Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become a standard inquiry when clients seek my website design services. It’s rise in popularity of late has seen requests for it à la carte as well. I believe the main driver behind this impetus is the combined force of now acute awareness forcing some forward thinking, and recession blues, with the objective of course being competitive advantage.
Clients say they want their sites to appear on top of Google, but from my discussions with them, most don’t know how it happens and still have the notion that it’s all about keywords. Yes, keywords are absolutely relevant but SEO is much more complicated than that. The simplistic view of how it’s implemented highlights the need for local experts to teach and guide businesses accordingly.
How important is local search in Trinidad & Tobago?
When we say search, we mean Google of course, and about this there is no debate. Personally, I don’t use Bing nor care for it or any other search engine. Many other Trinis might and many actually do which is reflected in the top visited sites in Trinidad & Tobago, which are:
- You Tube
Bing is actually number 19, but we know that Yahoo is powered by Bing. I don’t care much for Yahoo either and also don’t use it. If you Yahoo like the many people who do (because the rankings does prove it), whether you are aware are not, you have really been Binging.
Yahoo’s site is not only a search engine; it’s a portal for multiple consumer oriented platforms like news, sports etc. just like AOL, so it’s top ranking includes visits from all users, including those who check their email.
How Trinis search for local websites
Easy, we type in the keyword or keyphrase we’re looking for and slap ‘trinidad’ at the end of it. Because of Google’s auto-suggest feature, the popular search terms automatically drop down while we type and we usually don’t have to finish; the suggestions are generally correct. i.e. they are regularly in line with what we’re looking for,
This auto suggest is your first stop on your journey to craft an SEO strategy which is called Keyword Research, and we’ll get more into it in my next SEO article.
Local websites Trinis find when they search
From the list of top visited sites above, there’s no doubt that Trinis are searching. Unfortunately all they’re finding are:
- Low quality newly designed sites on the first page of results
- Low quality old sites (circa 1990’s) also on the first page
- Directory listings instead of websites, often at the number one position
- Very old online newspaper articles or other similar links, i.e. no fresh info
Obviously this is bad for the searcher as Trinis are usually disappointed (and we’ve grown so accustomed), but it’s good for you, the searchee. My first on the list is very telling; these are modern, professional looking sites recently built by other local web designers but they are not optimal. But in their defense, they may not be to blame as many site owners choose not to invest in SEO right away.
Google or Bing: does it matter for T&T SEO?
IT DOESN’T, plain and simple. Search engines are much more sophisticated and the old rules no longer apply (or apply only a tiny fraction of what they used to). Modern SEO focuses on website optimization for your visitor, NOT search engines. So though I use Google exclusively, more precisely google.tt to be exact, 100% of the time, I have no particular bias when I advise about local SEO.
Regardless, I stand by my statement that it doesn’t matter, and like it or not, local search is owned by the almighty Google.
What is meant by 'Modern SEO'?
The term is used to distinguish the dramatic evolution of search engine optimization techniques. My view is that SEO’s evolution picked up the pace because of the wanton abuse of its weaknesses. Back in the earlies when keywords were king, marketers ran amok, stuffing them into every crack and crevice, nook and cranny, to manipulate website rankings.
The result of course was highly ranked sites that had no business being at the top of search, and such deliberate manipulation to fool search engines spawned the term ‘black-hat SEO’ causing sweeping changes to the algorithms making it difficult to game the system and even penalizing sites that still got through.
It also spawned the term ‘white-hat SEO’ for pure-as-the-driven-snow techniques sanctioned and encouraged by search engines. It goes without saying that this is the approach that I employ.
Modern SEO is complex
There is no more keyword stuffing as sites actually get penalized for it like I said. Search is much smarter. Modern SEO has figured out INTENT and doesn’t only return results you are specifically typing in, but returns results it FEELS you’re looking for.
Google figures out your intent by actually reaching inside your mind and connecting to your brain via a virtual USB, and lucky for you that safe search is on so those dirty thoughts you harbor are filtered out on no one is the wiser.
I’m kidding of course, and if you believed that, then I have I have the Statue of Liberty to sell if you’re interested. Still, it’s scary how much Google has INFILTRATED our lives. We way marvel at how smart it is but that continues to be at great cost to our privacy, but that’s whole other article (which I won’t be writing).
Anyway, as Orwellian as it is, modern search has evolved to:
- Search is a ton more SOPHISTICATED, doesn't just rely on keywords
- SEO has figured out intent
- Search predicts when we want diverse results
- Page level keywords and CONTENT is a BIG factor
- Brand related/Brand driven traffic is ON THE RISE
- Social media still has a minor impact
- Google knows what you had for dinner, even if you didn't post it on Facebook 🙂
Modern SEO rewards relevancy
And rightly so. It’s all about the ALGORITHM used by the search engine that processes all the sites and returns the result in the mere blink of an eye. The key word (pun intended) is ‘relevancy’, which is Google’s way (and by Google I mean search engine), of saying ‘you’re looking for this, here are the best sites to find it ranked in order of priority’.
We keep hearing about these algorithms by name, Panda and Penguin are the most popular. Why they are so named and how they work are irrelevant (pun intended again). They work quickly and they work exceeding well.
What Trinis need to do to be found in local search
Again, if Google is ranking based on relevancy, then you have to be relevant, also plain and simple. I said that it doesn’t matter how search works, i.e for you to understand the mechanics, but it does matter what the mechanics looks for in your site to determine it’s relevancy.
In addition to relevancy, there are the other ranking factors that search engines use to score your site and serve up your position in results, and therein, as they say, lies the rub.
Domain & Page Level link authority account for 40% of result
That’s a huge chunk for 2 metrics that determine your website’s ranking and the term ‘Authority’ really refers to strength. Domain Authority measures the predictive ranking strength of entire domains while Page Authority measures the strength of an individual page of your site.
When you hear the word ‘authority’ to describe a website you are instilled with a sense of strength in that site, it sounds solid and confident with an air of ‘a cut above’. Solid sites like these generate ‘natural links’ because they get linked without having to ask.
People link only to good content, so start with content
You don’t get authority ‘jes so’. Before you get ahead of yourself à la Trini by ‘only studying’ how to get links there is absolutely no way you can get away with poor content. Employing all the best practices on the technical side, like page meta information, heading structure, image ‘alt tags’, anchor text etc., will go to waste if your webpage has very poorly written information that makes visitors take one look and run.
In the back of your mind now should be percolating thoughts on your own content, and hopefully steer you away from a basic approach of merely listing your services from the standpoint of ‘we do this’, to describing your services by ‘we do this to help you solve that’.
Again, I elaborate on all of it in the next article.
Good content encourages engagement, builds brand
There is ranking factor called ‘Bounce Rate’ which refers to how often visitors land on your page and quickly leave. How traffic moves through your site is adds to its strength and authority. If visitors are not staying on your pages long enough to read through, click on your call to action, or drill down to other pages, then you’re not strong. Again, content, again, more later for as you can see this article is already long.
What makes Forward Multimedia an expert in SEO?
I know to do SEO because I already done done it. And not with the keyword ‘seo trinidad’ as that was too easy as there was no stiff competition for it. I did it with ‘website design trinidad’ back in 2011 when I just started websiting and didn’t register a blip on Google— Forward Multimedia was nowhere in the first ten pages!
The first two pages were already fully occupied by established local website companies and I had to make the long, slow climb the hard way. I was able to reach the first page in less than six months, and since then climbed to the top and remained there for all major industry keywords as well: e-commerce, website design, social media marketing, online marketing, email marketing, seo; essentially all the services I provide.
In doing so I established Forward Multimedia as a brand and a SOLID BRAND at that, and in no small part to these very articles that Google indexed ahead of my domain at first; hence the reason why I still write them regularly.
Getting to the top of search and staying their requires a concerted effort and a long term and ongoing plan. As more Trini businesses get websites, which is happening as we speak, the space you’re competing for will start getting fuller and eventually crowded. Also, there are only ten spots available in that space because no one looks at the second page. The ‘one-eyed’ websites will be no more and you’ll have to square off against formidable competition. Bottom line: you have to get your act together.