In marketing, it’s always best not to get too comfortable with doing something one way, because before you know it, everything will change. Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) have irreversibly rewritten the rules of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Forget word count totals, exact-match keywords, and getting away with any black hat SEO techniques; today, your content must serve the user’s intent to stand a chance at ranking.

Google and Bing have invested huge amounts of money in AI and other machine learning technologies to make their search engines stronger, smarter, and more capable of delivering relevant, more useful results. With the help of AI, search engines are able to recognize and form connections between words to rank webpages by credibility and the usefulness of their content.

While the algorithms themselves that drive our search engines may be complex, below are 3 simple SEO do’s and don’ts you can follow to help ensure you’re found.

DO provide value-focused, user-driven content

Every business – big or small, start-up or household name – should develop and utilize a content strategy on their website. Search engines exist to provide people solutions or at the very least answers to their queries. The integration of AI in search algorithms means that pages aren’t only being judged for the quantity of their matching keywords, but also the quality of their information. Various factors, like time-spent on page, interactions/shares, and the number of natural links to your page, help search engines discern the value of your content. It makes sense that pages with high-value, informative content that serve the user’s intent would have longer visits, more shares, and be referenced on other sites.

Content that is developed for the sole purpose of search rank will actually be counterproductive to your efforts. Instead, provide value-focused, user-driven content that will answer your customers’ questions and be shared by others. Ultimately, Google rewards websites that others deem worthy of reading.

DON’T use automated, duplicate, or meaningless content

In turn, irrelevant or useless content can irreparably damage your search standings. Search engines are seeking pages that offer clear and relevant solutions that benefit the end-user. Pages that don’t accurately represent your business, your products and/or services, or fail to meet users’ objectives are going to have high bounce rates, less interactions, and few shares – demoting its value to search engines. Take for instance, content automation, can’t we all tell when a post or comment has been generated by a computer bot for the sole purpose of just publishing something? Doesn’t it feel ingenuous and often not worth your time reading?

Great SEO starts with winning content.

DO have an intuitive, mobile-friendly website design

Rankings aren’t only about content, but also the user experience. The presentation of your content can play nearly as an important role in your rankings as the content itself. In fact, a recent study by Adobe found that 38% of consumers state that content being unattractive in its layout or imagery is a key reason they stop engaging with a site.

In a sea of content, the user experience has emerged as a crucial element in earning consumer attention. This includes making sure your website has been optimized for viewing across all devices, has an intuitive content structure, and is easy to navigate.

DON’T be deceptive or try to play tricks for higher rankings

Behaviors viewed as deceptive or intended to manipulate search results are increasingly being penalized by search engines, like Google. Google’s driving motivation is to deliver the most relevant, practical results to a user in the smallest number of clicks possible. SEO strategies, such as keyword stuffing, content automation, cloaking, and doorway pages are seen as ways of misleading the consumer and can result in severe penalties or even a site being banned from Google.

DO review your website for hacking, broken links and/or malicious content

The authority of your website is often relative to the quality of your network, or rather the credibility of your inbound and outbound links. Being strategic about your linking structure on your website includes remembering to monitor them. Linking out to credible sources, signals to Google that you are providing quality content to your users – giving you a boost in rankings. In addition, internal links to similar and/or relevant content on your website helps Google learn more about you, so it knows when a query may match an answer on one of your pages. If these links get broken or link to a penalized or malicious site, your search rank can suffer.

DON’T forget to optimize your page load speed

When content is so readily available, it is important to deliver your content to searchers as quickly as possible or risk losing their attention before you’ve even had a chance to say a word. Consumers want answers now, so make sure your site loads quickly. In fact, the same Adobe study found that content that takes too long to load results in 39% of consumers stopping further engagement with your site.

For now, SEO and content marketing are inexplicably intertwined and it would be nearly impossible to try to do one without the other. However; at the end of the day, it all seems to boil down to one thing – creating value for your customers. I hope you find these SEO do’s and don’ts helpful.

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About The Author

Linda Fanaras
President/Strategist
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Linda A. Fanaras is the President and Founder of Millennium Integrated Marketing, a highly respected, award-winning data-driven branding, creative strategy, and digital and public relations firm in Manchester, New Hampshire and Boston. She holds Board position with the American Association of Advertising Agencies, and Business and Industry Association. For more information, contact Linda Fanaras at Lfanaras@mill-im.com or 877-873-7445. You can also reach her through LinkedIn.