Imagine a world without search engines.
It’s easy if you try.
No more surprise Google updates. No more worrying about XML sitemaps, robots.txt, and content analysis and optimization.
And perhaps most importantly, no more keyword research.
That last one means you’re going to have to go old-school to figure out the language of your audience to reflect it back to them. It’s going to take a lot more work.
You didn’t think you were going to get out of that one, did you?
Choosing the right words
“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” – Mark Twain
When you’re executing on your content marketing strategy, what you say is crucial. But when it comes right down to engaging and converting your intended audience, how you say it becomes the definitive difference.
You need to speak the language of the audience. In a world with search engines, you get a glimpse directly into the mind of your prospect, based on the language they use when seeking a solution to a problem or looking for the answer to a question.
Back before search engines, writers and advertisers still had to discover the language of the intended audience. It just took more work.
You’ve likely heard of Eugene Schwartz, one of the most influential copywriters in the history of the craft. This is what he said on the topic back in the 1960s:
“One hour a day, read. Read everything in the world except your business. Read junk. Very much junk. Read so that anything that interests you will stick in your memory. Just read, just read, just read … There is your audience. There is the language. There are the words that they use.”
In that scenario, you’d have to rely solely on other content creators to get the language right. How do you know they did the proper work?
Still want to live in a world without search engines and keyword research?
You’re already doing the work
Let me be frank … it’s simply negligent to not use keyword research to understand the language of your audience so that you can reflect it back to them. And even when I’m not Frank (who is that, anyway?), you’re simply doing content marketing poorly if you’re not discovering and addressing the related topics that your prospects care about.
And once you’re covering the topics that matter, and using the language your audience uses, you’re doing most of what matters for search engine optimization. You don’t have to obnoxiously repeat keyword phrases anymore — Google has been smarter than that for years now.
For example, voice search has increased sevenfold since 2010, thanks to mobile. This gives you a more conversational glimpse into the minds of your audience, while also allowing you to write in a natural, engaging manner that Google still understands.
Plus, Google’s semantic abilities continue to improve. The algorithm interprets queries based on what users mean, even if that differs from what they searched. And Google’s AI is even beginning to understand metaphors.
In short, if you do the work that’s required to understand the language and cover the topics your audience cares about in the context of doing business with you, you’re doing the bulk of the work that constitutes modern SEO.
From there, the rest of the learning curve isn’t that bad. And you’ve got technology on your side for that.
The real danger of focusing on SEO
The real danger of SEO isn’t that you’ll create content designed for robots. People use search engines, not robots — so you’re always creating for humans. And Google not only wants you to do that, they require it.
You run into problems when you chase search traffic as if it’s an end instead of a means. The intentional nature of search traffic makes it a potential gold mine, but only if you do something with it.
In other words, ranking number one in Google for a coveted search term means nothing if that traffic doesn’t further a business objective.
- Are they likely to click deeper into the site?
- How about a content upgrade that gets them on your email list?
- Can you get them to check out your product or service?
There’s nothing worse than a quick bounce. And search traffic bounces even if you do a great job of answering the initial question — if you don’t give them a next step, that is.
Traffic doesn’t mean squat without some form of conversion. And search traffic is not your audience; it’s just a highly qualified missed opportunity unless you get them onto an email list or prompt them to make a purchase.
The SEO last mile
If you’re doing the real work of understanding the problems, desires, and language of your audience, you might as well do the remaining work of optimizing for search engines. And most of that is handled by technology.
Primarily, you need a mobile-friendly site that loads fast. Which, let’s face it, you’d need even in our imaginary scenario where search engines don’t exist. People are still people, and that’s why Google wants you to optimize for their experience.
If you’ve done the extra work to rank well in search engines, you now owe it to yourself to optimize for conversion as well — because that’s what you need to do for any kind of traffic, right?
Which brings me to my real point here. Outside of purely technical issues due to legacy website problems, SEO is not separate from content marketing. It’s an integrated aspect of content marketing.
Yes, you need a fast-loading, mobile-responsive WordPress website. Plus, you can use technology tools to implement all the search optimization you’ll need, including:
- Keyword research, content analysis, and optimization tools
- Advanced schema control
- XML sitemaps
- Robots.txt generation
- Enhanced Open Graph output
- Breadcrumb title control
- Google AMP support
Check out this handy guide that explains what all of this means to your website’s success.