There’s an awful lot of advice flying around about Search Engine Optimisation (‘SEO’). Much of it is technical and difficult to understand, and it’s further complicated by different sources telling you to prioritise different things.

Not only is it difficult to know what to do and where to begin, but there’s also confusion about what SEO actually is. Is it “technical stuff you do to your website so it ranks well in Google?” Or is it “building links from other websites… so it ranks well in Google”? Or is it both, or is it something else entirely?

Whatever SEO is, it’s generally accepted as important. After all, doing well in the search engines is a good thing for your business, isn’t it?

Well baloney to that. Forget about SEO, it’s an expensive distraction from what, as marketers and business leaders, you should be doing. And that is… figuring out what your customers want, figuring out how you can best help them, and figuring out how you can get in front of them.

So, as someone who knows a good deal about SEO, why am I telling you this? Surely I’m doing myself out of a job?

A better way to do marketing

Let me tell you a bit about Google’s ranking algorithm. Google has put an awful lot of work into it since its launch in 1998. It’s changed a lot since then, over 500 changes per year in recent years. It’s made up of over 200 variables and whilst we know a lot about them, Google doesn’t give much away about their relative importance to each other.

That’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot of change to keep up with.

Still got your appetite for SEO?

Don’t worry, there really is another way. All Google’s changes are focused on one single thing: making a better search engine for you. That means finding ways to give you the most relevant results, as quickly as possible.

Do you notice the similarity between what I said you should be doing, and what Google is trying to do? This is more than just a coincidence. Google has got incredibly good at delivering relevant results, which is why it continues to dominate its markets with 86% of search in the UK, and 64% in the USA.

The leap of logic here is that if you can demonstrate to Google that your business is relevant to a specific searcher’s need, then you will begin to get somewhere. It’s rarely a trivial thing to achieve this because you’re rarely the only one trying to do it. There’s competition. But then there’s usually competition.

So you do need to put in the effort, but it’s the same effort as is needed to build your business: get your offer right, get it in front of your prospects, and if there is a market, people will show interest.

Want to get started? There’s a process for that

  1. Define your ideal customer by creating a buyer persona. Download our template for this (based largely on material from the buyer persona institute).
  2. Define your customers’ buying stages. If you run a service business, think in terms of ‘awareness’, ‘consideration’, and ‘ready to buy’. If you run a product business, consider your prospects needs when they are ‘researching’, ‘short-listing’ and ‘ready to buy’.
  3. Figure out what content your ideal customer would find useful in each buying stage, and then give it to them. Remember to include a Call to Action.
  4. Publish your content on your website and then promote it in places that it might be seen. Consider social media, email newsletters and relevant websites that are better known and more visited than your own.
  5. Refine and repeat. Endlessly. The better you get at this, the more you will be rewarded by Google.

This is the basis of SEO in 2016.

Is it worth it? You’d better believe it is because when push comes to shove, SEO is an outcome of, a reward for, doing good marketing. And without good marketing, your business won’t survive.