Rethinking Your SEO Strategy
Search Engine Optimization is one of the most complicated aspects of a digital strategy. Marketing teams often dedicate time and resources to optimizing their content, only to cross their fingers and hope their efforts align with the search engine algorithm gods. For some reason, while other digital activities are strategically planned, SEO seems to be a numbers game – research the keywords with the highest monthly searches and work towards increasing your SERPs for them. While this approach can generate results, it can also create a sense of frustration. SEO can quickly turn into a dog-chasing-its-tail exercise, with a never-ending attempt to get to Page 1 by doing the same thing over and over. The reality is that successful SEO starts with a strategy, one that I believe should go beyond implementation and focus on how users actually search online. To help you, I’ve put together a four-pronged approach that will increase your visibility and reach users when and where they need to find you.
One of the most common goals of SEO is to make a site discoverable by people who don’t already know about it. To attract new users to your site you need to put yourself in their mindset. They may know what they want, but not where to get it, which is why they are searching in the first place. In simple terms, they are in the research stage of the purchase process and want to get information about what’s available. When people are in the early stages of researching, their search terms tend to be very general and are often in the form of a question. You’ll want to write content specifically for these users, including in-depth information about your products or services and why they should choose you above your competitors. Target keywords that these users would think of, so keep them simple and avoid jargon.
It’s important to note that the research phase can vary from minutes to months depending on the product or service. If the average research cycle for your users is several weeks or months, then include content designed to get users to return to your site, like tips, lists, and lifestyle pieces.
While SERPs are a good indication of how easy it is for people to find you, they aren’t the only metric to track. Consider measuring how many people complete a call-to-action once they’ve read your content and whether these users return to the site. These stats will help you determine if your Discoverable SEO is working and if you are catching people at the right stage of their research.
Accessible SEO targets current customers and potential customers who are further down the research process (they’ve already discovered you and have decided to look into you a bit more). Often these users will search for your brand name, or the name of a specific product or service that your company offers. It’s important to remember that although these people are using branded search terms, they still need to be converted. Focus on creating content that starts to develop a relationship with the user or promotes a call-to-action, like signing up to a newsletter, downloading a pdf, or filling in a contact form.
Many of these users will try to learn more about you on other channels, including social media, review sites, and Wikipedia. Make sure you have a presence where these users are looking so you don’t miss out on an opportunity to make yourself accessible to them.
Keep track of what branded keywords are used access your site. This is available on several analytics platforms, including Google Search Console. You may uncover a pattern in these branded search terms, like whether a specific product or service is more popular than others, or if users are interested in particular information about your company (eg: social responsibility, manufacturing processes, etc). If patterns do emerge, then consider writing more content about those topics to keep your users coming back.
Local SEO isn’t appropriate for all businesses but it can be a really powerful tool for service-based companies, hospitality venues, and retail spaces. When people search with location-based keywords they are focused on convenience and are looking for a business in their area. To get in front of these users, you’ll want to optimize your content for local searches. First, create a landing page on your website that focuses on your location, and talk about your dedication to the community and your local customers. Include location-specific keywords in this content as well as your address and phone number. You should also fill in a profile on Google, Bing, and Yahoo so you appear on their maps. Keep them regularly updated, and ask your customers to provide reviews. Also consider adding yourself to local business listings and review sites.
Don’t take these users for granted. People using local search terms have big potential for a few reasons:
- If they are on a mobile phone, they are most likely nearby and can turn into an immediate sale.
- They may live in the area, in which case the potential for repeat business is high.
- If they do not live in the area, they could help to spread the word about your business to areas outside your community.
Keep track of your Local SEO efforts by monitoring your SERPs for location-based search terms. Also consider tracking how those users behave on your website – what pages they look at, if they complete a call-to-action, how frequently they return, and how long it takes them to convert. The more you know about their behavior, the better you can cater your content for your local audience.
Showing up in search results is only half the SEO battle, the real goal is getting people to click into your site once they find you. In order to achieve this you need to create a page title and meta-description that convinces users that your site will give them the answers they need, in 160 characters or less. That’s a tall order, but it is worth the effort and is possibly the most overlooked part of SEO.
How do you know if your meta-descriptions are working? Look at Google’s Search Console to find out your site’s click-through rate. If you’re appearing regularly in search results for specific search terms, but the click-through rate is low, then re-write your meta-data to see if that helps. This isn’t just a vanity exercise, if your click-through rates are low then Google may decide that users aren’t interested in your site and your ranking could drop.
You’ll also want to make sure that all your landing pages include compelling and useful content, have a call-to-action, and are well-designed. The better your landing page is, the more likely you are to convert a user into a customer, and the more likely it is that they’ll remember your brand for future searches.
Keep an eye on the success of your Clickable SEO activities by tracking click-through rates, bounce rates, and time on page. That will give you a sense of whether or not users who came to that page through organic searches were actually interested in the content you are offering.
Approaching SEO as a strategy rather than a set of activities means you’ll be able to cater to different audiences while also seeing an improvement in your visibility. By setting goals and measuring how discoverable, accessible, local, and clickable you are, you’ll be able to gauge how well your activities are performing and where to make improvements.