Whether you’ve noticed it or not, Google has been making a lot of changes to its search algorithms – the search engine mogul has introduced 45 major algorithm updates in the last three years, in addition to about 600 small modifications it makes annually.
And because 89% of buyers use search engine queries to make purchase decisions, Google ranking has a significant effect on online marketing. Your online marketing, to be specific. In order to succeed, businesses must develop a strong online presence, one that plays well with Google.
As growing competition makes it increasingly difficult to maintain a salient presence online, optimizing your content according to Google’s rules is crucial. This means generating original and helpful content, conducting proper SEO, (search engine optimization) and providing informative answers to specific questions.
By employing quality inbound marketing strategies like these, your company can not only avoid penalization by Google’s new search technology, but can benefit from a correct approach to online marketing as well. Digital inbound marketing is moving forward with Google – make sure you don’t get left behind.
Recent Google Changes
There are a few different big algorithms currently in operation, each of which is updated regularly by Google. Penguin removes bad links that are spamming search results, and Panda penalizes poor content that is not actually informative but rather just overloaded with inaccurate keywords. Hummingbird, the most recently updated program, rewards websites that deliver a consistent customer-focused experience, in that they provide information that answers the actual question that the individual has typed in.
What Do All of These Changes Mean?
If you build your online marketing on a “quantity over quality” approach, it will be negatively affected by Google’s increasingly sophisticated search filters. Luckily, an inbound marketing strategy correlates perfectly with Google’s value ranking system.
Inbound marketing strategies are based on the creation of informative content that is targeted toward the people who will find it useful, which is exactly what Google wants to provide for its users. And, it’s also what your audience wants from you! With an average cost per lead of $143 (less than half of the average $373 for outbound marketing!), inbound marketing is the easy answer for maintaining your business’ online presence. Follow these 4 inbound practices to make sure that your business stays on the first page of Google!
4 Inbound Marketing Practices That Play Well with Google
Practice#1: Define Your Buyer Personas
The first step to effectively answering your potential customer’s questions is identifying who that customer is. What are their goals? What are the challenges standing in the way of those goals? At Responsive Inbound Marketing, we have two different buyer personas, and we target each separately.
“Owner Oscar” is a small business owner who wants to generate website traffic and grow the company’s client base, but has no time, limited funds, and no knowledge of inbound marketing. “Marketing Margaret” is a marketing manager who wants to attract more leads and get on the first page of Google, but does not have enough time to focus on inbound marketing.
Because these two types of potential clients have very different backgrounds and needs, we create distinct content for each one.
If you know what kind of questions your visitors will be asking, you can build your website in a way that will help answer those questions, which will establish your site as a reliable information source – both for your audience, and for Google!
Practice #2: Strategic Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Many are questioning whether Google’s changes will mean the death of SEO, but we promise it is alive and well! Search engine optimization is the important process of incorporating keywords and inbound backlinks into your website, which will indicate to a search engine that your site addresses a given search query. SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, which makes them significantly more successful than outbound leads, which close at a rate of 1.7%.
You must use keywords strategically, however. If Google believes that a site is packed with keywords that draw traffic but don’t really relate to its actual content, that site will be penalized and effectively buried under pages of more relevant results.
At Responsive Inbound, we constantly keep an eye on our HubSpot Keyword Reports page, which lists all of the keywords that we have created and shows how they are ranking. Take, for example, our long-tail keyword “inbound marketing strategies for small to mid-size companies.” It is currently ranked 18th amongst all search queries including that phrase, so it’s a good keyword to focus on. We do that by creating related inbound links and further improving on-page SEO related to that term.
However, a visitor wouldn’t necessarily recognize this phrase as a keyword, because we use it in logical places rather than squeezing it into unrelated content just for the sake of increasing its presence on our website. Keep working on SEO, just make sure to use keywords in moderation, include some specific long-tail keywords, and use legitimate, topic-related backlinks.
Practice #3: Create Great Content!
Great news – educational, original content will be rewarded!
Content creation may be the most important factor, and there’s a lot to keep in mind. Here are the main points:
- Create helpful content on a regular basis to target and engage your audience.
- More pages with useful content = more website entrance opportunities for visitors.
- Your page or post title and meta description should accurately reflect that page’s or post’s content.
- Focus on “how to’s,” which will answer the specific questions that Google users are asking. Use your buyer personas to figure out which questions to answer!
- Include infographics or videos! They are creative ways of answering search engine questions that may be more appealing than the readily available facts in Google’s Info bar. The more traffic on your site, the better, so find ways to incentivize people to explore your page rather than finishing their search with Google’s quick sidebar facts.
- Longer content may be preferable. The optimal length is reportedly shifting from 550 words to 1000+ words per content piece. The exception to this is of course content that is primarily accessed by mobile devices, which should be much shorter.
If you want an example of some great company content, check out the Whole Foods website! Their blog “The Whole Story” is constantly updated with healthy recipes, controversial food issues, contests, and company info, creating an environment for customer engagement, whether they need diet advice or ideas for fun party hors d’oeuvres.
Practice #4: Show Google Some Love
Finally, it should be no surprise that Google loves all things Google. Invest in Google Plus, which will increase your online presence and Google ranking through Google Authorship and provide audience feedback with “+1s” on your content (comparable to a “like” on Facebook).
The London-based Financial Times, for example, has thrived on Google Plus. Their page, which has almost 3 million followers, includes a concise tagline (“updates and announcements from the FT”), quick links to their website and YouTube pages, free to read exclusive news articles, and eye-catching visuals. Because it is both easy to navigate and interesting to peruse, the paper’s Google Plus page has stimulated engagement with its brand and increased its online visibility.
And since the Financial Times has a profile on Google Plus, it shows up in a separate sidebar box at the very top of the Google results page when you search for it. Even though the FT is a large corporation, the same search priority is given to every company with a Google Plus page – check it out for yourself!
Need help creating your own Google Plus profile? Check out this profile blueprint for advice on building an informative and appealing profile page.
The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same
So yes, Google is making changes to its operating system. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing: inbound marketing inherently works in a way that corresponds with these algorithm changes. Google’s new ranking qualifications will reward inbound marketing practices, because inbound marketing targets and achieves the same goals that Google has in mind in creating search technology updates.
“Companies that continue to modify their SEO strategies and marketing efforts to coincide with Google’s algorithm changes will win in the end,” says Chris Marentis, writer for searchengineland.com.
The takeaway? Focus on inbound marketing best practices, be aware of the algorithmic changes, and have faith that Google will reward good inbound marketing efforts!
Are you already using these inbound marketing practices? If so, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below. And if you’re not using them yet, drop me a comment and let me know which one sounds most appealing!