In our last lesson on keyword research, we discussed how our target keyword defines the topic of our content, and that staying relevant to the topic is the basis of SEO. Well, if SEO is search engine optimization, what does relevance have to do with anything?
Search engines just look for keywords, right?
All they care about is finding words people search for…
What Is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. You probably already knew that much.
The goal of SEO is to get our websites to rank. We do that by optimizing our content so that search engines know what it’s about.
A ways back, this was pretty simple. Pick a keyword, and jam it in your title, every paragraph, every heading, every meta-tag, and the alt-text for every image.
Well, things have changed.
Search engine algorithms have change. They’ve gotten much better.
They’s gotten smarter.
I know I’m talking about an inanimate thing, and smart may seem like a strange way to describe it. But in an age of robots and AI, is it really that surprising?
SEO Is An Outdated Term
I don’t particularly like the term SEO. As far as optimizing a page for search engines based on a keyword, I can sum up the lesson in one sentence:
Put your keyword in the title and first paragraph, then once more near the end for longer articles.
As far as SEO is concerned, that’s all you need to do to tell the search engines what your content is about.
But simply doing that won’t get you ranked where potential visitors will see you.
SEO Should Be “RO”
I know RO doesn’t sound nearly as cool as SEO, but “reader optimization” makes a lot more sense when it comes to trying to rank in the search results.
Because the new search engine algorithms don’t just look for your keyword. They take a lot more into consideration when determining where to put your page in the results.
This refers to how long visitors stay on your site.
Yes, Google and the other search engines know how long people stay.
If the search engines see that people get to your site and leave immediately, that tells them that you aren’t providing what people are looking for, and your rank will suffer.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule about content length, but studies have shown that the majority of pages that rank in the top three positions (where we want to be) tend to be between 1,700 and 2,000 words.
This length allows you to be very thorough in discussing your topic, but not so long-winded that people get bored and leave.
Have you ever seen the comments section at the bottom of a web page? How many times have you left a comment?
Site owners love it when you comment! And most of them will comment back!
Because the search engines see this engagement as proof that the page is giving people what they want.
More engagement means better rankings, so please comment on web pages that you find useful, helpful, or interesting (I would love your comments on this page!).
Have you ever seen a web page or YouTube video shared on Facebook or Twitter?
Of course you have!
Well, the search engines see that, too! And, again, it tells them that the page gave readers what they were looking for.
After all, you wouldn’t share a page if you thought it was garbage! (You can share this one if you like it!)
The Rules Of SEO Have Changed!
The day of stuffing your keyword into a page and ranking high are over.
Now, to optimize for search engines you need to optimize for the reader. You do that by giving them what they want.
In our last lesson on keyword research, I closed by saying that it is important to stay relevant to your topic.
Imagine you searched Google for information on how SEO works. What would happen if you clicked on one of the results and found a page about how much the author hates how SEO works?
Searching “How SEO Works” could certainly turn up an article title “I Hate How SEO Works” if the author stayed on topic.
It’s not really what you were looking for though, is it?
But it’s still relevant to “how SEO works”.
Relevance is your greatest tool in your SEO endeavors.
The search engines will know the gist of your topic by the keyword snippets they find in your content, specifically those in the title and first paragraph. But your ranking is determined by how relevant your content is to those keywords.
And your readers are the ones who will ultimately tell the search engines how relevant your content actually is.
How Does Relevance Help Us Rank?
Remember I said I don’t like the term search engine optimization? That’s because it gives the impression that your page should be written to impress the search engines.
That simply isn’t the case.
You need to write for your readers. You need to impress your readers. You do that by giving the search engines a keyword for them to connect you to people searching your topic, and relevant content that those people will love.
If you keep your content relevant to your keywords, visitors to your site will stay longer (session duration).
If you give them enough content to answer their question, help them, or entertain them without going on too long and boring them to death, they’ll read what you have to say (content length).
If they find your content useful, helpful, or entertaining they may comment on it. Then you can comment back and start an actual discussion with your readers (engagement).
If your content helped your readers, they may want to share it with friends, which gets your page out to even more people (social sharing).
All of this happens when you give readers what they want by staying relevant to your topic keyword.
Writing for your readers (reader optimization) is the best way to make the search engines happy. The reader is your guide to good SEO.
We’ve talked about what traffic is. That it all starts when someone searches a keyword.
We looked at how to research keywords, why research isn’t always necessary, and that keywords are really just the topic of your content.
In this lesson we discussed getting the search engines to recognize our keywords so they can put our site in front of readers, who will in turn tell the search engines if our content is any good.
In our next lesson, we’ll talk about how to take those keywords and use our knowledge of reader optimization (Okay… SEO) to actually create our content. Because until we have content, our keywords and SEO efforts are meaningless.
It would be great if you could rate this article, and let me know what you thought in the comments below. Ask questions. Tell me what you would like to see added to the site!
As always, thanks for reading, and the best of luck on your journey to financial independence,
If you ever have any questions, you can contact me here.
P.S. For a truly in-depth look at the ins-and-outs of SEO and search engine ranking algorithms, there’s no better place than the training platform and community at Wealthy Affiliate. Take a look at my Wealthy Affiliate Review and see if it sounds like a good fit for you. It’s the best training I’ve seen to work from home and make money online, and it’s my #1 recommended program. I’m an active member and still learning new things daily. I hope to see you there!