Marketing in a digital world continues to be more complex. Marketers must integrate a number of digital platforms and tools into their strategies to successfully build awareness, develop meaningful connections, and create long-lasting returning customers.
Potential customers have access to more information than ever, which gives them the power to make their own purchasing decisions through more of a self-directed buyer’s journey. Therefore, marketers must continually create more versatile approaches to their marketing strategies.
That means a marketer’s focus can no longer be on simply satisfying the buyer’s needs. Marketers must also satisfy the requirements of the platforms they use to run their marketing tactics, and the tools monitoring how they use those platforms — like search engine crawlers.
Too Much of a Good Thing Can Be a Bad Thing
Everyone wants to take advantage of a good thing – right?
As the buyer’s journey transitioned to a digital world, traditional marketing methods became less effective or obsolete. Search engines became the primary tool people used to start their buying journeys. For marketers, all that mattered (and still matters) was remaining in front of the audience, regardless of the platform being used.
During the early stages of search engine optimization, marketers had a much different perspective on search engines and the role they played within a marketing strategy.
Like any other element of the digital world, search engines haven’t always been the powerhouses they are now. Over time, they have developed new methods, processes, and guidelines to help bring the best overall experience to users, but they were originally very simple to manipulate. Many marketers found loopholes in the platform to keep themselves on the first page — with one result or multiple. They devised tactics to manipulate search engines and trick them into believing their website and product were far superior and relevant to that of the competition.
Some of the tactics used included:
- Keyword stuffing
- Poor-quality content
- Comment spam
- Link farms
Using these techniques, marketers could push their websites to the top of the search engine results page (SERP), surpassing their competition. Soon, these techniques became mainstream and everyone was implementing them. It became too much of a good thing.
Businesses were so entranced with this concept that some completely forgot about the user, creating less-than-optimal user experiences via websites that were clearly there primarily to rank for search engines rather than inform visitors.
Search engine developers soon caught on to these practices as users became frustrated with unsatisfactory results. Developers were forced to change the search engine process or become obsolete. These changes led to the search engine behavior seen today, where the way people rank and gain search credibility has drastically shifted.
Content Is King
Search engine developers found a way to combat the efforts of marketers who were trying to manipulate search platforms for their own personal gain and return focus to the user. Instead of completely re-structuring and trying to change the landscape of the internet, developers decided to focus more on website elements that already existed — especially ones that most benefited the user experience.
What element of a webpage provides the greatest value to users?
Content is what search engines use to narrow in on their audiences’ needs and provide users with helpful answers to a search query. It is also the main connection point used to match search intent with the most valuable resource.
Search engines crawl content in an extremely sophisticated way. They strive to match business content with a user’s search intent, rather than strictly to a set of keywords and the amount of times they are mentioned on a page. They now look beyond keywords and search for common or related terms that match the user’s query and prioritize results based on a number of different ranking factors. Hence, if your content aligns with your audience’s search intent, the chances of reaching search engine ranking superiority are greatly increased.
The good news for marketers still looking for tried and true tricks is that many similar forms of “machine” writing tactics, like those mentioned above, can still be used within content pieces. In fact, some of these tactics enable search engines to easily navigate through websites and content to locate essential ranking information. But they are now used to benefit the user, not the business. Search engines can now recognize, with great accuracy, when these tactics are being overused and misused to create keyword cramming and spamming rather than an informative and useful experience for the user. Google, for example, has been known to penalize businesses for cramming and spamming, resulting in drastic and sometimes fatal consequences for an online presence and domain authority.
The Importance of Dynamic Strategy
The digital landscape is ever-changing, and so are search engines. They are smarter than they once were, and continue to get smarter. There’s no way around it. They have learned to adapt to the constant changes in a buyer’s journey and align with the rapidly changing digital landscape. In short, they are now able to help users and solve problems better than ever before.
Marketers looking for SEO success must first understand their audience and determine how to provide the most informative or solution-oriented experience possible with their content. Secondly, they must have a solid understanding of search engines and the different SEO tactics they can use. Combining these elements will deliver a flexible SEO strategy that can be developed and optimized for both machines and humans.