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Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is an important part of content strategy for any business. It’s how people discover your website and online content through a search engine. You want your business to pop up right at the top of the search page so more potential customers can find you, and SEO is how you achieve that.

Today, many factors impact your website’s SEO. Some of them are very technical in the way you set up information architecture on your site, some have to do with the kinds of websites linking back to you, and some have to do with the kind of content you publish. 

Here’s a very brief history of SEO, and how you can improve yours with structured content.

Old google interface

We never know exactly how the SEO algorithms work because it’s a closely guarded secret. But search engine execs do give us some information, and many have used trial and error to collect data on rankings.

Back in the olden days, search engines would simply scan the text on your webpage and use that information to decide what order to show your webpage. This was mostly based on keywords, but people started taking advantage of that. They began doing what we call “keyword stuffing”. For example, let’s say you wanted to rank for the key phrase “best taco”. With keyword stuffing, you might write a paragraph like this:

What makes the best taco? The best taco is the best taco because it’s the best. The best taco will use the best meat and the best toppings to make the best taco. How do you know if you have the best taco? You can download our best taco app and start discovering the best taco in your neighborhood today!

Yikes. 

You may have seen content on the internet that looks like this. It’s not helpful and not easy to read. Search engine companies understand this, and they began shifting the algorithms to reflect both relevant AND high-quality content. These days, Google will actually decrease your rankings if you write web pages like that. 

They want the top-ranked information – the links at the very top of the page – to be the very best quality. It wasn’t enough just to look for keywords. They needed more. 

One of the next ways that SEO changed was by ranking backlinks.

Basically, the search engine would look at your website and see if any other websites are linking to yours. They figured that if lots of other websites link to yours, then the information you’re providing must be helpful. 

But, spammers took advantage of this too and started creating link farms where they would create fake websites for the sole purpose of linking back to other sites. 

So, it’s no longer good enough to have tons of backlinks if the sites aren’t good. The more high-ranking websites that link back to yours, the better ranking your website will get. This is called backlinking, and it’s a long-term SEO strategy for content creators. 

Since spammers take advantage of all of these strategies, it makes the “rules” for SEO more and more complicated over time. But, it’s still possible to create great content that ranks high. It just takes some thought and strategy. One way to do that is by leveraging structured content. 

What does structured content have to do with SEO?

Remember, the whole point of SEO is to help the search engine know which websites have relevant, high-quality, and helpful information on them. 

Structured content is created with metadata and tags that help computers know exactly what kind of content you’re creating. This is incredibly helpful for the computers that search your website to rank your pages. 

Using structured data is like rolling out the red carpet for search engines. It provides information about your content in a format that their computers understand. Instead of just seeing a big wall of text, structured content allows search engines to know what kind of content their “looking” at. With metadata, you can tag your content as a question, answer, image, table, and more! 

Leveraging the power of help sites

When thinking about SEO, help sites can offer a huge advantage to your business. When you use structured content to set up your help site, you’re setting the stage for your site to be leveraged for rankings. 

Many queries typed into search engines are in the form of questions. So, if your help site offers content that’s structured as an answer, there’s a good chance that your content will be the first answer that pops up. Search engines like Google love being able to provide clear, concise, and specific answers from web pages. Google calls this their “featured snippet”. For example, when I typed “who was the first president?” into Google, the first result was the answer to my question in bold.

SEO example

This featured snippet comes from whitehouse.gov and it got featured at the top because the DR of this page is very high, and it has a precise, specific answer to my question.

This way of featuring a high-quality answer at the top of the results page offers new ways to connect with your audience. 

Think about the kinds of questions that customers in your industry are asking, and then think about how you could set up your help site to specifically answer those questions. Add in metadata rich with semantic information, and you’ve got yourself the perfect recipe for improved SEO and higher website visibility.

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Sarah Cuellar
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