This Week in Search: SEO Needs You to Need It
I saw a lot of links and tweets this week pointing to Virginia Nussey's excellent post on the SEO hierarchy of needs, based on Maslow's hierarchy, a psychological theory that says physiological and safety needs have to come before stuff like love and belonging (I almost typed "blogging").
I've created a handy (and tall) illustration to show where the SEO hierarchy fits into Maslow's hierarchy. An SEO's basic needs for Diet Dr. Pepper and a paycheck must be met before he/she can move up the hierarchy. It goes without saying that for search marketers, link-building is more basic than "intimacy" or "sense of connection," and self-esteem and self-actualization are impossible without proper website optimization. Conveniently these latter two goals can be measured in common SEO reporting metrics such as PageRank and bounce rate.
I KID, I kid—really I bring this up because there is so much to agree with in Virginia's post. She writes:
It happens a lot.
A company calls Bruce Clay, Inc. to find out what can be done to help them build links / launch a social media campaign / [insert Internet marketing service here]. But after looking at the site it becomes apparent that the SEO foundation is just too weak to support quality search engine rankings, let alone a link building campaign.
Yes! We too are all about the foundation. In fact, the need to build both paid and organic search campaigns on a solid foundation was the crux of Larry's presentation at SES last month.
Without data that tracks visitor engagement on the site, there's no baseline from which to measure the effect of SEO efforts.
And without analytics data, it's nearly impossible to understand if your site and online campaigns resonate with your target audience.
Double yes. One of the great things about online marketing is the wealth of stuff to track. At WordStream we are firm believers in keyword analytics—not just tracking your data but actually acting on it.
And I especially, extra-much, to-the-max agree with Virginia's choice for the bottom level of the pyramid: keywords.
Content is how a search engine and a human user know what your site is about, what they can expect to get from it, and where its expertise lies…
Competitive analysis and keyword research are important steps in developing site content. Be sure you're targeting the relevant and trafficked keywords that relate to your site's goals. Then develop interesting and compelling content that revolve around those keywords and goals.
I'll go a step further: Content isn't just how humans and search engines know what your site is about. Content is your site. So you need to invest in that content. We advocate ongoing keyword research that incorporates your private website data for maximum relevance and accuracy. And excellent writers don't hurt—informative content that doesn't sound like it was written by robots, for robots keeps real people coming back.
Once you have solid keyword management and content creation strategies and processes in place, you can worry about everything else: meta tags, anchor text, image optimization, landing page optimization, social media optimization, etc. Then you can finally move on to love optimization and maximizing return on self-respect.
The Big Title Tag/H1 Controversy
Another post we liked was Aaron Wall's post titled "Why Real Professional SEOs Advocate Page Title + On Page Heading Variation." Actually, that's the H1 tag—the on-page title is "Cleansing Misinformation, One Blog Post at a Time!" Wink, wink!
Though he doesn't explicitly say so, Aaron's post sure seems to be a response to Rand Fishkin's "5 Common Pieces of SEO Advice I Disagree With," one piece of which is to vary SEO title tags and H1 tags. Rand claims he's never seen any benefit from this practice, and postulates that it might even be detrimental, since search engine users might land on your site, see a different title, feel confused and angry, and bounce back to the SERP.
OK, Rand doesn't actually imply that visitors will display early signs of Alzheimer's, but he does say they might find it a "very off-putting experience." I don't think people necessarily expect the on-page headline to match what they saw in Google word for word, or that they memorize that version in the first place. One can vary these tags without making them so wildly different that users feel tricked.
For his part, Aaron argues that duplication is a bad thing, and duplicating the same text in both those fields is a wasted opportunity. Why wouldn't you take every chance you can get to include another variation of the keyword? As believers in the long tail, we think this argument makes a lot of sense.
Of course everyone knows the first rule of search marketing is there are no rules. YMMV, etc. But around here, we use the Drupal plugin Aaron mentions to create separate H1 and title tags.
P.S. There was a slightly, er, more controversial controversy between Aaron and Rand this week, but I'm staying out of that one.