SEO is a Strategy NOT a Tactic: Part 3 in a 3 Part Series

seo is a strategy not a tactic

This is the third installment of a three-part series about how SEO needs to be thought of as a strategy, not just a tactic.

SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, compared to 1.7% for outbound leads (Imforza)

It is critical that you optimize any content you put online. Otherwise, you end up with the old adage, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there, did it make a sound?”

I know I sound like a broken record, but I’ll say it again: Your SEO team should be involved from the very beginning! Otherwise, it’s like throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping it sticks.

Search engine optimization, the thing that many people like to call a mythical, magical thing, really is not so magical if you know where to look for clues.
That is the third reason why SEO needs to be included at the beginning of a project.

3. The results don’t lie! Analyze the SERPs to see Google’s real ranking priorities

Think about it. Digging into the search results to see what types of content is ranking well will lead to a better understanding of what is important to Google’s algorithm. Understanding this is the only way your content will earn a high ranking. Marketers need to understand what is important for their vertical, niche, demographic so that their content has a chance of ranking well. Otherwise, we’re back to the spaghetti analogy.

By comparing what types of content that rank including, factors such as, backlinks, load time, post date, types of visualizations or content form marketers can understand what is most important for a solid search ranking. For example:

  • For your keyword, the search results page is filled with images, infographics, videos, and diagrams. Then searchers for that term prefer visual content.
  • If the results are dominated by comprehensive case studies, text with 2,000+ words. Then users are looking for in-depth long-form content.
  • When the majority of results are videos, then, you guessed it, searchers prefer video.
  • Do maps come up as the first result? Then users are really looking for a location.

I could go on, but I’ll leave it at that. The point is, your SEO team can provide this information to you at the beginning of the project. That way you don’t waste valuable time and effort trying to rank for content in forms that people aren’t interested in seeing.

Hopefully, after reading all three tips you better understand why SEO needs to be included at the beginning of a project rather than later. So for your next content project, invite your SEO team to the initial strategy meetings. This will make sure you are heading in the right direction right from the start.

Need help with your content marketing process? We can help!

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SEO is a Strategy NOT a Tactic: Part 1 in a 3 Part Series
SEO is a Strategy NOT a Tactic: Part 2 in a 3 Part Series

SEO is a Strategy NOT a Tactic: Part 2 in a 3 Part Series

seo is a strategy not a tactic

This is the second installment of a three-part series about how SEO needs to be thought of as a strategy, not just a tactic.

73% of in-house marketers and 76% of US agencies said SEO provided excellent or good return on investment (ROI). (eMarketer)

How do you create an SEO strategy that achieves “excellent or good ROI”? By building SEO into the beginning of every content project, not at in the middle or even worse at the end of the project.

As I said last time, Your SEO team should be involved from the very beginning! This is the only way you will be able to create remarkable content marketing campaigns.

Here is the second reason why SEO and keyword research are so important.

2. Keyword research defines what content to use

Search engines have become much better at understanding user intent. What this means is they can better assess what it is that the searcher is really looking for. Marketers can use keyword research to understand where searchers are in their purchasing journey, what information they need, and what type of information they want to see.

  • Where are searchers in their buyer’s journey?
    Broad keywords that give searchers an intro to a high-level category of results are often used for searchers that fall into the “awareness” stage. Think “shoes.” This a stage where they may not really need shoes, but they are thinking about what is out there. Where more specific keywords typically fall into a stage that is later in the journey. Searchers know they have a problem and they are looking for a solution. Or in this case they know they need new shoes and they know what type of shoe they want. For example, “brown leather hiking boots.”  
  • What information do searchers need?
    Keywords that produce results the include how-tos or basic understanding of a topic are typically being used for a learn intent. Or to gain knowledge. However, if the search results offer product comparisons, branded pages or pricing, then the usually the goal of the search falls into purchase intent.  
  • Who is searching for the information?
    Understanding who needs the information will help marketers build a search strategy for content marketing around personas that match the way people search. For keywords that produce in-depth, highly technical search results, then the audience is most likely people who are working with the products or data. If the search results are a higher level strategy or business ideas, the audience is likely executives or business owners. For example, “specs for Windows laptops” compared to “profitability Windows laptops.”

Doing this kind of keyword research up front will help develop a content marketing calendar that is detailed, is aligned with your business goals and provides direction for content before it is written. Content will then include the relevant information, target the right audience at the right point of their journey and remove the wasted time and effort it takes to fix content after it has been produced.

Next time we’ll talk about how combing through search results pages reveals ranking priority and the most popular ways people are digesting content.


return on investment roi

SEO is a Strategy NOT a Tactic: Part 1 in a 3 Part Series

seo is a strategy not a tactic

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is often thought of as a strangely mystical practice that many people, including marketers, don’t understand. It then becomes an afterthought. The thing is though it is just a strategy that starts with the question, “what are people searching for online?

Keyword research is instrumental in answering this question. It can help determine who your real audience is, where they are in their buyer’s journey, help you discover what information people are really searching for and what formats they like the best. This will help you develop a better more effective content strategy.

SEO is the number one lead-generating source reported by inbound marketing professionals. You should be thinking about search every time you create content! 

Once you understand that the next question you might ask yourself is when do I need to start the process. There’s an easy answer to this too. As soon as possible!

Too often companies wait until too late to get their SEO team involved in content projects. Then it either creates more work because copy needs to be rewritten or it is not effective because not enough consideration was taken when creating content and campaigns. Your SEO team should be involved from the very beginning.

I’ll say it again. Your SEO team should be involved from the very beginning! And here is the first of 3 reasons why. We’ll talk about the other two later in the series.

1. SEO should drive content not be a fluffy decoration that is nice to have.

When you wait until a campaign is developed or a new page is created to consider SEO, it becomes a decoration, not a driver.

When you’re looking for ideas for your content calendar you want to answer questions that your visitors ask. Yes, questions or issues that come from support or your sales team may be good topics to address, but are they really what people are looking for digitally? Online content that has SEO value needs to be developed based on the questions that people are asking, you guessed it, online.

Developing an effective content strategy starts with keyword research. This will give you insight into what your audience wants, needs and questions for which they are searching for answers. The keyword research process helps marketers brainstorm to come up with content ideas, create effective copy the first time and find plenty of ideas to fill their content calendar.

There is, however, one caveat to this one. You do need some direction from your business objectives before starting. Your SEO team will need to understand what you would like to accomplish. Are you trying to sell more product, teach people a new process, etc. For example, if you sell carpet and your keyword research shows that a lot of people are searching for “chairs” is this really helpful to your content strategy? A better scenario would be if you have a new product coming out that is great for offices and if the SEO team is up to speed they will know to look for what office managers are searching for when they think about flooring.

Make sure to involve your SEO team in the very beginning when you are building your marketing strategy. This will keep them close to the business objectives and provide deep insight into what people are looking for online.

Next, we’ll talk about how keyword research should define your content.


Need help with your keyword research and content strategy? We can help!

Do You Know What Keywords Your Target Audience REALLY Uses for Search?

I often have this conversation with clients and potential clients.

The client will usually say something like, ” We don’t want to target (insert keyword here), because that’s not what people in our industry use when they search.”

There are many reason’s why this person might say this. Sometimes it’s because they’re too close to their work. Maybe they are only thinking of how people “in the business” talk and not how people search for products like theirs.

A great example is a recent project we were working on for a staffing firm. The company was strongly against using the word “temp” or “staffing.” as keywords. They said we could get away with using “temporary”, but definitely not “temp”.  His reason was something along the lines of people aren’t looking for staffing anymore, they are looking for employment and employees. Not temp workers because “temp” has a bad connotation.

When this discussion came up, I went to my tool set to find out the truth about search. Here’s what I found.

temp vs agency vs staffing

This graph shows you the amount of times people have searched on the five terms on the left comparatively over time. Looking at the data, you can see they were definitely right about  “employment agency.” People are definitely searching for this, but look a the trend and the two surprises: “staffing services” and “temp agency.” As “employment agency” has dropped off in the last few years “temp agency” has dropped then grown again from 2011 until now. “Staffing services” has held steady for almost the last 10 years. And look at “temporary agency.” It goes from bad to worse, well actually to the worst.

In the end we settled on using “employment agency” and “staffing services.” I wasn’t able to convince them to use “temp agency” on their home page, but we did use it on some lesser pages.

The lesson here is don’t let your preconceived idea of what you think people search for take away opportunities for keywords you can use to bring in traffic.

 

 

Onsite SEO – Best practices. What You Don’t Know Could Hurt You

In our post Ready, Assess, Fire, Aim – Laying the Groundwork for Online Marketing we looked at your current online presence: Your Home Base. We asked you to answer the following questions.

  • Do you have a website?
  • Do you or your organization have full control this site?
  • Do you have access or do you have someone (this could be you, a team, department, consultant or consulting firm, etc.) that can quickly update your website?
  • Do you currently track what happens on your site? (i.e. Google Analytics, Omniture, etc.)

In this post we are assuming that you have a website where you are able to make changes.

Onsite SEO Diagram

Many times we see websites that are beautifully designed, but the designers either neglected SEO completely or they may even be doing things that go against simple best practices. We’re going to look at some basics.

Here are some general things that you need to look at for SEO best practices.

Meta tags: These are snippets that are in your website’s code that tell browsers what to display where and search engines take notice of them. It is surprising how many companies, even marketing agencies, misuse these tags.  The following is a list of the most important tags.

  • Title Tag: This is what you see along the top of your browser. Many of the new browsers cut this off because of the way they use tabs, but if you hover of the tab you can see the full title. It also shows up as the first line in the search results page.
    • You should create an informative title that includes keywords.
    • Avoid duplicate page titles, so each page should have a unique title.
    • The character limit for title tag is 70 characters as this is the number of characters shown on the search results page.
    • Example: Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword |Brand Name
      SEO Services – Search Engine Optimization | Blackbird e-Solutions
    • Example: Brand Name | Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword
      Blackbird e-Solutions | SEO Services – Search Engine Optimization
  • Meta Description Tag: This is the description of the page that shows up in SERPS and should entice people to click on your link.
    • It should be between 150 and 160 characters. Search engines will truncate anything longer and if it is too long you could be docked by the search engines as well.
    • Concentrate on one to three keywords in this tag. Many people try to dump as many keywords in as possible, but Google and company look at this as keyword stuffing.
    • Let me stress again it should entice people to click on your link in search results.
    • Avoid duplicate descriptions:  I.e. each page should have a unique relevant description.

meta-description and meta-title

  • H1 Tag. This is the main header that you see on the page. It should include your keyword and main subject of the site. There is no limit on this, but dumping in a bunch of keywords will get you in trouble.

You might notice that I did not mention the Keyword Meta Tag, that’s because it is essentially irrelevant now. Historically people have used this tag to try to game the search engines, so the major engines ignore it. Below is a video from Matt Cutts, Google’s authority on web spam, talking about meta tags.

Now that you know that basic meta tags you should look at, next time we’ll look at some tools to evaluate this and many other parts of your website.

Want to the whole series to be delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for the free series Killer Online Marketing for 2013!

Google Offers Virtual Tours of Its Data Centers

Google has recently opened the doors (virtually of course) to it’s infamous data centers. Now you can see where your bits, bytes and gigabytes are traveling when you search for something on Google.com, watch a YouTube Video or send an email through Gmail.
From the virtual tour:

When you’re on a Google website (like right now), you’re accessing one of the most powerful server networks in the known Universe. But what does that actually look like? Here’s your chance to see inside what we’re calling the physical Internet.

The virtual tours were unveiled on Wednesday and feature images from Google’s data centers in the United States, Finland, and Belgium. Later Google’s Street View will share virtual tours through their data center in North Carolina.

This is a great chance to see what’s behind Google’s  curtain and whoever coined the analogy that the internet is series of pipes.. Well guess what, at Google it is!

Check it out! Google Data Centers

Google Data Center Pipes

Does Search Traffic Show a Decline in the Power of TV Commercials

retro tvI’ve been working on an SEO project for a client that has a variety of websites. One aspect the project entails going through multiple sites and making sure they are following onsite SEO best practices. Keywords include product names, brand names as well as other related phrases. Many of the sites have a page of videos with their latest TV ads. So, I was curious to see the trend comparison between “tv ads” and “tv commercials.” Basically to see if one is a more important keyword phrase than the other. What I found was quite interesting.

For a long time we have heard that online marketing is replacing TV marketing. There are plenty of people on both sides of this argument. If you look at the chart below, you’ll see that from 2004 to September 2012 there has been a steady decline in Google searches for both keyword terms.

What does this tell us? Does it tell us that less people care about tv ads? Does it mean tv commercials are making less of an impact? Maybe that TV in general is on the decline.

What do you think? Share your opinion in the comments.

Don’t Fall for Automated Reputation Management Services

So this totally sounds like a scam. The fact that Mashable posted this makes me lose a bit of respect for them as well. This is the title of the post on Mashable:

Change the Top Google Search Result for Your Name for Free

This is supposedly a service from Norton. Norton can’t guarantee what will show up in SERPS for your name by simply putting your name into a form created by Norton, unless it is paid advertising. There are something like 6 or 8 people with the exact same name as me in the US. What if we all sign up for this service? Who gets to be on the top then if there is no money involved? Using ‘Todd Wasserman’ is a poor example if for no other reason than the fact that he is a writer for Mashable.

Furthermore the article referenced about “me on the web” is very misleading as well. Google doesn’t offer a service to get your name at the top of search nor does it offer a service to remove content that they don’t control. Here is a quote from “me on the web”:

“Google doesn’t own the Internet, and we don’t control the content of unrelated sites that appear in our search results. Our search results simply reflect what’s already out there on the web.” You can read more about this by searching “Keeping personal information out of Google.”

They even go further to say that it can only be removed from their results when the problematic content is removed from the internet (i.e. removed from the site where it is found).

So, don’t fall for “services”  like this. The best way to fight unwanted information online is to either contact whoever has posted it and ask them to remove it. Or take control of your online brand by setting up profiles on the major social media platforms, create a blog or website. Then, create interesting content. This will help bring your name to top and push down the competition and unwanted results.

Need help? We can help you create a strategy.  Leave a comment or contact us directly.

Is “Social Media” More Important Than “SEO”?

Today another local marketing firm post an interesting statistic on Facebook. It was about the graph below where Google Trends shows how “social media” is now search on more than SEO and they implied that because of this, we should be spending our money on social media instead of SEO.

Although this is an interesting phenomena, I’m not sure it is directly related to where people should spend their marketing dollars. Although I do believe social media is becoming ever more important, it’s a fallacy to think SEO is becoming less important. In fact I believe one can’t live without the other. A better way to judge this would be a comparison of the traffic to search engines and/or number of search queries in general, compared to the traffic and other usage metrics related to social media.

Don’t get me wrong social media is definitely a powerful tool, and if you’re company is not involved in it already.. it probably should get started. However, social media in itself does not eliminate the need to have a properly configured website that follows SEO best practices.

Plus, using Google search trends to determine the SEO (The process used so that one’s website is found in search) is a cyclical argument.

89% of Paid Search Traffic is Not Replaced by Organic Search

A Google Study Says: 89% of Traffic Generated by Search Ads is Not Replaced by Organic Search:

Um isn’t that obvious??

I just read a post by Avinash Kaushik over on Google+ (Yep I’m on Google+ as well: Bryan Coe), about the use of PPC versus Organic Search. He was specifically talking about a study by Google where they found Studies Show Search Ads Drive 89% Incremental Traffic. Basically what the study is saying is that if you are running PPC ads and you stop them, you will see an 89% drop in traffic. By “overall” they mean the combination of clicks due to organic search results and PPC ads.

ppc management one piece of the puzzleIn my opinion this is a trivial study? Because if you are already ranking very well for keywords organically (ie #1 or maybe #2), would you target them with PPC? My guess is no. Google and others have done studies to show how quickly the percentage of clicks drops as you go further down the list.

So, by using PPC with keywords for which you are unable to grab the top spots, you can augment your traffic. And let’s face it, for most sites the list of keywords where you rank #1 is much smaller than the list you would like to target.

Therefore, it seems to me quite obvious that your over all clicks would be greatly reduced when ads are paused.

Avinash pointed out that the study was structured to show the empirical data behind my assumption that advertisers are not targeting keywords for which they are ranking well organically.

But really the study does not address this. It only makes an assumption about the “Incremental Ad Clicks” or IAC being low when advertisers use keywords in their PPC list where they are also ranking highly organically.

“A low value for IAC may occur when the paid and organic results are both similar and in close proximity to each other on the search results page. This increases the likelihood of a user clicking on an organic result as opposed to a paid result.”

The study would be more accurate if it looked only at these keywords. Comparing PPC keywords that you pay to be in the top positions to all keywords regardless of where they rank organically skews the data towards a dramatic conclusion. I think the idea that removing your PPC ads is going to give an 89% drop in clicks is a shock factor.

To put it simply, if you are going to use the PPC you need to evaluate the cost of buying a click vs. the profit it gains. If you are pay too high a price for your clicks then it is not a profitable model. Plus, if you are ranking well for certain keywords, you probably don’t want to target them with PPC.

Now, what goes into that evaluation? You can use this study to evaluate keywords that you are ranking highly for organically compared to the same keywords that you are paying to get a high ranking via PPC. For keywords that are not doing as well organically or maybe that are not on the radar at all on the organic side, then you need to look more directly at the cost per click as apposed to the value of the click.

The main point is that using PPC Advertising can do a great job to augment your organic search, but you have to evaluate if it is the best value for your company.