Authenticity is paramount to the success of your business. Yet three quarters of consumers feel that “brands and companies have a credibility problem”, according to a survey of 12,000 respondents carried out by Cohn & Wolfe. Are we in the middle of a business authenticity crisis? What is the impact this is having on organic search?
What do we mean by authentic SEO?
Authenticity online takes on many forms. It can be about being consistent with your brand messaging and voice, having a well-defined set of values and staying true to them above all else, or representing your business in a trustworthy and honest manner. And implementing the correct search engine optimisation techniques will play a big part in how your business and its authenticity is reflected in the eyes of the consumer.
Meaningful and intent-fuelled keywords are the way forward
Keywords form the backbone of any good SEO strategy. Without proper keyword targeting, you’re at risk of not reaching your target audience and your business is unlikely to show up in their search
When you’re researching key terms and phrases to target, think long and hard about what your business is about and the intent behind the terms you’re looking at. Keywords need to relate wholly to your business and the services you provide.
For example, let’s say you own a local coffee shop called The Seagull. Start by thinking about what, specifically, you want to be known for, which terms or phrases are relevant to the core of your brand, and, perhaps most importantly, what the intent is behind these terms.
If The Seagull focuses purely on serving coffee (and not much else), then keywords like “coffee shop” or “best local coffee shop” are a good starting point. If your cafe offers more than just coffee, for example, sandwiches, cream teas, and doubles as an event space for hire, incorporate these search terms into your research.
Some business owners have been caught out targeting lower competition keywords in order to rank higher in the SERP and acquire traffic. For example, The Seagull could optimise their website for “vegan food”, but if they don’t sell that product range, the website will gain traffic but the customer won’t find the information that they need. This will lead to dishonesty in the eyes of the consumer and damage the business’s credibility and authenticity.
Remain as authentic to your brand as possible. Don’t overstate yourself. If you don’t offer vegan food, don’t target that specific keyword set. Be meaningful and authentic in your keyword selection.
Use natural language across your website (and make sure all content is high quality)
The language that you use across every webpage on your site needs to read naturally and be of a good written quality. Long gone are the days of keyword stuffing to land the top spot in Google. For example, if you’re looking to target “coffee shop”, don’t write like this:
“Our coffee shop is the best coffee shop in the city. We serve coffee in our coffee shop and everyone from commuters to yoga mums visits our coffee shop.”
Remember that you’re talking to a human, not a search engine. Construct clear and concise sentences that incorporate the message you want to give and don’t stray away from your brand’s messaging or tone of voice.
Deviating from natural language and using words that don’t wholly relate to your business will result in a person entering your website, realising it isn’t for them and immediately clicking back to the search engines, therefore harming your engagement metrics, not to mention annoying the original searcher.
Avoid all black hat tactics
Black hat means using SEO tactics that go against Google’s webmaster guidelines to manipulate the search results. For example keyword stuffing, scraping content, or paid backlink acquisition. It’s the epitome of inauthentic SEO.
The consequences of using black hat SEO tactics is that you may incur a Google Penalty and see your traffic steeply decline. Google could also completely remove your website from results.
If you’re serious about remaining authentic and trustworthy with your organic search, avoid using black hat tactics in your optimization techniques.
Offer value to your potential customers
By being authentic online, you automatically add value to the consumer. Chopping and changing your authenticity, tone of voice, branding, and marketing campaigns will come across as, not only inauthentic, but also will also lead to a dip in consumer loyalty and advocacy.
Always be transparent and don’t hide behind marketing buzzwords or jargon. Provide value and clearly state what your business is providing.
How can implementing inauthentic SEO harm your business?
When a consumer visits your website, the way that it’s designed and laid out can have a huge impact on a person’s ability to not only find the information that they need but also to make contact and increase your chances of winning their custom.
It’s often discussed that SEO and UX go hand in hand, and when building your website, you want to create an experience that draws people in, meets their needs, and answers the questions that they’re asking.
When it’s implemented badly, SEO can negatively impact the user experience. For example, poor navigation menus, incorrect page formatting, using incorrect keywords or language on the page, slow-loading pages, or not utilizing internal linking.
These poorly constructed SEO elements will negatively affect your overall user experience, leading to a dip in trustworthiness and authenticity.
Be mindful of EAT — Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. Although this isn’t a ranking factor, these elements do play a part in how Google views your website. Humans use the Google Quality Raters Guidelines to give a score to your content. And hey, guess what? The bigger and better the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness is, the better the score. And high scoring pages are the types of content that Google will rank well.
Blending and balancing SEO with your brand
Measuring a combination of branded and unbranded search terms is necessary to not only know whether your optimization efforts are taking effect, but also to measure whether wider marketing strategies are taking hold.
Tracking branded search terms is a good indication of how people are searching for and finding your business and its offering. For example, you can measure whether consumers are searching for just your brand (the seagull), a particular product you sell (the seagull coffee beans), or testimonials, reviews, and more (the seagull coffee beans review).
Keeping your eyes on the search volume for branded terms can also be indicative that your brand awareness is improving. This could be tied into other marketing campaigns, for example, social strategies or PR and outreach, along with SEO.
Measuring the unbranded terms that consumers search for to find your business is indicative of how well your optimization work is doing. For example, the local coffee house, The Seagull, should be tracking terms like “best coffee shop”, “local coffee to go”, and “brighton coffee shop”.
This way you know whether you’re targeting the correct keyword sets and actively acquiring custom from those terms and phrases. And if you’re not, it may be time to rethink the terms that you’re targeting.
Remaining legitimate online is one of the best things you can do to build loyal customers. And by ensuring all optimisation is authentic and in-line with your brand values, you’ll build your business while building trust.
Claire is a Senior Content and Search Strategist at Method and Metric SEO agency based in Vancouver, Canada. She specialises in taking complex issues and making them easy to understand.