In 1993 a single patron of Unexpected Productions’ Seattle Theatresports stuck gum to the wall in the nearby alley.
Soon, other patrons followed suit, pressing gum against the wall, ultimately creating a Gum Wall, the second germiest tourist attraction after the Blarney Stone.
A single piece of sticky gum is a nuisance, but hundreds of thousands of pieces is a tourist attraction. Online, you won’t stand out with a single piece of gum. Instead you need to create a gum wall, a collection of relevant and optimized content that will attract visitors from a variety of searches.
So, why the metaphor? It's analogies like this that help me explain the importance of SEO to my clients. Of course, it's always important to support creativity with tangible information. Here are six SEO facts to chew on in order to make your marketing discussions extra sticky.
There are two key elements to improving your SEO: attracting links and making your content relevant for the word people are searching for. These elements are known as off-page (on someone else’s site) and on-page (your site).
It’s important to first make your content relevant by including the words you are hoping to rank for in key areas of your page. This technique however only takes you so far. Secondly you want to create content others want to link to. Search engines view these links as “votes” telling the search engines that your site is a valuable one for people searching for an answer.
The page title is at the very top of your browser on the tab (screenshot is from the Chrome browser). It also is what shows up on Google when people search.
As an example of the power of page titles, one of our electronic manufacturing clients wanted to rank for the term SMPS transformer. We performed a little test and just put that word in the title of one of their pages.
In the course of a month the page went from around 50th for the term to 25th, just by editing the page title.
In addition to editing the page title, it’s important to include the keywords in the H1 text, alt tags and paragraph text on the page.
4) Persuasive meta descriptions under 155 characters increase click through rates
The meta description is the brief preview that shows up underneath a link on search engines. This gives readers an idea of what’s coming if they click. Thus, a tempting meta description will increase clicks even though it does not influence your rank in the search results.
Make your meta descriptions unique on each page. This will attract clicks depending on each searcher’s interests. In fact, Google’s own Matt Cutts noted recently that it is actually better to have no meta descriptions than to have duplicate meta descriptions.
How do you know what your best meta description is? Test it! Use Google or Facebook ads to test what copy is most appealing. Then use that text as your page’s meta description.
Just remember: Make your meta description snappy because there is a 155 character maximum before Google will cut it off with ellipses.
As you build your gum wall, it’s not good enough to be one of many. You need to be one of the best.
In the search engine world, the top 5 results get 75.7% of the clicks so focus your efforts on a few valuable words and build content around those terms. Don’t spread yourself too thin or you’ll find yourself the jack of all trades and master of none.
In social search, content that has a social connection to you in some way is prioritized. A social connection could mean someone you are linked to via Facebook, Twitter, or any other major social network.
What this means is that you should connect to people who are influential on the words and topics you want to rank for. If they share, like and most importantly +1 your content on Google+, it will be more likely to show up for other searchers.
In fact Search Metrics is already measuring the presence of active social media and finding content shared socially shows up higher in search. Moz notes that Google+ is the highest correlated factor to SEO. This of course brings up the chicken and egg question: are pages that rank well shared more frequently or are pages that are shared frequently then ranked higher? There is much debate around this topic, but the end result is clear: social influences search.
Second, make a list of the keywords for which you want to rank highly. Does the content you share on social media and your blog cover those keywords? Zero in on one or two of your most desirable keywords and find ways to make content under those keywords more shareable
Wad by Wad You Can Improve Your SEO
In 1993, the single patron who pushed his wad of gum on the wall next to Unexpected Productions’ Seattle Theatresports didn’t know he was starting one of the world’s germiest tourist attractions. However, a consistent effort by dedicated gum chewers all over Seattle turned an alley wall into a tourist attraction.
You too can make your website an attraction for searchers the world over. It takes a combination of optimizing the pages you have, creating unique content that will attract links and sharing your content via social media.
It won’t happen overnight, but wad by wad, post by post, your site will continue to gain visibility until it is an attraction as unbelieveable (but less germy) than the Gum Wall in Seattle.
Originally published Feb 12, 2014 10:00:00 AM, updated January 18 2023