Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, is one of those phrases that causes me to have an involuntary shake when I hear it. It’s become something of a taboo term, and it’s about time we all moved on to a different acronym.

Many years ago, marketers would spend hours and hours updating page titles, descriptions and keywords of websites, then spend more time trying to get the website linked on every website they could possibly find.

This might have been a reputable source like DMoz, or something more relevant to the website’s vertical. Or, in many cases, something completely irrelevant that actually had no link to the website at all. The point? If there were more incoming links, the search engines would think that that page is important and put it at the top.

But Google and other search engines caught on. What was once common practice has become ‘illegal’ in the eyes of Google. Over time, Google has outwardly said that any sites that have obviously tried to abuse their SERP ranking engine in the past would be penalised and demoted in Google; the exact opposite of the purpose of all the work in the first place.

I want to quickly point out that I am not saying that there’s nothing that can be done to help shift your page ranking positions in Google. There are certainly some things that retail brands should be doing to help with their rankings. What I am saying is that there needs to be a fundamental shift in what brands think SEO is, and what actually drives increased rankings.

It’s no longer about trickery. Let’s face it, Google is one of the biggest companies in the world and has developed a search engine that has indexed millions of pages of data. Think they are easily bamboozled? No, they’re most certainly not. So, with that in mind, we all need to start treating Google like the all-powerful, wise data cruncher it is, and give it what it wants – good content.

When writing page titles and descriptions, don’t do keyword research. Instead, do brand and customer research. Page descriptions should be first and foremost a place where you can communicate your brand voice to your customers. So understanding the brand and the people you are trying to talk to is critical. Funnily enough, although Google’s customers come from many different walks of life, and the people searching for you are probably going to respond well to a really nice description, complete with your brand voice.

Google understands semantics, it understands intent, and it understands what a well-written passage looks like. So instead of stuffing keywords into a description thinking ‘the more the better’, think about what your customers will actually respond to, and write that. Keep your customers happy, and you’ll find that Google will be happy to.

When it comes to link building, just forget about it. Don’t do it. The only link building that should be done is organically, by people who want to share your content.

Which brings me to content, your biggest SEO tool. Again, instead of writing content that you thinksearch engines will like, create content that you know your customers will like – and, more importantly, that they will share. Great content is your biggest opportunity to increase your rankings and, more importantly, to increase your customer base.

Content can be articles, videos, images or anything else that really showcases what you’re about to your customers. There’s only one rule when it comes to this content – make sure it’s good. Don’t create average content to keep Google happy, because that’s not the point. Create brilliant content to keep your customers happy, and you’ll start to see things shift in the right direction.

SEO was a method of getting more traffic. Instead of trying to use an antiquated method that more often than not does more harm than good, focus your marketing efforts on writing what your customers and brand need. Do this and watch how that helps grow traffic, customer experience, social shareability and revenue. And at the other end you might notice that your Google rankings are better than they ever were when you were link building.

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