SEO has evolved throughout the years. What started as a simple set of techniques that led to great success for your rankings and site traffic, has grown into a multi-faceted approach in order to reach the same results. The quick fixes and tricks no longer work, and can actually cause long-term damage to your website and its reputation.
So what is the best approach to SEO in 2021? Google essentially wants websites to have an extensive SEO strategy that covers each aspect – in order to permanently rank well. And we really mean each aspect – from technical performance, detailed content, overall user experience, security features and more, your website needs to be working perfectly.
In other words, put your notions of traditional SEO to one side, and focus your efforts on your users and what the best way is to help them reach their goals.
What is SEO?
SEO (search engine optimisation) is the process of improving your website’s overall presence on the web, so that it can rank well in Google and other search engines. With most users not looking past the first page of search results (link to statistics), or mostly not scrolling past the first 5 results, it’s become crucial for websites to appear as high as possible in search engine results.
How SEO traditionally worked back in the 1990s and 2000s, when Yahoo was the most popular search engine (and Google was only getting started), was through a two-pronged approach:
- Improve and optimise your site content so that Google can scan your site and know what your site contains, and who it is targeted to
- Build your web presence by having other high-quality external websites link to yours, basically acting as a vote of confidence – and being worthy of other people’s attention
Over the last decade SEO has evolved to a much more elaborate process, with short term tricks being punished by Google’s constant algorithm changes.
What is Holistic SEO?
Holistic SEO builds on the normal aspects of SEO, and extends to improving all the key parts of your website. Not only do users want relevant content, but they want to consume that information in a quick, user-friendly and secure way.
But how does all of this this help you, Google and web users?
Google’s goal is to be the best search engine, which is only possible if we have a good experience with their search service. Are they finding the right search results for you? Are the sites they are linking to easy to use? With Google’s market share at 92%, it’s safe to assume that most people are happy.
But they’re not resting on their laurels. Their search algorithms are constantly tweaked – and we try to keep up with those changes so that we can deliver a good web experience for the users that land on our SEO clients’ websites. And great websites tend to receive more links from other websites, or get shared on the various social media channels.
Great websites also just tend to convert better – more sales, leads, app installs – whatever your conversion type, a site that performs well in all the aspects we’ve mentioned will rank higher and also get users to come back, or tell others about the experience.
The Holistic SEO Approach
To help you better understand the concept of holistic SEO, we need to discuss the various stages of the conversion funnel needed to convert your site users. Each stage has a very specific purpose in your customer’s journey:
- Always assume that your prospective audiences knows nothing about your brand, and it’s your job to educate them. Here you use your marketing tools to make users aware what you can offer them – they have a specific problem, can your product / service solve it?
- Your users are sniffing around your site, now you have to keep them interested in your products. Smart social media marketing, useful blog content and more can keep an audience engaged.
- Here users are trying to figure out whether they resonate with your brand. By sharing more relevant content and relating with your audience, you can gently nudge them to the next phase…
- Your hard work has paid off. Your users have chosen you over your competition, you are offering the right solution for their needs. This is the start of a new relationship, and by nurturing it you can turn this into more sales in the future – it’s always easier to sell to an existing customer than attracting a new one.
The Aspects of Holistic SEO
Which aspects should website owners look at? We recommend focusing on these.
1. Relevant content
We start with the main reason that web users are utilising search engines: they’re looking for specific content. From general information to answering any questions they might have, make sure that your site has high-quality, relevant content that can help others.
To link up users with the right content, your website needs to be planned around your relevant set of keywords.
By including these across your website (headings, body content, meta data and more), it will help drive the right audience to your content.
But be careful not to overdo the use of keywords, this can be seen as “keyword-stuffing” – a practice that is penalisable by Google.
High-quality, relevant content will help engage and convert your users.
While we will always recommend a good amount of content to help showcase your offerings and expertise, content has a tricky balance to find when it comes to quality vs quantity. While more pages will expand your website and show search engines that it is constantly evolving to help serve your audience, it’s important that the information is well written and easy to consume.
2. Technical SEO
Technical SEO covers all aspects of making your website accessible to Google and other search engines, but it does also cover some user-experience points.
Search engines send out software robots to scan (crawl / spider) your website content, and assess what kind of information is available.
By setting up the right web structure, placing links within your own site to your content you can help Google discover what is important. The other side of that coin is that you may want to block search engines from content that’s not important, so that they can only focus on core information.
Fact – Over half of web users will leave a website if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds. This is one of the most frustrating experiences on the web, and with so many other alternative sites that can be found via search engine users, why would they wait?
Because Google knows that slow web experiences aren’t optimal, they won’t promote these kind of sites withing their search results.
Google’s Pagespeed Insights will score the performance of a specific page (mobile and desktop speeds) and share general information on how to speed them up, while Google Search Console will monitor your website and highlight which pages need attention.
3. User Experience (UX)
When users arrive on your site, it’s important to not only make a good first impression but help them by making sure the right content is easy to find – this is why they’re there after all.
Your website should be well structured, with users able to easily navigate it and connect with the content they’re looking for. Each page itself should also be well laid out and simple to use, while any further actions that you want users to take (buying products, signing up for a service etc) should also be very clear.
4. Social Media Presence
Websites that attract a lot of social media attention also shows Google that your site is worthy of promoting on their search engine.
A great social media presence can also share your content to an entire new audience, and help you to discover partners to work with to promote your website.
5. Mobile Optimisation
There are over 6 billion smartphone users in the entire world, and with people on their phones all the time, it’s no wonder that in back in 2017 the web was mostly accessed from mobile devices for the first time.
If your website is not catering for this massive audience, you’re missing out. And just because your site can display on a mobile device, does not mean it works well. Because of the smaller screen sizes of mobile devices, some experiences need to be optimised to display or work better.
The internet is a massive space catering to every taste, but not all of it is safe to visit.
Hackers are ever-present, and looking to damage websites or steal your personal information – which is why you should give your own users reasons to feel safe. This also builds trust in your message and expertise.
Did you know that by simply applying a security certificate for your website, you can help boost your rankings?
This is because Google has admitted that a secure URL counts as a “very lightweight signal” within their ranking algorithm.
Inclusivity is important because everybody should be able to easily access your content, but this is a step that very few consider.
Websites and technologies can be designed and developed so that users with disabilities can also use them. Screen readers, speech recognition software, alternative keyboards are great examples of tools that disabled people can use to view web content, but you should be optimising your site to enhance their experience when they use these tools.
As we mentioned, at the start SEO was only focused on simple SEO-friendly content and external backlinks. But with so many facets available to the modern marketer, a focus is needed to identify the right techniques for you to get the most value from. By concentrating more on what a user would want / enjoy, you can enhance your web experience for everybody.