definition of accidental optimization

the result of driving tons of organic search traffic by creating content your customers love without actually “doing” SEO

You have to send an email to drive email traffic. You have to launch an ad to get paid search traffic. What’s different about SEO? Well, I’ve come across websites that drive tons of organic search traffic and their people can’t even tell you what “SEO” stands for (I actually had one guy keep referring to it as “SCO” in emails to me).

On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve dealt with plenty of businesses and blogs that feverishly pursue every SEO tactic in the book, yet they hardly gain any ground. Why does this happen?

A phenomenon that I like to call accidental optimization.

Let’s see an example

I recently began working with a client who manufactures and sells a non-toxic home cleaning product. But, the founders don’t just sell this product, they live a completely toxin-free lifestyle.

Their mission is to educate people on the benefits of ridding your day-to-day life from harmful chemicals. So, they share their knowledge and experiences by publishing content to their blog.

They are not SEO experts, nor did they have outside help. They simply created content that they thought their audience would find helpful.

But then, the founders took a year-long break from content creation to tend to their growing families. What happened? Surely their organic traffic took hit… Not exactly.

Their year-over-year organic traffic grew by 31%! Let’s explore why.

Create content for people, not search engines

If you create “SEO content” then you’re doing 2010 SEO. Google’s search algorithm continues to moves away from keyword- and link-based metrics and towards rewarding sites that offer the best user experience.

Just look at what Google’s been encouraging webmasters to improve recently:

  • 2014: “HTTPS everywhere” → Create a secure browsing experience
  • 2015: Mobile-friendliness update (aka “Mobilegeddon”) → Optimize your mobile experience
  • 2016: AMP project → Load content faster on mobile devices
  • 2018: Mobile-first index → Optimize your mobile experience even more
  • 2018: Mobile page speed update → Serve mobile content faster

Google wants to make the web safer, faster and easier to use. How does your website fare in those categories? Google is focused on the user, you should be to!

The secret to accidental optimization

Stop fretting about finding the perfect keyword. Don’t overthink your meta description. And, definitely don’t overuse your keywords to the point of sounding like a robot.

Instead, create content that your customers actually find valuable. Make their day easier. Help them accomplish a task. Give them the confidence to make a decision.

How exactly do you do that? First, understand that search engines are use by people to answer questions. So, what questions are your customers asking?

Here are some ways you can quickly source questions from your current and potential customers.

  1. What’s a site in your industry that has strong organic search visibility? Analyze the content they are creating and ask yourself how you can create something better.
  2. Talk with your sales and customer support people. They are fielding customers’ questions all day.
  3. Look through your most recent emails from customers. What questions are they asking you? Now go create content so that you can just share the link with them the next time they need that answer.
  4. Survey your customer base.
  5. Create a form on your website for people submit their questions. Let the keywords come to you!
  6. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Actually go through the journey step-by-step and brainstorm what questions come up along the way. Do you have content answering each one?
  7. Do keyword research. Notice how this is last on the list? You and your customers are better sources of content ideas than any keyword research tool out there.

Need even more? Read this article I published on Advanced Web Ranking’s blog about creative ways to generate content ideas.

Before you ask: Yes, keep up the SEO best practices. Optimize your page titles, use your target keyword and build internal links. But do so in a way that creates a better experience for your customers, not to simply check off boxes.

Now, go forth and create customer-centric content. You’ll achieve organic search success in greater frequency and volume than you ever were before. Unlock accidental optimization.

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