In the increasingly competitive digital marketing landscape, it often seems impossible that your little business would ever have a chance to take on established corporate giants. And in most cases, you’d be right unless you have an ace up your sleeve like an awesome Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy.
What is SEO anyway?
To put it simply, SEO is a marketing discipline focused on improving your brand’s visibility through organic search results. It’s all about making your online presence felt online and introducing your brand to prospective customers by leveraging your digital know-how and utilising it to take advantage of search engine algorithms. If properly set up, your SEO efforts can lead to improved website traffic and better yet, conversions.
How do you start?
We’re glad you asked! Here are the seven steps that will help you maximise the benefits of SEO and start giving those industry leaders a run for their money.
Step 1: Find Out Who Your Customers Are
Business is a popularity game. You always want your brand to be on everyone’s lips. However, the fact is, not everyone is going to be interested in what you have to offer. And marketing to these people can only lead to one thing: wasted resources. That’s why in SEO, it is important to identify your target audience by narrowing down the people you are offering your product or service to. Not only will this way make it easier for you to introduce your brand and reach new customers, it will also give you the chance to convert visitors into loyal customers.
Here are some factors to consider when identifying your target market:
- Industry/Product/Services Category
The rule of thumb when it comes to good targeting is specificity. Aiming for a larger audience isn’t always going to yield better results.
As an example, let’s say we use a traditional marketing strategy. We introduce our brand using TV, radio, newspapers, and billboard ads – collaterals that cost quite a pretty penny. After a while, people who come across your ads might start to get familiar with your brand. However, since your targeting is too broad, you might not make much headway as far as conversions are concerned. Maybe most of your target audience doesn’t subscribe to those types of ads or perhaps they spend most of their time on mobile devices instead. Not only did you spend too much on ads that targeted the wrong people, you also missed out on some valuable data about prospective or actual customers. With SEO, using web analytics, you can gain measurable insights about your audience, know the precise number of website traffic you generated, quantify the number of conversions as well as identify which ads brought them to you.
Step 2: Do Some Keyword Research
Now that you know who you’re marketing to, you must now figure out how to reach them. Let’s start by figuring out what questions your customers would ask to find a product or service that you are offering, then determine the keywords and phrases that might lead them to where they can find it–your website.
A keyword in SEO parlance is basically a relevant term or concept that allows web searchers to find your brand or the products and services you are offering. Keywords can be anything from queries, terms and phrases as long as it is relevant to your brand.
Remember that there are two types of keyword phrases: short-tail (which consists of one or two words) and long tail (consisting of three or more). Start your keyword research from your products, services and industry then work your way from there.
Short-tail keywords – brand, digital, digital marketing, marketing
Long-tail keywords – digital marketing services, social media marketing, search engine optimisation services
Also, do take note that there is a host of free and paid tools you can leverage on to help with your keyword research. You can find some of them here:
These tools are used for Pay-per-click (PPC) Ads, however, they can also be beneficial for finding profitable keywords for your SEO Campaign.
Some people also use Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords which are search terms that are related or linked to your primary keyword/s. You can use LSI Graph to find these type of keywords.
List all possible profitable keywords you think might be appropriate for your brand and is relevant to your products or services.
Step 3: Create Content for The Right People
Now that you’ve identified your target market and found some tasty keywords, it’s time to develop your content.
Content is king. This statement has continued to stand the test of time as it still rings true to this day. Content has the power to make or break your efforts. It is the fuel that will drive your entire campaign and help you reach your goals.
Once you have kickass content, you must now incorporate your keywords into it.
This is much harder than it sounds. The key to making this work is by placing your search terms in a way that seems natural. Do not inject keywords all willy nilly on your website, there is an art to it that will make it subtle and semantic.
Let’s say you want to rank for the keywords “content marketing.” You may want to craft content such as “Content Marketing Tools for Small Businesses” or perhaps, “How Content Marketing Skyrocketed My Business.”
These are the most effective types of content since they are beneficial for the people who view them. Most people won’t go on the internet to search for products, but they will scour the web to answer a question or solve a problem that they have and it will be in your best interest to be the one to provide it for them. So keep that in mind the next time you’re having a content conundrum. Answer this question: how useful or beneficial will this be to my audience? If the answer is “hella lot,” then chances are your content will start ranking on search engines which in turn will bring more traffic to your page and possible conversions.
Step 4: Go to Social Media
One of the best avenues to reach your target audience is through social media platforms. Some of the most popular ones are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, etc.
Having an online presence in the right platforms can boost awareness and popularity for your brand. But it’s important to be consistent with your branding so that your fans/followers can recognise you even if they switch from one platform to another. You must also link your website to your profile pages to direct your visitors to it.
Mari Smith, a premier Facebook Marketing Expert, gave a step-by-step strategy guide in her webinar “7 Steps to Facebook Success“. In it, she shared some tips on how to grow your fans/followers in an organic way as well as how to share your content. But she doesn’t stop there, growing your audience and sharing content is just a piece of the puzzle when it comes to social media. Engaging with fans on the platforms are as important as having quality content. Just as Smith so eloquently put it: “Content is king but engagement is queen, and I rule the house.”
Aside from that, search engine algorithms take into account social signals as one of their ranking factors. As they continue to update their algorithms to enhance users’ search experiences, link signals from different social media platforms can indicate that your original content is gaining authority.
Also, social pages are now treated just as any other page in a search engine’s index. It means that your social content and activities can be crawled, indexed and returned in the search results. For example, when someone searches for your brand, search engines include not just your website in the result but your social media profiles as well. See for yourself, open a new tab then type in Hashtag Interactive and see what comes up. We’ll wait.
Good, you’re back. Let’s press on.
Our Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter Profiles were all listed on the results page. Not only will visitors see our website, they can also have an idea of what we’re sharing on social media, how we connect to people, and how we engage with our audiences.
Step 5: Analyse and Optimise
If you think you have quality content, with really well-integrated keywords and bustling activity on your social media pages but you’re still falling short on your KPI’s, you might have neglected to analyse and optimise your on-page and off-page optimisation.
This type of website optimisation is aimed at identifying which elements of your site needs fixing or improving so that your brand’s key message and products and services are delivered properly to your target audience. Doing this will allow you to rank higher in the search results.
If you want to learn more about how to implement this optimisation, click here.
If you think that these are just small optimisation tasks and that your site doesn’t need it, you’re missing out on a great opportunity. Why? Because having properly optimised meta titles and descriptions can help you be identified by search crawlers. It also gives your page a better chance of popping up when someone searches keywords that are relevant to your brand or product.
This type of optimisation refers to off-site techniques or strategies used to improve the position of a web page in search engine results. To put it simply, it’s about telling the search engine that other sites have good regards of you.
How can you tell if others are saying good things about you outside of your website? The answer is simple, through the numerous quality backlinks (links from sites that follow Google’s guidelines) pointing to your site. Backlinks are basically sites that are talking about your brand and how they link their site to yours. When search engines notice that you are gaining high-quality links organically, it will reward you with good ranking positions in the search results.
One good tool used in checking the quality of links to your site is the Ahref’s Site Explorer. Just plug in your website’s URL and see how many and what kind of links are connected to your site. It may also help you identify if there are harmful or spammy links in your profile. You can also spy on your competitors and see where they put or build links to rank up their listing.
Things to check when implementing this optimisation include:
- Business Listing/Reviews
- Press Releases
- Online Tools
People like to bookmark and link to these types of backlinks. Make sure to get your site one or more of these so you can have higher chances of being listed on the search results page.
Step 6: Build Organic Links
As mentioned earlier, the more sites talk about your brand the higher your search ranking. But there’s a catch, it has to be organic. That’s because some businesses figured out that they can manipulate their rankings by buying website links and spamming their brand names in its pages. Google caught on to the scheme quickly and responded by deploying the Penguin Update which changed its algorithms for good and by punishing sites who took part in these shady practices.
So how can we build organic links, you ask?
Create high-quality and original content then use your social media profiles to organically promote your blogs, tools, or press releases. Once your content gains authority and virality, other sites will be the ones to link to your page naturally.
Step 7: Track Your Website Traffic and Ranking
Once you’ve taken all these SEO steps, now comes the big question: How long will it take to rank in Google?
Unfortunately, there’s really no way to know for sure when your site will rank on search engines. But according to a study, it can take months or even years before you get listed, and it all depends on the SEO strategy you implement. Some have reported seeing significant results from as early as one to three months, while others might not be so lucky.
All you can really do is to keep promoting your content through ads and social media. Be patient, keep adjusting and tweaking your strategies based on the data and analytics and sooner or later your page might just pop up to the top of the search results.
Until that time though, it would be wise to keep track your website traffic through Google Analytics. It is a free web analytics service that will provide you with the data to further improve your site’s performance and user behaviour. You can also check if you are reaching the right target market for your business and the sources of your web traffic.
There are also paid tools that can do rank tracking, or you can do it manually. For paid tools, they perform an automatic search and report if your site is listed on the results page. For manual tracking, open your browser in “incognito” mode, type in the search engine you want to check, enter your keyword, and begin browsing from page 1-10 of the search results until you find your website listed. Take note of your rank, then repeat whenever you want to perform the tracking.
If you have questions or you want help in this area of your business?