My 2-year old daughter stands before me covered in hives and a dangerous looking rash. Eyes puffy, screaming and crying. Her brother stands in the background with an "I didn't do it" look on his face. In her tiny hand is a tube of glue. I panic.
Mom's not home. It's Sunday night and the pediatrician's office is closed.
So, like any good digital marketer, I grab my laptop and turn to the search engine.
Here's the question: How do I want the search engine to operate in that instant? The answer is easy:
- I want information from an authoritative source
- I want a thorough explanation with action items
- I want text, video, images or audio that solves my problem
- I want it now!
Stop thinking like a business person
The truth is that most people don't care how a search engine works. It just does. When they have a problem, they go to the search engine and solve it by finding the right page on the web with the right solution. The only reason you care how it works is because you are a business person. You stand to gain from the search engine. It's natural for you to want to understand its inner workings. You might even want to game those inner workings to your favor.
But there's a problem. Every day, teams of graduates from the best technical schools in the world work to stop you from gaming this system. To understand why the search engine would work so hard (and spend so much money) to stop you from gaming the system, you need to understand the search engine's business model.
How search engines make money
This is going to be a short paragraph. Ready?
Search engines make money by getting traffic to their site and then selling ads around the outside of their pages. They make money the same way ABC, CBS, or the New York Times does. Ads.
But the insight you need is in how they garner enough traffic to make billions of dollars from advertising. The answer tells you everything you need to know to succeed in a search engine. Search engines solve problems. They help you find Chinese food and mortgage rates. They tell you the date the NFL football season starts and the date that Nicolaus Copernicus died. They help you save your daughter's life when she has an allergic reaction to glue.
If they fail to solve problems, they fail to get traffic. If they fail to get traffic, they fail to make money.
What this means for your business
It's a simple concept that can be hard to execute. Creating an SEO process that works for your business is about creating content on your website that solves problems. Let's take a look at what I demanded of the search engine when my daughter was having her allergic reaction and how you could provide those things to your customers and prospects.
Here are the four things I needed:
- Information from an authoritative source. Some organizations are already authoritative off-line. They just need to get the content on the Internet for the search engine to find. If your organization is not authoritative, you've got work to do. You need to establish trust and credibility the benefits of which extend well beyond SEO.
- A thorough explanation. This implies value of the individual piece of content. In my case, I needed a quick explanation and action items. Should I call 911? Should I give her medication? You will need to decide what value each piece of content provides and ensure that the value proposition is met or exceeded by the content.
- Text, video, images, or audio. I needed images to confirm that what my daughter was experiencing was indeed an allergic reaction and text to tell me what to do about it. You will need to consider the best format to deliver value to your site visitors based on the problem you are trying to solve with each individual piece of content. Go the extra mile here and the search engines will reward you.
- I needed it NOW. The problem I was having demanded the utmost speed. But on the web, speed is a necessity for all queries. We want value now. If you learn the basics of helping a search engine understand the value you're providing, you can teach the search engine that yours is the page that can solve the problem with speed. This includes understanding how search engines index a page (and the rest of the web) to determine the queries for which it is relevant.
This isn't another "SEO is irrelevant" piece
In fact, this author believes SEO is extremely important. The technical side of SEO including optimizing on-page factors and building relevant links and social shares from credible sources is critical. But none of it matters if you aren't solving problems in the way that I've framed it above.
It starts with your content. And it starts with understanding the value you are providing with each page of your website. If your content isn't providing value, the search engines will have an allergic reaction to your website.
This story has a happy ending. Today, my daughter is a healthy, vibrant 4-year old and Daddy stores the glue in a high cabinet. All thanks to good, solid SEO.