The secret of modern SEO

The mysteries of Google Search are a constantly evolving subject on the web.

At least on those segments of the web frequented by online marketers, website builders, SEO consultants and others whose fortunes turn on being able to attract the eye of the notoriously fickle Google search algorithm.

Subject to around 500-600 changes every year, the workings of the algorithm are harder to pin down than one of the hummingbirds a major 2013 algorithm was named for.

Google makes it sound easy in the Search Engine Optimization, SEO Starter Guide. Simply “optimize your site to serve your users’ needs”. Seems clear enough. But how is such a directive to be applied? Think about Google’s motive. They want to make money by serving search users. To do this, Google search works to index all the world’s available digital information and make it easily accessible. The idea is to show users what they are looking for and satisfy them with useful answers and solutions.

So optimizing your site to serve users’ needs means providing the right answers in such a way that they are easy to find, access, and understand. Part of this effort takes place in the backrooms inhabited by code, tags, plug-ins, meta-data and other arcana, but the most important stuff happens right out front where anyone can see it.

Google says it best a few chapters into the Starter Guide: “Users know good content when they see it”. Make your site interesting and useful. Compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any other factor.

Google measures this in a range of ways using their RankBrain algorithm – by how long visitors spend on the website, the click through rate (whether visitors click the Meta Title and Description in the search results), the bounce rate (if visitors click a link on your page to visit another page), and by actual human reviewers.

Understand that Content is King

If you browse SEO-related websites and blogs you will quickly turn this catchphrase up. It acknowledges that today’s smart search algorithms are not fooled by content clogged with stuffed keywords and seasoned with a few inbound links. Search engines can recognize well-written, engaging, relevant copy, and they know which pages have the answers that make search users happy. These are the pages Google rewards with top search results positioning.

Write for People

While you should keep the algorithms at the back of your mind, focus on writing for people. This means identifying your readers, the audience for your brand, product, or service. Think about their interests and needs. What questions do they ask? What problems do they need solved? Create content that will engage readers by giving them what they are looking for, then going beyond that to inform, educate, and entertain.

Make it Readable

People reject content that causes confusion and frustration. They enjoy text that is easy-to-read. Your content must be well-written, without poor sentence structure and sloppy, error-riddled grammar and spelling. Make sure text is organized in a clean structure that is simple to move through. Use headings, bolding, paragraphing, and logical divisions to break your message down into understandable chunks that communicate clearly.

Write with an international audience in mind

Don’t forget the Internet is international. Identify your potential audience in the broadest terms and think global, not local. There is a world of potential customers out there, and you can only benefit by catering to them when possible. For example, marketers in the France and UK would do well to acknowledge the fact that the two countries are near neighbors. Market analysis will determine whether a full multilingual website build is justified.

Modern CMS systems like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal make creating a multilingual site with a shared database relatively simple and the potential return on investment makes the translation costs well worth it.  You can see an in-depth guide to international SEO at

Quality Content is the Best SEO

Creating compelling, useful content is not only a very effective SEO strategy, it is also relatively easy. Not that authoring top-flight web copy, articles, blog posts and the like does not demand both skill and talent.

But you do not need to be able to code or handle other back-end mechanics of website design. Even when managing multilingual website designs, with Google’s latest algorithms content is the most accessible route to the top of a search engine results page, and effort spent on this aspect of online marketing has the most potential to produce a solid ROI.