How to apply kaizen to your brand’s SEO strategy

Some of the world’s largest businesses are already being guided by kaizen – the japanese philosophy of self-improvement. Are you?

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Two of the questions being asked in offices all around the world: how can we increase traffic to our content? How can we improve our SEO?

Big questions. But the answers needn’t be so weighty. And clues on how to do it can be found in unexpected places.

An article in The Guardian a couple of months ago reported on the recall of the one-time (and maybe again) wayward rugby player Danny Cipriani to the England team for the first time in a decade.

So far, so normal.

But something within the text piqued my interest beyond vague ponderings about what he’d been up to for the last 10 years.

The concept of kaizen

Cipriani’s mentor, Steve Black, professor of practice at Newcastle University Business School, spoke out about some of the ways of thinking that had bolstered his rise back to the top level.

Central to that, says Black, is the principle of kaizen – that is, the Japanese word for ‘improvement’.

Or more accurately, it’s about continual improvement through small, incremental changes.

In this case, there was no radical overhaul of Cipriani’s training or nutrition – rather a series of minor, manageable adjustments.

Kaizen in business

I’d never heard of kaizen before this passing mention. Then suddenly, I couldn’t avoid it.

Notably, kaizen kept cropping up in relation to business.

Ford Motors subscribes to the concept. So too Nestlé. Toyota is a noted leader in the field, placing kaizen at the heart of its production system and declaring it as the “single word that sums up Toyota’s ‘Always a Better Way’ slogan.”

In business, Kaizen can be boiled down to four factors:

  • Improvements based on multiple small changes rather than radical amends
  • Ideas that come from the workers themselves and are therefore likely to be easier to implement
  • Smaller improvements require less major investment
  • Ideas from employees encourage ownership and reinforce team working

Sounds logical? Let’s see how it applies to the world of marketing.

SEO and kaizen

Thinking about where kaizen fits in terms of marketing strategy, SEO sprung out as a clear parallel.

Allow me to explain.

Much has been made in recent years of the need for solid SEO expertise within a company. The fight for search result supremacy is real.

But when it comes to SEO, the goalposts keep moving.

Not so long ago, we were all obsessed by keywords. Just shove in as many as possible – the more there are, the more chance of Google giving the content a leg up, right?

Somehow, the legacy of this thinking lives on although smarter marketers have long since wised up and adopted more nuanced systems.

Even if such a stab at hitting the SEO jackpot somehow hits gold, the audience stumbling upon your content will be quick to go elsewhere. And one of the most important SEO rules to remember is this: high bounce rate = low search ranking.

Many companies have been calling in the SEO experts. A whole industry based around getting to grips with SEO has evolved. According to Glassdoor, SEO managers in London can expect to receive an average salary of £35,525 – 17% above the national average.

There’s nothing stopping you from bringing in an SEO tsar to overhaul your marketing output. But following the guidance of kaizen, implementing smarter SEO practice throughout the team is a more sustainable, efficient way to improve your content’s standing.

Here are five simple, Kaizen-inspired ways you can improve your brand’s SEO.

1. Links

Link to other pages within your website. Also link back from that old page to the new one so that both pages get an SEO boost. Giving people somewhere to go also helps reduce bounce rate.

2. Subheadings

Most of us know that regular subheadings are good for SEO. But is all of your team aware of the right way to do it? Just bolding up text isn’t enough – the subheadings need to be marked as such in the CMS.

If you’re using WordPress, make sure the font style you’re using is ‘Heading 2’ or ‘Heading 3’ etc and not ‘Paragraph’. For Heading 2, for example, the HTML should read <h2>subheading</h2>.

3. Avoid repetition

Keywords are still valid (and you can find the right ones using Google Trends) but stuffing your copy full of them will actually harm SEO.

Use keywords sparingly and intelligently. Those SEO ‘hacks’ someone told you about back in 2015? They’re probably out of date.

4. Headlines vs. page titles

Sadly, SEO worries have mostly put pay to the great tradition of funny headlines – at least for digital content anyway.

But actually, it needn’t be the case. Page titles and headlines are not the same. The page title is what SEO sees, the headline is what people read on the page.

In the CMS, use <title>insert title here</title> for the page title – which is where you slot in your keywords.

But you don’t need to worry so much about keywords for headlines. They can stay as whatever you think will draw in the human eye – so you can keep it as puntastic as you dare.

5. Answer questions

The rise of voice tech such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home has brought the importance of answering questions in content to the fore.

People tend to interact with voice tech by asking questions (“What is kaizen?” or “How can I improve my SEO?”). So why not answer those queries directly in your page title?

The SEO dream is your content in a Google featured snippet. And there’s more about how to get into those hallowed boxes here.

Improving SEO

Kaizen comes down to clearing through the clutter to allow for clear, practical action.

The amount of cluttered thinking around SEO is enormous – but it doesn’t need to be. There are simple best practices that all content marketers can take on board which add up to improved SEO.

And when it comes to boosting SEO, pick whichever analogy you want: slow and steady wins the race; it’s a marathon not a sprint; look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves…

I prefer going back to the definition of kaizen: ‘Continual change for the better’. That seems like a good message to live and work by.

James Sullivan