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!

Algorithm – Online Marketing Term of the Week

SEO algorithm diagramAlgorithm

  1. A process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.
  2. In SEO, the formula that search engines use to determine the ranking of websites on their results pages.

Which Marketing Channel Will Give You the Best Results? [Infographic]

This is a very interesting study performed by Conductor.  We often here people, even other marketers, touting that, “SEO is dead” or “Email is dead.” According to this study they are both alive and kicking!

The study examined four areas:

  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Paid ads (Paid Search and Paid Social Ads)
  • SEO

They also looked at metrics such as:

  • Which marketing channel gets the most visitors?
  • Which brings in the greatest amount of qualified leads?
  • Which channel gets the most customers?
  • Which sparks the best engagement?
  • Are there different effects on B2B and B2C companies?
  • Which channel has the highest ROI (Return On Investment)?

The results may not be the same for every industry or company, but you may be surprised at what was discovered.  View the results in the infographic below.

Best marketing channels in 2014Want to use the infographic for your blog? Get the original here: [Infographic] Which Marketing Channel Gets You the Most Bang for Your Click?

Why a Regular SEO Audit is Important for Your Website

Regular SEO Audit CycleA website audit or SEO audit is very similar to taking your car to get an oil change. You know you need to do it and it will help extend the life of your car. Your mechanic will change the oil, check the fluids, check the air pressure and more, but sometimes it can be a hassle. After all taking your car to the shop means being without it for a period of time, and who wants that! But it is a necessary process that has benefits in the end.

There are also lots of excuses for why not to do regular a SEO audit; you need to close that sale you’re working, training new hires or staying on top of customer service, whatever the reason, often the website audit gets postponed. Plus, many companies subscribe to the “do it once and forget it” plan, but just like your car an SEO audit is important part of a long-term success plan.

Want to see an example? We have one for you here: Download an SEO Audit summary example

5 Reasons Why a Regular SEO Audit is Important to Your Business

To put it simply an SEO Audit is a check-up for your website.  It means going through your current SEO strategies and measuring what has been successful and what has not. Then figuring out what needs to be fixed or improved.

Here are reasons why you need to complete an audit on a regular basis:

  • Webmaster Guidelines – These are constantly evolving and you need to make sure you are following their recommendations. If you are using webmaster tools from Bing of Google  they will even tell you where there are issues.
  • Algorithm Changes – Search engines periodically update their algorithms to provide better search results. The algorithms are how search engines measure where your site will show up in search results, so you need to make sure you keep up with the latest changes to make sure you are ranking well. In fact Google made 14 updates this year alone!
  • Link Profile – One thing that search engines are still relying on heavily are incoming links to websites. That means other sites that are linking to your site. You need to check this regularly because it can change often and being associated with bad sites can really hurt your ranking.
  • Outdated Content and Website Errors – This is one that many people miss. Outdated content can hurt your site not only for ranking, but visitors will see it is outdated and question if your business is up to date. You’d also be surprised at how often links break. Maybe caused an update to the site or something else. If people are not going to or staying on a page.. Fix it or remove it!
  • Benchmarking – Regular SEO Audits will show you your progress and give you a track record for what works and doesn’t work. Plus, looking at this on a regular basis means it will be easier to go back and undo tactics that didn’t work. Trying to go back several years to when you initially built your website would be much more difficult.

How often is “regularly”? That depends somewhat on your site. If you have a very active site or you have a lot to fix, a monthly SEO Audit might be necessary. The internet and online marketing move fast so you should perform an audit at least every 6 months.

Want to see an example? We have one for you here: Download an SEO Audit summary example

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!

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.

SEO is Not Dead, It’s Evolving

I came across a LinkedIn discussion today about SEO and if it is dying. Oddly enough I actually just had a discussion about this earlier today.

I’ve paraphrased my comment below, but you view the full discussion over on LinkedIn.

The thing is People have been predicting that SEO is dead for years, but just as before, good SEO’s will continue to follow SEO best practices and adapt to the new changes.

The recent changes are part of an evolution not the death of SEO. As the way people use the internet changes, the search engines need to adapt too. Google’s Panda and Penguin updates are an extension of an ongoing process to provide the most relevant search results.

Some of the major things they are fighting are the tactics that people use in order to “game” the search engines; Such as the link farms or creating fake posts on a hundred sites to point to one piece of real content, as well as copying from a reputable site and pasting it into another with the hopes to gain a better ranking.

As search and social are becoming more and more intertwined, neither can live in a vacuum. For example: Your social strategy should include your keywords, your search strategy should include social indicators and so on..

A good SEO professional will study the following:

  • Keyword research (how people are really searching to find products or services like yours)
  • Historical data (website analytics – how people arrived at your site and what they did there)
  • Social indicators (how people are engaging with your site)

Then combine  great content and SEO best practices (i.e. site structure, unique tags, etc.) using the data from the above areas and create a strategy that produces great content in a the best format as well as encourages engagement.

The bottom line though is content is, was and most likely always will be king. If you don’t have great unique content that is properly implemented, you will struggle to have success with search and social.

Those that look for ways around this or a quick fix by using questionable tactics are the ones that are dying, not SEO.

 

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.