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Indiana Jones and the SERP Treasure

As proven by Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, and his father before him, treasure hunting can be an exciting and prosperous profession. 

Those of us who study search engine optimization understand this, as unlocking the path to Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP) Treasure may be today’s equivalent of a Holy Grail or Ark of the Covenant.

For those unfamiliar with today’s search marketing lore, the SERP Treasure is the placement of your content on Google in a way that reaches and attracts the attention of a highly qualified audience.

But as Indiana—the archeologist, not the family dog—proved, only the clever and earnest in their quest can hope to pass the trials and reach the treasure, while those who take the easy path and employ deceit stand to lose everything, and have their faces melted off.

After years of research and decoding, I believe I have discovered the four trials required to find the SERP Treasure. The treasure map was hidden in plain sight on Google’s “Ten Things We Know to be True” page.

Before you set out, I want to share with you five important secrets that will help you along on your adventure:

  1. Search engine optimization (SEO) scams will try to lead you astray with false hope and promises, but the true path to the SERP Treasure takes time and commitment, and has remained fundamentally unchanged for years.
  2. The SERP Treasure does not exist in the absence of great content.
  3. If you do not have the support of a comprehensive inbound marketing campaign, certain death awaits you.
  4. Never go it alone. You’re best chance of success is to have a team made up of content writers and topic experts that have your back. 
  5. Watch out for snakes. Danny Sullivan hates snakes.

I have seen the SERP Treasure and it is glorious. I wish you all luck with the trials; remember to bring your hat and whip.

TRIAL 1: Focus on the user and all else will follow.

The first trial in your adventure is to identify what your target audiences want. Talk to your current customers and sales representatives, research industry forums and social media discussions, and perform keyword research to discover the questions and terms your target audiences are asking.

You can then use this insight, paired with internal industry expertise, to create content programs made up of blogs, ebooks, videos, white papers, case studies, etc. that answer these questions, solve problems or offer solutions. By doing so, you align your company with the specific topic(s) target audiences are actively searching for, and position your experts as thought leaders in that field.

TRIAL 2: Democracy on the web works.

The second task is to get your target audiences to verify your organization’s topic authority. Authority is one of the most important factors Google uses to determine whether to show your content, or that of your competitors. It defaults to the content and site that has earned more third-party endorsements through inbound links from quality, relevant sites, and social media activity.

To create and grow this type of authority, you and your team need to establish reach with target audiences and influencers. Use your content as a way to demonstrate your expertise, and then engage and foster relationships online by commenting on blogs, contributing to forum conversations and adding value to social media discussions.

The greater your reach, the greater the chance of your content earning links and social-media shares.

TRIAL 3: You can make money without doing evil.

The third trial is designed to unmask those black-hat wearing adventurers intending to deceive Google for short-lived rewards. To protect its treasure, Google has unleashed the Great Panda and Great Penguin, who are hell-bent on neutralizing those with weak content, spammy content, or who are involved in link schemes.

The secret to getting past these great obstacles is to be earnest and noble in your quest by publishing content that is smart, unique and engaging, and that generates links organically from quality, relevant sites and people.

Avoid those companies who within their introductory email state they can get you on the first page of Google, or know why you’re not ranking for your target terms.

TRIAL 4: Great just isn’t good enough.

The fourth task is to set apart your great content. As Google says, “There is always more information,” and according to some industry experts, more companies will adopt content creation as a core part of their marketing mix in 2013.

There is a lot of good content out there. Good isn’t good enough; it must be great. Great content offers unique insight, valuable expertise and/or interesting opinions. It is the type of content that progresses a reader’s thinking, effectively satisfies a need, and/or makes them laugh really hard. 

But even publishing great content isn’t enough. It must be packaged in a web-friendly format that utilizes the latest SEO tactics (i.e. attention-grabbing page titles and meta descriptions, schema.org mark-ups, xml sitemaps, canonicalization, etc.). This optimized content should then be supported by a comprehensive marketing campaign that includes: social media monitoring and participation, media and blogger outreach, email marketing, a user-friendly website and landing pages, and technologies to support the campaign and analyze results. Otherwise, how’s it going to go anywhere?

It is an Adventure Only for the Committed

The path to the SERP Treasure is a long, arduous journey that requires an ongoing commitment to publishing highly relevant, great content. It also requires that you be armed with the latest SEO tactics and a comprehensive inbound marketing campaign; the combination of which is the equivalent of bringing a gun to a sword fight.

Only after completing all four tasks can your content rise above the competition and seize the SERP Treasure you’ve so rightly earned. 

Go forth, good sirs and madams, and may your adventures inspire sequels.

Image Credit: By Lancastermerrin88 (Own work) [GFDL] 

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