The Importance Of A Search Engine Optimization Strategy To Marketing And Sales
While there are many components to an effective marketing strategy, each is focused on increasing the exposure of your company and promoting expertise. The goal of targeted Search Engine Optimization efforts is to increase the likelihood of your website’s content ranking high on search engine results pages.
A strong SEO strategy can help to generate more traffic to your website and exposing your company to more potential leads. The focus of SEO, however, shouldn’t be to only attract as many new visitors as possible, but rather, focus on increasing visibility to your target audience. As a result, the traffic you’ll generate will be of a higher quality and your visitors will be easier to convert into qualified leads. The better your leads are, the more likely they are to convert into customers, which will lead to more revenue over the long run.
It can’t be overstated how important it is to implement a strong SEO strategy, that becomes part of regular practices within your business. Without effective SEO, you’ll quickly find that all of your other online marketing efforts will fail to meet your expectations.
How Does Search Engine Optimization Work?
The purpose of Google (as well as other search engines) is to index the entire web’s content and to make it easy for users to find what they’re looking for. To do this, Google uses bots to crawl through every webpage on the Internet. Their bots inspect the code of each URL that they discover and then store and organize the content that they find in their index. Google then matches the content that they’ve stored in their index with their user queries based on the relevance of the keywords that were used as well as other algorithmic factors.
This is where SEO comes into play. To match user queries with search results that are relevant to what users are looking for, Google ranks the content that they index. Using various ranking signals, Google ranks each page based on the quality of the content and the domain, and its relevance to the user’s query. SEO is the process of optimizing your website, through technical and contextual tactics, so that it will rank as highly as possible for relevant search queries.
When a page ranks high, it means that it will show up further up on Google’s SERP (search engine results page). The higher your web pages rank, the more visible they will be to the users who performed the search. Obtaining high rankings is important because few users make it past the first page of search results In fact, most users will click on one of the top three results.
On-Page SEO vs. Off-Page SEO
Google ranks pages based on signals both on-page and off-page. This means that your SEO strategy needs to consist of both on-page SEO and off-page SEO tactics. On-page SEO refers to all optimization efforts that you can make directly to your website. For example, using relevant keywords throughout your content or in the URLs for each page. Technical SEO, such as making sure your website loads quickly and is user-friendly, is a form of on-page SEO as well.
Off-page SEO includes tactics that address ranking signals from outside of your website. For example, the backlinks that a page earns when a different website links to your website. Social signals, such as shares and likes, are also a form of off-page SEO, as are listings in local directories, such as Yelp or Angie’s List.
What Are Some Of The Seo Ranking Signals Used By Google?
The entire idea behind Google’s page rankings is to identify whether the content on the page it’s ranking is relevant to user queries and to determine whether the content is of high quality and helpful. Google’s goal is to deliver the best possible search results to its users, so its algorithm factors in a variety of different ranking signals that determine how relevant the content is and whether it’s of high quality or not.
While many of the ranking signals Google uses are known, what’s not known is the exact formula that Google uses to calculate its rankings. Google has revealed some of its ranking factors, but other ranking factors have been discovered via trial and error as well as extensive research over the years. For example, it’s become apparent that long-form content tends to rank much higher than short-form content. This was discovered by evaluating the top-ranked pages of SERPs in general over the years.
There’s a simple reason why Google doesn’t reveal its exact ranking formula — Google doesn’t want websites to focus only on creating content that addresses its ranking signals. It wants the content that’s created online to be created organically. Originally, Google’s algorithm was relatively simple but unfortunately, this made it easy to take advantage of. Many websites were able to trick Google into ranking their pages high on their SERP despite the fact that the content was incredibly low quality.
These are the factors that Google is known to take into account when ranking pages:
Google’s entire goal is to identify content that’s high in quality for its users, so the majority of the signals Google pays attention to help to determine the quality of the content. This means that first and foremost, you should focus on creating high-quality content for your target audience. If it’s of poor quality, Google will likely be able to tell due to the lack of ranking signals.
If a website isn’t properly optimized for mobile use, then it may have issues being correctly displayed on smaller screens, such as those on smartphones and tablets. Mobile users won’t enjoy trying to navigate your site and read your content if it takes a lot of effort to do so. Considering that over 45 percent of the world’s population owns smartphones and that upwards of 70 percent of web traffic occurs on mobile devices, optimizing your website (and your content) for mobile use is a good idea. In fact, one of Google’s last major algorithm updates turned mobile optimization into a major ranking signal. If your website is not optimized for mobile use, it will undoubtedly hurt your mobile rankings.
Backlinks from reputable websites are a big indication to Google that your content is not only good but that your website is a trusted source. Google assumes that a reputable website wouldn’t link to your website if this weren’t the case. The more quality backlinks you have, the better, but they do have to come from reputable sources. Backlinks from low-quality websites will be ignored by Google.
The more social signals a page has, the more Google will assume that people liked the content. Your content wouldn’t be shared, liked, or commented on if the reader (or viewer) didn’t find your content helpful or informative in some way. Because of this, it helps to share your content on your social media pages and to add social share buttons to all of the content you post on your website to help encourage social engagement.
Keywords are important because they make it easy for Google to accurately identify what your content is about so that they can index it correctly. Without proper keyword optimization, Google will be less capable of matching your content to its user queries and limit your potential visibility. Not only should you optimize the content on each page using relevant keywords, but you should also optimize your content’s headers, titles, page URLs, meta tags, meta descriptions, and images using those keywords.
Page Loading Speed
It’s estimated that most people expect a webpage to load within two to three seconds. If it takes any longer, they are more likely to abandon the page and potentially the website altogether. Website page loading speed not only affects the user experience, but it will limit the ranking signals that your page could have earned and hurt your page ranking as a direct result.
There are a number of signals Google pays attention to when determining the quality of a user’s experience on any given page. This gives Google more insight into the quality of the content. For example, longer dwell time indicates that people stayed on your page for a longer period of time. This means that they stayed long enough to read all of your content and not just a part of it. A high click-through rate is another metric taken into account by Google as it indicates that your content was good enough to convince visitors to click a link.
Website Security (SSL)
Google itself has stated that website security is a ranking factor, albeit a “light-weight” one. The reason website security is important is because it improves the user experience. The user experience will not be a good one if their personal data is stolen. Website security requires that you enable HTTPS, which delivers data secured using SSL (secure sockets layer) and TLS (transport layer security). This ensures that all personal data submitted to your website (such as customer names and credit card information) is encrypted.
The Challenges Of Search Engine Optimization
Ranking well in itself can be quite a challenge, even if you’re familiar with the ranking signals that Google uses. There’s a big difference between optimizing your website for SEO and optimizing your website for SEO successfully. There are many challenges that can prevent you from successfully optimizing your website for SEO. These challenges not only make it difficult to rank well, but they can actually hurt your page rankings as well. Here are some of the most common challenges of search engine optimization that you will need to be aware of and address as part of your SEO strategy:
Using Keywords That Are Irrelevant
Using the wrong keywords will not only limit the effectiveness of the content you created in generating and capturing leads, but it will hurt your rankings in the long run. Even if the keyword is helping bring in a lot of traffic, the wrong keyword will attract the wrong audience. By not matching the user intent, your content won’t be what the visitor was looking for. Not only will conversion rates be lower because of this, but the lack of engagement will limit your ranking signals.
Keywords Aren’t Competitive
Even if the keyword is relevant to the content it’s used for, if it’s not competitive, it won’t do you much good. Trying to rank for a keyword that’s extremely broad or that the biggest corporations in the world are ranking for is not going to increase the visibility of your content. For example, if you develop small business software, trying to rank for “small business” or “software program” will be ineffective. Long-tail keywords, which are more specific, are going to be easier to rank for.
Website Isn’t Properly Optimized For SEO
Businesses with a limited understanding of SEO may neglect proper website search engine optimization. Using keywords is an important part of SEO, but not the only part. You also need to encourage social engagement, earn backlinks, ensure that your website is technically sound, ensure a good user experience, and optimize a variety of other webpage elements using keywords.
Inability To Judge Performance
There’s no way to judge how your SEO strategy is performing unless you establish SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. With SMART goals in place, you will know whether certain SEO tactics are working or not and what adjustments need to be made to achieve your goals.
Use Of Blackhat Tactics
Blackhat tactics are used to fool Google into ranking a page high on their SERP using artificial rank signals. For example, one of the oldest black hat tactics in the book is to stuff a page with keywords. This used to work but no longer does. In fact, many black hat tactics will not only be ignored, but they can be penalized as well. Understanding what SEO practices Google will penalize is important so that you can avoid making them, whether on purpose or by accident.
The Components Of A Successful Long-Term SEO Strategy
Knowing what ranking signals Google uses to calculate its page rankings and what challenges often accompany SEO optimization efforts is one thing. Knowing how to actually implement an effective SEO strategy is another. SEO is much more than just adding keywords to your blog posts.
It’s important to note that Google is consistently updating their algorithm. You have to stay up to date with the changes that they continue to make as it could affect how you implement your SEO tactics. And even if Google’s algorithm never changed again, there’s no such thing as a short-term SEO strategy. In order for search engine optimization to be effective, it must be maintained long-term. The tactics that are critical to implementing a successful SEO strategy follow:
Identifying User Intent
To ensure that you’re using the right keywords to attract your target audience, you need to know who your target audience is first. Developing your buyer personas is the first step to doing this. It will be easier to identify and match your keywords to user intent once you have your buyer personas, which will make it easier to attract higher-quality traffic.
If you have your buyer personas, then it might seem like figuring out keywords should be a relatively easy process. However, extensive keyword research is necessary to not only discover more related keywords (which can also help give you content generation ideas) but also help you identify keywords that you can actually compete for in rankings and which will help generate high-quality traffic. There are many tools that you can leverage to perform thorough keyword research.
While good content will eventually earn some backlinks organically, you shouldn’t wait for that to happen. A good link building strategy can help you earn more backlinks to boost your rankings. In addition to promoting content on social media and building relationships with other businesses and influencers within your industry, consider implementing link building strategies such as complimentary link building and skyscraper link building as well.
A competitive analysis involves more than just researching direct competitors. It involves researching and analyzing the SEO strategies of companies within your industry who may not be competing directly with you. Competitive analysis can give you a better idea of where you stand within your industry as well as provide you with information about the SEO strategies that similar businesses are employing (as well as what they’re doing that’s working and not working). Competitive analysis is also an important part of keyword research.
Technical issues will not only hurt your visitor’s website experience, but they can also prevent Google from properly indexing your site. Making sure your website performs well (for example, pages load quickly and your links aren’t broken) is an important part of your SEO strategy.
While the performance of the website certainly has an impact on the overall user experience, so will various other elements, including the layout of each page, the aesthetic of your site, how easy the site is to navigate, and, of course, the quality of the actual content.
On-Page Search Engine Optimization
Using the keywords you identified during your keyword research, you will need to properly optimize each page of your site where appropriate, from the content published on your site to the URLs and meta descriptions of each page and more.
SEO is essentially the way that you connect audiences with your content. If your content is poor, your SEO efforts will be for naught. For your SEO strategy to be successful, your content marketing strategy needs to be effective. This means creating a variety of high-quality content for each buyer persona at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is essential for gaining social signals and for helping to increase awareness for your content and website, which can help you earn more backlinks. Social media marketing doesn’t just involve posting links to your content, it also requires that you engage with followers, develop relationships with influencers, and more.
Paid Digital Advertising (PPC)
Although paid advertising is a strategy for attracting non-organic traffic, it’s still essential to SEO. This is because PPC ads are a great way to test out how effective your keywords are before you begin using them to optimize your website. You can identify keywords that aren’t that effective at bringing in traffic or converting leads as well as those that are effective to help guide your keyword strategy.
Monitoring Your SEO Efforts
Because SEO is a long-term strategy, you need to monitor your SEO efforts to make sure that they are working. SEO requires a lot of time and resources to do it right, so the last thing you want to do is find out that you’ve been wasting time and resources on tactics that haven’t been working. By monitoring your SEO efforts using various analytics tools, you can make adjustments as needed to ensure as high of an ROI (return on investment) as possible.
Of course, monitoring your SEO strategy requires that you have something to measure the results against. It’s why establishing SMART goals is so important. Without SMART goals, you won’t be able to judge the performance of your SEO efforts, which means you’ll have no idea whether your SEO strategy is working or not. Once you have established your SMART goals, use some of these metrics to monitor your SEO efforts:
- Keyword Rankings – Your keyword rankings tell you how well you’re ranking for specific keywords. If you’re ranking extremely poorly, the keyword may not be relevant or competitive — or your content may not be good. There could also be technical issues tanking your rankings.
- Organic Traffic – Organic traffic provides a big picture view of your SEO efforts. If a page is obtaining a lot of organic traffic, it indicates your SEO efforts are working on some level. Pay attention to unique and returning visitors as well. If you’re getting a lot of returning visitors but not a lot of unique visitors (as well as vice versa), there may be an issue.
- Pages Per Session – Pages-per-session refers to the number of pages that a visitor explored on your website before leaving. If it’s low, it indicates a poor user experience. Generally, the more pages they visited, the more engaged they were. However, if it’s abnormally high (especially if the session duration was short), it may mean that they simply couldn’t find what they were looking for.
- Click-Through Rate – A low click-through rate indicates that the content has not met the visitors’ expectations or that your call-to-action is ineffective.
- Bounce Rate – The bounce rate refers to how many visitors left your page without engaging further (such as by clicking a link). A bounce rate that’s significantly higher than 55 percent indicates an issue with the page, such as a low loading speed or the use of keywords that don’t match the content.
- Page Speed – The page speed refers to how quickly a page loads. No page should take longer than three seconds to load.
- Referring Domains – Referring domains refers to where your backlinks are being generated from. Tracking referring domains can help you maintain some quality control (if you’re getting a significant amount of backlinks from a low-quality source, it can hurt your ranking).
- Top Exit Pages – Exit pages refer to the pages from which visitors are leaving your site. Some pages are meant to be exit pages (such as landing pages), some aren’t. Pages that aren’t supposed to be exit pages but have high exit rates may have issues that are causing people to leave (such as poor calls-to-action or technical issues).
- Pages Indexed – Pay attention to how many pages are being indexed. Compare this to the total number of pages on your site. If there’s a huge difference, then there’s an issue with your site architecture that’s causing Google to skip pages when crawling and indexing your site.
Successful SEO Is Dependent On A Long-Term Holistic Approach
Search engine optimization is essential to any online marketing strategy. Without SEO, you will have a difficult time improving the visibility of your organization using Google, and Google is not something that you can afford to ignore. With roughly 40,000 searches being performed on Google every second, implementing a long-term SEO strategy is essential to the success of your business.
It is also very important that your search engine optimization efforts aren’t an isolated strategy. The success of your SEO strategy isn’t just dependent on your efforts to optimize for on-page and off-page SEO, it’s also reliant on the success of your other marketing efforts, including your social media and content marketing strategies. Implementing an effective SEO strategy means a long-term holistic approach to online marketing is required.