A well-planned search optimization strategy will maximize visits to your site and blog.
Get Found to Get Results
This post is from our upcoming book tentatively entitled, Marketing Essentials for Small Business. The completed portions of the initial draft are temporarily available on this site via our new Free Content Library. Eventually, the book will be offered as a pdf, ebook and in hard copy. Parts 1 and 2 of the book are also available as a downloadable pdf in the Free Content Library. They cover the first two pillars of your content marketing strategy, your website/blog, and email marketing.
Now, let’s start learning how to use SEO bring the right eyeballs to your site.
If you have read my earlier posts, you have now learned how to use copywriting on your landing pages and posts in order to drive the actions you want visitors to take on your WordPress site and blog. But if no one gets a chance to see the media content on your blog you will not see any results. There are many ways to drive traffic to your site. The way most prospects who are not familiar with your business will find you is via search engine results (serps).
The Next Web has posted stats that show just how critical SEO is for your company:
- 80 percent of consumers search for a product/service before purchasing it
- 70 percent read online reviews before making purchase decisions
- 68 percent of consumers begin their decision-making while searching for a keyword
- Websites that blog regularly receive 55 percent more traffic and over 80 percent more leads compared to websites that don’t
- Over 70 percent of search clicks are organic
Because SEO is an aspect of content marketing that changes monthly, weekly or maybe daily, I will only cover the basics of search engine optimization here. The search optimization service, Moz, has some useful resources that are always up to date at http://moz.com/learn/seo. As of this writing in late 2014 I can also recommend the book, SEO Made Easy, by Evan Bailyn. This author has a great understanding of what you need to be doing with search optimization.
Let’s start with a few definitions:
- Keyword – an informative word used in an information retrieval system to show the content of a document. Searchers often combine them in keyword phrases. Hence, they are also known as search terms.
- Guest Blogging – writing blog posts for external blogs with a link back to your site’s content in the author biography.
- Hashtag – a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify the topic of social media messages.
- Algorithm – a process or set of rules followed in calculations that search engines use to determine their results.
- URL – uniform resource locator. Also known as URL address (what shows up in a browser’s address window).
- Backlink – an incoming hyperlink from one web page to another website.
- SERP – search engine result page.
Ranking factors for search engine results
The two factors that most impact your serps are external links to your content and your pages/posts titles.
If you want to use the major component of search engine ranking to drive traffic to your content, there is one single, but time-consuming thing you must do. You must create extraordinary media on your blog. Content that people will want to share with social media and link to on their website’s pages and posts. These are inbound links to your site from external websites, not links in your content to other sites.
Your content must provide real value to visitors and make their lives better. When other people link to and share your content, it shows Google and other search engines that your site is authoritative, trustworthy and useful. They will then feel comfortable recommending your posts and pages in their search results.
Acquiring quality links back to your site takes a long time to bear fruit. You must get them via shareable content if you want to show up at the top of the results for your keywords. You must post fresh content consistently and regularly. Longer posts show your expertise so make sure they are around 500 – 1000 words in length. Posts larger than this are hard to consume on mobile devices. This content must inspire people to link back to it from their sites. Moz has a tool, Open Site Explorer, which will show you who is linking to your site at http://moz.com/researchtools/ose/. You will need to paste individual page/post URLs into the tool for analysis.
Guest blogging on other websites is an excellent way to get links back to your site. But, the content of your guest posts must be just as good as anything you would put on your site. It must be unique content to the third-party’s site not something you have copied and pasted from your blog.
One thing you should never do is buy links. Ever. Google in particular only credits you for links from sites that do not sell links. If you buy links, Google will punish your rankings.
When visitors share your content on social media platforms, it is a social signal that your content is engaging and useful. Search engines include social signals in the algorithms they use to determine their rankings. Google Plus is crucial for this. Get on that platform and share your content.
Make sure to hashtag your posts. Also, be sure to add social media tags to your content, so its default social media messages look as engaging as possible when people share them. Social media audiences re-share tagged content more often than untagged content. The process of tagging varies from platform to platform so I will cover them in the individual social media platform chapters of this book.
As you may have seen in my posts on blog posts and landing pages, your title/headline is critical. It not only determines if visitors will read your content once exposed to it, the title also determines if they will find it in the first place. Refer to those chapters for best practices in title creation.
Put your keywords and keyword phrases in the title of your content and its metadata title (aka SEO title) as well. Keywords tell search engines what your content is about. Include the ones you want to rank for in your content itself and its meta description. They should be in the URL address of your posts/pages as well. Add them to your social media posts when you share your content.
You will need to research your keywords and choose the appropriate ones for your audience if you want to see results.
As we saw earlier in the book, you want to create “evergreen, cornerstone” content that your audience will find, link to and share for years to come.
The Content Marketing Institute (http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/) created this informative graphic to show the difference between seo-focused content marketing and social media focused content marketing. When you are writing your site’s pages and posts use seo-focused techniques.
While you should include search optimization techniques in your content, you do not want to write for Google. You want to write for your visitors. You must solve their problems, answer their questions and make their lives easier and better. Publish content that is within the context of what your audience thinks about when they search. They will then link to and share your content as enthusiastic brand ambassadors. And that is what will help your search rankings the most in the long run.
People increasingly find and consume content on their mobile devices. More and more often they are inputting their search terms via voice commands. So search engines are increasingly adjusting their algorithms to work with the way people speak. You want to make sure the way you write matches up with how visitors make their vocal searches.
Google, Bing, and Yahoo all have mobile apps for search. And there are many, many more apps and services that can link back to your site’s content. The more content you create and share the more these entities can find it and share it themselves.
Yelp, Foursquare, Google My Business (formerly Google+ Local), Yahoo My Local Business, Bing Places, Superpages, Citysearch and others are search engines that provide local results. They base these findings on the user’s location measured against a structured database of local business listings. If someone is looking for a cappuccino they want a coffee shop located within a few blocks not one in Tacoma, Washington.
If you have a physical location, you want to get listed under these services. Make sure you give the exact same contact information to all of these and that it matches what is on your site’s contact page. There are companies that can automate this process for you, and they are well worth the money. Look for them on a search engine with the keyword phrase “local search listing service”.
Search Engine Land recommends these five basics for local search optimization. I’m quoting:
- “Include City/ST in your title tag. Remember, the title tag is incredibly important for optimization, and including your city and state is an important signal for local relevancy.
- Include City/ST in your H1 heading. It doesn’t have to be the entire heading in and of itself — what’s important here is to include your city and state in the page heading to further show local relevancy.
- Include City/ST in your content. Far too many sites forget to include City/ST information inside the site content. Optimizing for local search won’t work unless you’re talking about your local area in your content.
- Include City/ST in your alt text on images. It’s amazing how many times we see sites that don’t include alt text. Remember, Google can’t see what’s in your images, so alt text helps provide a better understanding of your page content. Including City/ST information can really help boost local relevancy.
- Include City/ST in your URL. If you’ve got the ability to edit your URL structure, try to include your city and state information in your URLs. Again, this can go a long way toward providing a stronger local signal to both customers and Google. Important Note: if you’re going to update your URLs, don’t forget to set up 301 redirects so that the old address is permanently pointed to the new one.”
Tech Design Studios has published this interesting information about consumers’ top sources for local information. Again, I’m quoting:
- “82% use search engines (such as Google, Yahoo, or MSN).
- 57% use Yellow Pages directories.
- 53% use local newspapers.
- 49% use Internet Yellow Pages (such as yellowpages.com or superpages.com)
- 49% use TV.
- 38% use direct mail.
- 32% White Pages directories
Of those surveyed, 50% said search engines (such as Google, Yahoo, or MSN) were the first place they looked when seeking a local business, while only 24% chose the Yellow Pages directories.”
Should you use paid search to promote your content? It depends on your business and the industry you are in, but the answer is probably yes. But, you have to be strategic and competent with it to avoid wasting a lot of money. I recommend using a service that specializes in paid search for any paid advertising campaigns. You might try running Google Adwords campaigns as a test for which keywords and keyword phrases bring in the most traffic. Then you can optimize your site for them and stop running the Adwords campaigns.
Schema markup is an advanced technique for adding code to your content that tells search engines about your location, products, events, videos, authorship and more. It was developed by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to provide consistent search results across their services. More information is available at http://schema.org. Most small businesses will need professional help with this.
After you optimize your content for search there is one final thing you must do, use analytics to see if it works. You want to measure and analyze what works in driving traffic to your site and do more of it. You also want to see what does not work and stop doing that.
Let’s keep this short and sweet. Follow the techniques and tactics in this post and your marketing content will be seen by more people and your business will grow as a result of it. Please let us know if you have any questions and if we can help drive more traffic to your site via content marketing.