants to be sure it is not sending users to old, outdated content. A blog is a great way to have updated content associated with your site.
Authority – Google wants to be sure it is sending searchers to sites that have authority online, that other sites trust, that have a good reputation. How do you become one of these sites? LINKS.
Directory sites are a great way to increase your inbound links (think: senior living listing sites, membership directories, local directories & apps, etc). Sponsored content on websites that link to your site can work too! Digital news coverage also can send links to your site; target outlets that your prospects respect and frequent.
Warning: Do not BUY press release placements other spammy, purchased links.
Now, What About That Checklist?
I know, I know. I promised to share with you my favorite checklist.
But I have to be sure that you know that this is not all-inclusive, and that SEO is not something that you can set up and forget about.
Due to the ever-changing nature of search algorithms, SEO is something that always will need to be addressed if you want to continue to show up when it counts. That’s where partnering with a digital agency can keep you ahead of the curve.
There are a ton of SEO checklists out there. If you “Google it” you will be overwhelmed immediately. A majority of the checklists are out of date because of algorithm updates.
I have done the weeding through the jungle for you, and my favorite basic, visual checklist so far can be found HERE by 99medialab. It’s a roadmap style. Tackle a few things at a time if you can’t do it all at once. Every little bit will help you climb the search ranks.
If you are a senior living marketer who partners with a digital agency for SEO, you are probably on the right track. But inspecting what you expect from your partners should happen regularly to keep your partnership healthy.
This list may help guide you. If you find you don’t know where to look, contact me. Creating Results would be happy to perform a free SEO audit of your site!
Additionally, if you have other checklists or resources you find helpful for SEO, please share in a comment below.
Stay tuned for the next edition in this series, focusing on prospect-centered SEM (search engine marketing) strategies.