by Jody Mugele
SEO can often have that which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg feel. In general, SEO is a concept that’s difficult to understand. You can’t touch it. SEO practices change. There are few hard and fast rules, few classes, and few experts on the matter. Often it’s a struggle to even explain it, even when you’re an SEO professional. So, how do you actually approach implementing SEO?
Decide on the chicken.
Let’s call the chicken “on-page content.” That makes the egg off-page content. If you’re with me, and accept that the chicken comes first, then your SEO won’t run afoul. No, seriously, if you put your on-page content first, your SEO will be in order.
There was a time when on-page content was about minimalism. I remember in a previous job I explained to my employer that his website had too much content – that the purpose of the website was to act like a billboard, not an encyclopedia. At the time, that was true. But it’s not true now. Who is Google’s favorite niece? Wikipedia.
I don’t know about you, but I want my clients’ websites to be friends with her. It’s not just about content anymore. It’s about context. Context is queen? I’d say, “Yes.” As Google works harder and harder to understand context and relevancy, we can sit back a little and be proud that we’re human and naturally understand that. SEO used to be about chasing algorithms and making websites that were beholden to weird math equations and keyword-stuffing, and oh, if the user can navigate it, then cool. People played to the rudimentary understanding of search spiders, looking at how spiders matched words all over the web to words on a website that they hoped would rank. Context didn’t always play a part. With the Panda update, search spiders turned a new corner. Regarding this update Google said, “Our goal is simple: to give people the most relevant answers to their queries as quickly as possible.” That resulted in Google being able to understand context better and index sites accordingly. Effectively, it began to “read” words in a way that was more human-like than ever before.
That’s great news for humans! Our clients’ content can now be more human, too. Because a client’s website is its home base, or chicken coop, the content there needs to be as relevant as possible. Without a good coop, the chickens won’t lay eggs. So make your chicken coop a place where chickens will thrive. Then splurge on Grade A chickens. What is a Grade A chicken when it comes to content? Simply put, it is content that reaches the needs of a user no matter where they are in the journey for answers. That could be information on a product, a cost, a contact person, a buy button, or even empathy, or entertainment. The more user needs that a website’s content can satisfy, the more relevant it is – to users and to search engines.
When the coop is ready and full of chickens, the eggs will be laid.
If the egg is off-page content, I define it as any content created that links back to on-page content. Logically, people creating off-page content want to include links and mentions to authoritative and relevant sites. To expand the metaphor, no one trusts that the egg can live on its own. Laying eggs all over the Internet does no good because they can’t thrive. There’s no parent chicken to warm them. In essence, you’re counting your chickens before they hatch. The same is true for content. Google sees content that links to a page with no relevancy as a dud – an egg with no chicken or an egg from a Grade E chicken. It may rank, but not very well.
So, when it comes to professional search engine optimization, the chicken definitely comes before the egg.