SEO is a hot topic. How do you improve your rank in the search results?
Here’s the deal: Consistent, quality, longform editorial improves your organic ranking, period.
For the past several years, many businesses have been hyper-focused on the strategy of using keywords for SEO to improve their rank on the search engines. While I still think “key” words are an important component of search, for more than 15 years, I’ve been doing SEO a slightly different way. Writing long form editorial content around a nîche topic that is directly related to your unique business and industry isn’t new, it just hasn’t been done that much.
The reason this strategy works well is because the real value to the audience is when an editorial is filled with transparent, quality content. It’s not that much different from what modern media refers to as a “blog” but what is different is that the article is much longer and more detailed than what most consider a traditional blog to be. Whereas most blog articles trend toward being more entertaining than educational, it’s important to use long form content for both your blogs as well as your SEO strategy; it is designed to educate and inspire your intended audience more than just entertain them.
When you write content that is very granular and specific to it’s intended industry, and then do an inordinate amount of auditing and research into the industry such as researching relevant metrics, interviewing people, gathering concrete data to reference (as though the piece is a scholarly academic article) then writing press quality copy that could rival that of a journalist, then you ensure that you’re delivering high quality information.
Many people underestimate the importance of a professional copywriter, yet in the creative world, it’s important to understand how the pieces of the digital puzzle fit together….in other words, blogging is for more than just entertainment; it’s for education too. When you create experiences that connect people to a goal…experiences that move your audience to take action, that is when you begin making money online.
So how exactly do you tackle something so programmatically scientific?
During the research phase of any content creation project, even one as small as a weekly blog article, it’s important to implement a tactic that we refer to as Keyword Analysis. There are very sophisticated ways to conduct keyword research, but as a blogger or small business owner, watch this [2-minute video] for a tip on a free extension that will help you a lot.
(NOTE // As of October, 2019, KeyWordsEverywhere.com is no longer free)
You can download and install the free Chrome browser extension by visiting: keywordseverywhere.com. This tool uses a computerized algorithm that mimics how the modern day search engines (such as Google) function. The algorithm obviously doesn’t know the search engine’s algorithm, but it understands the mechanism by which people search for information as well as how to display the results of that search based on the unique industry that you’re researching (this is a combination of math and science…a far cry from what ordinary people consider “creative” in terms of visceral right brain vs left brain thinking). In other words, the plugin will produce a search volume for you when you type in your key word or phrase. The objective is to sprinkle some of those words and phrases into your long form editorial, as well as your meta-data.
What is a Meta-Data?
Using a free plugin such as YoastSEO, you can add your intended keywords into specific places such as the Title, Description, and Tags that you use in your post. You would also sprinkle the words and phrases (sometimes called Long-Tail Keywords) into the body of your article. Additionally, make sure you name your photos/images with the same keywords and fill in the alt-attribute to the photo with those key words as well. All of these in combination make up your Meta-Data.
When you do research on your key words and phrases and analyze the findings, you’re essentially strategizing how you will prepare future content around that topic. By linking to more granular information inside your own website where people can go to get even more detail, you are also increasing your organic ranking by creating a “web” of click activity on your own website around that topic and those key words and phrases. Then, you can work to create educational and compelling copy. Writing copy on a regular and consistent basis that is both educational and informative, entertaining and directive, inspiring and compelling is the best way to improve your website’s rank. Writing online copy is a very unique art, and it’s not something that just anybody is good at. Think back to grade school when you were required to write a persuasive essay…writing it was certainly different from presenting it in front of a group of people. Many people who are good speakers (or good salesmen or women) may not be the best writers, and vice versa. Although writing for the web is a very nîche skill, you can use the tips provided in this article to improve your SEO over time.
This next part of understanding how to improve your SEO ranking requires some context. Back in 2013, Google’s Hummingbird update was the first time that the algorithm started parsing out phrases rather than solely keywords. Many SEO professionals consider it the official “switch” to a focus on a topic rather than a word. What followed in the RankBrain update (2015) was a change to the algorithm which was designed to learn how to understand the context of a search query and not just the word that people were searching for. RankBrain pulls in multiple phrases associated with the search phrase to determine the most relevant results.
How does a computer algorithm parse a search query and why does it matter?
Consider this example: if someone in the city of Philadelphia is using a desktop computer at their office to search for “pizza restaurants” the results of their search query may differ from a passenger sitting in traffic on the Ben Franklin Bridge searching the same topic “pizza restaurants” on their mobile phone. The expectation is that the search engine (or Siri’s voice activated search) understands the context around the phrase. So when someone types or says “pizza restaurants” the search extracts other information such as geographic location and even the location of their office building within the context of the search to determine something as granular as whether they intend to search for “pizza restaurants near me geographically on Broad Street between Chestnut and Walnut Streets” versus an entirely different keyword or phrase such as “best pizza restaurants in Philadelphia and surrounding areas”.
What does all this actually mean in terms of SEO and writing for the web?
At the very core, high quality SEO follows the same deliberate architecture as my 15-years running methodology of writing good quality content because the content is focused on a particular nîche topic and contains properly identified long tail keyword phrases that are directly relevant to the topic at hand. Instead of standing on the street corner shouting “here is my pizza restaurant, buy my pizza” you want to market your brand by creating content that is helpful to your audience, and provides relevant information or helps them solve their problem by delivering the right results, to the right person, at the right time. If your pizza restaurant is the best in town because there are reviews indicating you serve large delicious slices and have gluten-free crust available along with your hours, phone number, and 5-star rating is right there (relevance) at the right time (when someone is searching for pizza restaurants) then your shop is being helpful and solving a problem for the person searching. If the information isn’t readily available when they’re searching, you’re going to lose out. It’s as simple as that. The business not coming up in the search results loses.
Think of SEO content like a comprehensive guide to specific information, that links only to the most relevant supporting data and trusted information available, including of course, further information on the same website. This deliberate way of organizing a site UX around pillars of information that is readily available for search engines and uniquely relevant to modern digital marketing has forced the industry to transparency. The result?
Your website will be a phenomenal success, because when you get modern digital right, the results just naturally speak for themselves.
Voice recognition and the changing way people search has been the driving force behind updates to the search engine algorithms. In the past, people weren’t as internet savvy as they are now, they simply typed mere words or fragments into the search box. Even the search engines own technology wasn’t advanced enough to recognize the connections across search queries. Now that these algorithms understand the context behind how people search (also based on location as well as behavioral psychology) the science behind the algorithm allows a computer to tie a phrase back to other past searches and deliver a web page (or list of pages) that are most likely to deliver the precise answer to what that search is intended to be about.
To illustrate that this methodology actually works, in 2016, Hubspot’s Anum Hussain and Cambria Davies launched a series of experiments to test the theory. The extensive findings in their experiment concluded that more high quality, internal links in conjunction with meta descriptions and tags that are transparent make it easier for the search engines to “crawl” topics.
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Google often changes their algorithm to maintain their status as the world’s largest and most preferred search engine, and with the newest technology such as voice activated search, the changes just keep on pressing forward. As an industry, we all stay laser focused on the latest developments which aim to make the use of technology more intuitive and everyday life more efficient as a result. Because of the discrepancy between what people are likely to type versus what they are likely to say, it is increasingly important for SEOs to understand how to account for the nuances of natural speech patterns, and further, how they affect search results. Search has come a long way in the last 15 years, and the affect on a company’s ranking in the search results is great.
The Evolution of SEO and the Impact on Lead Generation
In the past, there were many companies out there trying to “beat” the system. In fact, there are sill companies out there claiming to put you at the top of a Google search. Occupying the top spot isn’t magic, it’s actually science. Anybody can do it, if they know how. How do you do it, you ask? There are a variety of digital concepts that must work together so that when implemented in a structured way, all complete the pieces of the puzzle. Good SEO doesn’t doesn’t happen overnight. There is no magical switch that you can turn on that will move your company up in the search rankings. By doing the right thing, employing tactics that are real and transparent, that’s how you’ll get to the top of the search. And it works. I know it works, because I’ve been doing it for nearly 2 decades! With each algorithm change, in fact, my clients’ position in the rankings have actually become more favorable! Not only that, I’ve had companies seek me out because they see my company name at the bottom of a competitor’s website. That competitor came up in the ranking before they did in a Google search. They call me and ask “can you do for us whatever you did for ABC Company?” Now if that isn’t proof enough that I’ve gotten it right, then keep reading. There is a big difference between generating leads versus generating qualified leads, versus demand generation through digital advertising. You’ve simply got to understand the difference if you want to be effective.
To generate leads that are qualified, you’ve got to start by making sure you produce content that is specifically relevant to your target audience. From there, you can make the leads come to your quicker by using a very detailed and targeted digital advertising strategy.
SEO in general is a lot like Digital Marketing. It’s a concept that a lot of people are talking about lately, but not a lot of people fully understand. Good SEO happens when a lot of different strategies fit together. In order to be successful, you have to carefully implement all the strategies. Choosing one strategy over another due to constraints in budget or bandwidth may help improve ranking temporarily, but to win at this competition, you’ve got to: 1. Do it right and 2. Keep doing it.
What is “it” exactly?
In terms of SEO, “it” means quality content which is both relevant, specific, and hyper-focused on your target audience. But that’s not all, “it” needs to be professionally copy-written, industry-specific, written in a way that compels the reader to take action, linked to additional high quality resources, and provided at the exact right step of your target buyer’s journey such that it mirror’s a sales process that includes funneling and nurturing… all while keeping in mind that the buyer’s journey is subject to change at any moment in the omni-channel advertising environment that we currently live in. Hmm. Wow. You didn’t know that SEO involved a professional who was good at writing? Consider this, a salesperson may be very good at sales, but the fact of the matter is, what he or she is really good at is shifting their strategy at any point in time based on the conversation. Words, nonverbal cues, and even what is not said can change the conversation for a salesperson. The best salespeople listen, understand the key pain points and problems, and then adapt their approach for the unique needs of each prospect. In marketing, on the other hand, we push the same message to everyone in the hope that it resonates with a few. Digitally, your website is selling your product or service, and the words are static and unchanging…you can’t shift the message mid sale. It takes a very, very different skill set to be able to craft words and combine them with visuals that drive a website viewer to take a particular action. In fact, a website reader can become as distracted as an 8-year old in Disney World for the first time between all of the options available. They literally melt into a puddle of indecision. Click on this, click on that, look over here. The easiest option is to close out the browser window and move on to something else. Boom. You just lost a sale. Want to read more on how to write good copy for the web? Read this article.
Another very real example? How many times do you actually open an email from a stranger, especially one that has an attachment? Let me guess, 0, right? Exactly. A link from a stranger siting in your already too crowded inbox is like the kiss of death; you risk a blank screen, a virus, lost files, your computer could die and then your work-life could be over. Writing a highly effective email campaign for your company, whether it gets sent to existing clients or new ones is very tricky. It’s not something to take lightly. And it’s definitely not something to assign to your intern! My favorite tool for email marketing automation is Aweber. They have very intuitive and easy to use platform that integrates with many different systems to help streamline your operations. I encourage you to click the link above to check them out!
Back to SEO. How can you get it right?
First things first: you’ve got to make the commitment to digital. Is your company in the process of a digital “transformation”? Do you know what a digital transformation is? People define the term “digital transformation” differently in different industries. Lets bring the term “digital transformation” back into focus as a form of “Marketing and Advertising”. Today, in 2018, digital is vastly different even compared to a decade ago, in 2008. But that doesn’t mean that millennials are the only ones who know how to get it right. In fact, I’d venture to say that most of the millennials that I recently interviewed for a digital marketing job do not have the skills to effectively get digital right. Not yet anyway. Why? Because there is something to be said for those who have progressed through the time when there was no such thing as digital in the marketing and advertising industry. Advertising itself really hasn’t changed, the medium changed. Remember that famous quote by Marshall McCluhen: “The Medium is the Message.” I think I first came across that quote more than 25 years ago when I was studying communication in college, but it still reins true. But I digress. In the early 2000s, companies were just getting a presence on the web. They knew they needed a website, but they didn’t fully understand how having a website and using social media would affect their business. Was this a passing trend? Would it bring about more clients and more revenue to them? And how, exactly? Especially if their product or service wasn’t something that could be tangibly sold on their website. Fast forward another decade and the companies who didn’t keep up digitally are out of business or falling fast. Big companies. Big names. ToysRUs is no exception. Want to see a free tool for how your website ranks compared to the website or blog of a competitor? Check out my affiliate partner SEMRush.
So how can you compete online when you really don’t even know where to begin? Well for starters, if you’ve never uttered the words “tech stack” to describe your marketing, my advice is leave it up to the experts to assist you. Competition is fierce. Get in the game, or get out. In fact, the internet will push you out. It’s a kind of like a “digital” survival of the fittest.
I’ve had a few clients over the years pose the argument that they didn’t like or agree with a design theme or copy edit for a digital ad. My advice? Leave it to the experts. We know what works and what doesn’t work in terms of digital marketing and advertising. After you commit to a digital transformation, make sure you don’t leave anything out, including the “creative”.
If you want your business to rank up there in the top of the search, you’ve got to do the work.
I’m a very matter-of-fact person; nothing in life is free. You’re not going to get to the top ranking if you don’t dedicate the time, effort, and budget to make it happen. My advice? Don’t waste time on black-hat tactics such as engaging with people or businesses who offer to post your article on their website or swap links with you. Those are just going to hurt your ranking in the long run. If someone or some company wants to share your article because it’s a quality piece of copy or a quality product, they can do so by linking directly to it, and they certainly don’t need your permission to share it. Those are the types of shares that you do want! Happy customers and people who find your product or service helpful, useful, and relevant are all people who will share, like, comment on and connect your product or service with other like-minded people. Yes, please! More, please! Don’t take customer service for granted, always spend the extra time and effort to go the extra mile, online, for your customer or prospect. This is the public information that can really help make or break your brand credibility online. It’s not the “only” information, of course, but it should factor into your overall digital strategy. Appoint someone to be in charge of your social branding and advertising. As part of an overall digital strategy, this is also a very important component. Your social component is part sales, part marketing, and a 100% visible and very public representation of your brand.
Lets take a look at the top 20 essential components of modern digital, keep in mind they all work together collectively to influence your SEO:
UI/UX Plan Digital Audit and Research
SEO (on-site optimization & content creation)
SEM (PPC, Adwords, Retargeting)
Digital Engagement Planning (i.e.: social media done right)
Digital Advertising (planning and execution)
Digital Campaign Monitoring (i.e.: a proper strategy tweaks this every day)
Editorial (i.e.: the written word, copy on website pages, advertising campaigns, blogs, social posts, etc.)
Content (creation of, visual, professional, could be photos, video, animations) Click Here for my affiliate partner, 99Designs if you need some great, inexpensive design for your company
Digital Assets (professionally created content to accompany well planned digital campaigns)
Structure (of your website’s intuitive layout in conjunction with your digital campaigns) Email Marketing Automation (no, I’m not talking about sending a newsletter; for more on that topic read this)
Inbound Digital Marketing (i.e.: making your website function optimally to sell your product or service and then developing the proper email touchpoints to communicate with your list).
Outbound Digital Marketing & Lead Nurturing (i.e.: transparent outreach that is not spam) Marketing Automation (and the strategy behind getting it right). If you need some more information on this topic, check out my ebook: The Power of Email Marketing
Event Marketing Growth Driven Design
Measurement & Analytics (capturing the data and then understanding what it all means)
Last but certainly not least…Strategy & Planning
All of these components factor in to your digital success, and ultimately your SEO ranking. Ensuring they are all aligned is a key component of elevating your brand above the competition.
Interested in learning more about how to better align your sales and marketing teams for digital success? Hint: It’s all about the data. When sales teams and marketing teams work together to understand the same metrics, magic happens (err, I mean, companies grow!) Contact me to schedule a consultation, or view our services here!