Since it’s now widely known that everybody who seeks information on the Internet starts at Google, any business whose clients are online — or every business — spends time worrying about how to be at the top of the search results. A big challenge, though, is that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is constantly evolving, as search engine companies (such as Google or Bing) look for better ways to decide which content is the most valuable (for consumers) and most profitable (for them). To keep up with these ongoing changes and meet the objective of being high on Page 1 of search results, marketers must constantly re-visit their assumptions and refine their approaches.
SEO expert AJ Kohn of Blind Five Year Old recently joined Caring’s Digital Marketing Academy for a deep dive into the latest thinking on SEO. He focused on three common SEO assumptions that have changed significantly over time.
Misconception #1: Content is king
While this adage still holds true, it’s not enough just to write great articles – you need to promote and market them, too. As AJ said during the webcast, “Content alone isn’t going to work. If you publish content, they will not come to it magically.” People need to see and engage with your content, to “like” and “share” it on social media, and to post comments in order for the content to help you rank for SEO. In fact, AJ advised spending as much time promoting content as you do creating it.
Content promotion tips he provided include:
• Find Q&A forums, such as Caring.com’s Ask and Answer platform, to find consumer questions you can answer, provide information that helps them, and as relevant, link to your related content.
• Join the conversation in comments on other websites’ articles, particularly if there aren’t a lot of comments already on the page and it’s high in search engine rankings for a term that’s relevant to your business. Make sure that your comments are interesting and helpful, not sales focused.
• Write content that attracts “true fans”. It may only take 1,000 really engaged people to help a blog post ‘go viral’ or get noticed by Google, as discussed in a blog post AJ shared.
• Consider and try paid social (for instance, Facebook’s Promoted Post program) to jump-start likes and shares.
One final, important thought about content marketing: Don’t expect results to appear overnight. “Think years, not months,” AJ said.
How We Can Help
Caring’s social media team is a great resource for senior care providers to share content with the tens of thousands of people who engage with us via social networks. Our team keeps a close eye on who’s sharing Caring’s content, and often reciprocates. We also regularly share information on social media from winners of the annual Caring Stars award. If you’re working with us directly, our client services team can connect you with the social folks.
Misconception #2: Links to other sites are to be avoided.
A prevailing thought used to be that outlinks detracted from your domain authority – but this has changed. Nowadays, a smart linking strategy, both in and out, can help establish your “neighborhood,” providing valuable context for your content and boosting your site’s authority and rankings. That’s why it’s key to link out to quality sites (including Caring.com, which often appears in top search results for industry keywords).
Another important reason to link out – prominently – is that it keeps people from clicking through to your page, getting their question answered, and then returning to Google with a follow-up question. AJ described this bouncing back to Google as a “pogo stick” situation. Instead, he says, you should aim for a “Bow Tie” strategy. Think about the related information people might commonly search for after they read your content, and link to those resources. That way, instead of bouncing back to Google from your page, people continue on to other sites. Your site then becomes the “knot” in the bow tie.
And, since they haven’t just bounced back to Google to address these follow-up questions, Google views your site as a place people go and stay for a while – a great signal that you’ve got a valuable resource that deserves to rank high.
Some simple things you can do:
• Link to reputable, high-quality content that helps answer readers’ additional questions. Let’s say you have a senior living community in Mesa, AZ. You obviously want to rank for searches for your name, and also for assisted living in Mesa, AZ. But once people find your community website, what are their next questions? They might want to know how to pay for senior housing, so you could link to resources like a local veteran’s benefits company, or Caring’s great article on how to pay for assisted living.
• Link to pages that demonstrate your expertise or connect consumers to other relevant organizations. They might want to make sure you’re an ethical company, and you could link to your local Chamber of Commerce, or third-party sites with consumer reviews. Or maybe they’ll want to know how close you are to great healthcare, so you’d link to your local hospital’s website.
• Reach out to sites you link to, and build reciprocal relationships. They’ll be pleased to know you linked to their great content, they may share some of yours, and they may link back to your site. Avoid trading or buying links though. “Inbound links are the result, not the goal. Build a resource that people in your community love. When you earn links, good things happen,” AJ said.
Misconception #3: You must work hard to rank for “root” terms.
Of course, situations vary. In general, though, a single community will struggle to rank high for a so-called root term like “Assisted Living” or even “Assisted Living in Los Angeles,” because search algorithms favor sites that cover the area broadly (like SeniorHomes.com) rather than the site for a single community that happens to be located in Los Angeles. If you’re not ranking first for your community name, though, you’re really in trouble.
“If someone’s looking for your brand, your property, or name, you better capture that customer because they’re further down the purchase funnel,” AJ said.
His tips for simple things you can do:
• Make sure your name and physical address is featured everywhere on your site, using consistent terms, which will help ensure that you rank high for local searches and brand-oriented searches.
• Claim your Google My Business page. “Google My Business isn’t easy, but it’s essential for any business that has a physical location, and at the end of the day, it’s worth it,” AJ said.
Above all, it was clear from the session that ranking high in organic search results requires a consistent, dedicated, multi-year initiative that could easily run you $5,000 per month or more. AJ noted that his own blog, BlindFiveYearOld.com, got almost no traffic for its first two and a half years! It was only in Year 3 that he started to rank in critical areas, and consequently to get inbound traffic from search engines.
DON’T WANT TO WAIT? If you need business NOW, there is another option. AJ called it the “barnacle strategy”. Like a barnacle attaching itself to a ship, you can hitch onto sites that do invest the time and money into SEO ranking. Caring.com is one of these sites, and many partners have used our pages to get found in search results. Call us at (866) 824-9209 and press 1 to speak with a Membership Advisor who can help you execute this SEO strategy.
• Read more of what AJ said during this webcast via our Digital Marketing Academy stream @CaringInsights.
• Watch the webcast recording on YouTube.
• Visit and subscribe to AJ’s blog.