When we first became HubSpot Partners last year, I knew zip about SEO. I knew it was a buzzword thrown around in my college marketing courses, but I wasn’t even sure what it stood for, to be quite honest.
Flash forward and not only do I know what it stands for (search engine optimization, people!!), I know why it’s important, how to improve it, and, most importantly, that it’s never as perfect as you want it to be.
HubSpot recently changed their SEO and content strategy to match the ever-changing Google algorithm and I’ve had a hard time breaking up with keywords, adapting to clusters, and accepting the fact that my SEO still isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot better than it used to be.
Since HubSpot changed its content strategy, here are five things I learned about SEO.
1. It’s not as cut and dry as it used to be.
Like I said, my first SEO experience came through HubSpot when I wrote my first blog and discovered the “optimize” button.
I had no idea this buzzword that seemed way out of my realm of understanding could be so simple. Keyword in the title? Check. Keyword in the metadescription? Check. Keyword in the content body? Check. Boom, you’ve got a blog on the first page of Google results.
It’s not that simple anymore. Slapping a keyword into various parts of a blog, constantly repeating keywords, and double-checking your image alt text won’t get onto that coveted first page anymore! Why? Because…
2. Google is smarter than you think.
You thought you could outsmart Google by putting the term “SEO for cats” into your content body ten separate times? Think again.
Google doesn’t just scour the web looking for the page with the most iterations of your keyword. It takes into account things like domain authority and relevance. If you’re a pizza-rating blog that puts out one post on SEO for cats, you’ve got way less of a chance of a front-page ranking based on your site’s plethora of pizza content and lack of cat content.
3. You CAN compete!
But don’t worry! You can still compete! If anything, HubSpot’s cluster strategy makes it easier for you to compete with the big guys, provided you still have that sweet, sweet domain authority.
Cluster strategy is a great way to compete with bigger websites by combining your content to support one short-tail keyword. Rather than just cornering the long-tail market, you can rank for a much higher-searched short-tail term.
4. It takes a (content) village to raise a ranking.
While the idea of cornering a short-tail keyword is enticing, it’s not an overnight process. I’ve been used to cranking out a piece of content, optimizing it for a long-tail keyword, and sending it on its merry way.
Now, I’m doing extra keyword research to find the best long-tail terms to complement and support my short-tail keyword, writing optimized blogs for each one, and constructing lengthy (and awesome) pillar pages. Is it a lot of work? You bet. Is it worth to rank #1 on Google for “millennial snack marketing?” You bet.
5. There still aren’t any shortcuts.
When I first learned about SEO through HubSpot, I thought of the optimize tool as a kind of shortcut. I write a blog about whatever I want, I slip a few keywords into some key places, and suddenly I’m ranking #1.
As you probably know, that’s usually not how it works, unless you get really lucky. And now there’s even less of a shortcut to the first page of results. It takes a little elbow grease.
SEO is always changing, especially as Google gets smarter, but using new strategies you can keep up with it. Take your time, do your keyword research, and write a killer pillar page and you, too, can take your SEO to 2018’s standards.
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