Over the years, I’ve had many conversations with leads that start with, “I know I need SEO, but I’m not sure what it is and how to implement it.” And here where the problem lies, as being ignorant of what SEO is, why it’s essential and what it means for your business can cost you. If a business owner doesn’t understand what SEO is, they can easily be swindled by the never-ending fly-by-night firms and individuals claiming to be ‘SEO experts’ and charging hundreds, even thousands per month on “SEO services” but never really explaining the techniques they are using, often focusing on the tricks and shortcuts, rather than taking a wholistic approach.
“If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs.”– Barack Obama
An educated client is a more satisfied and appreciative client. That’s why I feel its imperative to take the time to explain to them not only what SEO is, why they need to implement and what is involved in optimizing their web presence. When they understand the efforts behind it, they will appreciate the process even more because they’ll understand the amount of effort that is needed, whether they are managing it or I am.
So this blog is for business owners who are attempting to understand either why their site is not ranking well on the SERPs or what steps they can take to improve the rankings of their brand new site over the months and years ahead. We’ll also discuss (1) why you need to implement SEO into your marketing strategy; (2) the three building blocks of SEO; and (3) how they can be implemented and some tips on using each block.
Why SEO Should be Demystified
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”– Albert Einstein
Instead of over-complicating, obscuring or mystifying the strategies behind search engine optimization, I’ve always felt that it creates a much more trusted and honest relationship with your client by explaining it fully in simple terms. That way, they can manage their own SEO, or be much better equipped when hiring a subcontractor or marketing firm to do the work for them. To illustrate, if you understand the steps and ingredients that go into the cake, you can more easily decipher what is missing when the end result doesn’t taste right. It also frees you from being forced to buy a cake from a store or bakery anytime you want cake, as you now know how to make it yourself … although it may save you time in the long run to have someone else bake it for you, especially if you like their cakes.
The same goes for SEO, if your or your contractor’s efforts are failing, you have a better understanding of how to repair and correct those efforts. It also gives you the ability to manage your own SEO strategies, if you feel so inclined or your budget necessitates it. Granted, you may not have the time to manage your own SEO, but still understanding the process will make you a wiser and more well-informed consumer.
Why SEO Should be Implemented in your Marketing Plan
“When looking to make a purchase, 89% of B2B buyers and 81% of online shoppers turn to Google.”– Hubspot
If you’re looking for a new car, hire a plumber or purchase a pashmina for Fall, where do you turn first? Even if you’re not ready to make a purchase, reviewing, comparing and researching for that product or service starts 81-89% of the time on Google. In what situation are you more likely to make a transaction … when you are searching for a product or service you are currently in need of OR when you just happen upon an ad for a random product/service on social media or other online channel? Typically the first scenario will more than likely result in a transaction. That is why Search is best.
“Leads from search engines have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (ex. cold-calling, direct mail, etc.) have a 1.7% close rate, and social media is less than 1%.”– Digital Marketing Institute
So if a user is searching for your specific product or service … then how important it is that they find you on at least the first page of Google? They have proven to be an engaged lead with an interest in your product, as they have taken the first step to conversion by actually searching for it. If they can’t find you, than that is a lost opportunity … a lost website visit … and a lost lead … and a lost conversion … and lost revenue.
Often clients will ask me, “How do I get my website on the first page of Google?”
While it seems a simple answer, it’s a very lengthy answer with a host of variables, diverse strategies, paid and organic elements, industry specific guidelines, near constant search engine algorithm changes and much debated best practices. While there are often a host of ways to improve your search engine ranking, I’d much rather break it down for beginners into three easy, digestible blocks. So how can you navigate through all of this to understand the basics? While I have an individualized approach to each client and their industry, there are common denominators that transcend all the other above listed variables. These are what I call the three building blocks of SEO: Age, Authority & Content.
What are the Three Building Blocks of SEO?
Building Block #1 – Age
“Nearly 60% of the pages ranking in the top 10 Google results are 3 or more years old.”– Ahrefs
Why is Domain Age a Factor? First ask yourself: How long has your domain name been registered and linked to a live website in your industry? This is not something you have much control over, nor can you accelerate or pay to change. Basically, the longer you have owned and used your domain name in your industry, the more Google sees you as a trusted, credible source.
For example, which business would you trust more – a business that has just celebrated 20 years in business or one that just opened their doors? The longer a business has been open, the more opportunity they have a proven record with their customers and the community.
When you are a new site, with a new domain name, Google doesn’t know you and doesn’t trust you. Doesn’t sound fair? Well you haven’t done anything yet to prove you are a trusted provider of your products or services. You have no history, no record of service, no testimonials and no authority. Your content has not been verified yet and you’re not linked from many, if any, other third-party credible sites.
Is there any hope for a new domain name with a new site? YES!! “The difference between a domain that’s six months old vs. one-year-old is really not that big at all. As long as you’ve been around for at least a couple of months, you should be able to make sure that you can show up in search results.” – Matthew Cutts, of Google
What should you be doing if your domain name has no history? So all is not lost if you have a new domain and regardless of your domain history, but you are just at the beginning of your internet marketing journal. Your efforts to improve search rankings should start before and right after your site goes live. The first few months of a new website may be an uphill struggle but all the work you do now will pay off in the months to come. Just be patient and never stop or pause your optimizing strategies.
Building Block #2 – Authority
“Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that predicts how likely a website is to rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). Domain Authority is calculated by evaluating multiple factors, including linking root domains and the number of total links, into a single DA score.”– Moz
“The more backlinks a page has, the more search traffic it gets from Google.” Why? Authority for Google is often measured by the number of backlinks your site has. Basically it’s a bit of a popularity contest, because in Google’s eyes, if a trusted, credible website is pointing to your website, then you have also earned a measure of that trust and credibility.
What is a Backlink? In basic link terminology, a backlink is any link received by an external website back to your website. The number of backlinks is one indication of the popularity or importance of that website or page (if and only if the links are coming from a trusted and relevant source) according to the search engine.
Are there Bad Backlinks? Yes. Backlinkingcan be an effective SEO tool, but only if done right. If done wrong, it will actually hurt your site these days. Inorganic backlinks are bad for your site, plain and simple. Google will penalize you if you are artificially trying to create backlinks to your site through link rings, link schemes, reciprocal links, bought links, and links on low quality sites. One rule of thumb to know if the link is harmful to your SEO efforts, don’t ever pay for a backlink!
How many should you have? As many as you can, organically, naturally and consistently over time – not all at once, as that will appear suspicious to Google. “Generally speaking, the more backlinks a page has, the more organic traffic it gets from Google.” – Ahrefs
What if I have none? That’s not good. “91% of all pages never get any organic traffic from Google, mostly due to the fact they don’t have backlinks.” – Impact
Is Social Media considered a backlink? No, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important in other ways and it can still drive traffic to your website. “Social Media backlinks are not pointless. I get why many marketers think they are pointless. It’s because they’re no follow and they don’t ‘count’ in the realms of usual SEO. But the truth is that social signals play a role as a ranking factor.” – Matthew Woodward
How do I get more backlinks? Organic content is your best bet. If you write good, unique, interesting and engaging that your target audience actually wants to read, that naturally people will link to your website to share, to quote and to reference your content. “Companies with blogs get 97% more backlinks.” – SEO Tribunal
Is link building easy? No, but it’s worth it so don’t give up. “Link building is the most challenging tactic in 2019.” – 99Firms.com
Building Block #3 – Content
“72% of online marketers describe content marketing as their most effective SEO tactic.”Junto
Content is the building block you have the most control over and had the greatest impact on your overall SEO strategy. Granted, writing content takes time, which not many entrepreneurs have these days. But it’s so worth the efforts and far exceed the effects of a social media post. Why? Content on your website has residual effects as it can bring visitors to your website for the weeks, months and years ahead. Can a social media post do that? Website content or a blog is chock full of keywords and LSI* keywords that build your page ranking, increase traffic to your website and help Google index your pages according to customer intent.
What do I write about? When writing content, think like your customer: What keeps them up a night? What questions do you most often get asked by leads and customers? What do your customers need and want in the current market with the current conditions? What topics interest them, that that may be directly or indirectly linked to your expertise? How can your product and service fulfill their needs and what is your call to action?
How long should content be? Here are some statistics that vary greatly:
- “The average content length of the top position Google article contains 2,416 words.” – Impact
- “The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.” – Backlinko
- “Well, you have a higher chance of ranking in Google if you write long, high-quality blog posts, of 1000 words or more.” – Yoast.com
Does a word count encourage quality writing? No, not at all and those word counts can actually scare most entrepreneurs away from even starting. So forget all of the above statistics when writing an article because content that drives traffic is much more about quality than quantity (word count).
Then what are guiding factors on content length? It should be as long as necessary to tell your complete story. It should give your target audience the information necessary to back up your points, whether with statistics, quotes and research. And it should be long enough to give Google as many clues as it needs to determine what your article is about and how it will match with user intent for their search queries. It should not be artificially lengthened to allow for keyword stuffing (very bad) or adding filler content to reach a word count goal.
Why is it imperative to write UNIQUE content? First of all, you will avoid plagiarism and stealing someone else’s intellectual property but also duplicated or scraped content will actually hurt your website’s ranking. Google knows who was the first one was to publish that content and it will know who was the one copying it. This is so important to Google that in January 2019 they released the Newsgate Algorithm to enforce publishing of unique content. The point of the Newsgate update is to penalize those using duplicated, stolen, scraped or rewritten content from other websites.
What is E.A.T. and what does it have to do with SEO Content? E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (or Page Quality). After various Google updates in 2019, EAT become more important when ranking content on your site, and checks content against three standards:
- Expertise: Is the author credible and trusted and does he/she have credentials to back that up? Do they have a high level of knowledge and experience in that field? This becomes even more important on any YMYL topics such as content that offers medical, financial or legal advice.
- Authoritativeness: Is the website or blog seen as a reputable source of information on that specific topic? For example, an award winning chef will not be seen as having authority to write an article about liability insurance for a corporation.
- Trustworthiness: Does the website have a record of providing true, accurate and honest information? Does it refrain from making false or exaggerated claims or reference erroneous statistic? Is your website transparent on who the actually author of each page/post? Do you provide contact information with a real address of a legitimate and registered business or organization?
What is the Takeaway and where do I go from here?
“Effective Search Engine Optimization Requires a Commitment, Not a Campaign.”– James Reynolds, SEO Sherpa
Simply put, SEO is not a mystery, it’s not hard or difficult to implement. SEO is about patience, hard work and consistency. There is no such thing as an ‘overnight success’ when it comes to SEO. Understanding the basics are imperative to developing an individualized plan for your specific brand and your industry. Startup Production is here to help! Call us for a free estimate on developing a plan which I can train you and your staff on, provide on-going consultation and/or manage for you.