SEO Campaigns: Are You Really Targeting Your Audience?

SEO Campaigns: Are You Really Targeting Your Audience?

Here are three ways in which it’s easy to get off track, along with insights into how to make sure you’re really connecting with your target audiences through the SEO strategies you’re using.

Keyword Research Intent

Your marketing director may know the technical aspects of finding keywords through research and may know how to use them in copy. But, if you don’t take a step back to consider a searcher’s intent in using a certain keyword, then your SEO strategy may be off-kilter from the start.

As one example, let’s say that you’re in the lumber business, and you’ve found this keyword: “Can you stain cherry wood?” It’s got 90 searches a month and you figure this would be a great blog post title. Is it? Well, it depends upon your customer. If, for example, you sell to companies with experience in making furniture, they already know the answer. So, if they saw this type of content on your site, they might feel as though you don’t understand their needs, a disconnect that you definitely don’t want to foster.

On the other hand, if you also take that lumber and manufacture unstained jewelry boxes, knick-knack shelving, footstools and other assorted trinkets to sell directly to consumers, then you might very well want to educate your customers on how they can stain the cherry wood products you sell. Maybe you even cross-sell the stains!

How this plays out varies by industry, of course, but it’s crucial that you analyze the keywords you find from your customer’s point of view. The fact that a question is searched upon is a great step one in your keyword strategy, but what really matters is whether or not your customers would search upon this and want to know the answer. Whenever you’re not sure, ask the people in your company who directly deal with customers, and find out what questions they’re being asked.

Also think about what lingo your customers would typically use. Let’s say you have a law-related business and you find that 320 people a month search on “de facto law.” If your business is prepping law students for upcoming bar exams, then that might be of real interest to them. If you offer legal services to people in your state, though, it’s not likely to draw the right kind of traffic to your site. They want you to help them in the situations they’re in.

Along that same vein, let’s say you sell fairly techy B2B components. Then, the depth of IT lingo you use on your site should depend upon who, exactly, is typically charged with choosing suppliers in the types of companies that buy your products. If you know that your sales team often deals directly with the people in IT departments, then use more technical language. If you sell more to corporate buyers, use less.

Content Creation

As another B2B example, as you create service pages, again be ultra-aware of who within the company is likely to buy your products—and then write your informational and sales copy accordingly. Let’s say that you sell blue widgets with highly technical specifications to manufacturers, but you know that you deal more directly with company executives who don’t have as much technical know-how as their engineers do.

In that case, ensure that the benefits you’re listing in your services/sales pages are ones that would satisfy requirements of company execs, quantifying the benefits as much as you can. For example, if you want to share the quality of your products, that’s great—so include how the long-lasting nature of your blue widgets means that companies need to replace them 47 percent less often when compared to your competitors, saving the average purchaser X amount of dollars per year. Let them know about your service guarantees, including a case study that shows how much that benefits your average customer. Those are the kind of benefits that executives want to understand and compare.

Then, as one of your benefits, include high-level technical specs and link to a page that lists them in detail so that the executives can share the information with their IT and engineering teams before making a purchase. Include a download on that page that makes it super easy for the executives to share the technical benefits of your blue widgets. That way, the IT team has the option of evaluating your product’s technical benefits in language that satisfies their needs.

Link Building

The best link building campaigns tend to be multi-faceted and, in many regards, are similar among industries. In one way, though, they’re very industry specific—and that’s when you get your website listed in industry-specific directories of quality.

Dental business, for example, should investigate the American Dental Association site, while label-makers should look into ThomasNet.com, wedding videographers should investigate WeddingWire.com, and so forth. There are plenty of industry-specific directories available for lawyers, doctors, and more.

You’ll want to discern which higher-profile bloggers and journalists write about what you offer and build relationships with them. That way, when you create a valuable piece of content, you’ll know whom to contact to ask if they’d like to share that information on their own sites and link back to yours.

Bottom Line

Yes, there are plenty of foundational pieces of SEO campaigns that are largely the same from industry to industry but, as this post hopefully shows, it’s also important to get industry and niche specific to truly target your audience and glean the organic traffic you desire.

What Small Business Owners Must Do Online in 2019

What Small Business Owners Must Do Online in 2019

Over the years, you’ve probably heard the following phrase more times than you can count: to give your company’s website high visibility, content is king.

That’s been a pretty useful phrase, really, because it quickly allows small business owners to know what to prioritize: content. The problem, though, is that “content is king” may sound as clichéd in 2019 as “we need a paradigm shift,” or “go after low-hanging fruit,” or “let’s do more with less” — and it’s very easy to ignore clichés.

Don’t ignore this one, though.

Content will be king in 2019 — although a different kind of king — and creating the type of quality content that Google rewards today may be the most important thing your small business does in the upcoming year.

Then and Now Comparison: Blog Posts

Today, you’ll need to focus on length, depth and breadth.

In years past, you might have gained traction with a 500-word blog post, and then you might have needed to bump it up to 1,000 words. Then, an April 2016 study on ideal content length (based on research of 1 million Google search results) showed how the “average Google first page result contains 1,890 words).

Then, as savvy companies began creating longer content, the bar was raised once again.

Our recommendation for 2019: create blog posts of 2,000 words or more, making sure they’re at least 500 words longer than content written on the subject by top competitors.

Just making blog posts longer, though, isn’t enough. You also must go deeper on the topic at hand, providing information that isn’t readily found elsewhere.

And, you’ll also want more breadth, providing content to people who are new to the subject as well as to those who want to compare options before making a purchase. Using a widget company as our example, you might write a post about the future of widgets that includes:

  • Predictions about where you see the industry going
  • Quotes from experts (not your competitors) bolstering what you have to say
  • A timeline that shares highlights of the product’s history to date
  • A checklist that helps people match the right widget to their unique needs
  • Answers to frequently asked questions
  • Eye-catching photos
  • Video clips that range from entertaining to useful in choosing widgets
  • Testimonials from satisfied customers
  • Mini-case studies
  • Internal links to help user experience
  • Compelling calls to action

One call to action might be for site visitors to download a how-to guide on how to streamline widget efficiency or a way for them to sign up to receive relevant weekly tips by email.

Once your long-form content is completed, share it on social media, plus with carefully chosen influencers and more. Monitor results and update content, as needed. In the past, we’ve heard marketers say that time spent on content creation and on content marketing should be divided, 50/50. We’d like to suggest that you spend 70% of your content time creating powerful, quality content and 30% strategically sharing it to targeted audiences.

Then and Now Comparison: Product, Service and Location Pages

In 2019, it’s time to treat your product, service and location pages with the same kind of love and attention that we’re describing above for blog posts. Gone are the days that 300 words of content about a product line (or 500 words or whatever number you’d like to put here) will magically allow a company to check this task off their list before moving on to something else.

Instead, borrow techniques from quality blog posts and apply them to your product, service and location pages. You’ll want to stay focused on converting customers on these pages, of course, but this can include the use of FAQs, checklists that help site visitors to solve a problem, expert quotes from your team, testimonials and more. What maps, videos and more can guide them along the conversion path?

Additional Tips

Do a content audit of your site, including intelligence gleaned from Google Analytics. What content is performing especially well? Reverse engineer why this is happening and then bolster other worthwhile content on your site that isn’t receiving as much attention, using what you’ve learned through your content audit. What content is performing especially poorly? Upon analysis, is this surprising? Why or why not?

What content gaps exist? Perhaps you’re offering plenty of content to attract people to your site, but not enough that draws them closer to making purchases. For example, do you mostly have content about the history of widgets, the biggest widget collectors in the world and widget humor — and then send people directly to service pages without seeing success?

If so, focus on creating content from the middle of the conversion funnel. Perhaps you can move site visitors along the path to purchasing by offering content about measuring your office appropriately before choosing widgets. Or, perhaps it includes charts about how powerful a widget must be for a specified purpose.

Also, keep keywords in their place. Yes, they’re important. Choosing the right ones, including ones with commercial intent, is still a crucial part of content strategy, but content in 2019 is about so much more than just keywords. Tip: take advantage of keywords with reasonable traffic but lower competition.

Finally, experiment with how often you need to publish content to achieve results you want, and then consistently publish at that pace. Monitor how well that schedule is working for you and, when you have a window of time, try publishing an extra high-quality post and see how this helps with traffic, conversions and sales.

Here, you can find more of our SEO predictions for 2019. We wish you a productive, happy new year!

Organic SEO vs. Local SEO: Which Do I Need?

Organic SEO vs. Local SEO: Which Do I Need?

Each of these digital marketing disciplines — organic SEO and local SEO — involves boosting online visibility for businesses and their websites. In other words, both strategies focus on making websites easy to find when potential customers search for relevant products and services of a business. Each discipline comes with its own distinct strategies and techniques and, when strategies for organic and local SEO dovetail with one another, they can become even more powerful.

Organic SEO

Components of organic SEO include selecting relevant keywords for a website that have reasonable levels of traffic with achievable levels of competition. These keywords are then used in page and blog copy, tags (title, meta description and H), internal links and so forth to send signals to the search engines about what keywords are important on that URL in particular and the site, overall.

Optimizing for keywords, though, is not enough. It’s important to also have a diverse set of quality inbound links pointing to a site. In addition to using common SEO tactics to improve your website’s ranking, you should also ensure that your site is well structured and easy to use. Equally as important, make sure the website aids in converting traffic into sales.

As part of organic SEO, it’s important to rank well for keywords that are appropriately paired with the locations of brick and mortar stores, if applicable, so strategically using geotargeted keywords (for example, Jacksonville blue widgets) is crucial. And, this is the point at which organic SEO and local SEO intersect.

Local SEO

A primary goal of local SEO is to have a website place well in the Google Maps local pack for relevant keywords. Not all keywords trigger a local map — only the ones that Google determines have local intent, such as for a pizza parlor or an attorney, a dentist or an ice cream stand.

When a local map does appear for a term, Google is currently showing three listings (the three-pack) and then a “More places” link. Ideally, you want your site to appear in the three-pack. To help make that happen, local SEO strategies include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Google My Business (GMB) optimization
  • Google reviews
  • Citation strategies, which involves verifying name, address and phone information wherever listed online, and correcting errors whenever possible

Local SEO became a unique discipline in 2005 by starting to distinguish itself as a separate branch of SEO. That’s when Google released its Local Business Center and then combined that center with its Google Maps. Although, as searchers, we now take this convenience for granted, that’s when we began to be able to access store information, including hours and contact information, with driving directions and more in one spot.

You can find more information about local SEO strategies here.

Strategic Synergy

Although organic SEO and local SEO each have unique features, commonalities exist, including:

  • Keyword research is essential for both, with organic SEO requiring a broader strategy and local SEO focusing on more niche ones.
  • Location pages on a website play a key role in both disciplines, as they can appear in search engine results pages (SERPs) as well provide key signals to help the site appear in Google three-packs for relevant keywords.
  • Online optimization is important for each, with NAP consistency central to local SEO.
  • Schema, a specialized form of HTML coding, helps Google “understand” the purposes of content; one area of specialization is for NAP, as one example, while another is for online reviews shared on the site.

Reverse Engineering Rankings

To rank well organically, it’s important to create keyword-rich content that engages readers, and to optimize back end tags and new URLs, to steadily increase the number of inbound links and so forth. Creating a quality user experience is also important, which includes (but is not limited to) boosting page speed. You can find more about organic SEO ranking factors in 2018 at Moz.com.

Ranking factors for local search, though, are somewhat different, focused on “relevance, distance, and prominence,” according to Google. “These factors are combined to help find the best match for your search. For example, Google algorithms might decide that a business that’s farther away from your location is more likely to have what you’re looking for than a business that’s closer, and therefore rank it higher in local results.”

To become more relevant, it’s important to comprehensively provide local information about the business. That’s because, the more easily Google can match your business and site with prospects searching for your products or services, the more often this will likely happen.

Distance is an important factor in local search, and Google will look at geotargeted terms used in a searcher’s query and then compare potential search results and their distance from the person. If the searcher doesn’t use a location-specific term, Google will still use what is known about that location when offering up results.

Then there is prominence. Being a well-known brand never hurts. But, even if you’re not a well-established brand, you can build a quality online presence to boost your authority signals. This can include regularly getting Google reviews, building relevant links and citations and more.

Clearing Up Misconceptions

People new to SEO sometimes have misconceptions about local SEO. As one of the most common examples, they might associate “local” with step one and “organic” as a broader step two. In fact, the most powerful SEO campaigns focus on how these two disciplines can be used in tandem to gain the most powerful online presence possible, being found right where potential customers are searching.

So, as a final piece of advice, we recommend you create a customized SEO strategy for your site that, from its inception, includes a focus on both local SEO and organic SEO.

Patience: The Foundation of Successful SEO Campaigns

Patience: The Foundation of Successful SEO Campaigns

It’s only natural, when you start an SEO campaign, to be eager to see results. After all, you’re investing time, money and energy into making your business more visible online. But, when you become impatient, it’s easy to rush through important steps, which almost always hinders the overall success of your SEO efforts.

How can you tell the difference, though, between being ultra-efficient and rushing through SEO actions too quickly? How can you tell if your SEO isn’t working or if your campaign simply needs more time to succeed?

Here are four practical tips to keep your campaign on track and to protect it from the harm that can come from too much impatience.

Know Your Competition

Before you begin any organic SEO campaign, it’s crucial to be realistic about the pace in which you can achieve your desired keyword rankings. What’s realistic, of course, depends upon your online competition.

It may help to compare increasing your keyword rankings to a race that you run (an ironic analogy, for sure, when we’re encouraging patience). Still, the analogy can help. Let’s say, for example, you want to rank well for “commercial lawn care services.” But, plenty of competitors have been focusing on that term for quite some time. This means that, while you’re still at the starting line, they’re already further along on the racetrack.

This doesn’t mean you can’t catch up to your competitors. But, like in a foot race, one or more of these things must occur to allow you to close the gap:

  1. Your competitor quits competing and rests on its laurels; that could happen, but don’t count on that as your central SEO strategy.
  2. You run faster than your competitor; that can definitely help to close the gap, and, with SEO, you can compare running more quickly with investing more into your campaign.
  3. You run harder than your competitor; you can compare this to working harder with SEO, perhaps by using the keywords in more content than competitors.
  4. You run smarter than your competitor; this is comparable to being more strategic with your SEO campaign.

Here’s the bottom line: You must know your competition and plan your SEO strategies accordingly.

Don’t Quit

Assuming you’ve got a solid foundational strategy, you then need to be:

  • Persistent
  • Adaptable

You’ll need to test your strategies, monitor results, and tweak as needed, repeating this pattern for as long as it takes.

And, you’re probably wondering approximately how long it will take to rank for a desired keyword. Although there are no hard-and-fast answers, Ahrefs.com randomly selected two million keywords and monitored how long it took for each to rank in the top ten in Google, as well as to rank number one. Results published in 2017 are as follows:

  • The average top ten ranking took two years.
  • The average number one ranking took almost three years.

Results will vary, depending upon the levels of competition, but patience. Patience is key.

Now, to use another sports analogy (football, this time), once you reach your desired rankings, you’ll need to switch from being on the offensive, pushing hard to get the rankings, to being on the defensive. That’s because other eager companies would be happy to take your hard-earned rankings from you, and you need to protect your turf.

Don’t Let Impatience = Taking Shortcuts

Although investing more resources into your SEO can make good sense, taking shortcuts can be foolish. For example, let’s look at link building campaigns. You know that links are important to rankings and you know (by following our tip #1) your competitors have plenty of them. So, it’s tempting to be super-aggressive in getting your own.

But, when you try to get as many links as you can as fast as you can, the links probably won’t be of the best quality. And, to have a good inbound link profile, it’s important to have quality links from diverse yet relevant sources. By being too impatient, you might create a spammy link profile, which will likely do your site and business more harm than good.

Instead, create relevant, keyword-rich content that people will want to link to. Promote that content, including through reaching out to relevant influencers who might be willing to share your content, and further expand your digital reach.

Don’t Forget Local SEO

If you have a physical location, it’s crucial to also focus on local SEO strategies. For example, you might really want to get into Google’s three-pack for “pizza delivery in Miami, Florida.”

You know that getting positive Google Reviews will help your local SEO campaign — and you see that competitors have plenty more than you do. So, you figure, if your goal is to get a total of 500 reviews, then you’ll pull out all the stops and get, say, 100 reviews a month. Then, in five months, you’ll be on top of the three-pack.

Except, it doesn’t work that way.

Google tends to reward steady progress, with a sudden influx of reviews looking pretty suspicious (that’s also true with inbound links). So, instead, create a program where you regularly reach out to satisfied customers and ask each of them to write a review about your pizza and/or your delivery service. Don’t specifically ask for a good review; instead, ask the customers you believe will provide a positive one. Make it super-easy for them to do so by creating a unique link that will take them exactly where they need to go.

Conclusion

Although we don’t agree with the “slow” part of the “slow but steady wins the race” saying, we do strongly advocate steady progress. Successful SEO programs are well planned and consistently executed. Patience, persistence and adaptability, we believe, are what really win the race!

Google’s Speed Update: How Small Businesses Can Stay Competitive

Google’s Speed Update: How Small Businesses Can Stay Competitive

On January 17, 2018, Google announced that page speed will become a ranking factor in mobile searches, effective July 2018. Couple that announcement with the mobile-first search index that began rolling out late in 2017 — a rollout that will cause Google to favor mobile versions of websites in its search engine results pages — and it quickly becomes clear that businesses of all sizes need to optimize the mobile experience they’re offering to prospects and customers. Here are six steps for SMBs to take to stay competitive online.

Step One: Ensure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly

Google offers a simple way to check: their Mobile Friendly Test. If your site passes the test, that’s great. If not — and if you use a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress, Drupal, Magento, Blogger and the like — you can find CMS-specific guides to optimizing your site for mobile. If you don’t use a CMS, Google offers this Mobile SEO Guide.

Step Two: Evaluate Your Page Speed

A fast and easy way to check the speed is through Google’s PageSpeed Insights, but there’s a catch: only sites with enough traffic (exact number unspecified, but the bar is still pretty high) will receive ratings. If your site gets enough traffic to qualify, you’ll receive an overall rating for mobile: fast, normal or slow. You will also receive a page load distribution chart that will allow you to see what percentage of your site’s pages are considered fast; how many as normal; and how many as slow.

There will be two bars in this chart, one for FCP and one for DCL. FCP is short for First Contentful Paint and measures how quickly a visitor to your site would see a visual response. Amazon, for example, has an FCP rating of 1.3s. DCL stands for DOM Content Loaded and measures the speed at which HTML was loaded and parsed. For Amazon, that number is 1.5s.

If data is not provided for your site at PageSpeed Insights, you can estimate your page speed via a synthetic performance audit using an open-source tool called Lighthouse. As another option, you can determine how quickly your site loads for visitors with a 3G connection at TestMySite. Yet another site with free page speed tests: GTMetrix.com.

Don’t stress out if you don’t have a perfect score. Most websites don’t. What is important: comparing your page speeds scores with your competitors and making continual improvements to stay ahead of them.

Step Three: Analyze Problem Areas

At PageSpeed Insights, even if you can’t get mobile speed ratings for your site, you will still receive information about page elements that are preventing your site from rendering as quickly as desired. If you test your speed at TestMySite, you can download a free report that offers recommendations to address problems.

Review your site’s search console, looking for crawl errors that might be slowing you down. Carefully sift through the Mobility Usability report, as well.

Step Four: Determine if AMP is For You

Webmasters have the option to “AMP” their pages by using Accelerated Mobile Page technology. With AMP, you are stripping down code to its basics and, because the pages are pared down to their bare minimum, they are lightning fast when loading. There are advantages and disadvantages to AMP-ing pages, and you should note that you can create fast-loading pages without using AMP technology. But, it can’t be argued that this technology is succeeding in creating streamlined pages that render quickly, indeed.

Step Five: Optimize, Compress, Minify and Remove

Google offers advice on the following areas:

Now is the time to create a plan to prioritize and fix problem areas. Developer tools are available from Google here.

Step Six: In-House Versus Outsourcing

If your SMB has an inhouse IT department, you may have all the resources you need to tackle these fixes. But note that some areas may be outside the scope and/or expertise of your team and, in that case, it’s important to outsource any work you decide to take on to the right developer. Google provides tips on how to choose a developer to make your site mobile friendly and it never hurts to ask for recommendations from professionals you trust.

More about the Speed Update

Page speed has been a ranking factor for nearly eight years with desktop searches so, if you’ve been focusing on speed for desktop and have created a responsive mobile site, you may already be in pretty good shape. Google has said that this update will only affect a small percentage of queries, those with the slowest loading experiences.

Benefits of faster-loading pages will go beyond the ranking issue, though, as site visitors also prefer fast loads. According to Kissmetrics.com data:

  • 47% of them expect a web page to load in two seconds or less
  • 40% abandon sites that take more than three seconds to load
  • 79% of shoppers who have a dissatisfying experience because of website performance are less likely buy from that site in the future
  • 52% of shoppers say that quick page load is important to site loyalty
  • A one second delay (or three seconds of waiting time) decreases satisfaction by customers by about 16%
  • 44% of shoppers will tell friends about bad online experiences
  • A one second delay can result in a 7% drop in conversions

How much work you need to do to remain competitive depends upon two main factors: how much you’ve already done, and how much your competitors have done and are currently doing. As a final tip, regularly check your site in site speed tools to see what recommendations remain and continue to prioritize the most important.