Combined Arms is as necessary in SEO as it is in warfare

Any army general or historian will tell you that in order to win a battle, you need to use all the different types of offensive weaponry available, this being the same across the ages, from the time of 1066 (and earlier) to today.

This is called ‘Combined Arms’ it being the process where an army will use the three main types of fighting unit together in order to win. In the past, these were represented by the Infantry, the cavalry and the artillery. Over time of course this has changed, the role/type of cavalry changing the most, with tanks replacing the horse.

the three arms of SEO

You need to use the 3 arms of SEO just as you do when at war.

But regardless of the change, all three are needed. The artillery to subdue the enemy before the main attack, with the cavalry, after performing the important job of reconnaissance, taking on the task of pinning the enemy in place, thus allowing  the infantry to advance to take the objective.

Of course all this has changed since the days of Napoleon, but they are still basically the same today, all being  needed (with air power taking over a large part of the role of artillery of course).

I understand all of this, not because I have ever fought in a war (or am an acclaimed war historian) but rather because of my hobby, that of wargaming. I play games that cover battles fought by the Vikings, the Persians, the Crusaders, as well as the Napoleonic period. My favourite being that of World War Two. Here I have ‘fought’ in the deserts of Egypt, the steppes of Russian in Normandy, of which have been immensely  enjoyable.  In each battle I have learnt of the importance of using the three different arms together, something that lies at the heart of the hobby.

But what has this got to do with Search Engine Optimisation?

Well, putting it quite simply, there is no ‘magic bullet’ when it comes to getting the best possible rankings on Google (other search engines are available). Instead, you have to make sure that the three areas of Technical Site Build, Content, and Linking Structure are all properly attended too. It is vitally important that these three areas work together just as the three ‘arms’ on  the battlefield, if success is wanted.

The reason for this is that Google look at all three areas, giving ‘marks’ for each. To fail on any of them risks loosing the chance to get a top ranking, the reasons, and the details of each one being covered below:-

Technical Site Build

This is an area that is often forgotten, but is vital, as if the site is not built to allow Google to find all the pages easily, the site will fail at the very first step. Besides this, it is also vital to allow users to move around the site easily and to make the navigation easy to understand and use.

Perhaps the greatest area is however that of site speed, Google now more than ever (with the advent of the Mobile Index) looking for sites that download in the shortest times possible. If they are built in a manner that slows the page delivery  down, or are placed on a server that is overloaded, Google will downgrade the site severely, preventing it from gaining the high positions that it otherwise may deserve.

Content

The reasons that people visit sites are many, but in all cases they are looking for something, maybe the answer to a problem, or for a particular product or service. If the pages of a site do not provide these answers, or give enough detail on a product or service, they will fail to meet the needs of any visitor. And hence, as Google’s aim is to only list pages that are ‘worth the time of their users’ they will fail this important test.

It is therefore necessary to ensure that the pages of a site meet the needs of the visitor. This means that there is not only enough text on the page, but also that it contains pictures and where possible video content (this being another example of ‘combined arms’).

There is by the way a ‘hidden’ advantage to having lots of text on a page (as long as this is laid out in a manner that allows it to be easily absorbed – ‘walls of text’ not being a good idea – whitespace being important). This is all to do with what is known as ‘long tail keywords’ and the capturing of such searches on Google.

Long Tail Keyword Search Phrases.

It is well understood that users use different types of search phrases when they are looking for a product or service. For example, when looking for a TV, they may search for ‘large screen TV’ only to find that the number of search results is too large and that it is impossible to know where to start.

In such cases it is normal for the search phrased to be changed with a view  to getting a better list of sites to check. Perhaps the phrase will be altered to ’40 inch Smart TV’ at this stage.

Further pages and terms will be used until the searcher finds out the model that they want. This is the ‘buying stage’ of the search ‘lifecycle’ and is therefore most important. A term that is used here could be ‘Sony 40EXDB Smart TV in black’. In such cases, it is vital to make sure that your website is in the position to capture such a query.

There are many examples of long tail keywords, and in many cases they are the best ones to capture, as they are often used towards the end of a search for a product etc, at the very time the searcher is ready to purchase.

This is just what using a lot of text on a page can do for any website owner, it allowing them in effect to put more hooks in the ‘water’ of the internet. More hooks lead to more fish being caught, this translating to more visitors and thus hopefully sales.

The overlap with Technical SEO

There is also an overlap with the area of technical search engine optimisation to consider here, that of ensuring that the important areas on a page are used to best effect. These include the Title of a page (the most important real estate a page has) to the Header tags (the H1 being the most important and is best used only once). Besides this, using the other attribute tags like Bold, Italic and List should not be overlooked, these all being places where a part of the content of a page will be placed.

Linking Structure

The third arm of SEO trilogy is still very important today, but it must be said is not as all powerful as it was in the not so distant past (when it was said to be possible to get a blank page to position 1 on Google).

Today, it is still necessary to ensure that a domain, and the pages within the site, have a good number of links, the numbers needed being very different from market sector to market sector and from niche to niche, some being more highly contested than others.

There was a big change in the recent past however, a very big change, one that was started with the introduction of the so called  ‘Penguin’ update by Google. Google felt that they had to make these changes to their algorithm as SEO professionals started creating links in huge numbers to get the pages they wanted to the top of the SERPs.

Basically, this algorithm checked (it is now not run every now and then, but is integrated into the rule set that is used every day) on the links pointing to a site, penalising those that had created too many ‘spammy’ links or a linking structure that use too high a percentage of ‘money keywords’ (these are the phrases that are thought to bring in the sales / enquiries).

All of this means that this part of the ‘combined arms’ team needs to be very carefully handled indeed. So carefully that at Serendipity Online Marketing use specially designed software to handle the whole process, thus ensuring that we only build links that will enhance the standing of sites we work on.

 

So that is it, to succeed in SEO you have to use all three ‘arms’ and use them correctly.