This is a guest post by Chris Kilbourn of Fit Marketing.
It’s an understatement to say that search engines are powerful tools. Think about it. Any time you have a question, you probably head to Google for an answer.
For businesses, search engines are mission-critical web traffic drivers – that’s free exposure for your brand. It’s an opportunity connect with prospective customers when their interest is piqued. That’s powerful.
The problem with search engine optimization (SEO) is that some shady marketers have ruined the space. These folks try to manipulate search engine rankings through artificial techniques like buying links, passing pagerank, and keyword stuffing.
But here’s the thing. Search engines don’t tolerate these practices. If an SEO company promises the moon, don’t be fooled – it’s probably too good to be true.
User Experience Is the Heart of SEO
At face value, SEO can seem a little intimidating. It’s understandable, given how dramatically the space (and search engine algorithms) have evolved over the years.
What’s key is that you stop thinking of SEO like some kind of secret recipe. SEO is, in a nutshell, the practice of building human-to-human relationships.
The first step is a solid SEO strategy is to create a great product and to prioritize user experience. There are dozens of elements that influence SEO. What ultimately brings these components together are Google and Bing’s shared commitment to connecting web users with high-quality results.
Stop chasing algorithms, and prioritize people instead. At the end of the day, you need to win your audience’s heart.
Conversations Give SEO an Extra Edge
In 2013, Google launched its biggest algorithm update in years. It’s called Hummingbird, and it’s inspiring companies to prioritize conversations online. The assumption is that when internet users want information, they want it fast.
Think of Hummingbird as a change that prioritizes relevance. Google says that it’s developed its most intelligent algorithm ever and is able to connect searchers with highly relevant content.
So what does this change mean for your business?
First and foremost, you need fresh content on your website. Google has a wealth of data about its users preferences and internet browsing habits. The algorithm is designed to deliver personalized, up-to-the-minute, and highly relevant results.
Steps to Take Now
1. Make sure that your existing content is the highest quality possible and designed to engage your users. If it’s not awesome, it shouldn’t be on your site.
2. Make sure that your product and solution descriptions are highly detailed. Be informational, but also keep your writing brief.
3. Provide detailed answers to frequently asked questions. Don’t spam your FAQ pages with recycled content. Make sure that it’s informative and high quality. You can use a tool like UserVoice to power this section. As an example, take a look at the knowledge center for Speak2Leads, a tool that helps sales teams respond to new leads in under a minute.
4. Incorporate rich markup, schema.org markup, and authorship markup. Schema and microdata can help search engines better understand what your web pages are communicating.
5. Optimize your site for mobile. Your customers and prospects can be anywhere. When people want information, they want it fast, and they want it to delivered to their fingertips (literally). A mobile strategy will ensure that your website maintains the best user experience possible.
Don’t Chase the Algorithm
Google’s algorithm is always evolving. Don’t sweat it. As long as you’re prioritizing user experience on your website (and not trying to trick users to get by with cheap tricks), you’ll be fine.
SEO is, to a large extent, common sense about forging strategic relationships with customers and prospects. Don’t overthink it. Just focus on keeping your audience as happy and informed as possible.
Last month I highlighted the importance for SEM and SEO managers to communicate their findings to one another during keyword research and analysis. By keeping the lines of communication open and providing positive feedback, both teams can benefit from more aggressive, but mutually beneficial, strategies. When implemented correctly and optimized effectively, the two strategies that I mentioned—leveraging SEM keywords to drive traffic to SEO-challenged landing pages and using SEO to absorb the cost of expensive SEM keywords—can pay big dividends.
Addressing SEO-Challenged Landing Pages
For certain pages on a website, like product pages or conversion pages, even the most die-hard attempts at SEO fail to drive traffic. For example, deeply buried product pages, which often lack linking and original content, are notoriously difficult to deliver organic traffic. However, with the proper paid keywords and ads, SEM managers can help their SEO mangers drive their target audience to these pages. Not only does this increase traffic, but allows both managers to capitalize on the increased relevancy and higher conversion rates associated with landing customers on product pages. Furthermore, the ability to report on and analyze performance provides SEM and SEO managers with the transparency needed to fine-tune keyword lists, polish ad creative, and optimize campaigns to achieve business goals and objectives.
To begin building out a list of potential SEM keywords, generate an on-site search report. This analytics report is a quick and easy way to begin discovering SEO-challenged landing pages. In many cases, an on-site search report can reveal the pages your customers are searching for that they couldn’t find either through a search engine or your website’s navigation. Keep in mind that any new keywords added to your SEM campaigns should have an appropriate and specific landing page—the goal here isn’t necessarily to find new keywords, but to drive additional traffic to the deeper and less visible pages of your website.
Subsidizing Expensive SEM Keywords
Expensive SEM keywords are typically characterized by high competition and heavy search volume. These are the popular keywords that everyone wants to rank organically on and are more than likely already a part of your SEO strategy. However, there are plenty of SEM keywords out there that consistently generate clicks and conversions, but at an unprofitable cost per click (CPC). These keywords should be presented to SEO managers as secondary, or “nice to have”, keywords within the overall SEO strategy. It’s important to back up each keyword suggestion with performance metrics, such as impressions, clicks, average position, average CPC, conversion rate, and revenue per click. Keywords with higher values should be prioritized for SEO.
But let’s be honest, ranking on the first page for these “nice to have” keywords is easier said than done and is fairly difficult without the SEO machine supporting them at 100% capacity. However, if optimizing only a handful of keywords results in an increase in organic traffic, both SEM and SEO managers benefit. As increases in organic clicks occur, more SEM budget is freed up to purchase less expensive keywords or test new ones. When leveraged appropriately, these previously unprofitable SEM keywords will allow SEO managers to increase organic traffic and acquire more revenue.
As I mentioned last month, SEM and SEO managers must continuously provide results and feedback on recommendations to remain successful. Don’t be afraid to proactively seek out feedback. Understanding what works and what doesn’t will help limit losses and open the door to capitalize on opportunities. When implemented correctly and optimized effectively, the two strategies I presented here can pay big dividends and enable SEM and SEO managers to acquire more revenue.
We took a comparative look at ad engagement for 2013/2014 during Novembers busy shopping season. Here's what we found bit.ly/1DiwOKN