This article originally appeared on Forbes.
SEO is constantly evolving. As the owner of an SEO agency, it’s my job to stay on top of Google’s updates and algorithm changes to keep my clients on the front page. In fact, I’ve had to alter my entire business model more than once to keep up with this rapidly changing world.
Unfortunately, many companies don’t understand why an SEO strategy that worked just last year might not be the optimal approach today. Sometimes, even if I do convince someone to change his strategy, he still tends to dwell in the past, focusing on links and rankings and not taking the user experience, RankBrain, and other recent algorithm advances into consideration. Updates to SEO strategy don’t happen every few years. They happen constantly, as small changes stack up to build a strategy that evolves with the search engines themselves.
Challenges to Effective SEO
When I work with companies trying to master their SEO, I see several challenges arise time and time again.
For one, many decision makers I’ve met aren’t up to date on the latest news and changes to Google’s algorithms, making it difficult for them to understand why their strategies should change. Last year, Google started using mobile-friendliness to rank search results, and it bolstered that approach this May. Last fall, Google started to rely on RankBrain to monitor and refine its ranking processes. The search rankings world is always changing, and a good SEO strategy must change with it.
Likewise, I’ve had conversations with many leaders who don’t realize that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Every industry and business is different, so we customize each program based on an agile approach where decisions are made based on tests, data analysis, performance, and KPIs. Many decision makers want the full picture upfront, but a good strategy requires analysis and refinement over time. Prioritizing the ability to pivot strategies is more important than creating a comprehensive plan at the outset.
In the past, when Google made changes to its algorithms, a few on-page tweaks were enough to stay on top. Now, a successful SEO program requires more time, effort, and variety than ever before. As Google gets smarter, SEO strategies must incorporate well-written authoritative long-form content, a technical SEO program, a website with a stellar user experience, social signals associated with the brand (likes, shares, etc.), and a natural linking strategy.
No modern SEO strategy can be successful without fresh content, a strong branding strategy, and constant reevaluation of opportunities for UX improvement. Google wants something simple: to deliver the most relevant and useful results for any given search phrase. Meeting the challenges in today’s SEO world means keeping the customer at the center of the website experience and keeping it easy, inviting, educational, and enjoyable.
Creating a Strategy That Lasts
All industries deal with change in one form or another, whether that means staying on top of the latest product enhancements, keeping up with competitors’ service options, or staying ahead of customer demands.
Handling those challenges means embracing the inevitability of change. Fighting or avoiding the discomfort around change only makes it more difficult when change becomes the only option left. While uprooting processes, making website changes, and thinking differently about the customer journey might seem like a headache at first, the end result of better SEO is worth it.
To build a better SEO strategy, follow these four steps:
- Keep up with the news. Stay on top of what’s happening in your industry, and build yourself up as a thought leader in your field by publishing on different websites. No executive should ever be behind the times regarding his industry’s latest trends.
- Place value over flashiness with your content. Content that appears on your website and content published in other places are critical for a comprehensive SEO strategy. Think of your customer — not the almighty Google — when putting that content together. What do your customers want to hear? What do they need to know? How much information are they looking for and in what format?
- Constantly improve the user experience. Your website should always be a work in progress. Focus on making the conversion process as seamless as possible. The more user-friendly your site becomes, the more your potential customers will engage with you on your own turf. Utilize click tracking (Crazy Egg is good), eye tracking, user testing, and voice of customer analysis tools.
- Meet your audience members where they are. Know where your customer base is talking, and get involved there. Share relevant content, provide excellent customer service, and be genuinely useful. Social signals in the form of likes, shares, comments, tweets, and more will contribute to your overall SEO ranking.
When our clients are behind the times, convincing them to revamp their SEO strategies can be tricky. But for the companies that do want to build a better strategy, using these steps — staying up-to-date, creating relevant content, focusing on UX, enhancing the customer journey, and being visibly social — will pave the path to success.
Create a strategy that can evolve and adapt with the times so that when inevitable changes occur, you will be ready to meet them.