Despite what you may have heard over the years, SEO is still here to stay.
In fact, in an era of inflated marketing budgets and boundless technical innovations, the art of maximizing your presence on search engines matters more than ever.
The long and short of it all is that SEO is still vital for spreading the word about your business, particularly if you’re trying to connect with local audiences. It’s one of the most consistent ways to drive traffic to your site, increasing your brand’s visibility and helping to generate warm leads over time.
But – and, we know, there’s always a “but” – just thinking about SEO won’t make it start producing results for your brand. Instead, you need to understand SEO – what it does, how it works, and what types of audiences it will bring to your site.
For one thing, it’s vital to understand the type of audience driven to your site via search engines – which digital marketers call organic traffic. In simplest terms, organic traffic refers to the volume of visits to your site that come through queries on search engines.
And now, more than ever, it’s important to recognize that your organic traffic consists of hyper-local audiences, mobile users on the go, and people looking for quick solutions to complex problems. These are all users prime for conversion – if you know how to help guide them into your funnel in the first place!
So how can you make your brand stand out in the sea of websites targeting these audiences, and attempting to make the most of Google in 2018 and beyond?
Here are 5 surefire ways to deliberately use SEO to increase valuable organic traffic for your brand:
1.) Publish High-Quality, Unique Content
In our view, the single most effective way to quote-unquote “solve your SEO problem” is to make sure you’re generating highly readable, shareable, helpful content. Indeed, on the modern internet landscape, your commercial success ultimately comes down to the success of your original content.
Having a solid content marketing strategy in place, driven by a regularly updated blog and a variety of multimedia elements, is not only an excellent way to increase your inbound links from social media and email, but an indisputably effective way to improve your visibility in organic searches. (In case you wanted a little more detail, we’ve got an in-depth guide to the science behind how blogging works available here.)
And while we feel that everyone should be generating content as part of their comprehensive marketing strategy, it’s important to recognize there are some ways to do it more effectively to improve your SEO. Specifically, brands will want to stay away from “blackhat” content – types of content which were previously used to game the system on Google, but have since become taboo.
For one thing, be sure that your content is totally unique – not only is plagiarism unethical, but having too much “duplicate content” makes you look like a blackhat, and sets you back with search algorithms, which look for distinct and highly differentiated content. It also helps to avoid “keyword stuffing” your content, another common blackhat tactic (more on that in a second).
It’s also important to make sure that your content is timed effectively. Add new content consistently and frequently; a consistently updating blog page is a big draw to search engines, which look for activity, frequency, and size as indicators of quality.
2.) Max Out Your Technical SEO
So, great content is one thing. Now it’s important to know how to package this content, so it appeals to search engines. We call this – the practice of streamlining your content for maximum SEO success – “on-page” or “technical” SEO, and it’s a vital step in the overall search equation.
One important aspect of on-page SEO to consider are your keywords. Though not as vital to SEO success as they once were, keywords are still an important consideration when you’re writing, grouping, and tagging your content for Google’s legion of bots and search crawlers, which ultimately review and rank your website’s pages.
On the one hand, it’s important to include keywords in your body copy. Ultimately, search engines love to see that a piece of content is centered around a “focus” keyword, and will look for variations in language and complexity (i.e., “readability”) when deciding on a piece’s merit. It’s also important to consider “long-tail” searches, which are longer and more complex than you might expect.
Ultimately, writing your body copy with clarity and focus – rather than trying to cram in as many keywords as possible – will net you greater success with search engines, and your human readers (i.e., your flesh and blood future customers). To that end, tou might also consider creating separate pages for your most important keywords; rather than including all of your products and services on one page, separate them onto unique pages to maximize your keywords while improving user experience.
There are other places to consider emphasizing the terms that search engines are looking to pick up: Make sure your title-tags (which show up on the search engine results page) include your targeted, searchable keyword. Also get your focus keyword into your URL, your sub-headings, your image descriptions, and other key spots on the page.
You’ll also want to take care to insert your keyword – and some more thoughtful writing – into each page’s meta-description. Meta-descriptions are an easy way to highlight exactly what your content is about, improving click-through rates. Think of these short (160 characters or fewer!) descriptions as a first introduction to searchers, a chance to tell your ideal reader why your content is worth clicking and exploring further. It won't improve your standing on the search engine results pages (SERPs), but it will dramatically improve click-through rates.
3.) Think of the Links
As you generate new content and lay out your landing pages, be considerate of the way you’re using links.
For instance, while using internal links to your own website’s branded content is a good way to declutter individual pages and generate additional clicks, this practice also comes with its own set of drawbacks. That is to say: Including too many internal links can lower your search value and signal to Google that you’re trying to spam users with your content. It’s a fine line between just enough, and entirely too many.
It’s also important to consider the overall structure of your website – and make it as easy as possible for Google and its peers to find, examine, and evaluate your pages. Talk to your web developer about building a site map for your website, and be sure to consider periodically resubmitting your site to Google and Bing to index. When you do this, you alert these all-important search engines to the existence of new pages on your website, allowing them to get seen and ranked more quickly.
4.) Have a Strategy for Backlinks and Off-Page SEO
If on-page SEO refers to the steps you can take on your own website to make it more palatable to search engines, off-page SEO refers to the external factors that influence how your site is seen.
Broadly speaking, traditionally, the most important metric for determining off-page SEO success is backlinks. It’s vital that you try to cultivate backlinks with other sites. The more trustworthy sites link to your content, the more trustworthy and important you appear to Google’s algorithm in turn. We’re also moving toward a time where brand mentions, even those separate from actual links, can affect your site’s credibility with search engines.
With that in mind, encouraging your readers to share your stories on social media and linking to your content on their own blogs can help improve your Google ranking. You can also take matters into your own hands, generating social proof and backlinks by sharing your own unique website content on your dedicated social media pages, or via a regular email newsletter.
It may also help to put a reputation management strategy in place for your brand. We use “reputation management” to refer to the practice of guiding the digital conversation that is happening about your business, particularly on review and listing sites such as Yelp. Putting our reputation management workflow into place can help you ensure that the virtual chatter about your brand is all positive; we can also help make sure that all references to your location, contact information, or team are authentic and up-to-date, which can also help improve your trustworthiness with search engines (and searchers).
5.) Avoid “Code Bloat”
Finally, it’s important to remember the look, feel, and function of your brand’s website as well as your individual pieces of content. Ultimately, a well-build website isn’t only helpful for SEO success – it’s a requirement.
For one thing, it’s important to remember that your site needs to be visually appealing, responsive, and quick to load – particularly on mobile devices! Not only does most of your audience now come to you from mobile, but Google also factors mobile design into its search rankings.
What’s more, as you (or, more likely, your digital pro) design your website, be conservative with how and what you code. Some programmers use more lines of code than necessary to solve a problem. Always remember: The longer and clunkier your code, the harder is to for “web crawlers” to scan, decreasing your visibility. Having excess code can also increase your loading times, which will turn users (and search engines) off of your site, potentially forever.
Looking for the right SEO tactics for your business? Ready to start generating high quality content for your site? Drop Geek a line! Our experienced team is ready to help with all of your digital marketing needs, from web development, to SEO, to social media.