Guest blog by Claire Beveridge
Being authentic when it comes to running a business is paramount to its success. Yet three-quarters of 12,000 respondents to a recent survey stated that “brands and companies have a credibility problem”.
Are we in the middle of a business authenticity crisis? How are brands and companies not pertaining to online credibility? What is the impact that this has on search engine optimisation and are there ways that a business can implement better optimisation techniques to counteract these cold, hard facts?
What do we mean by authentic SEO?
When you represent yourself or your business online in a trustworthy, respectable, and honest manner, you’re being authentic. And correct search optimisation techniques can play a big part in how your business is represented online.
Choose meaningful, intent-fuelled keywords
Keywords form the backbone of any good SEO strategy. Without proper keyword targeting, you’re at risk of not reaching your target audience, let alone giving your business the opportunity to rank in search engines.
As a strict rule of thumb, keywords should relate wholly to your business and the services you provide. Whilst researching the key terms and phrases you need to target to not only gain rankings but also subsequent custom, you should to think long and hard about specifically what your business is about and the intent behind the terms you’re looking at.
For example, let’s say you own a local bike repair shop called Sidesaddle. You will want to start by thinking about what specifically you want to be known for, what terms or phrases are relevant to the core of your brand, and, perhaps most importantly, what the intent is behind these terms.
If Sidesaddle focuses purely on repairs, then keywords like “bike repair shop” or “bike service shop” are a good jumping off point. If your shop offers more than just servicing, for example, bike hire or bike sales, incorporate these search terms into your research.
The main point here is to remain as authentic to your brand as possible. Don’t overstate yourself. If you don’t offer bike sales, don’t target that specific keyword set. Be meaningful and authentic in your keyword selection.
Use natural language across your website (and make sure it’s of a high quality)
The language that you use across each and every webpage on your site needs to come across as natural, easy to read, and of a decent written quality. Long gone are the days of keyword stuffing to land the top spot in Google. For example, if you’re looking to target “bike hire”, don’t write a sentence like this:
“We specialise in bike hire. If you want bike hire in Brighton come and hire bikes with us. We have bike hire for all types.”
Don’t feel like you need to stray away from your brand’s messaging or tone of voice. Construct clear, concise sentences that incorporate the message you want to give, along with being optimised for organic search.
If you choose to deviate from natural language and use words that don’t wholly relate to your business, or target the wrong terms, the user might enter your website, realise it isn’t for them and immediately click back to the search engines — therefore harming your time on page and bounce rate.
Don’t use black hat tactics
One of the most inauthentic ways that you can implement optimisation across your site is by using black hat tactics. Put simply, “black hat” means using SEO tactics that go against Google’s webmaster guidelines. For example keyword stuffing, scraping content, or paid backlink acquisition.
The consequences of using black hat SEO tactics is that you may incur a Google Penalty and see your rankings and traffic both hugely decline. Or Google will simply remove your website from their results. There’s no better way to say “Hey, we’re not authentic” than cheating algorithms through black hat SEO.
Offer value to your potential customers
A key way that your business can build on its authenticity is by offering value to your customer base. What does your consumer gain by investing in your product or service? Or at a more basic level, what is the value that your website is giving them?
By being authentic online, you automatically add value to the consumer. Chopping and changing your authenticity, tone of voice, branding, and marketing campaigns will come across as not only inauthentic but also will also lead to a dip in brand loyalty or even advocacy.
Be transparent and don’t hide behind an excess of marketing buzzwords. Don’t overstate your offering, be valuable and clearly state what your business is providing.
How can implementing inauthentic SEO harm your business?
Search optimisation when done poorly or without authenticity can negatively impact the overall user experience (UX).
UX is the experience that your website gives its visitors, especially in terms of how easy or pleasing it is to use. When someone visits your website, the way that it’s designed and laid out can have a huge impact on a person’s ability to not only find the information that they need, but also to make contact and increase your chances of earning their business.
It’s often discussed that SEO and UX go hand in hand. When building your website, you want to create an experience that draws people in, meets their search needs, and ultimately answers their question. All whilst being mindful of creating an authentic search and user experience. Phew!
When it’s implemented poorly, SEO can negatively impact the overall UX. For example, poor navigation menus, incorrect page formatting and confusion, using the wrong keywords or language on the page, slow-loading pages, or not adhering to internal linking. These poorly constructed SEO elements will in turn negatively affect your overall user experience, leading to a dip in trustworthiness and authenticity.
A great example of how authenticity can help with your organic search efforts is by being mindful of EAT — which stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. By placing an emphasis on these elements, Google will understand that you’re providing a higher-quality experience for your visitors and therefore rank your page accordingly.
Blending and balancing SEO with your brand
To implement good SEO across your website doesn’t mean shying away from your brand’s values or messaging. Don’t deviate from your core message or tone of voice — write in a natural way that conveys your business, its ethos, and values. Remember that consistency is key and that being steady with your branding will equate to a higher and more consistent number of search queries.
A key SEO aim should be to rank in the first position for your brand or company name. After all, if consumers are searching for your business, you want to rank in the first spot for that term! Remember to always include your business name in your title tag optimisation as a starting point.
Whilst ranking for your brand name is important, tracking the traffic that comes from unbranded search terms is the key measure you need to be looking at. If people already know your brand, that’s great… however, uncovering the keywords and phrases that people are using to find your site is the metric to gauge how well your SEO is actually doing.
For example, Sidesaddle should actively rank first for their brand name but only measure traffic that comes from unbranded terms, for example “bike repair shop” or “bikes for hire”. This way you know whether you’re targeting the correct keyword sets and actively driving people who are searching for your service or product, as opposed to your business.
Whether you’re a brand new business or an established company, remaining legitimate online is one of the best things you can do to build loyal custom. And by adhering to authentic search optimisation, you will build your business while building trust.
Claire Beveridge is a Senior Content and Search Strategist at Method and Metric SEO agency based in Vancouver, Canada. She specialises in taking complex issues and making them not only readable and easy to understand but also optimised for organic search.