The practice of search engine optimisation (SEO) is always viewed through the lens of the user. In this respect, the objective activity of increasing traffic and brand visibility is a very subjective past-time, shaping campaigns based off the preconceptions from the online marketer in charge of driving engagement with the project.
This direction will sit anywhere across the spectrum. On one side is the marketer who views optimisation purely as a scientific numbers game; e.g. how many keywords are needed in this individual piece of content to access this many impressions?
At the other end is those marketers who analyse the web experience through an aesthetic and user-friendly lens. A domain might tick most of the SEO boxes, but can I access the contact tab easily, is there clarity in the message and is the information easy to share with friends?
What both of these philosophies and perspectives have in common are metrics that drive engagement. Neither viewpoint is incorrect, as they both happen to play a significant role to enhance optimisation.
Google uses what is labeled “dwell time” as a factor in their rankings process. In other words, sites that have a similar rate of organic traffic will be prioritised based on which sites can see visitors remaining on the pages for longer periods of time.
In essence, this is the engagement we are talking about. Can your brand not only attract eyeballs, but facilitate an environment that makes it an attractive proposition to return? Search engines thrive off that back and forth activity.
So how does this practically play itself out? What are the SEO tools at your disposal that can craft that ideal balance between sending out the right signals to Google and the individual user who wants a clean and simplified experience?
Here are some of the best SEO tactics to increase site engagement.
Being on trend is being on topic
Tapping into your Google Adwords account will be a good indication of what keywords are trending and which terms are in high demand due to strong competition. For some outlets, there won’t be a need to change much and for others, no change at all will be required. Yet the majority of enterprises can tap into current trends to boost SEO performance and improve in user engagement.
From trends on Google, Facebook, Buzzfeed or any other platform that has a social news agenda, this will offer your brand a direction as to where the traffic is heading.
Some might view it as a cynical attempt to elbow in on some unwarranted clicks, but this is simply a savvy means of incorporating your brand into channels that are already saturated with views, opinions and other brands doing the exact same thing.
An operation like Apple Music utilises this same play with their 9.5 million Twitter followers, promoting their content through trending topics like #BlackPanther and #BlackHistoryMonth in the United States. So long as the message is relevant and contributes to the conversation in some shape or form, you are free to channel your agenda into these communities.
This is all part of the engagement process.
Think about local engagement
The expansion and reach of smartphones domestically here in Australia and overseas has seen an evolution in the ways and means in which people search. Given their requirement to have their device on them at all times, searches are now catering to locations that are within their proximity – from retail outlets to gardens, cinemas, events and whatever else might be happening or on show in the area.
Should your location have any relevance to your business (essentially those that are not online retailers only), then your geography should be used as an engagement and optimisation tool. For any social media posts, website updates, articles, keywords, listings or reviews, tag your country, state, region, city, town, street name and postcode.
Online engagements are as much about the action as they are the behaviour and when it comes to common actions that are taking place, there is none more significant and topical than physical location spots and markers. Make use of them.
Life is all about timing
Small to medium enterprises that have limited online marketing resources and expertise will often fall victim to this domain of timing and scheduling of content. Despite following through on the optimisation process that incorporates the correct keywords, messaging and link integration, a post can be sent on a Wednesday evening, Friday afternoon or Sunday morning to completely negate all the good work that led up to this juncture.
To truly engage with your consumer base, the element of timing has to be central to your campaign’s strategy. For retailers and general business operators, the optimum time to push a sale, article or update through an email is believed to be between 8am-10am from Tuesday to Thursday.
Monday is too early in the week for employees and employers to want to examine new material, just as Friday is too late and closing in on their weekend agenda.
Social media though is a different beast and to engage on this level, marketers need to understand, respect and act on the differences. According to the latest research, various social media sites will need their own unique timetables to score the best possible results on engagement:
- Facebook – Thursday to Sunday during 9am, 1pm and 3pm
- Twitter – Wednesday during 12pm, 3pm and 5-6pm
- LinkedIn – Tuesday to Thursday during 7-8am, 12pm and 5-6pm
- Instagram – Monday and Thursday during 2am, 8-9am and 5pm
- Google+ – Wednesday during 9am and 11am-1pm
- Pinterest – Saturday to Sunday during 2pm, 9pm and 2am
A dashboard application like Hootsuite can ensure posts are scheduled automatically to ensure that operators can actually gain some sleep and let the process occur during these periods.
Depending on what your niche is, these time periods might need some alterations. Attempt some trial and error to find out what your peak periods are for content engagement and cater to that behaviour.
CTA engagement remains the target
It is understandable amid all the activities that take place under the SEO banner that you can overlook the need to actually drive visitors and customers to opt in for what you are selling, promoting or pushing. This is where the call to action or CTA is vital, ensuring that the traffic does not just land on the homepage or article link, but to that specific button you are driving at.
This can come in a variety of forms:
- GPS Location
Much like keywords, backlinks and multimedia use, there is no need to force this or stuff your content with CTA buttons. They should be a result of the natural flow of events and a soft introduction for the user to take the next step.
To optimise these CTAs, the links to the “call,” “email” or “subscribe” button should contain or pertain to a keyword that is relevant.
Take note of a global phenomenon like Adidas who continue to stick to these types of SEO principles. With a significant Twitter following of 3.37 million, their posts will be tied in to their website adidas.com to continue the brand messaging and relationship between their CTA and keywords. This creates a cycle whereby posts garner more calls to actions which leads to stronger SEO performance. That process simply repeats itself time and time again.
Don’t overplay your hand with SEO bullet points
The final discussion point we will examine is the need to balance your inherent SEO requirements with the basic principles of user experience. Sites that go above and beyond to please search engines will find that the average visitor is bombarded with backlinks, repetitive keywords, hashtags and general content that feels forced.
Here is where the point of engagement breaks down because there is little enticement from the user’s point of view. It is obvious from their standpoint that the brand is more concerned about Google’s crawlers and bots than they are about a pleasurable and stress-free browsing of a website’s features.
This point extends further when we take a snapshot of where Google is heading. Given the crack down on Black-Hat SEO tactics that attempts to shoehorn in on rankings by flooding on keywords and backlinks, this cynical maneuvering has since been hampered.
Domains that engage in this nefarious behaviour are rightly punished, making it an imperative to offer content and structuring that is natural and not overplaying your hand. Once upon a time spammers could get away with this type of activity, yet those days are well and truly over.
The best way to engage with SEO from the end of the content creator is to be natural with the use of keywords and backlinks. If it breaks the flow of the post, article or message and feels uncomfortable, change it. There should be a purpose and efficiency at play to ensure there is no stuffing taking place.
How will you foster engagement?
Due to the sheer amount of algorithm changes that are taking place with Google, there is no structured set of SEO guidelines that remains purely static. What would have worked last year needs to be re-examined and checked to see if it has become out of date.
What cannot and will not change is the need to have content in place that is engagement friendly. SEO is more than just numbers and statistics on a spreadsheet. It has evolved to the point where every element of your online output must be optimised to compete with peers in your given niche.
Follow these prompts as a starting point, allowing you to capitalise on all of that hard SEO work behind the scenes.