SEO – 10 Things To Know Before You Go!
How Can SEO Strategy Help Your Business? Top 10 Things You Should Know Before You SEO!
What should those who are new to digital marketing know before moving forward with a SEO strategy?
When I talk about SEO strategy with clients who have had poor results in the past, their stories include tales of expensive campaigns that yielded very little. Some jumped in feet first but abandoned quickly. Others outsourced without taking the time to understand the basics which caused frustration due to lack of trust and visibility. Almost everyone who had a bad experience with SEO failed to realize that foundation building was the key to success. They also failed to realize the importance of their involvement in building that foundation. SEO is not a golden goose that will lay golden eggs on day one. Building brand awareness through content development takes time. What SEO WILL do is bolster your business development as a whole and allow you to reach more people with fewer resources. For those new to SEO, or who have had poor experiences in the past, I’m sharing some high-level concepts to consider before getting started:
1. Google ranks pages, not websites.
Understand the basics:
It is rare that this little tidbit doesn’t surprise folks. This is probably the most important thing to know when getting started. Search engines crawl your site page-by-page and rank each page based on the keywords and phrases you have optimized for. A good SEO vendor will have coached you through the prioritization and development of key personas, the market segments they represent and current search trends. Knowing this will help you plan out your site-map in a more strategic way and should help you prepare for the cycle of measuring and improving each page over time.
Define each page’s purpose:
In a recent post on product management, I talk about the importance of ensuring every product has a purpose. Guess what? Your website is a product and every page of your website is a mini-product with its own job to do. Knowing this should force questions that drive the content development process. Where do you want to make inroads the quickest? Are there specific landing pages needed for other internal sales or marketing campaigns or events? Are you launching a new brand? If so, your content strategy should be focused on increasing brand awareness. Are you re-connecting with existing customers? If so, your content should consider them in your messaging. Are you a legacy brand looking to reach a new demographic of client or gain market share from a competitor? If so, you may structure your content to highlight the differentiators between you and the competition. Every page has a goal and in order to get it highly ranked, you need to be disciplined in aligning content to that goal.
Plan for a marathon, but develop content in sprints:
The biggest takeaway here, is that it is going to take TIME. Knowing this up front solidifies expectations and reinforces the need for a clearly defined plan. Your website or a newly added page doesn’t need to be perfect or complete to launch or publish it, but understanding the correlation between content and traffic is important. That said, don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress. Start NOW! Your analytics will let you know where you need to improve.
2. The quality of your content matters.
It’s hard to write about SEO without getting a bit repetitive about content. Quality is a subjective term but one that I am going to try to define for someone new to this without taking a left turn into on page and off page SEO. Regarding SEO, and the content that influences rankings, let’s break things into a few categories:
- Quality of the writing
- Uniqueness of the content
- Link Strategy
- Internal links
- External links
- Media usage (audio, video, imagery)
- Clear Calls To Action (CTAs)
- Use of H1, H2 headers and well organized information
- Use of meta descriptions and tags
Content quality is how search engines compare you against your competitors after identifying a concentration of keywords. Use of keywords is not enough to win the game. Things like poor spelling, grammar, copied content, run on sentences and the like can cost you a spot in the rankings and consequently, a lead.
Ultimately, you will measure the performance of each page using a metric called a conversion. Your page’s conversion rate is the ratio of page views to the action that you want your visitor to take. This could be clicking on a CTA button, requesting a quote for services, adding a product to their shopping cart or booking a hotel stay. It could also be to educate them further about your brand or offerings by bringing them deeper into your site through internal linking. The quality and architecture of your content will determine if users engage, convert or bounce.
3. You can have a beautiful website and still rank low.
You may have just launched a beautiful new site and may absolutely love it. In spite of you pouring your heart and soul into it, you just aren’t ranking! This is not uncommon. If you are more than six months into a relationship with a SEO vendor and you don’t begin to see improvement, I recommend digging into the approach that is being taken.
Keyword analysis is something that should be done WITH you and should be revisited monthly in the early days of a new SEO program to measure results. If you know your market well, you will likely have a good understanding of the keywords you want to go after, including the competitors in the space and what tactics they are using to rank. Competitor analysis (as it relates to SEO) is a critical step to complete in any program. Jumping in blindly will almost always guarantee poor results.
4. Your website can look horrible and still rank high.
We see this a lot with legacy companies who have been in business for a long time. Their sites may need updating and may not include modern design or style elements, but with time comes years and years worth of developed content, backlinks and traffic from being an established brand. If you are looking to launch a new, beautifully designed site or to enter the market as a start-up, it will take some very real time and strategy to go after your competition. Aesthetics are not the most important when it comes to ranking; however, look-and-feel DOES make a difference when it comes to conversions!
5. Your website’s pages can rank high, look great and still not convert!
This is something that perplexes many business owners who have invested in SEO, are ranking well for organic and/or paid campaigns, redesigned their website, invested in content strategy and for some reason, are not converting. This requires some analysis of what is going on and should always be a data-driven exercise. Some common causes for this include:
- You are ranking for the wrong keywords
- You have a UI/UX issue with the flow of your site
- There is a technical defect that is stopping users from converting
- There is bad data that is causing confusion
Using data and your analytics tools to dig into the issue is critical. I have seen issues include anything from a bug in the system to bad/incorrect data being displayed. On one retail site, someone mis-keyed a price into their inventory management system. Instead of $9.99 a product displayed with a price of $99.99 causing low conversions on a previously popular product. This is an over simplified example; however, in e-commerce platforms finding these types of anomalies can be like looking for a needle in a haystack without good data.
Another cause for this type of scenario is poor keyword selection. Many of my clients do not fully understand the VALUE of each keyword in terms of daily search volumes. Some SEO vendors can take advantage of this and boast great rankings for words people just aren’t searching for.
6. An effective SEO strategy requires in-depth analysis of your competitor’s SEO tactics.
Before you spend a dime on anything, you should be know what your competitors are doing. There are countless paid tools out there that can be used to conduct this research. If you don’t have anyone on your team who can do this, your SEO vendor can offer to do this work with you. Ultimately, you know your market the best, and you should be processing the insights with your SEO vendor together to help them deliver the most comprehensive assessment possible. Then, you can choose how you want to attack. You can copy what your competitors are doing or attack between the kinks of their armor. The competition’s SEO position is like a suit of armor; you may not win if you aim at the chest plate but there are cracks that while small, are able to be breached.
Paid tools such as SEMRush and Ahrefs are particularly good at this. Google Analytics, Google Trends and Google Search are also helpful in understanding high-level performance of your site (and are free), but won’t necessarily give you the insight needed beyond your own site.
7. You CAN win with organic search!
Not only CAN you win with organic search, you really should begin here to mature into your SEO foundation. SEO is a big investment and decision makers need to understand what is being done. If you don’t take the time to understand every layer of the foundation being built, or how to measure it, or what is reasonable to expect from it, then more than not you will probably abandon the project before it has a chance to grow legs.
Even better, in times of economic downturn, a solid SEO foundations is a great way to keep business development programs rolling with very few resources. It is a great insurance policy for tough times when you need to scale back and can quickly ramp when needed with only a few clicks!
8. It can take 6-12 months to fully mature your SEO foundation.
This can certainly be accelerated through any number of methods, but you should have a relatively strategic approach to your SEO which requires channeling most of your content and website development through a handful of people who own the strategy. Outsourcing to copywriters who are not close to your business, don’t understand your customers and can’t measure performance will most likely be a waste of time and money. One client I had, paid handsomely for hundreds of blog posts, with only a handful of those posts actually generating any meaningful traffic. Quality over quantity should be at the top of mind with SEO. For the same client, they could have achieved the same result with about twenty blog posts and some high quality video content and saved thousands.
If you can, fight the urge to rush it by loading your site with content before you evaluate how things are performing. Some things will fail – and you will want to know quickly what isn’t working before you load your site with the wrong content.
9. Efforts to optimize and defend your organic SEO position should be continuous.
SEO is definitely not a “Set it and forget it” investment. The size of your business, the amount you can spend on SEO and ultimately, the number of new clients you are looking to acquire each month/quarter/year will influence how frequently you re-touch what is in place. For some small businesses, 1 new customer per quarter is great growth! Global enterprises can see leads in the hundreds per day depending on their paid SEO strategy.
Your GOAL is to have a well functioning site with which you are familiar with. You should know the levers that can be pulled and should know how to pull them when you need to. You should also monitor performance regularly so you know what needs attention, even if you don’t address it immediately. Knowing where you are deficient or where the competition is beating you is one of the levers!
10. In a digitally-enabled business, SEO & content strategy should be a core component of your business development and lead generation strategies.
When it comes to Digital Strategy, SEO and content strategy is only one small piece of the puzzle, but it is a powerful tool for driving growth. Prioritizing SEO forces business teams to continuously evaluate customers, personas, buying patterns and the competitive landscape. In non-digital companies, assumptions about these variables may remain stale for years! Insights from SEO analysis and MoM trends can also be leveraged by sales teams and help to refine messaging in other areas of the business such as email outreach, campaign management and various other business development efforts. When done properly, SEO is your business development team’s best friend!
If you would like to learn more about how development of a SEO strategy can help your business, drop me a note! I would love to hear from you!Contact Us