You’ve probably heard about SEO, and if you haven’t already, you might get a quick Wikipedia definition of the term, but knowing that SEO is “a process that affects the prominence of a website or web page in a search engine ‘s unpaid results” doesn’t really help you answer important questions about your company and your website, such as:
- How do you, for your site or your company’s site, “optimize” for search engines?
- How do you know how much time to spend on SEO?
- How can you differentiate “good” SEO advice from “bad” or harmful SEO advice?
What’s probably interesting to you as a business owner or employee is how you can actually use SEO to help drive more traffic, leads, sales, and eventually revenue and profit for your company. That’s what we’re going to focus on in this introduction, brought exclusively to you by www.websitesadvice.com. Are you good to go? Let’s just get to it!
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE ABOUT SEO?
Lots and lots of people are looking for stuff. This traffic can be extremely powerful for a company, not only because there is a lot of traffic, but also because there is a lot of very specific, high-intent traffic. If you’re selling blue widgets, will you prefer to buy a billboard so that someone with a car in your region can see your ad (whether they’re really interested in blue widgets or not) or turn up every time someone in the world is buying blue widgets in a search engine? Perhaps the latter, because they have a commercial purpose, which means they ‘re standing up and saying they want to buy something you’re selling.
People are looking for any kind of thing that is directly related to your business. Beyond that, your prospects are also looking for all kinds of things that are only loosely related to your business. They represent even more opportunities to connect with these people and help them answer their questions, solve their problems, and become a reliable resource for them.
Are you more likely to get your widgets from a trusted resource that has provided great information each of the last four times you’ve turned to Google for troubleshooting, or someone you’ve never heard of?
WHAT ACTUALLY WORKS FOR DRIVING TRAFFIC FROM SEARCH ENGINES?
First of all, it is important to note that Google is responsible for most of the search engine traffic in the world (though there is always some movement in the actual numbers). This may vary from niche to niche, but it is likely that Google is the dominant player in the search results that your company or website would like to see, and the best practices outlined in this guide will help you position your site and its content to rank in other search engines as well.
No matter what search engine you use, the search results are constantly changing. In particular, Google has recently updated a number of stuffs about how websites are classified by a lot of different animal names, and many of the simplest and cheapest ways to bring the pages listed in search results have become incredibly risky in recent years. So, what’s working? How does Google decide which pages to return in response to what users are searching for? When are you going to get all this important traffic to your site?
Google’s algorithm is extremely complex, and I’ll share some links for anyone looking to get deeper into how Google ranks sites at the end of this section, but at an extremely high level:
§ Google is looking for pages that contain high – quality, relevant query information.
§ We decide the importance of “crawling” (or reading) the content of your website and evaluate (algorithmically) whether that information is applicable to what the searcher is searching for, often based on the keywords it contains.
§ They assess “price” by a number of means, but the number and quality of other websites that connect to your page and your site as a whole remains popular among them. Simply put, if the only sites that connect to your blue widget site are blogs that no one else on the web has linked to, and my blue widget site gets links from reputable sources that are often linked to, like CNN.com, my site will be more reliable (and presumed to be of higher quality) than yours.
Increasingly, additional elements are being weighed by Google’s algorithm to determine where your site will rank, such as:
§ How do people engage with your site (Do they find the information they need and remain on your site, or go back to the search page and click on another link? Or do they simply ignore your search results list and never click?)
§ Your site’s loading speed and “mobile friendliness”
§ How much unique content you have (against very “thin” low – value content or duplicate content)
There are hundreds of ranking factors that Google considers in response to searches, and they are constantly updating and improving their process.
The good news is, you don’t have to be a search engine expert to rate useful words in search results. We ‘re going through established, repeatable best practices for optimizing search websites that can help you drive targeted traffic via search without trying to reverse engineer the core competence of one of the world’s most valuable companies.
Now, back to the basics of SEO! Let’s get into the actual SEO tactics and strategies that will help you get more traffic from your search engines.
KEYWORD RESEARCH AND KEYWORD TARGETING BEST PRACTICES
The first step in search engine optimization is simply to decide what you’re really optimizing for. This means identifying the phrases people are searching for (also known as “keywords”) that you want your website to rank in search engines such as Google. Sounds simple enough, huh? I want my widget business to show up when people are looking for “widgets” and maybe when they type in stuff like “buy widgets.”
It’s not that easy, unfortunately. There are a few key factors to be taken into account when determining keywords that you want to address on your site:
§ SEARCH VOLUME – The first factor to consider is how many people (if any) are actually looking for a keyword. The more people there are looking for a keyword, the larger the market you stand to meet. Conversely, if no one is looking for a keyword, there is no audience available to search for your content.
§ RELEVANCE – If a term is frequently searched for, that’s perfect: so, what if it’s not entirely relevant to your prospects? Relevance seems straight-forward at first: if you’re selling business email marketing automation software, you don’t want to show up for searches that don’t have anything to do with your company, like “pet supplies.” But what about terms like “email marketing software?” Intuitively, this might seem like a great description of what you’re doing, but if you’re selling to Fortune 100 companies, most of the traffic for this very competitive term will be searchers who don’t have any interest in buying your software (and people you want to reach might never buy your expensive, complex solution based on a simple Google search). Conversely, you might think that a tangential keyword like “best enterprise PPC marketing solutions” is completely irrelevant to your business as you don’t sell PPC marketing software. But if your prospect is a CMO or a marketing director, getting in front of them a useful resource to test pay – per – click tools could be a great “first step” and a great way to start a partnership with a prospective buyer.
§ COMPETITION – As with any business opportunity, you want to weigh potential costs and the likelihood of success in SEO. For SEO, this means understanding relative competition (and likelihood of ranking) for specific terms.
First, you need to consider who your prospective customers are and what they ‘re likely to be looking for. If you don’t understand who your prospects are, thinking about that is a good place to start, for your business in general, but also for SEO.
From there you want to understand:
§ What types of things are they interested in?
§ What problems do they have?
§ What type of language do they use to describe the things that they do, the tools that they use, etc.?
§ Who else are they buying things from (this means your competitors, but also could mean tangential, related tools – for the email marketing company, think other enterprise marketing tools)?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have an initial “seed list” of possible keywords and domains to help you get additional keyword ideas and set up some search volume and competition metrics. Take a list of key ways your prospects and customers explain what you’re doing, and start inputting them into keyword tools like Google’s own keyword tool, or tools like Uber Suggest.
You can find a more comprehensive list of keyword tools below, but the main idea is that in this initial step, you will want to run a number of searches with a variety of different keyword tools. You can also use competitive keyword tools like SEM Rush to see how your rivals’ rate. These tools look at thousands of different search results, and they’ll show you every search term your competitor ‘s recent ranking in Google. Here’s what SEM Rush reveals to Marketing Automation Provider Marketo:
Again: this doesn’t just have to be something you’re searching for a rival. You may look at related tools that sell content ideas to the same audience, and even look at the big niche websites that talk about your topic (and that your prospects are reading) and see what kind of keywords these sites are driving traffic. In addition, if you have an existing site, you are likely to get some traffic from search engines already. If this is the case, you can use some of your own keyword data to help you understand which words are driving traffic (and which you might be able to rank a bit better for).
Unfortunately, Google has stopped providing a lot of information about what people are looking for from analytics providers, but you can use SEM Rush (or similar tools, such as SpyFu) on your own platform to get a sense of the words you rate and their approximate search volume. Google also makes more of these data available in its free Webmaster Tools app (if you haven’t set up an account, this is a very useful SEO tool for both unraveling search query data and diagnosing various technical SEO issues –more on the Webmaster Tools set up here).
When Webmaster Tools is set up, you can navigate to this page when logged in and see the search queries that drive traffic to your site:
Once you have your keyword list, the next step is actually to apply your targeted keywords to the content of your site. -page on your site should have a key word and a “basket” of related terms. In his description of the perfectly optimized page, Rand Fishkin offers a nice view of what a well (or perfectly) optimized website looks like: