The whole point of SEO is to attract visitors and get them to stick, like flies on a web.
From this point on, you are a spider.
I know that thinking of yourself as a spider isn’t the most appealing thing to do, but bear with me here. This is going somewhere, I promise!
As a spider, your job is the catch your dinner. If you don’t catch anything, you don’t eat.
This is how it is for your website as well, with your content being your web and your audience the flies. SEO (search engine optimization) is the most effective way to drive people to your content, but it’s the relevance of your content to your audience that makes them stick.
Here are 4 things you should know about SEO, from the perspective of a spider (ahem, a business owner).
Lesson #1: Bad webs don’t catch flies – negligence can impact traffic
When people land on your pages, do they stick or do they bounce and go somewhere else?
Webs with big gaps and brittle strings aren’t going to catch anything.
If there are gaps in your SEO strategy or you’re ignoring organic traffic, you’re leaving money on the table.
As of June 2021, there were an estimated 5.6 billion searches per day on Google alone, with the average person performing 3-4 Google searches per day.
5.6 billion searches. What are you doing to catch your share of all those flies?
In an ideal world, people will only find your content on relevant search results pages. They’ll see your page and immediately understand that you have the answers they’re looking for. When they visit your page, your content matches their expectations and they leave happy.
This ideal situation doesn’t happen automatically. You have to put in the work to make it a reality.
There are a few ways you can mess up your SEO, even if it’s not intentional. Here are the top reasons:
- Your content is not optimized for any specific keywords
- Your content is optimized for the wrong keywords
- Your content is not useful to your audience
- Your content is not as useful as your competitors
- The quality of your content is bad
- You’re using outdated SEO strategies (keyword stuffing, tags, etc.)
The truth is, there are a million different things you could be doing wrong. Don’t stress over it too much. Set up a content strategy that includes SEO based on what you know, then follow it consistently.
My main point here is that it’s better to have a plan instead of just trusting that your content will work out without any planning.
What do I mean by planning? Focus on a few things:
- Compile a list of keywords you’re targeting, including long-tail keywords
- Make sure each piece of content you create features at least one identified keyword
- Research competing results on the first page of Google – then do more than them
- Develop your writing voice and stick to it
- Identify your target audience and write with them in mind
As long as you’ve got your basics down, you should be able to make functional content. A decent web is better than a bad web!
Lesson #2: You can tell if your web is working by what it catches – check your traffic breakdown
You catch what you plan to catch.
If you don’t make a plan, you’re less likely to get the kind of traffic you want.
Hopefully, you have a defined target audience that you’re writing for. You should know a little about them and what they want to read, watch, or listen to.
With that in mind, have you set up your SEO to match your target audience? Or, are you targeting keywords and arranging your content in a way that brings in the wrong people?
High traffic means nothing if you can’t drive meaningful conversions. That can mean selling products, getting ad revenue, signing up for a mailing list, or anything else that helps your business.
For example, if you’re writing up a new recipe for gluten-free beetle cookies (because you’re a spider with digestive issues), you want to make sure you’re getting that content in front of people who care about gluten-free recipes. While a specific segment of people will appreciate the gluten-free recipe, it’s not going to grab the attention of someone who doesn’t care about gluten.
Narrow your focus to a specific audience instead of trying to appeal to everyone.
This is especially important if you’re selling something.
Your online courses and products need a specific audience if you want a good conversion rate. If they end up in front of people with no buying intent, you’re going to have a hard time making any sales.
If your content is getting high traffic and low conversions, something might be wrong with your SEO strategy.
Lesson #3: No web lasts forever – maintenance is a constant process
It’s natural for spider webs to stop working well after some time. Even if a spider builds their web perfectly, it can’t hold up to the elements forever without a bit of help.
Content can sit for a while without needing a lot of attention, but you do have to maintain it occasionally.
You have to do your WEB maintenance.
Spider jokes aside, content maintenance is 100% necessary.
Google regularly updates their search algorithm
Regularly is an understatement. In 2020, Google changed its algorithm around 4,500 times, making minor tweaks and improvements throughout the year.
You can’t keep up with all these changes, even if they published everything they did, which they don’t. Minor changes throughout the year often have little to no effect on your ranking, but you have to account for major updates that come every few years.
Your content could be out of date
If one of your most popular posts is from 3+ years ago, read through it and check it for accuracy today, especially if you’re writing about any topics related to the internet.
Some things never really change, but methods, research, and news around that topic might. Out-of-date advice or information quickly becomes irrelevant and fades into oblivion on the rankings.
Updating brings new life (and new traffic) to your pages
Every year, make a point of updating your older posts, especially those that are still getting a little traffic every month.
When updating, change as much or as little as you feel is necessary. Cut out useless content, add content for clarity, re-write the intro/conclusion, and change out case studies, outdated images, quotes, stats, etc. Always check if the links on your content are still working and relevant.
Keyword trends change over time
The keywords you used to rank for may be obsolete, while new keywords may have popped up that could potentially replace them. If you use a lot of long-tail and niche keywords, update your keywords and add or remove them as necessary.
Your competitors may have written something better
If you’ve got solid informational posts that you want to keep alive, you may need to compare them to the competition and update them as needed.
Your post could be great, but if your competitor made something twice its size, including graphs, charts, infographics, case studies, and the works, yours may not be able to compete without some love and attention.
Before you make any major updates like these, check if it’s worth your time and effort. Those resources might be better spent on other activities.
Don’t count on your content to work for you in the long run if you’re not willing to maintain it. Evergreen content is only useful if it’s relevant!
Lesson #4: Keep an eye out for predators
There used to be an enormous golden orb weaver spider living in my back garden. This thing was half the size of my hand, and it had an absolutely enormous web. While the spider and I coexisted peacefully, I went outside one day to find its web torn to pieces and the spider nowhere to be seen.
Large spiders with huge, effective webs become targets for hungry predators.
You can’t think about SEO or your content in a bubble. It’s important to pay attention to what your competitors are doing.
Some of your competitors are ignoring you and ranking on their own merit. Others are taking the best content in the rankings and trying to one-up it. For more competitive keywords, there are also more malicious parties performing negative SEO attacks.
SEO is a constant competition. Even in smaller niches that don’t have a lot of competition to begin with, you want to make sure you’re the one doing the most.
For your main keywords, check on others who are ranking well to make sure your content is at least as good as theirs, if not better. Update as needed, and plan new content with one eye on what your competitors are already doing in that space.
Dodging Negative SEO
What is negative SEO? Negative SEO is an action taken by someone else for the purpose of ruining your ranking on Google and other search engines.
Negative SEO is most common for sites that rank well and have a bit of traffic. While it doesn’t happen often, it’s worth being aware in case it happens to you.
According to Semrush, the most common forms of negative SEO attacks are:
- Spam backlinks
Links to irrelevant sites, known spam, or websites that search engines prefer not to promote (NSFW, gambling, fake news, etc.).
Spammy backlinks also usually have anchor text that’s completely unrelated to your website or reads like a scam.
While it’s less common, it’s possible for people to hack into your website and add spam pages to your domain. They might also put an automatic redirect on your pages that sends people somewhere else, such as NSFW websites or gambling sites.
- Duplicating content
Your SEO can get thrown out of whack by crawler bots who steal all the content exactly as it appears on your website and repost it on an identical separate website.
- Fake reviews
If someone is really trying to mess with you, they can create fake reviews for your business on Google My Business to throw off your local SEO. They can also post bad reviews on other third-party review sites to try to ruin your brand credibility.
- Removing quality backlinks
Malicious parties may try to contact any websites that have sent you high-quality backlinks in an attempt to get them to remove those links. They will impersonate you and ask for the links to be removed. If they succeed, you will have fewer high-quality links pointing to your website.
All of these sound awful, but negative SEO isn’t as much of a threat as it seems. Yes, it can be bad for your rankings, but it’s rare that anyone gets targeted and these attacks have limited effectiveness, even according to Google.
Fighting Negative SEO
Make sure you have good security on your website and check your backlink profile once a month. Disavow any sketchy links you see. If you have a Google My Business profile, dispute reviews that appear to be fake.
Beyond that, any drops you see in traffic probably have more to do with your own SEO practices being ineffective rather than negative SEO attacks.
If you’re creating content, make sure you’re thinking about SEO from the start. Formulate a central SEO strategy and implement basic on-page SEO in every piece of content you create. Once you’ve got a simple system in place, it’s easy to keep it going and build up your content library the right way.
Just like a savvy spider, you should think about who you’re attracting and how to make them stick.
Otherwise, you’re just relying on luck!