We’ve all heard of growth marketing.
But what does growth marketing actually mean?
At the risk of over-simplifying, growth marketing is essentially the path to attracting the right visitors to your business. Not just the low-hanging-fruit, top-of-funnel visitors, but those who are “sticky” and likely to lead to a conversion or sale.
Search engine marketing (SEM) is the unsung hero — and the secret weapon — for today’s growth marketing leaders.
In addition to achieving a successful consumer decision journey across multiple channels and devices, search delivers bottom-line results and ensures on-track results for the long-term.
Here are six best practices for a winning SEM strategy.
1. Deliver Value Across the Decision Journey
As the behavior of your fragmented customers evolves, your growth marketing plan should as well.
Who are the customers behind all those clicks?
New research from Bing Ads allows us to better understand the five distinct stages all customers share:
- Initiation: Getting background information and buying landscape to become a more informed researcher.
- Research: Exploring buying guides, recommendations, and products that meet basic criteria.
- Compare: Comparing a handful of products that meet the customer’s criteria, including ratings, reviews, features, and cost.
- Transaction: Finding where to buy, then seeing pricing and promotions, availability, and local stores.
- Experience: Getting customer service, asking maintenance questions, and making additional purchases.
2. Align Your Campaign & Business Goals
Search can impact, and help you measure, your business goals.
Be sure to align your SEM strategy with your campaign objectives:
- Brand awareness and perception: Bid competitively on your non-brand, brand, and competitors’ keywords. Non-brand searches are the key to starting a journey: 72 percent of brand ad clicks had a non-brand or conquest term in the user journey preceding the brand click. Searchers were 30 percent likelier to conduct a branded search after being exposed to a brand ad on a generic search query or a competitor’s branded query.
- Win new customers: Consumers rely on search to inform purchase decisions. SEM can help with every stage of the decision process. At the start of their journey, 49 percent of consumers use a search engine to find the products they want.
- Drive sales: Search’s strength is driving conversions. It outperforms other marketing channels across devices in conversion rates.
- Enter new markets: The ubiquity of search allows you to activate a cross-border marketing strategy that drives foot traffic with Location Extensions, get more phone calls with Call Extensions, and increase ad clicks with Sitelink Extensions.
3. Expand Your Marketing Funnel
As our constant companion, search is no longer just a product — it’s a behavior.
We turn to search at all times and in all places, whether on our desktops, laptops, tablets, or smartphones.
Understanding how people search at different points on their purchase journeys opens the door to engage your brand with this new audience.
Having become an engine of insights, search now delivers influence throughout the five buying stages (initiation, research, compare, transaction, and experience).
SEM also reinforces your conversion funnel and unifies disparate marketing activities.
4. Take Audience Targeting to the Next Level
Right-time, right-place engagement alone is no longer enough to compel potential customers.
You need to reach as many unique searchers as possible utilizing audience targeting.
Step 1: Build richer buyer personas that consider these factors:
- Behavioral: Past behaviors are useful for understanding consumers’ interests and their likelihood to purchase. To better measure user behavior, analyze activities across websites, searches, and content.
- Demographic: Buying preferences are influenced by elementary but important factors that include age, gender, and location.
- Contextual: Consumers often search in the moment. Analyzing where, when, and how they search can provide useful content for creating more impactful ad campaigns.
Step 2: Choose keywords that align with the key stages and mindsets of your target customers:
- Initiation: Keywords such as “What is” and “Benefits of” work best at this stage.
- Research: Keywords such as “Buying guide” and “Models” work best at this stage.
- Compare: Keywords such as “Reviews” and “Features” work best at this stage.
- Transaction: Keywords such as “Where” and “Coupon” work best at this stage.
- Experience: Keywords such as “Support” and “Experience” work best at this stage.
5. Lift Other Investments with Paid Search
Optimize your search efforts by combining organic search with a paid SEM strategy.
- Search and social: Customers who click your paid search and social ads are likelier to buy and spend more. Strengthen your keyword coverage to get more impressions, and tailor your bidding strategy for commercial-related PPC campaigns.
- Search and TV: Search volume spikes for days after a commercial airs. In a Bing Ads study of the biggest commercial event of the year, the Super Bowl, the increase in branded search volume followed a consistent pattern across industries.
- Search and display: Conversion rates increased by 52 percent while display and search were running simultaneously. Not only did conversion metrics increase, but campaign reach (impressions) increased by 45 percent as well.
- Search and other channels: When Bing Ads is alone in the purchase path, purchases have a 27 percent higher order average order value than purchases not including Bing Ads, which also generate value when paired with other channels.
6. Fight & Win the Battle for Paid Search Budget Share
SEM still competes with other channels for a share of your marketing budget.
So bring along hard data that connects the dots between search engine marketing and business benefits.
Your budget share battle plan involves three elements:
Pick the Right Metrics to Measure SEM Impact
Metrics provide an easy way to see what is and isn’t working.
Your team can test, change and optimize your brand’s SEM strategy for better results.
Focus your reporting by identifying and tracking key performance indicators that reflect your business goals:
- Acquiring new customers
- Driving foot traffic
- Getting more phone calls
- Increasing ad clicks
- Building your brand trust
- Expanding cross-border strategy
Separate SEM Impacts from Other Channels
Know which channels drive your marketing results.
Each sale is the culmination of a series of marketing touches that may involve several channels over the course of days or even weeks.
Attribution gets quite complex at times, so if you can prove campaigns with paid search deliver ROI and bottom-line results, you’ll unlock more budget and further optimize search performance.
Apply the Same Process to Allocate Budget Between AdWords & Bing Ads
This last piece falls into place when you analyze the paid click share and query that each SEM option represents within your industry.
You’ll not only get your business in front of a large audience, you’ll be confident that your paid ads will lead to clicks.
SEM is the backbone of today’s marketing mix.
With so many channels and more fragmented customer journeys, the real challenge is ensuring you engage audiences at the right time through the right device.
You no longer can afford to put all of your marketing dollars into one search ad network.
Follow the best practices outlined here to maximize the reach, impact, and value of your paid search campaigns with bottom-line results.
Then your fight for marketing resources will be far easier to win!
Pay-per-click (PPC) is an advertising model where you pay a small amount of money each time someone clicks on your ads. It’s currently attracting the largest percentage of search traffic. If you aren’t running pay-per-click marketing campaigns, you’re obviously leaving lots of money on the table. Here are some of the top reasons why you shouldn’t ignore this channel.
Pay-per-click advertising allows you to target the right customers. As a result, you know where exactly your dollars are going to and only pay those who are interested in clicking your ads. And if your business only serves a particular region, you are able to target just that region alone with PPC.
Measurable Advertising Dollars
Since you can easily tell where you adverting dollars are going and also set conversion goals, you are in a position to see clearly how much it’s costing you to attract any given number of visitors to your website and then convert them to your customers. And also because you are able to see what’s working for you and what’s not working, you can optimize your marketing efforts and confidently scale up your spending.
Complements Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) often takes a considerable amount of time to deliver results. In the meantime, you have to do a few things here and there to increase your chances of success. With PPC, however, nothing stops you from gaining top visibility immediately. This means it can result in an instant increase in leads and sales for your business.
You just need to have the budget to compete with top bids. When your SEO efforts result in an increase in your organic visibility, you have all the two areas fully covered, and your audience then can have the impression that your business is extremely relevant and popular.
Complete Control over Your Budget
In the current fast-paced business world, businesses are working with strict budgets. Small businesses, in particular, are looking for ways to realize their goals without spending too much money. With PPC, they are able to set their own daily budgets and change it at any time. While it’s appropriate to have huge budgets to compete effectively with established businesses, pay-per-click advertising gives them a chance to get started and run some tests.
Inform Your Marketing Channels
Do you want to know whether a particular keyword is converting well? If you do, use PPC to get this information and be able to plan better. And if you want to test the waters with new offerings so as to know the demand and find some valuable information insights, PPC can still be of great help to you and your marketing team. What’s more, it can help you to promote events such as oddball and others that wouldn’t be best for other advertising channels.
Now it’s likely that you can see how PPC is a viable marketing channel for your business. You can get in touch with organizations such as www.ppcpro.com.au for guidance if you need help to power up your own pay-per-click advertising model.
Maybe you’ve heard of blockchain, but why should you care? Contributor Tony Edward describes the dramatic impact the technology could have on digital marketing and advertising.
If you’ve heard of Bitcoin then you most likely have heard of blockchain, the technology that enables Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to exist and function. The technology is forecast to disrupt many industries as it allows users to conduct transactions without a middleman in a secure and transparent format.
Some of the industries that can potentially be disrupted are car sales, voting, ridesharing, real estate, insurance, sports management, loyalty cards and gun tracking. While the search marketing industry is not as mainstream as the aforementioned industries, it can also be potentially disrupted by blockchain.
Now, before we go any further, this article is not about Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. However, if Bitcoin is adopted by large companies such as Amazon or Walmart, it will certainly have an impact on the future of payments between search marketing agencies, website owners, advertisers and others. Contract agreements will also be impacted, as the blockchain could be leveraged for more transparency and accuracy.
What is blockchain
Here is a great definition of blockchain offered by Don and Alex Tapscott, authors of a 2016 book called “Blockchain Revolution”:
The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.
Image courtesy of weforum.org
In layman’s terms, it’s like a Google Doc spreadsheet that is shared with the public which displays transactions and is tamperproof. Many are considering blockchain to be as impactful as the internet was in the ’90s.
Impact on search engine marketing (SEM)
In the digital marketing world, many central authorities, such as Google and Facebook, connect advertisers with website owners. For example, Google is a central authority in programmatic ads, where it helps advertisers run ads on websites via the Google Display Network. Google essentially is the middleman that helps advertisers and website owners trust each other. If they already trusted each other, they would not need Google as an intermediary taking a cut of the profits.
Enter blockchain, which can verify that every user is genuine with 100 percent accuracy and that the website owner is only charging the advertiser for genuine clicks through to their site. Then the website owner and the advertiser don’t need a middleman to arbitrate their agreement, which would save them both money. Blockchain presents a big threat to Google’s display network revenue.
Blockchain being the unhackable distributed ledger is going to also help reduce online fraud. It will provide transparency for persons involved in a transaction without giving away their personal details, essentially proving they are a real person. Ad fraud is a big problem: It cost advertisers over $7 billion in 2016. A number of players — including Microsoft, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and DMA (in partnership with MetaX) — are already working on blockchain-based digital identification systems.
Impact on search engine optimization (SEO)
As companies start to adopt blockchain, they will need to integrate it within their websites. This involves the web developers as well as the SEOs, if they are trying to gain organic search benefits as well as display the information from the blockchain transactions.
This will present both technical issues and opportunities in which SEOs will have to work alongside developers to resolve compatibility issues with different content management systems and website platforms. I have noticed that the Schema community has already started to work on Schema Markup for blockchain certificates and user ID profiles. Both items are a work in progress and have not yet been published on Schema.org.
Here is a glimpse of what the codes for both items looks like.
The following sample markup (from our company) is in JSON-LD format. Full details can be viewed on GitHub.
Blockchain user ID profiles
As new blockchains are developed and it is more widely adopted, it will certainly disrupt the search marketing industry in many other ways. For now, search marketers should pay close attention to blockchain as it grows.
Getting the most out of an SEO campaign is all about measuring the results — everything comes down to data. Examining KPIs sheds light on what’s working and what’s not. That’s all well and good for most metrics like keyword rankings, organic search traffic, referring domain volume and so on. We have plenty of tools and data to do just that. However, there’s one particular SEO metric that’s impossible to measure but incredibly important.
Measuring The Unmeasurable
The unmeasurable metric I’m referring to here is — drum roll — brand signals. Brand signals contribute to your business’s credibility and authority. When I say brand signals, I mean going beyond just signals in the technical sense and looking closer into the actual perception of your brand in the mind of the user. I’m talking about going deep into the essence of how people truly perceive your brand.
Unfortunately, there’s no section on Google Analytics that tells you this straight up. You’ve got to do some digging. So how do you measure what your audience thinks about your brand and how much equity you carry? How do you measure the unmeasurable and make tactical brand mention measurements?
Here are a few ways to connect the dots:
I’m going to start with the absolute basics. While direct traffic doesn’t enable you to measure the number of brand mentions per se, it can give you a reasonable idea of how your brand equity is growing. That’s because the vast majority of direct traffic consists of visitors either typing in your URL directly or bookmarking your site on their browser, both of which are obvious indicators of brand knowledge and a receptiveness to your brand.
While there are other instances of direct traffic that essentially boil down to data “not being provided,” the volume your site receives should allow you to make an initial assessment. Any change in direct traffic is an indicator of changes to your brand awareness. In other words, a spike in direct traffic tends to mean an increase in brand awareness and vice versa.
Branded Terms In SERPs
A bit of research with Google search can also lend some insight. It’s very simple, but it should give you a good idea of what the current state of your brand equity is like. For starters, you’ll want to enter your brand name. Ideally, you will appear in the No. 1 organic position or close to it. That’s a good sign.
If you’re a local business, you’ll also want to enter a targeted keyword phrase and a local term. For my company NAV43, an example would be “digital advertising agency Toronto.” Popping up in the local three pack is ideal, but appearing near it is good as well. For instance, we’re ranked fifth overall in organic search results beneath the local three pack.
These two simple searches should give you a better idea of what overall user knowledge is like.
Addressing The Aspect Of Perception
Now it gets a little trickier. How can you measure perception in the mind of the user? Perhaps the most obvious route is to simply examine social media follower volume and growth. This can provide some level of insight, but let’s take it one step further and really get into the crux of the matter. What you really need to find out is how many people are talking about your brand and what they’re saying.
One of my favorite ways to quickly generate some tangible data is to use BuzzSumo. Just type in your brand name to see how many people are sharing your content and how many people are talking about your brand.
According to Search Engine Land, “88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.” So you can bet that the quantity and overall sentiment of your customer reviews heavily impact your brand equity.
This is especially true for local brands, where a few negative comments can potentially kill your foot traffic. Taking a look at some of the major customer review sites such as Google My Business, Yelp and so on should give you a bird’s eye view of things.
Finally, you can learn a lot by monitoring the volume of mentions your brand receives along with the context. One of my favorite tools for this is Mention. This aptly named platform allows you to monitor your brand’s reputation online and provides real-time updates whenever something is said.
It also includes a scoring system that lets you know how much influence someone has when mentioning your brand. For instance, praise from someone with 100,000 followers would carry much more weight than someone with only 100. There are, of course, several other platforms that offer similar services, which you can find out about here.
Brand signals are an extremely important SEO metric and contribute to the success (or failure) of your company in several different ways. Although they’re not measurable in the conventional sense like many other elements of SEO, you can still get a baseline reading with these techniques and work your way up from there.
How to compete with national retailers by utilising the power of PPC: a guide for small retailers – Retail Times
What is PPC? Pay-Per-Click advertising is a form of online advertising in which you pay a certain fee each time someone clicks on one of your ads. In simple terms, if you create ad copy that contains the word “summer shoes”, and your target audience is women, PPC can enable your ad to show up as the top result in Google for someone searching “summer shoes for women”.
Most national retailers are well aware of PPC advertising and integrate it into their marketing campaigns. By doing so, they are able to dominate local listings and effectively leave local retailers behind. This also blocks local retailers from gaining access to a national audience.
Having a PPC strategy is essential to generate traffic to your website and thus, boost your sales. To ensure your PPC strategy is effective, you need to have certain practices in place.
So, what can be done to compete with national retailers who have a huge advertising budget, nationwide presence and brand awareness at a local level?
Utilise the power of location-based advertising
All the main search engines and social media platforms allow you to display ads (both text and image) in specific locations. This can be done at city or town level (such as “Oxford” or “Abingdon”) or by using a radius around a location such as “10 miles around Abingdon” or “5 miles around OX1”.
Because the message can be specifically targeted at a chosen location, it can be tailored to that audience. National retailers rarely push out local messages, focusing on a more general approach. This gives local retailers an advantage.
A few examples include:
- Using localised keywords as part of your PPC keyword selection, such as:
- “Washing Machines Skipton”
- “Dishwashers Portishead”
- “Hair Dryers Oxford”
These searches are hyper localised and predominantly performed by people in the local area looking for a local retailer. Thus, Click Through Rates and Conversion Rates are likely to be high.
- Using localised messages in your ad copy to advertise your local presence. These could be:
- “Washing machines Oxford”
- “Local washing machine shop in Oxford”
- “In stock in Oxford right now”
- “Oxford’s number 1 washing machine centre”
- “Get advice, drop in to our Warrington branch or call”
- Using the display URL in AdWords to advertise your location: www.example.com/oxford or www.hooversbuxton.co.uk.
- Promoting your local phone numbers in your ads and onsite, which increases local relevancy and can drive increases in calls, sales and revenue.
Mobile is everything
Imagine this: you are out and about, and suddenly realise you have completely forgotten about a birthday party your daughter is going to later in the day. What’s your first instinct?
Pull out your smartphone and search for “kid’s birthday presents”. Go to the nearest store that pops up. Job done.
Mobile has completely dominated the way we search, which opens a variety of opportunities for retailers. However, it can be a challenge. Local businesses often don’t recognise the importance of making their sites mobile-friendly.
Google uses mobile-first indexing, which means mobile-friendly pages are more likely to be found, as they will show up higher in search engine rankings. Use that to your advantage!
Make it easy for people to find you
The above-mentioned scenario relies heavily on a customer being able to find you easily. The first step to achieving that is by setting up a Google My Business account. By getting your business listed, and including all the relevant (and up to date) details, such as your address, phone number, website etc. you make sure customers will be able to find you quickly and easily.
When using Google Maps, and searching for a particular product, we are often shown a box which contains three listings in the local area which match our query and supply the product or service we are looking for. This box is called the “Google Local pack” – and it’s very convenient to be a part of it!
Ensuring your Google My Business account is set up properly, and linked to your advertising account will help you get the top spot and thus your address will show up for people who are searching for your products locally.
Rank higher in Google, so people find you more often
It is universally known, that people rarely venture past the first two pages of Google (or Bing) search results. This means, as a retailer, it should be your goal to rank as high as possible.
You can achieve that by doing one of two things (or, for best effects, by a combination of both):
Create high-quality content for your website. Whether it be blogs, case studies, ‘How to?’ guides – the possibilities are endless. What matters is that it shows expertise, is comprehensive, goes deep into the subject and of course, focuses on the keywords you are targeting.
Even if you think your niche or specialism is not something you can create engaging content about – think again. Curiosity is deeply embedded in human nature and therefore you can be confident that the more quality content you create, the more people will want to read more.
The second part of ranking high is by bidding on certain keywords, which will help position your website higher in search results. For example, if you choose to bid on “Christmas gifts Durham”, a link to your page will be displayed to people searching for that term.
However, even if your listing shows up first, but the ad isn’t very enticing, they might choose a different website. Therefore, make sure you invest in good quality ad copy as well.
Plan for seasonality
You probably won’t run all your AdWords accounts all year round. It is important to look at trends data to ensure you are planning for product seasonality.
If you have been managing your account for a while, the data available to you is invaluable and can be used for more accurate creation of future campaigns. However, bear in mind that if you have a wide range of products, the seasonality of different products will be varied as well.
For more insight on how to plan for seasonality in retail have a look at our guide on how to get a PPC account ready for Christmas-time sales.
Believe in yourself!
Finally, never forget to believe in yourself and your business’s potential. Being a small, local business doesn’t mean you don’t stand a chance with national retailers.
Remember, people love what they know – and being a local business means there’s a bigger chance your potential consumers will form an emotional connection with you.
Increasing your online presence is bound to increase your brand awareness. Whether you are a kid’s goods supplier or a car dealership, the end goal is for people to associate your area of activity with your brand.
Are you using the right keywords?
The power of search engine optimization is stronger than ever before: As many as 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search engine results, according to stats compiled by Search Engine Journal. This is reason enough that you need to employ good SEO techniques and get your business to rank on page one of every targeted keyword search.
Employing poor SEO practices can leave your business buried in search engine searches, making it impossible for your customers to find you. Below, Forbes Agency Council members share advice on the most common SEO errors that could be hurting your search engine rankings.
1. Lack Of Quality Content
While user experience is increasingly paramount, you also have to think about what search engine bots see when they crawl your website. Your content needs to be effective in communicating to your audience and to bots. Each page on your website should have 400 words of quality content at the very least, but 700 to 1,200 words is optimal. Remember, this includes your product and collections pages as well. – Brock Murray, seoplus+
2. Seeing Double
One of the most common SEO mistakes out there is duplicate content. If you have the same content on more than one page on your site then the search engines will be confused and your pages will end up competing against each other or your website will get penalized. – Andrew Miller, Enter
3. Choosing The Wrong Keywords
The definition of “wrong” keywords extends to selecting keywords that don’t accurately describe your products and services, or selecting keywords that don’t convert into customers. Select target keywords carefully, as they are your biggest determinant in SEO success. – Brett Farmiloe, Markitors
4. Not Optimizing For Engagement
While backlinks are still a heavily weighted value in SEO rankings, you should focus on user engagement. We are finding that longer, well-written content that captures the reader’s attention is increasing rankings. Incorporate images, videos, quotes, resources and infographics to assist with the reader engagement. Your bounce rate should reduce while the time on site and rankings increase. – Breynan Hammons, Innvio
5. Lack Of Title Tag Optimization
One of the biggest errors we see with our clients’ websites is that the textual content is not optimized. It is a best practice to have variations of your primary target keywords in three heading tags across your homepage and any other sub-pages where SEO work is being done. The heading tags consist of H1, H2 and H3 title tags. Keeping those optimized will help boost your rankings. – Darryl Stevens, DIGITECH Web Design
6. Keyword Stuffing
Now that Google’s algorithms are much smarter and always change, they can recognize and penalize sites for keyword stuffing. Instead of overstuffing, use relevant keywords within your site’s content but always in moderation. Always keep your audience in mind. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
7. Absence Of A Blog Strategy
One big SEO initiative that we work on with our clients is developing a consistent, ongoing, informative blog strategy. Too often, people create a blog and don’t take the time to blog properly – helpful, meaningful information with regular posting that uses appropriate keywords. This is very helpful for organic search, plus it provides great content to share on socials and e-newsletters. – Duree Ross, Durée & Company.com
8. Thin Content Lacking Target Keywords
One of the most common issues for my clients is the use of thin and irrelevant content that lacks a target keyword and related keywords. Content needs to have depth and deep analysis of the subject, and each piece should focus on one or two keywords at most. Next, semantically related keywords are needed for algorithms to grasp the relevancy of the topic. – Kristopher Jones, LSEO.com
9. Index Bloat
I’d say about 35% of the leads we receive suffer from index bloat in one way or another, whether from poor WordPress optimization resulting in tag, category, media and archive pages being indexed or from an absurd amount of thin content being indexed. Typically, an excessive number of thin pages comes from blogging for the sake of blogging, rather than providing value and answering searchers’ queries. – Kyle Sanders, CWR SEO
10. Not Prioritizing High-Value Non-Branded Keywords
Like with many other practices, success in SEO starts with the fundamentals. And the reality is, many firms, including prominent ones, do not include valuable non-branded keywords in their title tags, especially on their most important pages. Simply put: If you aren’t taking the effort to use the keywords your target market is, they are going to have a harder time finding you. – Larry Gurreri, Sosemo
11. Too Broad Optimization Goals
Trying to attract everyone. Optimizing for broader, more generic keywords is an easy and understandable trap to fall into. But here are the pitfalls: 1) There’s a lot of competition when optimizing for generic keywords, and 2) You may be drawing traffic to your site that will never convert. Instead, be as specific as possible with your keywords. You may get fewer visitors, but you’ll get more buyers. – Joey Hodges, Demonstrate PR
12. Title Tags Not Describing The Page/Business
One of the most common SEO errors is incorrect assumptions about how to label title tags. A lot of companies make their homepage or sub-page title tags the title of their company. Instead, this should be a short description of the product or service the company provides. – Kyle Kramer, Huify
This article contains some of the most useful, on-site SEO recommendations. Learn more about what you can tweak on your website in order to improve your SEO ranking.
Create Long and Unique Content
There is a saying that “content is king,” which refers to the importance of quality content for SEO optimization. Unique content that covers a specific topic, in-depth, ranks much better in search engines, so direct your time and effort accordingly.
Use Keywords in Appropriate Places
SEO ranking of a website can be significantly improved with the right keyword placement. The keyword should be located on the following places:
- Title tag
- Page title (which should be wrapped in H1 HTML tags)
- Page content (ideally in the first 100 words and a few more times throughout the text)
There are a lot of SEO analysis tools that can detect whether these parameters are optimal.
Use LSI Keywords
LSI (latent semantical indexing) is a mathematical method used to determine the relationship between concepts found in the content. Google usually gives better ranking to the pages that are rich with these keywords.
Having that in mind, LSI keywords should be scattered over page content. Although the writing process is mostly manual, there are some tools, such as the LSI keyword generator, that can help you create a list of synonyms for the desired keyword.
Make Website Mobile-Friendly
Mobile-friendliness became an SEO factor in 2015, when Google introduced it to its algorithm as a ranking criterion. One of the most important aspects of mobile friendliness is responsive design, whose main characteristic is that your website content should adapt to the width of the user’s screen, thus improving the browsing experience of the users of mobile and tablet devices.
More details about what Google considers a mobile-friendly website can be found after analysing the website with Google’s page speed test.
Use SEO-Friendly URLs
There are two SEO factors which are related to the URLs:
- Keywords — they should be present in the URL — position closer to the domain name is better
- URL length — shorter URLs rank better
That basically means that you should use URLs such as yourdomain.com/page-title-goes-here instead of yourdomain.com/post.php?id=101. Most popular CMS software and PHP frameworks support SEO-friendly URLs by default. However, if you have one that does not, or you are developing a custom application, check tutorials like this one.
Optimize Internal Linking
A good internal linking strategy offers a couple of advantages:
- It makes it easier for search engine “spiders” to index the pages on your website
- Improves user experience when navigating and finding content on the website
- Internal links “pass link juice” between pages. A good ranking page that links to another page will improve the ranking of that other page (i.e. it will pass link juice to that page)
The ideal structure of internal links should have a pyramidal form. Minimizing the amount of links between homepage and any other page on the website improves the flow of the link juice.
Improve Website Speed
Fast loading speed not only improves SEO ranking, but also user experience. A few studies have confirmed this hypothesis. One study found that 57% of visitors close the page after waiting 3 seconds for it to load, while Amazon has concluded that an increase of 100ms in page loading speed would lead to 1% higher revenue.
Fortunately, there are a few things that can be easily fixed to achieve better website performance. For more information, check out this article.
Although these recommendations can improve your website ranking alone, it is advised to combine them with off-site SEO techniques, such as link building, to achieve even better results.
Rumors of SEO’s death are greatly exaggerated. Assessing the relevance (or very existence) of search engine optimization is a question that comes up more frequently than you’d think. Want to know why? Google “SEO is dead” and see just how many different techies have wrongly predicted the passing of the world’s greatest conversation killer.
What these harbingers of the SEO apocalypse really mean is that the foundations underpinning how users search for, and retrieve, relevant information online are changing dramatically. This isn’t just a challenge for SEO engineers. Anyone trying to get their online content seen must also be au fait with the new realities for effective online info retrieval.
With Google single-handedly providing more than two million searches per second, SEO may not be dead. But competition in this space is on life support.
Figures vary but about 90 per cent of the world’s internet users are opting for Google as their primary search engine. According to Randall Glick, digital marketing curriculum lead at Digital Skills Academy in the Digital Hub in Dublin, 95 per cent of Irish internet users search through Google.
The American multinational founded in 1998 by Sergey Brin and Larry Pageenjoys the same kind of universal brand awareness as companies such as Hoover did in previous times. So much so that “to google” has become a verb recognised by dictionaries.
This is great for Google. For the consumer of digital information, however, the absence of healthy competition is never a good thing. We may think we’re searching the internet. In reality, we’re searching Google’s interpretation of the internet.
It is cause for concern that one private entity has a virtual monopoly on the flow of all information available to mankind, but most people are more preoccupied with their place in that information flow. Technology has a habit of moving faster than society can keep up. Recent advances are keeping Google’s digital librarians and archivists very busy indeed. “Emerging technologies like AR [augmented reality] and VR [virtual reality], in the context of SEO, are creating new challenges for engineers at Google,” explains Glick.
The fundamentals still need to be solid, though. “Concentrate on the stuff that’s still important: title and description tags, making sure you have good, relevant content that relates to your business model, plenty of media, videos, soundbites and text. All of this content is indexable.”
The written word has been under attack from almost all corners for the past decade. From Twitter to Instagram, the general trend is towards reducing text from newspapers or websites and replacing it with more imagery. But words still command great authority in the digital world. “The easiest way for a computer to understand content is still for it to be written,” says Glick.
VR, AR and various other developments can add tremendous value to a website, allowing for more interesting content and navigability. But SEO architects are still trying to figure out how to index this kind of data. Until they do, it may be more of a hindrance than anything else. “Regardless of how advanced your site may be, if no one can find it, it won’t be seen,” says Glick. “The expansion of technologies like VR and AR have the ability to totally mess up your indexing if overused. But, Google is constantly working on tools and better ways to approach new types of data.”
Breaking the mould
We all see the internet through Google-tinted glasses. The company has been around for 18 years, meaning an entire generation of people have learned how to use the internet via Google. “The ability to step out of this mould is difficult to do,” says Glick.
Glick does not foresee any radical changes within this generation. “We definitely won’t be changing any of our patterns any time soon,” he says. That’s not to say Google has reached critical mass and is unstoppable. Even digital natives like millennials – and the generations that will succeed them – will be in stronger positions, digitally speaking, to question the SEO status quo. We’ve seen big tech companies fall in the past, usually by their own egos. While heavily investing in maintaining the top spot, Google might still fall upon its own sword.
According to Rand Fishkin, chief executive and cofounder of SEOmoz – considered by many in the know to be a thought leader in the field of search engine optimization tools, resources and community, Google’s success thus far has been its commitment to searcher satisfaction rather than advertiser satisfaction as its priority.
Economies of scale
Fishkin believes economies of scale are particularly relevant when it comes to the data game. “They benefit hugely from their size, because their search engine uses the greatest ranking algorithm. In other words, they have access to vast amounts of data relating to searcher behaviour that their competitors simply don’t get to see.”
This data, says Fishkin, is being used to further tailor each individuals’ searching experience. “Every day Google gets better and better at providing users with the most relevant info to help solve a searcher’s query.” Not only has the search engine improved its ability to explicitly succeed in what Fishkin refers to as “searcher task accomplishment”, it is also focusing more on the implicit user tasks. In other words, Google’s internal mechanics are becoming more intuitive in terms of predicting what the most obvious next page a user may want to search for based on previous searches.
Google engineer’s are even trying to eliminate what is known as “pogo-sticking”. This refers to when a user clicks back because they’re unsatisfied with a search response. Google records and collates all “pogo-sticking” activity in order to figure out how to respond accordingly in a higher percentage of searchers’ tasks the first time round.
“Google is playing the long game in the hope it can guarantee searchers are extremely happy with their results every time,” says Fishkin. “They haven’t fully perfected it yet, but they’re putting huge amounts of resources into R&D.”
There’s a joke that asks, “Where should you bury something that you don’t want people to find?”
Answer: On the second page of Google.
Sure, it’s corny. But there’s still some truth to that statement.
75% of people will never scroll past the first page on a Google search.
That means you can’t afford to be ranking on the second, third, or fourth page.
You just won’t get the clicks and traffic you need to make SEO worth your time and money.
And you need that organic traffic because 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine.
On top of that, there are over 1 trillion searches every single month!
A good SEO presence has the power to drive inbound traffic that could grow your business for years to come.
But the average-joe website owner doesn’t have the power to rank on the first page of Google for the best keywords.
There are already countless high-profile websites capitalizing on the top industry keywords.
And there are thousands of other bloggers trying to rank for that keyword as well.
That means the deck is stacked. And it’s not in your favor.
You shouldn’t give up, though! There are a few proven methods that I’ve used and found success with to show up on the first page of Google.
And the best part is that you don’t need the authority or links to rank for many of these keywords.
I can teach you how to show up for them anyway.
First, I’ll explain why you’re doomed for now.
And second, I’ll show you how to use this problem to your advantage to rank on the first page of Google despite your shortcomings.
Ready to get started? Let’s do it.
Why you probably can’t rank on the first page of Google anytime soon
I’m going to be straight with you:
You’re pretty much doomed. If you’re trying to get noticed and rank organically on the first page for popular industry keywords like “SEO Guide,” it’s not going to happen anytime soon.
If you’re just starting out, you’ve got no domain authority, a tiny backlink profile, and hardly any traction as a result.
And if you take a look at Google’s first page results for “SEO Guide,” you’ll quickly see what the major problem you’re up against is:
See what I mean? The domain authorities of these top page rankings are going to blow any new website out of the water.
Moz? 93 domain authority. Kissmetrics? 85.
How many backlinks does that #1 spot have? 18,389 to be exact.
That’s more than most of us will get on our entire site. Ever.
Plus, these guides have been up for years!
The Beginner’s Guide to SEO from Moz has been up for five years or so. Their website claims that over three million people have read it.
You get the idea.
Sites that have been around for a long time are going to dominate the top page rankings for popular industry keywords.
These people are producing stellar content and getting countless backlinks to their content.
If you’re just starting out, you need to pursue different strategies.
You can’t afford to wait around for five years to rank on the bottom of the first page for “SEO Guide.” Not with the number of hours and dollars it would take.
But that’s OK!
Just realize that you’re not going to rank organically for it right now.
The good news is that you don’t need to. There’s still hope.
The trick is to readjust your strategy and use different methods to still show up for your target keywords.
Here’s how to do it.
1. Start by dominating long-tail keywords
There are more long-tail keywords out there than big, popular ones.
Here’s a simple comparison to explain the difference:
And my own beautifully simple example:
- ‘Head’ keyword = “SEO guide”
- Long-tail = “SEO guide for small businesses 2017”
Each might not send you a ton of traffic. However, long-tail keywords do in total when you add a bunch of them up.
For example, I was able to increase my organic traffic to 173,336 visitors monthly using a long-tail strategy.
Long-tail searches also make up the majority of searches on Google.
You should target these long-tail keywords because they’re easier to rank for. And that means they’ll usually take less time and money.
So you’re not going up against the mammoth, industry-leading companies on these search engine result pages (SERPs).
Still skeptical of the power of long-tail strategies? I was, too, at first!But then I read about how Amazon makes 57% of their sales from long-tail keywords.
How? Because long-tail searches are looking for very specific information, whereas short-tail keywords are more general.
If you can give the searcher specific information, they’re going to stick around and convert.
Here’s an example SERP of a long-tail keyword search to help you get an idea of how it’s possible to rank for them.
Do you notice that the SERP isn’t overcrowded with industry influencers and top blogs?
Sure, there are still a few in there, but the top-ranking sites are ones that you’ve probably never heard of.
Instead of going up against a website with a 93 domain authority, here’s what the first ranking page for this long-tail search query looks like:
Now I’ve got your attention, right?
So sure, this keyword might have lower search volume than “SEO Guide.”
But remember that these long-tail keyword conversion rates are almost always higher.
And you know what I preach:
Traffic doesn’t mean anything if people don’t convert!If you’re getting 50,000 visitors a month from a popular keyword, but nobody is converting, it’s not doing you much good.
Instead of putting all your eggs in one basket for “SEO Guide,” create more content and optimize it for long-tail searches to dominate the SERPs!
Now let’s talk about a few ways to rank for the more popular terms that you just can’t seem to resist. And let’s do it without any ‘classic’ SEO.
2. Pay to reach the top of the AdWords search network
Now, you may be thinking, “Neil, my friend, my mentor, you do know that AdWords is not organic search, right?”
Well, just hear me out on this one, okay?
I’m going to start this one off with an example because it’s the only way to understand how truly effective this strategy can be.
So let’s fire up a search for “Best CRM.”
Here’s what the results page looks like:
It looks a bit different, doesn’t it? There’s not a single organic result until you scroll past the fold.
You’ve got four AdWords search network ads and a featured snippet from a single organic result.
It takes the user multiple steps just to reach the organic results and decide what to click on this SERP.
But something even more important jumps out at me here.
The keyword intent and the results that appear don’t line up.
Here’s what I mean.
Check out the first three ads:
They all talk about their own CRM and say that they’re the best in the industry.
That’s not surprising, necessarily. Everyone wants their products and services to be seen as the best.
But for this search, that’s a problem.
And more importantly, this is an opportunity for you to show up for that keyword.Here’s why.
What are people looking for when they type in “Best CRM?”
Are they looking for Salesforce or Zoho or Pipedrive right now?
No. They’re looking for a CRM comparison to see which one is the best. They want to consider their alternatives and options before deciding.
You can validate this by looking at the organic results, which all feature comparison articles and reviews.
Google wants to help the searcher find what they’re looking for as fast as possible.
That means the top organic results usually reflect the searcher’s intent.
So instead of looking for a branded PPC ad about one product being the best, a searcher is looking for CRM comparisons!
Now, do you remember those top 3 PPC results? They’re probably not getting any clicks because they’re not answering the searcher’s question.
The content doesn’t match the intent behind the search query.
But look at the 4th result:
If I were a betting man (which I am), I’d bet you that this low-domain-authority website is getting countless clicks for “Best CRM.”
I’d bet that this ad outperforms the ones above it.
This no-name site can rank with the big boys because they’ve done a better job matching keyword intent with their ad.
It’s practically cheating the system, and it works perfectly.
Now check out all of the traffic you have the opportunity to steal without competing for it head-on with massive brands in the organic rankings:
Instead of preaching about their product, the fourth ad lines up their content to look exactly like the organic results.
However, they show up before the organic results with no effort spent on link building.
You don’t need to organically rank for a keyword to get traffic for that keyword. Just remember to match the searcher’s intent and mimic the organic results to drive traffic.
3. Write more blog posts than your competition
What’s the downside of a long-tail keyword strategy?
You can’t stuff a bunch of random keywords onto the same page. You should still focus on one or two keywords per post, max.
That means you’re going to have to create a lot more content!
This is no great secret.
If you write more content, you’ve got a better shot at ranking on the first page of Google.
The more you write, the more pages get indexed, and the more traffic you bring to your site.
If you’re writing 5-10 posts a month, it’s still not enough.
Your competition and industry leaders are writing 16+ every single month.
You can’t reasonably expect to outrank a competitor or catch up to an industry leader by writing less, can you?
You need to write like your business depends on it. Because based on the information above, it does!
And it can’t be any old 500-word blog post that you slap together in an hour.
Here’s what the top content on Google looks like on average.
Everything on the first page of Google is over 2,000 words.
That means that you need to write more in-depth content that guides users through the process of solving their problems.
This content should be actionable and filled with images, examples, and step-by-step instructions.
Now is about the time when you start thinking, “How on Earth am I going to carve out time to write more?”
If that’s the case, maybe you need to hire someone.
The good news is that content marketing costs 62% less than other marketing mediums. All while generating 3x the number of leads.
If you want to start ranking for the top keywords, you need to produce valuable, unique content — and lots of it.
On top of that, you also need to optimize your content to generate the highest CTR possible.
Why? Because optimizing headlines and meta descriptions for searchers can result in a 10% increase in CTR.
And an increase in CTR means you’re on your way to ranking higher.
Here’s an example:
Why do you think this Search Engine Land post outranks the post below it?
Take a look at that headline!
Instead of a basic headline, they make you think about what you just searched.
It goes against the grain of normal, acceptable advice. It’s like a pattern interruption that causes you to stop what you’re doing.
Now you’re rethinking everything you once thought was true!
Here are a few powerful headline templates to try immediately to boost your organic CTR:
[ ______________ ] Using These 5 Strategic Moves
10 Quick Moves to [ ________________ ] and Increase Revenue
How I Used These 5 Moves to [ ____________ ]
Interested in more headline tips to increase your CTR and boost your rankings? Start with my in-depth guide on headlines.
4. Get reviewed and featured in round-ups
Sometimes, spending money on PPC ads to rank higher for keywords isn’t an option.
Spending too much time and money on creating long-form guides to rank for your desired keywords also may not be feasible.
Luckily, you can still get your name featured in top-ranking content! All while doing a fraction of the work.
Rather than having your official site placed on the top page of Google from AdWords or organic rankings, you can get featured in round-up posts with minimal time and effort.
Here’s what I mean:
Just go to Google and search “best SEO tools 2017”:
All the results are roundup-style posts in which the authors review and analyze the top tools.
It’s basically free advertising.
You can get your name out to thousands upon thousands of consumers a month who are clicking on those top-ranking posts.
For example, let’s click on the first result from PC Magazine:
They cover each SEO tool, providing reviews of each feature the tools have and then helping to prioritize them for everyone else.
Now, you can use these roundup-style posts to your advantage. Rank well on these posts, and you’ll get tons of traffic in return.
For example, thousands of people are already searching for “SEO tools.”
Then you can conduct outreach to have your tool featured in those comparisons.
And that traffic can be huge:
If you’re featured on all of the comparison posts that already rank on the top page, you’re going to get traffic from each one of those.
And this traffic will already be primed to buy from you.
A few simple outreach efforts can now save you years of grinding away in obscurity to get your brand in front of eager searchers.
No time, no money, and just a little effort can still get your brand in the top results.
If the deck is stacked against you in one game, just switch the game that you’re playing.
Showing up on the first page of Google is nearly impossible if you’re just starting out.
That’s harsh, but it’s also true.
Industry leaders who’ve been producing content for years dominate all of the best keywords and SERPs.
Many of them have been spending millions on big-budget ad campaigns, too.
So you can’t expect to rank first when you’re new.
The competition is already so far out ahead. They’ve been accumulating thousands of links and countless shares while this business was still a twinkle in your eye.
Their brands are well-established, and their authority is too high.
But you still need organic traffic to thrive and keep your business growing.
Thankfully, there are a few workarounds.
Try researching and producing content for long-tail keywords. The volume might be lower, but so is the competition.
Use sneaky tactics like PPC ads to rank above the organic results for an extremely popular ‘head’ keyword that you know you’ll never be able to rank for organically.
Try getting reviewed in roundup-style posts to get featured on top articles.
There’s plenty of unconventional methods to get your brand in front of the traffic that you crave.
You just have to get a little creative and understand that you might not always rank for the top terms.
But other methods exist to get similar results if you know where to look.
What strategies have you used to rank on the first page of Google?
Everyone understands that a good social media strategy is the holy grail for businesses; it molds the perception of a brand, carries the voice, creates the appeal, and as a result, increases revenue. There are a few fundamentals that can help enhance the strategy, but SEO, or search engine optimization, is hardly ever considered. Big mistake! Here’s why.
I’ll start by stating that social media and SEO are heavily tied to each other. SEO data can help improve your social efforts, and social media can help with the search rankings.
In fact, SEO data provides a bunch of information about your visibility and target audience: who they are, how they search for things, what keywords they’re using and what sites they’re surfing, not to mention the good old profiling data found in Google Analytics, SimilarWeb and SE Ranking.
Let’s dig in deeper.
As a growing brand and business investing a lot into social media appearance, you need to know what people are saying about your company or products. To find that out, you can use different monitoring tools such as Mention or Google Alerts. However, to set the alerts correctly, you need to understand which search terms are being used.
This is where SEO gets into the game. It’s important to determine the most frequent search queries related to your niche. This data helps interpret the social community’s most urgent concerns.
Often, the best insights come from discussions about your niche overall, but not a specific product. In other words, you need to search for the keywords you want to target in organic and paid search and use them to track social media awareness.
As soon as you discover these keywords, you can set alerts or manually do a daily search on various social networks like Twitter, Facebook and so on. Take a look at the example of the keyword “NASA” that’s set up as an alert in Mention:
A note to remember: Your social media success often depends on what’s “right”: right tools, right audience, right keywords, right time, right place.
I spy with my little eye
Sometimes we create our brilliant strategy ourselves — and sometimes we’re not inventing the wheel but using what’s already working. The wheel could be invented by a genius blogger you’re following or your competitor. Whichever the case, you can catch this success right on time to turn the spotlight on your business.
For example, you can use a URL shortener to discover valuable stats about a site. Using goo.gl, you can find the statistics on the clicks and understand which posts that competitors are sharing via their social networks are yielding the best engagement. Just put the link ID instead of the asterisk here: goo.gl/#analytics/goo.gl/*/all_time. For instance: https://goo.gl/#analytics/goo.gl/xv3dB/all_time
And review the following data:
Knowing what’s working provides you with the competitive edge you’ve been looking for.
Everyone knows that analyzing your competitors’ efforts and comparing their key performance metrics should be a “must-have” action for success. Decide who your direct competitors are, and which companies and online businesses have a similar audience with an effective content strategy. By analyzing how your product or brand ranks in your niche, you can easily set goals for your social media campaign.
The competitor research tool from SE Ranking helps you find the best competitors’ content and where it’s getting shared the most. Moreover, you can export that data and figure out which content works well on social media. This approach allows you to not only build your content strategy, but also improve your social media efforts.
A note to remember: The more competitor insights you gain by learning your industry leaders, the more chances you will have to improve your customer responsiveness and online brand visibility.
Trends and predictions
Google is making a lot of its enormous cache of data available to marketers through a variety of channels: Google Trends, Google Trends for Websites, Google Insights for Search, as well as via search tools like the Wonder Wheel. Before developing your social media strategies and promo activities, make sure to check these trends to identify what topics are hot for a specific period of time and throw the spotlight on your brand.
For example, if your online store is selling custom t-shirts, you can determine how to present the designs in a more fun and attention-grabbing manner. If you check Google Trends, you’ll see which topics or queries are most popular at certain times so you can modify your social media strategy based on this information. For example, with last year’s Pokémon Go boom in July, you could have thrown Pokémon images into your shared images and postings to help you promote t-Shirts.
(Fun fact: Pokémon Go was launched in July 2016 and saw some of the most amazing growth of the video game in history. The downloads surpassed 750 million.)
A note to remember: If you’re not staying on top of hot news, your competitors will.
Using SEO data gives you a good pivot point to start your social conversations. The data you get from it can help inform others. Watch out for what works well, and use that to find conversations on social media to grow your online business.