5 SEO Strategies That Will Get You Noticed
As part of our Lead Generation series, we are covering some different approaches on our podcast “Growth Marketing for Humans”. This month we spoke to Matthew Shepherd, Managing Director of Dotdynamic about some SEO strategies that will help your lead generation and get your business noticed. Below are some of the highlights from this months episode.
Firstly for those that might not be as familiar with SEO, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and it’s an umbrella term for the processes we work through to make our website and content more visible in search engines like Google; preferably for the highest volume keywords that our audience is using to find the solutions that we offer.
Ultimately the aim of SEO is to increase the quantity and quality of traffic to our websites, and as a result, increase leads and sales. With search engines like Google processing 5.8 billion searches per day, SEO represents a significant opportunity to increase relevant search traffic to your website and as a result your lead volume.
So this is a huge opportunity for our listeners to tap into new audiences, that they may not be reaching.
Depending on your experience with SEO, some of these tips are best practices for those just getting started with SEO, but these are always worth revisiting even if you have been doing SEO for a while. Near the end, I’ll hopefully have a few tips for those that are a little further along the road of understanding and implementing SEO. For those that are just starting out I highly recommend Moz’s Beginners Guide to SEO.
1. Verify your site with Google Search Console
We see a lot of businesses miss this step, and as such, they miss out on a lot of useful SEO data, so before we go any further, please search for Google Search Console and verify your website. Google Search Console (which used to be called Google Webmaster Tools) is a free tool from Google that provides website owners with a range of reports including, the keywords that send traffic to your site and the technical issues Google finds on your site when they crawl it.
These two areas of the tool alone can help you identify opportunities to improve your website as well as track the progress you’re making with your SEO. The keyword data we get from the tool is sampled, so you don’t get the full picture of what’s happening but you definitely identify trends and great SEO opportunities by using Search Console.
So setting up Google Search Console is a good first step to start collecting useful search data to inform your SEO strategy and measure your progress.
2. Keyword Research
So when businesses start thinking about SEO they’re likely thinking ‘how do I tap into this search audience and start driving relevant traffic to my website’, and this often leads to some form of keyword research. This is where businesses identify what they have to offer and match that up with what they feel their audience is searching for.
Picking the right keywords is an essential first step in making sure your SEO efforts drive sufficient volume to generate leads, but also that the traffic is relevant and interested in what you have to offer, otherwise you are just driving traffic for traffic sake. When businesses carry out their own keyword research we often see a few common issues that hold them back from generating relevant traffic and leads.
The first is that the business uses keywords or descriptions of their products or services that their audience doesn’t actually use, they use a technical or jargon term for what they offer or they rely on branded descriptions of what they offer. In some cases, there is a business case for using such keywords on a website, but we always encourage our clients to also prominently include the keywords that people actually search for that relates to their offering, as ranking those keywords is what will actually drive increased relevant traffic.
The next issue we see is businesses focusing too heavily on a small set of highly competitive keywords or keywords that are too focused on just one part of the buyer’s journey.
So a good process to avoid such issues and to build a set of relevant keywords and topics to target is to work with the stakeholders within your business to create a list of seed keywords. Ideally, you want a list of keywords that targets your audience at each stage of the buyer’s journey or at each stage of your marketing and sales funnel.
For example, if I sell CRM software and only target keywords such as CRM software, contact management software etc. I’m really only targeting my prospective buyer at the top to the middle of the funnel, that is, the top of the funnel where the buyer has a problem to solve but maybe hasn’t yet defined what that problem is exactly, and middle of funnel where they have a better understanding of the problem and potential solutions. If I now target keywords such as CRM features, CRM cost, My CRM Name vs CRM x etc. I’m now targeting middle to bottom of funnel keywords and so I’m more likely to be seen by those buyers that are a little further along in their buyer’s journey.
Once we have our seed keyword list the then use keyword research tools such as SEMrush, Moz, and Ahrefs (h-refs) to verify these keywords have a sufficient amount of search volume and to gauge the level of competition that you will face in ranking for these keywords; some tools will provide a metric to indicate the level of competition for a keyword. If you don’t have access to such a tool take a look at the search results for your keyword to see if you are up against large established brands, media publications or sites like Wikipedia; that’s a high level of competition.
If your keywords don’t carry volume or are too competitive use the keyword research tool’s related keywords features to find variations of your keywords that have more search volume and show a low to mid-level of competition.
Once you have your core selection of keywords and topics to target, take this back to your stakeholders to ensure everyone is happy with this selection.
The last steps in the keyword research process are to extend your keyword list, looking for further relevant variations and long-tail keywords within your topic area, and then map your keywords to your funnel stages, and then to the individual pages that you expect to target those keywords. This helps focus your on-page optimisation and will also help you identify content gaps where you maybe don’t have sufficient content to rank for a keyword or to address a buyer at a certain point in the funnel.
When extending your keyword list Other sources of keyword data to consider are:
Google Search Results, look at keywords suggested by Google when you type in your seed keywords and the related keywords listed at the bottom of the page, Competitor websites; just keep in mind that just because your competitors target and rank for a keyword doesn’t necessarily mean it is driving them relevant traffic and leads.
As well as Google Search Console, Google Trends, and Answer the Public.
We have a keyword research template that we’ll be sharing with our newsletter subscribers so sign up to our newsletter and you should see that coming your way soon.
3. On-Page Optimisation
So, we spoke quite a bit there about carefully choosing your keywords, which is really important to driving relevant traffic and leads, but almost as important as this is on-page optimisation, that is optimising all of the elements within our website page to target a keyword or closely related set of keywords. All too often we see businesses that have done a pretty good job on keyword research, they know what they are targeting, but they fail to include their target keyword and related keywords in key areas of the page and sometimes don’t mention the keyword at all; that can make it pretty hard, not impossible, but pretty hard to rank a page well for that keyword.
Generally speaking, you want to mention your target keyword in the page URL, page title, meta description, H1 heading tag, image alt text, in internal links that point to this page from areas of your site, and several times throughout the content of your page. It’s important to do this in a natural way, don’t repeatedly stuff keywords into your page in a way that makes it weird to read and that obviously looks like keyword usage for ranking sake (Google can spot and punish keyword stuffing.) Ultimately you should be trying to create a helpful and factual answer to your web visitor. No point ranking well and driving traffic just to lose the visitor immediately when they see your content is what they were looking for or is low quality.
You want your keyword to be mentioned in the page in key places but it’s not about frequency. You can overdo frequency, it’s just about conveying that you are answering this particular query and that means you not only want to include your target keyword but also keywords and topics that Google has determined are closely related to your target keyword.
So now we are saying, try to use keywords closely related to your primary target keyword in your content. If for example, your page is related to marketing software Google will know keywords such as sales and marketing, marketing campaigns, marketing and automation, lead generation, and digital marketing will often appear in content that provides relevant answers to marketing software related search queries. While such keyword mentions often occur naturally when writing about a subject, sometimes in an effort to keep content short and conversion-focused such copy is sacrificed, so researching related keywords is a good way to understand what Google may see as a good answer to your target keyword.
Tools like SEMrush’s SEO Content Template tool can help you find semantically relevant keywords to include in your content but again only do so if mentions of these keywords really are relevant and will make sense to your reader. If you don’t have access to such tools analyse the common keywords in the content of competitor websites that rank highly for your target keyword and look at the ‘searches related to’ section at the bottom of the Google search result page for your keyword.
There are tools that can help with on-page optimisation. Yoast is a great tool for WordPress users to help them spot obvious optimisation opportunities but don’t get too hung up on trying to make everything show up as green and valid in the tool. The only way to know if you have hit the right balance of optimisation is to publish, test, see how your rankings change, and then tweak again.
4. Featured Snippets
Featured snippets are answers that are shown directly at the top of Google’s search results. Those answers are snippets of text extracted from a website that Google thinks have provided the best answer to a searcher’s query. Because Featured Snippets appear at the top of the organic search results page they are also referred to as position zero. So, Featured Snippets are a great SEO opportunity to drive more traffic and leads for a few reasons.
First, they can help you show up at the top of the search results page, even when you aren’t able to rank in position 1.
Second, they are highly visible and in our experience, drive a lot of traffic
Third, they can also be used as responses to voice searches, which are becoming more popular as we all buy smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Alexa.
There are lots of great articles out there on how to optimise your content for featured snippets, I’d particularly recommend SEMrush’s content on the subject, but as a quick guide on how to go after featured snippets…
First: Find a featured snippet opportunity, these tend to show up for question preposition, and comparison type searches, so searches containing words like how, what, why, does, for, like, with, compare, vs, price etc. So combine these words with your topic and see what shows up in Google; you can also check the ‘People also ask’ box on the search results page for further ideas of queries that might trigger featured snippets. Tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs can also help you track down featured snippet opportunities.
Second: Once you have found your opportunity look at the page that currently holds the featured snippet and the format of the content in the featured snippet. Featured Snippets tend to be taken from answers that contain lists, tables, or paragraphs that provide a concise answer to a question.
Third: You want to replicate the content that ranks for the featured snippet providing an even better answer in a similar format in a relevant page on your website. Make sure you put the featured snippet query that you are trying to rank for in a heading tag directly above your answer then provide a clearer and more detailed answer than your competitor. Answers with steps presented in numbered or unordered lists often get selected for featured snippets, so if you aren’t sure how to format your answer, I’d start with a list with at least 5 bullet points if you can.
Fourth: Finally, just keep tweaking and testing if you don’t get a featured snippet on your first attempt, keep tweaking your wording, improving your answer, and changing the format of your answer. Also worth noting, that you will have a better chance of ranking for featured snippets if your site is mobile friendly and loads quickly.
It’s worth noting that featured snippets aren’t right for everyone, so some testing is required, for example, some businesses find they’ll drive more traffic from position 1 or 2 of the regular search results if they can hold those positions.
5. Local SEO
So, if you have covered a lot of what we’ve talked about so far or you’re a business that is more concerned with targeting searchers within certain geographic regions, local SEO is the next area to look. Local SEO is a set of processes that focuses on getting your business to rank in the local map pack search results or for search queries that have a localised element such as keywords that contain state, city, or neighbourhood names.
Sometimes businesses can’t compete with large national brands for competitive keywords but if they can nail their Local SEO they can beat larger competitors in local search results; which can drive a lot of relevant traffic and leads, online and offline.
Local SEO is a topic we could spend several podcasts talking about so I’ll just hit some best practise highlights here:
First, make sure you have set up or claimed your Google My Business listing and added as much of the requested detail as possible. Make sure you pick your business category carefully and that it accurately represents your business. Look at what business category high ranking director competitors are using. Make sure to only use your actual business name in GMB listing, that is don’t stuff your service keywords like Dublin Locksmith in there. It doesn’t always work to your benefit and could get your listing removed.
Second, make sure your business name, address and phone number are prominently displayed throughout your website and that these details match any other listing of your business around the web – if not change those other listings.
Third, if you are trying to rank for a keyword + location make sure to mention that location keyword on your page, in the page title, heading, and content.
And last, make sure to ask your customers to leave reviews on your Google My Business listing. If you do a search for ‘google review link’ you’ll find a Google support article on how to grab a short link to provide to your customers, that will take them straight to the reviews section of your my business listing. If customers do leave reviews, good or bad, it’s recommended that you respond to those reviews through your Google My Business profile.
Site speed and core web vitals
So this is a quick bonus tip, we’ve known for quite a while that Google rewards websites that are fast to load and mobile-friendly, but they have now officially announced that early next year they will be using a user experience metric called core web vitals as a ranking factor. Google doesn’t often tell us much about their ranking factors so this is a pretty big deal. I’d encourage everyone to run their websites through Google’s Mobile-Friendly and Pagespeed Insights tools and follow the recommendations those tools provide to improve their site’s core web vitals. This should be a great way to get the edge on your competition in search but improving user experience can also provide a lift in site visitors turning into leads and customers.