The Journey to Page One: 6 Tips for Winning SEO
Some marketing decisions make good sense, like building a website and linking it to social media. Other decisions aren’t so savvy, like buying a billboard in the middle of the desert.
Few marketing tools on the planet match the power of a well-planned, optimized website. It’s your online calling card and 24-hour spokesperson. Among searchers, 90% haven’t made up their mind about a brand before sitting down to Google, Bing, or their other go-to search engine. There’s no denying the volume of opportunity for marketers.
And yet, websites are launched every day without proper plans for driving traffic. In other words, they are bound for the Sahara. Unless your target market is tumbleweeds, you’re going to need a strategy for improving your search results. Take comfort - winning with SEO is easier if you begin with the end in mind.
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In simple terms, it boils down to flawed foundations, and misguided philosophies about SEO. As marketing aficionados, we shouldn’t simply optimize a website for the search engine. Rather, we should optimize it for the people who arrive there via the search engine.
Let’s explore how to improve both the journey (SEO optimization), and the destination (user optimization). When these two work together it’s a win-win for both customers and revenue.
Wait A Minute, Can’t You Pay Google To Rank Higher?
If we had a buck for every time someone asked this question, we’d be blogging from a private yacht in the Bahamas.
Until the S.S. SASSO sets sail, we’ll give you the short answer: yes and no.
From the moment Uncle Google went into the business of online real estate, entrepreneurs have been peeking through his windows, dying to know, “how exactly do I get in on this?”
No one can blame them. Reaching the first three positions, and arguably, much of the first page of Google, are the equivalent of striking gold. Annually, businesses pour billions into SEO services and AdWords to generate leads, brand awareness, and site visits.
But, buyer be warned - you can’t simply slip Uncle Google a twenty and skip the line. The work of SEO and advertising agencies like SASSO actually involves creating a solid foundation for your website, including an amazing user experience. This is ultimately what pushes your website closer to the top positions.
Here are six ways to improve your search engine ranking and enjoy more leads from organic traffic:
1. Make Your Site Crushworthy
If you think search engines can’t find love, we’re here to set the record straight. Google, Bing, Yahoo, and the other titans of the search world have got their sights set on one special thing – content. The more you include on your website, the higher your score will climb.
From how-to guides to e-books to homepage copy, no search engines can resist great content. When love for your content is high, your site’s bounce rates are low. In human language, this means that when visitors spend more time on your website, instead of bouncing to another page, Google assigns you a better score based on meaning and value.
On the contrary, if your content is weak, hard to scan, outdated, peppered with broken links, or growing dust bunnies like Pawpaw Joe’s attic, the search bots will rank you down low. And nobody likes the dungeon.
The key takeaway: Google’s main goal is to serve high-quality, relevant results to its customers. So, create the kind of helpful, targeted content you yourself would like to find when hunting for solutions to your problem, and save the fluff for your pillows!
2. Don’t Build Without Blueprints
You wouldn’t build a house without planning its architecture. The same attitude should be applied to building your website. Optimizing your website for SEO from the beginning is much easier than fixing it after the fact. Work with a designer who understands the importance of clear navigation, clean coding, tags, and microformatting.
Microformats allow search engines to understand your page better. In SEO language we refer to this as making pages easier for search spiders to “crawl” and recognize the relevancy of your website.
Clean code also makes your site more visually attractive on the search engine results page, increasing the chances that you’ll get traffic, even if you’re not in the top three organic positions.
The key takeaway: Building a website that is SEO-friendly is easier and less expensive than launching an SEO plan for a website with no architecture. As with all successful projects, start with the end in mind.
3. Focus On Performance
In addition to architecture, your search engine ranking is influenced by performance, i.e. how fast your site loads for visitors. Sites that creep are penalized, but a site that’s johnny-on-the-spot will be scored highly.
While performance is largely determined during the beginning stages of your website build, there are certainly hacks for fixing poor load times for websites already in place. Optimizing image size and reducing plug-ins are a few tweaks available.
As the world becomes increasingly mobile, having a site that’s responsive across all screens is also essential to good SEO rankings.
The key takeaway: A site that’s snappy to load and easy to navigate improves user experience, which in turn encourages users to stay longer, all of which are key influencers in your SEO ranking.
4. Know Your Keywords, But Don’t Go Overboard
For searchers with issues, your website should be a kind beacon, welcoming them with trustworthy, useful information.
Unfortunately, some websites are so stuffed with irrelevant content that instead of a beacon, it feels more like a shipwreck. Resist the temptation to overload on content and keywords that don’t have true substance. This only makes your site less interesting and gives visitors the "I'm being sold" feeling. The more you subtract from user experience, the less likely you are to keep customers on your site and attract repeat traffic, two critical factors to SEO.
Also, keep in mind that content should be written the way people naturally talk. Research shows that more and more customers are asking Google questions the same way they would ask a friend. This is largely due to the boom in voice recognition software, like Siri and Alexa. Websites that don’t take these new trends into consideration will be left behind.
For example, the website for a cell phone company could focus its content on both keywords and common questions that customers ask:
“Cell phone, no contract near me”
“Where can I get cell phone service with no contract in Baton Rouge?”
An FAQ is a great way to incorporate common questions and answers (and hence keywords) into your site in a way that doesn’t sound forced.
If you aren’t sure what keywords to use or how to use them, it’s worth the investment to work with a copywriter who can create smooth, natural reading content.
The key takeaway: Search engines have evolved to recognize fluffy content and keywords that don’t have any real meaning. Take the time to craft better assets for your website – you’ll be rewarded by a higher ranking score and increased consumer trust.
5. Embrace the Idea of “Permanent Advertising”
What do radio, Facebook, and TV ads have in common? They drive in the most leads when campaigns are up and running. When the campaigns close, the leads eventually decline. Now compare those ads to your website and digital assets, the kind of friends you can grow old with.
Empowered by SEO, a website built with proper architecture and dynamite content continues to attract customers to your basecamp over time. While updates and fresh content are critical, they aren’t nearly as costly as full blown media campaigns. This is true even when you’re competing for attention in a saturated industry.
Our clients in highly competitive markets, including restaurants and law firms, often voice the concern, “is SEO worth it for my business?” While the climb to the top can be long for some, especially new businesses, the steps we take to position clients are absolutely worth the effort because they create permanent assets that customers can revisit over and over again.
Videos, articles, and web pages infused with authentic information that your customers need are huge opportunities to distinguish yourself from competitors. This especially goes for video, since video content is 50 times more likely to drive organic search results than plain text.
The key takeaway: If you’re considering SEO as an investment, make sure your SEO agency is creating assets that can be re-purposed.
6. If You Can’t Get Tickets To The Show, Read the Reviews
One day Uncle Google will offer golden tickets to a fabulous tour of his SEO factory, a magical place where the secret formula to his algorithm is brewed with love and care (by his loyal Googa Loompas, we can only assume).
Until then, the trademarked algorithm, which is updated thousands of times a year, isn’t up for grabs. Yet, you still need to be familiar with the changes, since the algorithm influences how websites are ranked.
Luckily, Google algorithms have a fan base bigger than the Beatles. There are a number of newsletters and dedicated bloggers following the impacts of the most important algorithm updates. Personally, we like the Search Engine Journal. Find one that suits your appetite and geek out until your heart’s “content”.
The key takeaway: Subscribing to an SEO digest is an easy way to keep up with the constant changes of SEO.
Don’t Let Your Site Down
In summary, a webpage is like an eager party host, happy to cater to guests hungry for knowledge about your products and services. It’s dressed sharp, smelling delish, and quite frankly, ready for love. If no one comes knocking, you can imagine how slighted it will feel.
It’s up to you and your team to dedicate time to SEO, letting your website live its digital life to the fullest. Your brand and conversion rates will ultimately thank you for it.
Have any of the strategies above helped your site’s performance? What SEO moves impacted your ranking last quarter? Sound off with us on Facebook at Facebook.com/SASSOAgency.