SEO is constantly changing. As Google continually improves its algorithms, SEO tactics that worked last year (or even last month) are no longer effective (and in some instances can even harm your ranking). In addition to constantly evaluating and trying out new tactics, there are timeless SEO strategies that you can implement now that will help your business many years in the future.
The Only Constant in Life is Change.
Expecting (and planning for) changes in tactics is an ordinary course of business.
Strategy, on the other hand, is something that should be formulated and executed over time.
Strategy and Tactics - What's the Difference?
In a nutshell, tactics are short-term, and strategy is long-term. You use tactics to achieve your overall strategy.
For example, say your goal is to cross a river to get to a store on the other side. Below are two groups, each with a different strategy.
Build a Temporary Crossing Group
The “Build a Temporary Crossing Group” strategy crosses the river closest to the store by building a temporary crossing.
They employ the tactics of chopping down trees, dragging them to the water’s edge, and then throwing wood into the river until it makes a temporary path they can walk across.
Find an Existing Bridge Group
The “Find an Existing Bridge Group” strategy crosses an existing bridge versus building a new temporary crossing.
They employ the tactics of researching the nearest bridge, walking to the road, hitchhiking a ride across the bridge to the store.
Which group has the best strategy?
Crossing the river is an immediate goal, but what about the future?
Do you need to cross the river again?
How far away is the nearest bridge?
How much is a car?
Both combinations of strategies and tactics get you to the store—unfortunately, the lack of planning beyond hampers your ability to get to the store in the future.
In this case, you might be the best tree chopper and dragger or the best hitchhiker and bridge finder, but the strategy was flawed.
The tremendous tactical effort has resulted in poor long-term outcomes – the wood washes away, or you still don’t have a car.
How does the above example relate to SEO?
Most implementations of SEO are done as piecemeal tactics lacking an overall strategy.
Everyone gets the “I will get you on the first page of Google” email spam.
Because those emails work. People think that I can pay this person $500, and they can get me on the first page of Google.
The person selling the SEO services will most likely employ some form of “black-hat” or banned tactics raising your ranking temporarily, and then Google will punish your site by using those tactics.
Where’s the strategy?
How does that help your business in the long term?
You have paid $500 and been penalized by Google. Even employing good tactics without any strategy or with a bad strategy (see example above) will only get you part of the way.
SEO is a long game.
It is about connecting your brick-and-mortar business with the digital world – the right way. The best way to start is to focus your efforts on timeless SEO strategies that pay dividends long into the future.
Six Timeless SEO Strategies
Here are six timeless SEO strategies that you should consider and why they are essential.
Timeless SEO Strategy Number 1 - Be a Real Business
What does that mean? I have a real business.
It means act like a real business ONLINE.
Think about it from Google’s perspective. Google’s goal for searchers is to give them the best results for their query. If someone is looking for a plumber, Google wants to provide them with a list of REAL plumbers and HOW TO REACH THEM.
You must prove that your website is legit. Google uses information from your website to determine if you are a REAL business. Google must verify your brand legitimacy as part of the search result experience to deliver the best results to searchers.
Here are some signals that Google and other search engines see that your website is legitimate and will offer positive user experiences.
Some people work for you.
Do you have employees? Make sure Google knows and make a team page.
You have a social presence.
Claim all of your social profiles and put your business information on them.
A contact page is more than a form.
Make sure you have an address, a telephone number, and other ways to reach you on your company’s contact page.
An about us page should contain detailed information about your company, not just generic rhetoric.
Build out complete pages for team members with a lot of detail. Have a mission statement? The “about us” page is the place to put it.
You are a member of relevant trade organizations.
Are you a plumber? Ensure you put your contractor or plumber’s license number on your website with a link back to the local agency that regulates your trade. Member of the Plumbing Heating Cooling-Contractors Association? Make sure to put it on your website with links back to your member page or profile at the association.
You register with an accessible database of a government agency or civic organization.
Links back to the BBB and other governmental agencies help add to the legitimacy of your business online. Being part of state-run business incorporation lists also adds to your business legitimacy.
Your company has “Branded Search Volume.”
“Branded Search Volume” is the volume of visitors to your site that came via a branded keyword in a search engine during a specific period (typically a month or quarter). It’s generally considered a trend over time to show how your brand awareness is growing.
Your website has signals that indicate you also run offline campaigns.
Running offline campaigns (like scholarship programs, trade industry participation, radio ads, television spots, support local softball teams, etc.) creates a “bridge” from the digital world to the “real” world. This “bridge” is one of the most vital signals that your business is a real business and should rank higher in search results.
A physical address is visible on your website.
Your address should be easily found on your website. It is how people find you.
Timeless SEO Strategy Number 2 - Build for Mobile
If your website is not optimized for mobile, you will not rank.
More people are using their mobile devices (phones, watches, tablets) for accessing the internet than ever before. Google is constantly adjusting its algorithms to ensure they provide the best page ranking to websites that offer the best experience for mobile users.
What do Google and other search engines want to see when it comes to mobile optimization?
Do not use Flash.
Flash is dead; just let it go.
Is your viewport meta tag appropriately configured?
What is a viewport? A website’s viewport controls the width dimension of a web page on the device the user is viewing the page. The tag is an HTML snippet that you place in the header of your site that contains the “width=device-width” language. This “device-width” sets the width of the webpage to the user’s device width.
Do not use a fixed-width viewport.
A mobile user orients themselves to the page using a mobile device (landscape mode or page mode). Let the local browser deal with that – you can’t possibly know all viewing orientations.
Do not make your font too small.
Yes, you can zoom in, but it makes it impossible to read. Do you know what customers do? Move on to a site they can read.
Give your touch elements space.
Small screens, big fingers, and elements too close together lead to a bad user experience. Sign up for Google Search Console, and they will let you know if you pass the fat finger test.
Don’t use intrusive interstitials like full-screen popups.
These are horrible on a desktop (especially the folks that try to hide the “X” so you cannot dismiss the popup) and even worse on mobile. In addition to irritating customers, Google will put you far down the list. Please don’t do it.
Timeless SEO Strategy Number 3 - Optimize Voice Search
Typing on a mobile device is difficult. (See big fingers – small keys above). It is such a pain that mobile developers have created voice-to-text functionality built into their devices. If you are using an iPhone, you can say “Hey Siri” and ask Siri the weather, nearest pizza parlor, or the name of nearby plumbers.
How did being able to ask your phone questions change online search?
To give better answers for voice searchers, Google introduced the featured snippet (also known as a rich answer).
The “rich answer” is a summary answer in a special featured box at the top of its SERPs. Due to the complexity of the search term (a complete sentence) compared to a keyword (typically 2 to 4 words), voice queries return more rich answers than manual searches.
That means each time a searcher makes a voice request for a keyword where your site ranks in a featured snippet, Google will respond by referencing your brand.
I get it – but how do I get in the rich snippets box?
Find out the most searched questions in your niche.
This requires some legwork, but take the time to see what questions your customers are asking search engines. Use your phone and ask questions you think customers are asking and review the results.
Using our plumber example, try asking:
How can you tell if a plumber is good?
What should you look for in a plumber?
How much does it cost to fix a toilet seat?
What is better, PVC or copper piping?
Is hiring a licensed plumber necessary?
How can you check a plumber’s license?
Need some help finding questions? Answer the Public is a great source.
Your content should answer these questions (and be the BEST answer).
Find the questions and answer them in detail. However, make sure that your content is valuable and gives the searcher additional information about the topic.
Make your content accessible to Google.
Your content should be accessible to Google bots. It should also be easily accessible through your website’s navigation.
Leverage social media.
Share those links on social media and submit them via the Google Search Console.
Create “question and answer” pages.
Create pages that have both the questions and answers on the pages. If you devote a whole page to answering questions about toilets (like an FAQ of what can go wrong with a toilet), you have a better chance of ranking for a featured snippet.
Learn more about optimizing your website for voice search.
Timeless SEO Strategy Number 4 - Optimize for User Intent
Keywords are still important; however, searchers are now more sophisticated than they once were.
Google is getting better at identifying any given user’s intent when they enter a search query. Google even tries to help drill down on purpose as searchers begin typing in the search box by providing longer-form intent suggestions.
Intent-driven search is an area that will continue to evolve as Google tries to develop technologies the remove any barricades in the way of the searcher, smooth the process, and deliver the correct result the first time.
Start by approaching keyword research differently. You will need to find out what information is bringing visitors to your page. Once you have that information, you will need to optimize your content based on that information.
Again using the above plumber example, if you see that these three key phrase questions are bringing in a lot of traffic:
How can you tell if a plumber is good?
Is hiring a licensed plumber necessary?
How can you check a plumber’s license?
You might start specifically designing calls to action on those pages to deal with those potential customers’ concerns. You can also create additional pages based on the performing questions to branch off into different topics.
You need to continually analyze your analytics to see what’s working and what’s not so you can make any necessary changes accordingly.
Timeless SEO Strategy Number 5 - Diversify Your Content
Diversification of content assets isn’t a new concept.
Video, infographics, audio, podcasts, and other forms of rich media add to your brand’s image and are something your customers expect.
The nature of universal search and the results it produces is based on incorporating content, images, infographics, video, current news, local results, featured snippets, the knowledge graph, and your social media content as well. This use of different types of rich media will also lead to increased use of schema.
That means you must have a diversified scope of assets if you want your website and your content to remain relevant.
Timeless SEO Strategy Number 6 - Advertise Locally
The most successful companies advertise locally. Using Coca-Cola (Stock Symbol – KO) as an example, you see advertisements on buses, subways, television, online, YouTube, soccer player jerseys, pretty much everywhere. Coca-Cola is sold in all but two countries worldwide (Cuba and North Korea), and they use unique advertising to appeal to the LOCAL culture.
Why did I bold LOCAL? Local is important. Coca-Cola is a global company, but they market LOCALLY.
Because it works.
Local marketing is critical to business success, and even global corporations know it.
Fortunately, the internet makes local marketing easy and inexpensive with listing sync tools, automated API submissions, and complete geo-local marketing. Getting your business information into GPS systems (Mercedes or Toyota), mapping providers (Apple Maps or Google Maps), Google My Business, and other location data providers get customers through your front door.
How does that affect SEO?
Each of these sites links back to your business website (yes, you need a website). These links tell Google’s crawlers that you are an ACTIVE and REAL business. Learn more about revamping your local SEO strategy and optimizing for local search if you have multiple locations.
The Bottom Line
SEO evolves every day. There are a constant array of new tactics being employed to increase search result rank. Some tactics try to game the systems, while other SEO tactics are built on longevity. It is important to remember that a great strategy will always defeat great tactics in the long run. If you have both a great strategy and great tactics, you are on the right track.
SEO is a “long-play” online marketing strategy, and any SEO strategy should be “timeless” in its approach. In any event, these six timeless SEO strategies:
Be a Real Business
Build For Mobile
Optimize for Voice Search
Optimize for User Intent
Should help your business excel online and in whatever future virtual world technology brings us. Good luck!