A Beginner's Guide to SEO
You’ve heard the term. You hate the term.
You know you should do something about it, but you also might think that this is just the latest marketing buzzword to grace your newsfeed.
That’s right, we talkin’ bout that good stuff. That’s Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short.
Search Engine Optimization: the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.
SEO is absolutely a critical aspect of marketing your business online. If you’re like many of our clients, you recognize and respect the need for being discovered amongst the nearly 5.8 billion Google searches per day. Competition is high for those coveted front page spots, especially in certain industries like legal, real estate, healthcare and retail, among others.
You might be familiar with Google’s concept of ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth), which is the idea that consumers no longer base their purchasing decisions on a single moment in time. Instead, the concept explains, consumers spend an increasing amount of time researching, reading reviews, searching for coupons/promo codes and weighing alternatives all before ever entering a store or being confronted with an actual selling opportunity.
With ZMOT in mind, having a website with great SEO allows your consumers to learn more about you more quickly, increasing your chances of capturing a sale.
We get a ton of questions about SEO from our clients and collaborators, so we decided to sit down with one of our trusted web partners to discuss some best practices that can be helpful to those looking to redesign or build a website.
Blake Bertuccelli, owner of Decubing, has been building websites for more than 15 years. As one of our creative partners, Decubing works with our content team to build beautifully designed sites backed by trusted technology. Blake and his team’s philosophy revolves around modular structure, simplistic design, bug-free development and extreme ease of use above all. Their team has helped clients build sites with outstanding SEO baked in, so we decided to share some of these insights with you.
There are a handful of SEO-centric topics that we want to walk you through in this piece. Keep in mind, these all flow together and are interdependent of one another. A great website features a combination of these elements and relies on consistency from the business owner in order to remain effective. This is by no means the be-all and end-all checklist for SEO, either. This is one of several aspects we will explore in other articles.
Here are some SEO basics:
The words you use to describe your business should be straightforward, yet unique. Although you may be tempted to get fancy with your about section or headlines, remember that simple is almost always best. Be bold and declare what you own in the market. If you don’t feel like you own a corner of your market, this may be a good time for you to rethink your positioning. Don’t try to be clever here. The Googs sees all.
If your website content is stagnant, your search rankings will stay on the back pages of Google. Straight up. Google prioritizes sites that are consistently providing users with valuable information. Regularly publishing blog posts, linking out to reliable sources and directing traffic to your site via social media or other marketing efforts all play a role in your search rankings. There’s no “setting it and forgetting it” when it comes to SEO.
Although websites with great SEO feature carefully crafted and consistent content (alliteration abounds), this is still very much a technical exercise. Google is constantly updating its algorithm in order to find more precise results for users, which means you must make sure your site is updated to meet our search overlord’s standards. Part of these standards involves being technically up to date, having a site with responsive (i.e. mobile/tablet-friendly) design, meeting security requirements and does not include dead links or mislabeled headings, images, tags, etc.
Ok, so you have these things down. Now what? How can you drive more traffic to an optimized site? Two answers: creative, consistent content backed by strategic paid advertising. Having both a stream of content and targeted paid promotion will take your SEO to the next level. This takes patience and resources in order to make an impact, but this combination is truthfully how you can climb the Google search results ladder over time.
What can you do as a business owner or marketer in charge of increasing your company’s bottom line?
Here are a few practical tips to get you out on the nets collectin’ clicks:
Site Structure & Tech
Invest in a site audit (hire a company or purchase software like SEMrush) to locate your problem areas and find out what aspects need to be fixed
Consider a website redesign implementing best practices to set your site up for success. Although there are plenty of things you can do yourself to improve upon a current site, we highly recommend hiring a firm to create a site with these elements built right into your site.
Looking for a more DIY approach? Take a Skillshare class on SEO to learn the basics and handle your site upgrades by yourself like a boss.
Set up a content calendar for your organization or department that clearly labels posting days & times, messaging, relevant links, etc. and is sorted by platform. Commit a person or team to follow through with production, distribution and monitoring.
Create content pillars by reverse engineering highly searched terms in your industry. These topics help you outline which areas of content you should be writing, filming, podcasting, sharing and creating about.
Create buyer personas so that you can craft content that speaks your customers’ language and appeals to their interests. Speak to one person, and be genuinely interested in giving away value.
Map your ideal customer’s user journey to find where, when, how and why people make decisions about your product/service.
Ask your current customers what they want to learn, what they value, why they choose you, etc. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or shoot over a personal email to find out what your most valuable connections think about you!
Pay Per Click Ads
Set up a Google Ads campaign that prioritizes web traffic, web conversions or capturing leads.
Ready to take PPC to another level? Become Google Ads certified and create customized campaigns for specific customers, product lines, or company objectives. There’s a lot to learn, but it is doable.
Experiment with keywords, geography, creative copy, bidding, demographics, etc. Do what works until it doesn’t. Nobody says you have to do it a certain way or spend a certain amount of money.
As with many things in business, when it comes to improving your search engine rankings, there is no silver bullet or simple solution. There are several factors (tech, content, promotion) that play critical roles and weave in and out of each other to gradually improve your web presence.
However, the main ingredients for you and your team are patience and consistency. This doesn’t happen overnight, and you must commit to a “lifestyle” of content creation, promotion, repeat. You gotta live and breathe this stuff, kid.
If you’ve found value from this post or would like to learn more about best practices in website development, SEO, content creation or marketing in general, we’d love to hear from you. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or inquire about a project here.
Toucan Advertising is a New Orleans advertising agency.