If you landed here, you are probably looking to fortify your SEO strategy and results. Good move!
SEO has proven to be a very effective digital marketing strategy since the beginning of the 90s, but it can also be the biggest challenge for marketers today because of the growing number of competing websites and the speed at which Google is updating its indexing rules.
In this blog post, we’ll review the main components of the SEO strategy and provide a few tips to help you get started right away.
What Is SEO?
SEO, or search engine optimization, encompasses a wide range of marketing actions that help your website’s ranking in the search engine result page (SERP) move towards the top position—for as many keywords as possible in your niche.
The goal of an SEO strategy is to put your website and content in front of the right audience, provide your visitors with valuable content, and increase your authority in your marketplace.
The key components of a complete and successful SEO strategy include:
- Keyword research
- On-page SEO
- Content creation (blog posts, videos, podcasts, reports, white papers, etc.)
- Meaningful internal links
- Competitive watch
Why Is SEO So Important To Grow Your Small Business?
If SEO can be so difficult to implement, why is it valued so highly by marketers? Why shouldn’t a small business choose paid ads over SEO to grow its website traffic and boost its online sales?
“New businesses can have a hard time getting started with SEO, and paid search can offer a fast track to search marketing when done correctly.”Marcus Miller, SEO, PPC & Digital Marketing Consultant and Strategist
First, let’s talk about data.
In 2014, Tech company, Conductor, published a study that revealed that search engine optimization drives 64% of all website traffic, while PPC campaigns only generate 6% of this traffic.
Second, you wouldn’t be completely wrong if you invest in paid ads. PPC campaigns and SEO are, in fact, complementary marketing strategies.
By working on your SEO, you build a strong website that is enjoyable for your users to navigate. Once you have a robust website with enough content published, you can start spending your money on paid ads.
SEO plays a huge role in your visitors’ buying journey. Since it might take them more than one visit to your website to decide to purchase your services or products, improving your SEO can increase the number of touchpoints with your audience.
If you increase the number of possible entries to your website, you will also increase the chances to bring them back to your website and eventually convince them to buy your product or services.
For example, let’s say you run an e-commerce business selling pet food. You run a few ads on Google with a special discount on wet cat food. Someone clicks on it, checks out your product, but decides to compare your prices, ingredients, and brand culture against those of your competitors.
Or they just check out a few products for their cats on your website and then leave. Then, let’s say, in the same week, the same person decides to search on Google, typing: “How much-wet food should I give my cat?” and finds a blog you posted that answers the question they asked. They click on the post, read it through, and find it useful. If, in your blog post, you have a link back to the same product you’ve been promoting in your Google ad, your user will see it twice. And they will be more inclined to purchase your product than the first time around.
Of course, you might wonder if we should attribute the sale to the ad or the SEO. To get some insights about that, read this blog post on marketing attribution by our friends from Saasquatch.
In a nutshell, SEO will help you gain visibility, authority, and credibility, raise brand awareness, and grow your website traffic in the long run.
In fact, SEO is probably the most sustainable digital marketing initiative you could implement since it doesn’t dry up when you stop paying, as PPC campaigns do.
What Does SEO Consist Of?
Successful SEO strategies combine and integrate the six primary activities of SEO—keyword research, on-page SEO, quality content, backlinks, internal link building, and competitive watch. The multi-pronged effort is what makes it effective—and is also the reason it requires an investment of time, research, self-training, and testing.
Let’s review all six activities.
1. Keyword research
Building your blog and website traffic begins with keyword research.
Keywords are literally the most important words you need to use on your website’s pages. By incorporating them into your copy, titles, descriptions, and more, you tell Google, Bing, Yahoo, and all other search engines what your website is all about.
These search engines scan your pages in an effort to match their user search queries with repeated keywords in your content.
For example, if you’re selling organic food for pets—yes, it’s a thing—and your keywords include “pet food” or “quality cat food,” your site won’t show up for search queries such as “cheap wireless headphones.” But it might show up if someone is looking for “pet food” or “quality cat food,” etc.
How to find keywords
First, you can list all the most “obvious” keywords that you have in mind in an Excel spreadsheet.
Then, you can enrich this list by simply typing a few words in the search engine and see what additional terms come up:
What shows up are the most popular search queries in your region related to the keyword that you started typing.
In France, people are looking to purchase dispensers, looking for different online cat food brands, and even how to make their own cat food.
Notice that some search queries are longer than others; they are called long-tail keywords. They’re composed of several words; sometimes, they might come close to forming a whole sentence.
These long-tail keywords can help you quickly rank your page higher if it answers the user’s question, so it is critical for you to include them in your list of keywords.
You can also use SEO tools to help you find related keywords or matching phrases such as Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, SEMrush.
Now that your list of keywords is growing, you need to choose which ones you need to prioritize.
To do that, you need to take two main criteria into consideration—keyword difficulty (KD) and the volume of monthly searches:
- Keyword difficulty (KD)
“Keyword difficulty evaluates the chances of getting into top 10 of search results (not top 3 or top 1). Apart from backlink profiles and content relevancy, many additional ranking factors come into play among the results of the first page of any search.”Ahrefs
- Monthly search volume
This number reflects how many people are using the keyword for researches on Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.
Your site’s KD and monthly search volume vary a lot according to the country and language. See the example below for the same keyword—“cat food”— in the U.K. and the U.S.
The keyword is interesting to bring organic traffic to a British website. A British brand can write a blog post or incorporate it throughout their website. It’s quite easy to rank for when the search volume, i.e., the traffic opportunity, is estimated at 11K monthly queries.
However, it would be much more difficult to rank for the keyword “cat food” for an American website. According to Ahrefs, it would take you backlinks from about 77 websites to rank in the top 10 results. You could invest time and effort trying to rank for this keyword, but it would be a long-term win.
Leveraging search intent
Search intent is the reason why people are searching.
Are they looking to learn something? Are they looking to buy a product? Understanding search intent is key to helping you understand what your audience is actually looking for and to make sure you provide them with the right content.
Here’s an in-depth article about search intent written by SEO expert Joshua Hardwick.
If you investigate search intent, you can increase your opportunities to drive quality traffic to your page and gain your audience’s trust, which will most likely result in a second visit to your website.
SEO tip: In your Excel spreadsheet, always make sure to link one main keyword to each page and blog post.
Where to put keywords on your page
To rank well using keywords, incorporate them into your SEO titles and page titles and throughout your content as well.
Here’s a cheat sheet you can use to make sure you don’t miss any opportunity rank-boosting keyword placement:
2. On-page SEO
On-page SEO consists of elements on the webpage that are optimized to assist the search engine bots as they do their crawling and indexing.
It includes title tags, meta tags, page loading time, responsive page, image optimization, local business schema markup, and more.
On-page SEO is important because it helps bots better understand what your content is about—and ultimately get it in front of your audience.
Learn more about on-page SEO in this full guide published by Anna Crowe on SearchEngineLand.
“You can’t simply ignore on-page SEO because you have more control when optimizing for on-site elements – as opposed to off-page SEO that consists of external signals (i.e., backlinks). If you put effort into on-page strategies, you’ll see a boost in traffic and a rise in your search presence.”Anna Crowe, Content Lead at Leadfeeder
3. Creating Quality Content
High-quality content is at the core of all of your SEO efforts.
Google and all other search engines continuously work on their algorithms to improve the relevance of their suggested results, basing them on every website’s level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. The latest one being the BERT update.
The best way to get Google to characterize your site as trustworthy and authoritative in your marketplace is to produce high-quality content.
You can start a blog, create videos (webinars, customer testimonials, product demos, and tutorials, etc.), publish white papers, and take other steps to get more great content out there.
Keep in mind that your point of focus matters.
In other words, you can write a blog post with the best keywords and a fully SEO-optimized page, but if it doesn’t answer a relevant question or bring value to the reader, you will never drive meaningful traffic to your page.
How do you create quality content for your blog?
Here are seven steps to creating high-quality content for your blog or website:
- Start by investigating search intent to make sure your content answers a question your potential users might have. Otherwise, you’ll miss your target audience, and it will be a useless effort.
- Do some research so you can develop and publish in-depth original content.
- Make it personal. People are interested in reading your opinion and recommendations. Your personal experience can be very insightful and can serve your audience.
- Make it long enough. According to HookAgency, blog posts that are 1760 words or more are more likely to rank higher in search results. And that’s precisely because such articles are in-depth enough.
- Back up your ideas and talking points with data, proofs, studies, and quotes from industry leaders.
- Insert internal and external links. Be sure to provide your audience with additional information related to your blog post. For example, in this post, I’ve linked to a ton of external resources to give you the opportunity to dig deeper into your SEO strategy research. But it’s also important to build a strong internal link network to keep your readers on your website longer.
- Add media to your post. Images, infographics, videos, interactive media can greatly increase your reader’s retention on your post. They’re also easier to share, which, in turn, can increase your reach on social media.
4. Backlinks a.k.a. External Links
Backlinks are those links that point to your website or blog posts from external websites.
They are important for SEO because they help to build your level of authority from Google’s perspective, which improves your page ranking.
Besides, it broadens your audience directly, too, since you’re also benefiting from the traffic coming from these websites.
According to Jonathan Morton from Statcounter:
“As confirmed by Google in 2016, backlinks are one of the top three major ranking factors for websites. In addition to improving your organic search engine ranking, backlinks generate targeted referral traffic and help search engines index your web pages more quickly.”Jonathan Morton, Product Designer and Strategist at Statcounter.
your web pages more quickly.” – Statcounter
What does a backlink look like?
Backlinks can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, including links incorporated within a content, more explicit links, such as “Visit website,” or links on images, in videos descriptions, and more.
Here is an example of one of our backlinks on BigCommerce’s blog:
Here’s another example of a backlink we got from HubSpot’s Integration Marketplace:
How do you build backlinks?
- Create quality content
- Find authors that might be interested in linking to your content
- Reach out to them to ask if they can do so
- Contribute to other blogs and include a link to your own website
- Ask companies you’re already partnering with to add links to your website
Here’s a full guide on how to get more backlinks to your blog post.
5. Internal Links
Internal links are all those links from one of your website pages to another one of your website pages.
Internal links are an important component of your SEO efforts for several reasons:
- They help your visitor navigate through your website content, increasing your number of PageViews per session, and the average time spent on your website.
- They help Google scan your website and understand how your pages and content are linked together. This is very helpful to your page ranking. Building a meaningful internal link network gives Google a strong signal that you are focusing on your user experience and that you’ve put serious thought into your website’s structure.
Look at one of our dashboard examples pages below and notice the variety of links it includes, inviting access to other pages on the site, including:
- Our demo calendar tool
- The homepage
- The other main pages of our websites (Product, Solutions, Support, and Pricing)
- One of our product pages. We chose to link to the dashboard designer page because a visitor who is looking for dashboard examples might be interested in learning how to build them
- The signup page—very important!
You can also incorporate internal links into your blog posts, your website pages, or to other posts on your blog.
You can include them in the copy of your post or at the end to suggest related content to your readership. We recently wrote a blog about 4 Low-Budget Marketing Tactics, which talked about our marketing content and multi-channel marketing strategies and why they have proven to be effective. Within it, we thought that our readers might be interested in two other blog posts about social media strategy on a low budget and marketing tactics to grow a subscription-based business. It looks like this:
6. Competitive Watch
Like any other marketing initiative, you need to keep an eye on your competitors’ SEO efforts and tactics in order to adjust yours accordingly.
But how do you learn about your competitors’ SEO tactics?
It’s quite simple.
First, take your list of targeted keywords that you built, search for them on Google, and see which websites show up in the top ten results. If some websites come up multiple times for several of your main keywords, you have your list of main competitors for SEO.
The next step is to analyze your competitors’ SEO strategy. And that means, Inspector Bond, you’ll need to spy on them:
- Check their average traffic volume
- Check their domain rating
- Explore their blog and see what they write about
- Check their social media content and see how much their community is reacting to their content
- Check the keywords they pay for (PPC)
- Check their backlinks
You can get all this information using free or paying competitive analysis tools.
You now have a better understanding of what SEO is all about, and you have all the keys you need to get started driving more organic traffic to your website.
By focusing on SEO, your website will gain authority, visibility, and credibility in your marketplace. With more high-quality content, you will also earn your audience’s trust, which means they’ll be more likely to come back to your website multiple times. Those visitors are also the ones that are more inclined to ask for a demo of your product or a quote for your services and will grow your sales pipeline.
In another blog post, we give you 15 SEO KPIs that you will need to track and measure the performance of your marketing strategy.