The increasing sophistication of search engines and the methods by which they sort and rank websites means that in writing and planning SEO content, an SEO strategist needs to be aware of and cater to the capabilities as well as the peculiarities of the most popular search engines. This means that the less sophisticated strategies used in the past need to be discarded.
The Internet is quickly becoming the dominant advertising medium in many, many diverse markets. The need to present optimized online marketing content has changed from “this might be helpful” to “this is absolutely necessary.” Moreover, as more and more companies develop a web presence and engage in e-commerce, the playing field will be more and more crowded and competitive—thus necessitating the very best strategies to get those coveted high search engine rankings.
It may seem a bit odd that what is needed in Internet marketing is externally driven—the nature of the search engines means that companies’ marketing is pulled by the search engines, not pushed by the companies themselves. It has always been this way, though—for instance, a business located near a busy freeway might have put up a very tall sign to tell potential customers they were there (particularly, in time for them to make the decision to stop—McDonald’s was a pioneer in this type of advertising). The busy freeway, and the internet search engines, are examples of “it is what it is”—which in terms of competitive marketing, also means “adapt or die.” Following is an explanation of the ITRA strategy, which can be used to increase the extent to which search engines direct traffic to your website:
I is for Indexing
It isn’t enough just to get visits to your home page. The true measure of the effectiveness of your website as a marketing tool is how long visitors spend on it and how deeply they explore its available content. Search engines are no different, in that you want them to explore the content within your website, not just the primary content. It may seem efficient to direct as much traffic to your home page as possible, but this may be counterproductive, particularly if you offer a wide variety of products and/or your products are specialized. In the case of a specialty product, you will achieve a better marketing result, as well as a better search engine ranking, if search engine hits are generated by the content on your sub-pages rather than just your home page.
The sheer number of hits on a homepage used to be considered what made it effective, but that’s no longer the case. The analogy could be that homepage visitors have stopped and looked in your store window; visitors to your site’s subpages have actually walked inside and are looking around. Consider a dynamic, inter-linked website with rich SEO content to be the equivalent of having a brightly lit, well-decorated (and interesting!) store window.
R is for Ranking
Search engine ranking is (among other things) a function of the richness of your keyword content and how dispersed throughout your site your keywords are. Ranking is critically important as users doing a search will normally only have the top ten results displayed in front of them. Being ranked, say, fifteenth is, in many cases, as good as being invisible. A variety of keywords across a broad range of content helps in this regard. Furthermore, if your site contains a lot of informative, well-researched content that is both helpful and interesting to your target audience, that will increase your site’s marketing effectiveness as well as its SEO capability.
For instance, let’s say your company sells hot sauces. Certainly, there will be keywords on your homepage that entice hits on a broad scale, such as “hot sauce,” “Cajun cooking,” “jalapeno,” etc. But your subpages should contain what are called “long-tail” keywords; these are keywords with a high degree of specificity. “Papaya habanero hot sauce” would be an example of a long-tail keyword, as would “Cajun cooking jambalaya recipe.” The idea is to disperse the SEO content throughout your site rather than, as was the common practice a few years ago (and still is done by many websites today), to stuff as many keywords as possible into the homepage to get a maximum number of those primary “hits.” The search engines nowadays rank on breadth and depth of content. Again, this means that hits by themselves are not enough; those hits must be generated via long-tail, well-dispersed keywords.
T is for Traffic
A search engine hit doesn’t mean a subsequent visit to your site, and while a high ranking is nice, the next step of a searcher becoming a visitor is also necessary. The idea is to entice the click. There are now possibilities of including additional information that will be seen by the customer’s search engine results. For example, Google now makes available authorship markup, content that displays alongside the search engine results and conveys additional information, such as a photo, about the company or person successfully searched for. “Rich snippets” convey additional information about your company at the search-engine-result level.
A is for Actions
This is where it all leads, ultimately. You want your customer to not only look at the home page but also to explore your site. You want them to read the jambalaya recipe, download the “Ten Suggestions for Habanero Sauce Cooking,” and post responses to your “Hot Cooking” blog entries. The best way to entice customers off your homepage and into the rich content of your site is to create as many internal links as possible. This network of internal links functions like a neural network in the brain, in that it links relevant content together. The other side of this is that your site receives more website traffic and higher search engine rankings if it has broad-ranging content that is densely cross-linked.
It can be discouraging to get a high volume of traffic but relatively few buyers. That’s why quality of traffic is as least as important as the quantity of it. It’s nice to have people looking in the shop window, but you want them to come in and buy, too. The IRTA strategy framework moves away from the concept of sheer number of hits and visits to that of meaningful, relevant search engine results and content-rich, “deep” website visits by your customers wherein they explore a large portion of the material available to them. As in other, more traditional forms of marketing, the idea is to catch then hold the visitor’s attention.