As the Founder of Orange County SEO, I have had the rare privilege of consulting with thousands of businesses, in hundreds of different industries, and one thing has become increasingly clear.
"Most Websites Do Not Deserve A Top Position in Google."
The primary responsibility of any marketer is to put new eyes on a brand or offer. But for most traditional marketers, it's not so easy in the world of digital media. There are two-dozen online marketing options for any business, but very few of them actually make sense for any one business. However, there's one option that consistently presents itself as a "preferred choice" for for most businesses seeking new customers, or clients.
Search Engine Optimization (website traffic from organic search)
Of course, this requires that you have a website, but as you also may know, simply slapping together an online presence doesn't guarantee success. Your website must meet certain criteria in order for search engines to consider it an authority in your market, and for your audience to engage.
Search engine optimization (SEO), is a comprehensive strategy designed to improve search engine rankings for your website - and it starts with the development of the website or online property itself. Among the three-dozen things that need to be addressed with website quality and technology, one of the powerful elements of an effective SEO strategy is the use of "rich media", which basically means using different types of media content on your website, which help a number of things, such as user-experience (UX) and serve to answer search queries submitted to Google, Yahoo, and Bing with more variation.
The use of rich media is important because search engines have the ability to index, and serve, a variety of different media formats for a given search query. This is called "Universal Search" and understanding it can give you advantages in content marketing and search engine optimization.
What is Universal Search, and How Does It Relate to My Website?
Before delving into the world of SEO, it's important to understand a little about how search engines organize and serve the world's information and media. Search providers like Google and Bing organize information using powerful algorithms developed by the best mathematicians in the world, indexing and scoring websites and pages before presenting it to the end user.
Search Engines Serve One Major Purpose
To correctly answer questions. Think of any search query as a question being asked, for example:
- Where can I find the best deals on groceries?
- What is an Alpaca?
- What is the best SEO Company in Orange County?
- Why does the moon appear larger near the horizon?
Whatever question you ask of the search engines, they attempt to answer it using relevant data they scour from billions of pieces of content.
"Universal Search" is a term used to describe the way search engines employ their mathematical formulas and algorithms to search for dozens of different types of media in an effort to answer a search query more accurately. For example, if you were to search the term "Tsunami", you may see results that include:
- Wikipedia entries
- News items
- YouTube videos
- In-depth Articles
- Social media content
When conducting business online, not only is it crucial to understand your business or industry inside and out, you must have a solid understanding of what potential customers may be looking for in terms of information. We call this "user intent". Search terms that are integral to your company may be best satisfied by different media types and formats, and users may favor particular different forms of information delivery than others. You may discover that the visitors to your site respond better to video content, or they may prefer downloadable news items in PDF format.
How Can Rich Media Boost My Search Engine Placement?
Where rich media comes into play is when you mix things up on your website - adding images to text-based articles or embedding video content in the middle of a news item on your blog. The sky's the limit here, with dozens of shareable media formats at your fingertips. Current search engine algorithms favor in-depth articles, and by creating webpages or sites that offer a rich media experience to visitors, you can help ensure that your pages will achieve favorable positions in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Google, in particular, loves pages full of rich media, because such pages help answer search queries more accurately, providing users with a myriad of content pieces that answer their questions. Search engines see this content as a useful resource, and they favor content that is made up of multiple forms of media content, and pages that meet certain criteria:
- Original Text
- Original Videos
- Original Images
- New or Recently Updated Information
- Authoritative, trustworthy content
- Pages with varied media formats (such as text with images, videos and links for downloading files like PDF documents, Whitepapers, MP3's or Podcasts, etc)
If you are undertaking the organization of content for a website, the overall length of text is an important part of the SEO puzzle. According to a recent study we conducted at Orange County SEO, the average length of top ranking URLs exceeds 950 words. That is about 2X the length most of us are accustomed to producing for any given page or article. An example of an Orange County SEO ranking study was when we compared results of similar articles with different lengths, in the same industry, for the exact same search terms. We found that articles in excess of 1000 words or more performed much better, ranked higher, and gained positions much faster, than those with less than 600 words.
The conclusion was that longer content, assuming it is written well, gives you more opportunity to cover the topic, lets you showcase your expertise with a more in-depth approach, and from a mathematical analysis perspective, suggests a higher quality, more useful resource for users. So don't be afraid to add depth to your articles, expand on your content, and your efforts will be rewarded with higher rankings in search engines.
Understanding Your SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages)
As you develop your online presence, it is important to continually look at search results relating to your website and ask yourself, "Does my content even deserve to rank?" For example, maybe your company specializes in "search engine optimization", and you want your website to rank for the terms "SEO in Orange County". By looking at the first page of results on Google using those keywords, you might see a variety of entries including blog content, news articles, technical papers, local listings, and videos.
You can use those search query results to your advantage, as directional guidelines for what types of media you should be focusing on from a content marketing approach, and incorporating the common (and uncommon) media formats into the pages on your site. A sample page might have a technical article on the architecture of an SEO optimized website, with links to a downloadable white paper or research document, original illustrative images, and perhaps even video describing the content marketing process. Google and the other search engines value resources like this because they know that they will serve the end user by answering questions.
Can Using Images Boost My Website's Search Engine Ranking?
Images are a great way to add flavor and appeal to a webpage, and have been used this way since the dawn of the Internet. With seemingly strong new demand to produce text that's twice as long (500 words vs 1000 words) it seems appropriate to structure that content with images, and other media that will make that longer page of text easier to consume by the reader. Using optimized images can help boost your placement in search results pages. In fact, in other OC SEO ranking studies like the one mentioned above, the top ranking websites use an average of 5-6 images per page. Add more images to your content - "the more, the merrier" applies.
However, like any content you use, not just any image will do. There are a few ways to maximize the SEO benefit from the use of images. First, the images must be unique and original - not used anywhere else on the Internet. Google and the other search engines employ powerful image-recognition technology, and they know when an image has been used before. Images are considered content, and duplicate content is a direct violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines.
Optimize the Images Themselves
- Use Keywords in Image File Names. Maintaining the previous example, if your search keyword target is "SEO in Orange County" you might optimize your images with file names like: "seo-orange-county.jpg"
- Use Alt Text. Add related keywords or other semantically relevant terms in the alternative text of your image source code. (example: alt="search engine optimization orange county")
- Surround Images with Captions or Descriptions. This is a good place for additional related terms and will help your images gain visibility in Google image search.
If you don't want to hire an expensive graphic designer or photographer to create unique image content for your website, no problem. It's easy to take stock images and modify them sufficiently to make them original in the eyes of the search engines. Some tricks and techniques for modification include:
- Flipping the stock image horizontally
- Resizing the image
- Adding tints or other effects to the image
What Are Ranking Factors? How Can I Use Them for Improved Search Engine Placement?
As people conduct search queries on Google or other search providers, different components of the search algorithm are called into play. These are the ranking factors that the search algorithm uses to assign placement on SERPs for a given website in a given industry. Different criteria may be called, depending on the topic in question. A medical resource may trigger different parts of the algorithm than a sports retailer or a car-collectors website. For example, an e-commerce search environment might involve unique ranking factors such as:
- Website Security
- Shipping & Returns Information
- Customer Support Contact Information
- Unique descriptions of products
- Reviews of products
- Images of products
A medical website may have different ranking factors and criteria associated with it. Many people may use a medical information source as a means to get a diagnosis or a prescription recommendation. For such sites, the trustworthiness and accuracy of the content is paramount, as lives could be at stake. In these cases, the site must appear to have been written by medical professionals, lending their expertise to the topic.
One of the key issues is "topic relevance", which is a big factor when it comes to search engine results. The search engines use specific criteria to evaluate and index websites based on their content, applying stringent algorithms to sites where authority is expected, and not being so picky for other sites where the content isn't as critical. A cooking website will have a different set of criteria being evaluated than the medical site in the example above.
Content That Deserves Top Positions in Search Engine Results
As a community, we have established new ranking "criteria" which serves as guidelines to follow when creating relevant, authoritative, and trustworthy content for your website. By using multiple media formats on the same page, you are helping to answer the questions a search user or site visitor might have, and that in turn boosts the search engine placement of your site. Content is powerful, as far as Google is concerned, and developing quality content is one of the most powerful SEO tools a website owner has at his or her disposal.
Research your search environment, take inventory of the results, including all the various types of media formats and topics being covered by other publishers, and ask yourself:
"Does My Website Deserve a Top Position?"
Tyler Collins is a leading expert on the science of search engine optimization and digital marketing, is the Founder of numerous online media brands and Internet marketing organizations such as OC SEO, and holds multiple Board of Director positions in International media companies. For more information about Tyler Collins please refer to his LinkedIn or contact Orange County SEO for help with online marketing.