5 Must-Have Elements of Great SEO

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Search engine optimization is about more than choosing the right keywords and using effective link strategies, at least in its modern incarnation.

Usability

Great SEO content lets your readers take something away from what they’ve read and implement it. Whether it’s an article about the season’s hottest shoe styles or a newsy post on a legal blog, content should contain usable information. Otherwise, it’s just filler with a few links and keywords sprinkled in – exactly the kind of thin content Google now pushes to its back pages.

Read your current content or copy on a site you admire and ask what the reader takes away from it. You’ll find that the most successful sites reward you for reading with something you can put into action immediately. Whether it’s a persuasive sales pitch, an informative how-to article or an educational blog post, useful content leaves readers a little better off than they were before reading.

Readability

No matter how usable your SEO content is, visitors will bounce from the page if they can’t figure out what you’re saying. The basics – sound grammar, proper spelling, and a clean page layout – need to be in place first, but they’re just the foundation of readability. You also have to consider the sophistication of your audience relative to your subject matter. How well do your readers know your subject? If you aim for novices by explaining terms and presenting simple facts, you’ll win raves from neophytes but could bore a more knowledgeable audience. Reach the experts with dense, information-packed copy and jargon, and you risk confusing readers who aren’t yet as industry-savvy.

Readability aligns closely with a thorough understanding of your target audience. Your marketing team can help you clarify the image of your company’s ideal customer. Once you know who is reading, you’ll have a better idea of how to give those readers the content that most engages them in the language they find most familiar.

Authority

Google and other search engines repeatedly emphasize the importance of site authority in ranking pages. Unless you’re the first to market with a major breakthrough, it’s tough to compete with primary sources of authority, but well-written SEO content can create a tier within which you become an established authority. As other sites link to yours – and if you supply exciting, readable, usable content, they will – you expand that authority and move up the search engine results pages.

Say you have an accounting firm that specializes in preparing tax returns. You won’t topple the Internal Revenue Service from its position atop the results pages for broad searches such as “tax help” or “pay income taxes.” By building a library of valuable, relevant content related to the specific tax services you offer, though, you become a source of information for other sites and bloggers who cite your pages as go-to references. You build your authority as a specialist and develop a following that in turn pushes your name higher up the results pages. With greater visibility comes more traffic, forming a positive feedback spiral.

Localization

Localizing your SEO is one of the best ways to secure authority within a given market. You may face stiff nationwide competition, but if you’re the only local provider of a product or service, you can easily move into the preferred position regionally by addressing local needs. Adding a local dimension fits with the way most people use search engines. They don’t type “business content” but “business content New York.” They aren’t looking for an Italian restaurant; they’re looking for an Italian restaurant in Long Island. Even if you’re supplying something that never requires a face-to-face meeting, customers still lean toward supporting local businesses.

Adding state and city names is a start toward localization, but depending on your industry, it doesn’t end there. What aspects of your industry are unique to your region? What benefits do customers get from choosing you instead of an overseas company or out-of-state firm? What problems do your customers face that people elsewhere might not? Addressing those questions moves you farther along the path of localization.

Relevance

Search engines can often spot a black-hat site by its lack of relevance to other pages on the site or to its links. Random links are a sure sign of a low-quality site because they rely on tricking readers into clicking through; relevant links and interdependent pages don’t have to resort to trickery. Synonyms send strong signals to search engines about your site’s purpose and how it should be categorized, enhancing its overall relevance.

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