How to meet user needs through design, content and social media marketing
There is no such thing as SEO. Well, not really; more specifically, the term is more often used inappropriately. SEO is only a part of marketing. It is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization, which means modifying your website code for crawling, indexing and most recently, graphing. Search engine optimization also includes managing site speed for enhanced crawling, indexing, graphing and also, most importantly, user experience. To accomplish this optimization, simply follow responsive web design principles. This ensures you meet users’ needs, as well as business goals.
So, what are some web design principles?
- Allow the user to complete their task or solve their problem using minimal color, typefaces and graphics specifically designed to perform a function to help them complete their task.
- Arrange elements in an organized manner, so the user may complete their task in a natural way.
- Keep structure simple and consistent, using breadcrumbs and offering search.
- Maintain aesthetic consistency throughout each type of page layout.
- Build a responsive website for enhanced user experience on any device.
- Common-sense rules have developed over time, including:
- a logo at the top left that returns the user home,
- navigation at the top and bottom,
- link type changes responding to actions and
- standardized icons for shopping, help, user accounts, etc.
- Make it obvious what you, or your business is about, including your value and any pricing. If you use Google Analytics, or collect any user information otherwise, you are also required to have standard policies about your information-gathering, and are also recommended to have terms & conditions for your users and customers.
- User-Centricity. Design for the user, whether they are blind, deaf or drunk, and conduct testing on multiple platforms to ensure your website is usable, enjoyable and functional.
Learn more at Hubspot’s 8 Guidelines for Exceptional Website Design and Usability or visit Usability.gov
Additional tools to help achieve the technical aspects of SEO include using:
- Accelerated Mobile Pages project specifications,
- structured data markup (especially for local businesses),
- an SSL certificate,
- an image optimizer such as WP Smush for your WordPress website and
- always using alt tags for images.
You can also use the Yoast SEO plug in for WordPress to ensure you meet Google’s Search Engine Optimization guidelines for indexing.
It should not be necessary to reiterate the importance of valuable, relevant and timely content. If you have a website designed to meet the users’ needs, your next step is ensuring continual success through content development and marketing. These are not SEO tactics in that they will not enhance a search engine’s ability to crawl or index your site. However, anything published online should follow web design principles and usability or user experience practices. From your business plan or marketing plan, the steps should be laid out for you already, including tracking, measuring and modifying your marketing campaigns in response to industry trends and user needs. The key to valuable content is that it solves a problem, so try to create something helpful and exciting.
How do I create valuable, optimized content?
- For technically optimized content, you should use keywords that support the topic of the piece, whether the content is text, video, images, or any other media type. This does not mean keyword-stuffing – an ancient, black-hat SEO methodology that could get your site removed from the search engine index altogether. This means: design your content for the user, organize it and describe it appropriately. Google’s semantic intelligence will deliver your content to the user according to the user’s needs if you design and label it naturally and appropriately with meta-data.
- Incorporate a comprehensive framework for content developers to build and promote content effectively for discovery and conversion. In a sense, everyone involved in your business is involved in marketing and should follow SEO and customer relations best practices. Simply follow Google’s SEO guidelines and quality content guidance.
- Consider your audience’s genuine interests, and your unique brand identity. Use personas to target your content, strategy and marketing, and deliver the content with your unique appeal, whether it is professionally delivered information, or messages wrapped in humor.
- Build your authority on your topic, product and brand through quantity, consistency, variety and popularity over the course of four years.
- Additional SEO best practices for content optimization include linking to other relevant pages on your site and providing accurate headlines and categories.
Another way to reach your audience directly is through social media. Arguably, this is not a part of SEO as much as it is marketing, but your social pages and content should link back to your optimized website. To build and maintain your brand, integrity, reputation and trust, it is an essential piece of marketing for most industries and is an investment in your community that takes time and ingenuity.
Social Signals & SEO
From 2010 – 2013, search engines claimed that social signals can affect a site’s search engine ranking, thus integrating social media marketing campaigns into new small business marketing plans. But in late 2013, Google’s Matt Cutts announced that Google does not currently look to social signals for ranking.
In actuality, building your brand and credibility supports your SEO efforts indirectly. By creating quality content that addresses your audience’s needs and sharing it with social media meta tags (sparingly and wisely), you increase awareness and engagement and bring visitors to your site, which in turn affect your rankings by relevancy to search queries. Google looks at your page content in relation to your site content and ranks it accordingly by your page and site metrics, or your authority on the topic (as mentioned in the Optimized Content section above), compared to other websites focusing on the same topic.
Having an optimized, responsive website is an integral part of your online brand image. If you feel like you need SEO help, you should begin by revisiting your business plan and/or marketing plan. Review and update your conversion goals, user personas, strategies and integration. It is not complicated, and yes, while the landscape changes, it is to be expected, planned for and responded to in any industry.
Include SEO appropriately, as a part of marketing for proper utilization and to improve the reputation of SEO specialists – we don’t just edit code or content singularly anymore. Optimize and integrate your online presence, activities and content with your sales, marketing and customer relations activities.