What SEO is, and How it Works
Is SEO the right choice for you? The benefits of search engine optimization for your company, and how the process works.
What is SEO?
In order for a business website to be an effective marketing tool, it must do two things: Attract and Convert.
Search Engine Optimization is one way to handle the Attraction side of things. It is a strategy that focuses on getting more people to come to your website as a result of searching for something relevant to what you offer.
Benefits of SEO
- 1. It attracts natural, “organic” traffic.
- 2. People are already searching for what you offer – if they are not finding you, then they are finding a competitor.
- 3. Organic traffic generally converts better and has higher value than paid.
- 4. It increase brand awareness, and can help increase market share.
- 5. Ranking well on search engines such as Google and Bing can help serve as PR for your company.
- 6. You have a lot of control over the types of visitors and leads you attract, since you control the content.
How SEO Works
The job of a search engine is to provide the user with the information they have requested.
One of the biggest challenges is accurately interpreting the intent behind the search, and the user’s ultimate goal.
The second step is to match this request with the most relevant content available.
The goal of search engine optimization is to make it as clear as possible to both search engines and human readers what your content is about.
This is accomplished through writing quality content, applying metadata to categorize it, and a variety of supporting contextual elements.
Business Goals for SEO
- • Lead generation – Content marketing (a big part of SEO) generates over three times as many leads as outbound marketing and costs 62% less.
- • Brand awareness – More people will learn about your company thanks to increased exposure.
- • Establish expertise and thought leadership – Show what you know, and build relationships with prospects based on trust.
- • Supporting other marketing channels (gain subscribers for email marketing, having content for social post links which are proven to be popular and relevant)
SEO Content Marketing
Content marketing refers to producing articles, video, or other media that educates your customer demographic and allows you to begin building a relationship.
SEO is essentially positioning your content in such a way that search engines can easily understand what it is about (and how authoritative it is) so that it will be shown to the right people.
More on how this works below.
Investing in Content Marketing
According to a May 2019 survey by Ascend2, an 87% majority of marketing influencers report that the total budget (time, resources and expenses) for content marketing engagement is increasing.
Effective Use of Resources
Writing content can be a challenge. It takes time and energy, so of course the goal is for this investment to pay off.
You probably already know that it you should be creating new content for your website in order to earn more organic traffic. This is one method of inbound marketing, and can be a very effective way to attract new customers.
However, most content does not achieve this goal – roughly 90% of web pages earn no traffic from search engines (according to a study by AHREFS).
The Content Gap
The main problem most companies face with creating content is usually one of these two:
- 1. They do not know what to write about, or how to get started, so they don’t do anything.
- 2. They DO write, but the content is not created with the actual reader in mind, and therefore the company does not see worthwhile results.
The first is simply lack of a system, and the second is referred to as “The Content Gap”. It describes the general fact that people are not searching for your relevant services, products, or topics with the same language that you write about it. Your industry lingo and years of expertise can work against you, if no research is done to see how your customers and the general population seek the information you can provide. So, how do we fix this? How do we achieve a worthwhile return on the investment of resources?
The Content Gap Solution
INTENTIONALLY creating content, rather than feeling pressure to write about something random just to check “publish blog post” off the list for this week.
Use research and data to better understand what your audience is actually looking for. This will help your brand provide value and establish relationships more effectively.
Proper research includes not just looking at keywords and the language used by your customers, but also understanding their awareness level and intent. Simply put, you want to match the language they are naturally using.
Be brave like this Iguana – bridge the gap! Live another day! Achieve your wildest dreams… or at least more traffic.
Give the people what they want
What are searchers for a particular phrase looking to achieve?
If you run a plumbing business in Georgia, then the search phrase “plumber in Athens, GA” may seem like an obvious fit. However, someone making that query could easily be looking for a job in that field and location, necessary permits for remodeling a building, or even a hardware supply store.
Determine what your actual customers and prospects would search for, and create content catering to that.
One of the hardest parts is then actually writing a lengthy article or post.
Below are some of our recommendations:
- • Be thorough – Describe the common problems your customers face around each topic, so they know you understand what they are dealing with.
- • What questions do they have? Be informative, educational, and helpful. Take them from perhaps feeling overwhelmed to somewhat confident about how to deal with the task they have at hand.
- • Discuss general options they have for the given situation, then when and why what you offer is the best (which type of situations you know you can help with).
Branded, Solution, and Pain Point Searches
There are many types of searches people make when they seek information.
From a business perspective, here are the most common:
People looking specifically for your company – probably very few when your business is new, but this should increase over time (often from offline events, ironically).
- • Example – “Acme Plumbing Athens, GA”
- • The Good – The upper crust of relevance, typically signifies intent to purchase or contact. Very easy to rank well for, unless a much larger company has a similar name. Could also be existing customers, vendors, or business partners.
- • The Bad – Generally low in volume, unless you are a household name brand. Could also be competitors.
Your website should be the #1 result for a branded search.
Everything on page 1 should be relevant, meaning your social media profiles*, directory listings, press, media articles, and anything else talking about your company.
*The company social profiles, not your personal, although for a new business simply listing your job as being at your company may rank near the top for a while).
Claim Your Territory
Some results may be relevant but undesirable, such as bad reviews. Generally, the best thing to do is address them head-on by replying directly.
Be truthful and genuine, even if the review seems to be fake.
Public Relations is outside the scope of this article – our advice is to create additional positive content to push any negatives to page 2, to reduce visibility.
Another common situation is that a company with a similar name is taking up a lot of the results. Same tactic – push them down! Here’s how:
- • Branded Search ads – run a Google / Bing ad targeting keywords with your brand name.
- • Get listed in more directories that are popular, and likely to show up
- • Images and Video results
- • FAQ Schema (more on this later)
Example of a branded search ad, which will show up at the very top of the results:
Example of Image and Video results, which can take up a lot of space and sometimes shows up on page 1:
Know what they need, looking for a provider
- • Example – “Plumber near me”
- • The Good – Solid relevance, still typically signifies intent to purchase or contact. Higher volume than branded, depending on your industry.
- • The Bad – Harder to rank for, especially if there is a lot of competition. You won’t be the right fit for everyone, but neither will all of these searches be right for you. Could also be existing customers, vendors, or business partners…. Looking for an alternative
Problem or Pain Point Searches
Have a problem, not sure how to solve it.
- • Example – “bathtub not draining”
- • The Good – Could be very high search volume for common problems. This is an opportunity to establish your company as being friendly and helpful.
- • The Bad – Some relevance, but usually the intent is to learn what options there are for mitigating the problem, and determining how serious it is (DIY fix, or hire a pro?). Unlikely to lead to an immediate sale.
Pro Tip: It is often much easier to rank a YouTube video on Page 1 of a Google search result than a written article on your website. The reason is that Google features YouTube content (same parent company), and far fewer videos exist on most topics than articles. They generally show at least one video, sometimes several, when a search matches available content.
Example below: Searching for “seo tips” showed this selection from YouTube toward the bottom of page 1 on the results (all result types, not video search).
Modern Search Results
The days of having 10 clean, simple website results on page 1 of a search are long gone.
Take a look at this annotated screenshot below. As you can see, there are only 8 actual website results, but a lot of supplemental information.
Google’s main goal is not to send traffic to your site. Their goal is to help people find information and answer questions. The ever-changing style and type of results you see are evidence of this ongoing quest.
Alright, now that we’ve covered how search works and why your business should invest in it, let’s move on to the actual search engine optimization best practices:
From your keyword research, select a primary phrase to focus on. You can also have secondary phrases, but they should be closely related to the primary.
Do not try to have multiple pages aim for the same phrase! This is called keyword cannibalization and will likely backfire. Having multiple pages great, but they should be focusing on different topics.
Long Form Content Wins
Concentrate your effort, thoroughness, and word count into a single page rather than splitting into smaller pages for that particular topic. This will help you outrank other pages from competitors.
It’s commonly cited that the top 10 results for Google searches have an average of ~2,200 words, yet most content writers struggle to get past a few hundred.
We are seeing a trend towards websites with fewer, longer pages ranking above site with many tiny pages. There are factors other than length and word count though.
Make sure your content is relevant and useful, or at least interesting.
Awareness & Intent
For each target query, consider the intent behind that search. What is their goal? They may be ready to purchase and are now looking for the right solution (high purchase intent) or simply looking for more information (low purchase intent).
Go for shareable / linkable topics when possible – what would third parties be interested in or find value in linking to?
Quality > quantity
Who are you? What makes you qualified to write on your chosen topic?
Answering these questions in your bio will help establish what Google refers to as “E-A-T” (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness). List your degrees, qualifications, certifications, and experience so that readers can see you know your stuff!
Search Engine Journal has some actionable advice on improving your E-A-T score.
Quality > quantity (notice a theme?)
Do. Not. Buy. Links.
Link Strategy Goals
Generaly speaking, the more links to your site, the more perceived authority it will have.
However, they need to be links from quality sites, and not just a bunch of spam.
If that wite or linking page is related to your topic, even better.
1. Domain Authority, which makes it easier to rank well for more competitive terms.
2. Referral Traffic
Some links will be primarily for one or the other, but every bit helps.
Level 1 – Tell the Internet You Exist
A legitimate company, even one that is not technical in the least, can have some basic indicators of existence.
Occasionally, we’ve audited the web presence of a new or tiny company, and there are virtually no relevant results when searching for their brand name. If you have a website, ideally that should be the top result for a Branded Search.
- Google Business (which populates Google Maps)
- Social Media company profiles (Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube)
- Resource: How to Create a LinkedIn Company Page
Most of these will have a spot to put your website. Make sure you fill that out, since it will help push your site ahead of these other entries in branded search results.
Level 2 – Content Distribution
Social Media, including LinkedIn
Medium, Quora, Reddit
Forums and similar communities are not as popular as they used to be, but can still help
Self Hosted Events (webinars, seminars, etc) – EventBrite, Facebook, local publications, office building newsletter
Level 3 – 3rd Party Mentions
Larger Events- Public speaking, trade show booth, sponsorships where they link to you.
- Resource: Earned Media Guide
Doing something notable to get Industry leaders / influencers to talk about you.
Technical Considerations (on page SEO)
Site should be easy to use:
- Cross device support (desktop, phone, tablet)
- Easy to navigate and find what you want quickly
- Compels visitors to take action
Titles / Heading Tags
These should closely match popular search phrases, but still read in a natural way.
Titles show up in your browser tab, and are also used in search results.
Heading Tags (H1-H6) are used to provide hierarchy and structure to your content.
You will want to interlink your related articles, in order to build topic authority. Use anchor text with descriptive ideal phrases, which helps both people and search engine crawlers understand what they will find there. This is more of a contextual clue, and not really a major ranking factor, which AHREFs showed to be largely myth.
The site should be secure, especially if you accept payments directly.
Metadata / Schema
In order for search engine crawlers to understand what you site is about, it is important to provide a variety of “metadata”. This helps Google/Bing/etc categorize your content and connect relevant searchers with your site.
- Specifically for question and answer style content
- Can help you take up more space in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages)
How To Schema
- Specifically for tutorial content
- Business entity
Fix Any Basic Website Issues
Start with what you have. If your home page is lacking, start there. Make sure it passes the “5 second test”, meaning that with no prior knowledge of your business, someone can look at your home page and understand the basics of what you offer in 5 seconds.
Make it very clear what you do, and the value it has!
Make sure you are collecting information about how people are finding and using your website. This provides important insights and a baseline for performance.
A thorough audit will reveal ways you can potentially get more traffic from your existing content. Often this is an easy way to make some improvement, since modest edits are faster to implement than writing new content from scratch.
Based on research, create the articles and posts that have been recommended to you. Make sure they are truly relevant for you audience (they will find it interesting or useful), and relevant for your business (it will attract someone who has a good chance of being interested in buying from you).
This process takes time. It is difficult to determine how quickly you will start earning more traffic. Sometimes optimized edits or a new, thorough article on a topic few others are writing about can make an impact nearly overnight. Link building supports but takes time.
Now it’s time to convert, and to do so, you need a clear, compelling Call To Action.
To step up your conversions, read our article on Writing Call To Action statements.
That’s all for now!
Nexus SEO Project Success
We have helped a variety of companies earn more highly-relevant organic traffic to their sites, and would like to help you achieve similar results.
Our SEO clients earned a total of 121,394 visits to their websites and showed up as Google search results 2,830,252 times in October.
What kind of audience is your company website in front of?
The most common challenge our clients face is not knowing what content to put on their website. Not just random blog topics, but content that will actually earn organic (read: free) traffic and ENGAGE your readership.
Content marketing can be a fantastic way to demonstrate your industry knowledge and expertise. It helps build trust and relationships, which in turn encourages site visitors to become clients.
A big part of modern SEO (search engine optimization) is written content. Video etc can certainly compliment, but text is the core. We’re talking long-form articles with real value that most businesses are not putting in the effort to create.
It can be daunting to fulfill this task, and that is where Nexus comes in. We handle the tedious research and provide you with content outlines that make creating your content so much simpler! Which would you prefer: Staring at a blinking cursor on a totally blank page, or filling in the blanks for established sections?
Successful increase of Google Search traffic for a Nexus client: