Let’s be honest here: search marketing is hard. Pretty much every founder and marketing director I know has had a bad search marketing experience. They’ve invested what they think is good money in an SEO agency, and they’ve been wholly disappointed with the results. Sadly, many write off the whole discipline and move on to other lead gen techniques.
Yet it doesn’t need to be this way. If you do it right, search marketing can deliver business-revolutionising traffic and leads. But you need to do it right. Here’s how:
Start with proper keyword research
When I say keyword research, I mean in-depth research in which you create a long list (thousands) of potential target keywords and narrow them down based on search volume, searcher intent, competitiveness and relevance.
Take for example my video production company, TopLine Film. We produce corporate videos, animations, commercials and case studies for a wide range of businesses.
Looking at our explainer video company page: we chose to target this page at the keyword explainer video company. This keyword generates up to 1,000 searches a month in the UK. That’s lower than the generic explainer video which generates up to 10,000 searches a month, but we figured that someone searching for explainer video could be looking for definitions of what an explainer video is, or guides on how to make one themselves (searcher intent) – not our ideal customers! We also noted that the sites ranking in the top 3 for this keyword are not particularly high authority, so we figured we could outrank them (competitiveness). Decision made.
Create one page per target keyword
That’s a lot of pages I know, but if a keyword is worth targeting then it needs its own page. Then that keyword needs to be included in the title tag, the h1 header and scattered naturally throughout the text. Don’t stuff your page with keywords. Keep it natural – after all, you are writing it for people, not Google! You also want to ideally get about 600 words into your copy, which might seem long, but there are ways! It’s also worth reviewing the competition at this stage – what do their pages look like? And how can you make yours better?
Take for example our video animation company page. We’re targeting the keyword video animation company which has been used seven times throughout the page. We’ve also included our long list of production tips to get the text to the right length.
Blog about relevant things in an interesting way
Keep your website updated with regular blog posts, making sure you focus on quality, not quantity. Each post should target a specific keyword if possible, and your starting point should be to research the pages that already rank for that keyword: what content do they offer and how can you improve upon that? Do not just hire a copywriter to produce run-of-the-mill listicles or adequately researched pieces to pack your content calendar – your piece needs to be better than all the other pieces out there.
Take for example our post on video marketing statistics. We clearly want to rank for the search term video marketing statistics. If I’d commissioned a copywriter to produce a piece about video marketing stats, I would have got a list of 50 stats nicked from the first 20 posts on the subject on Google. That’s doesn’t exactly improve upon the searcher experience – so why would Google want to rank the page higher than the pages that are already ranking. Nope we had to think broader and deeper, creating a really long list of video marketing stats, and adding in some original stats from our own research.
Build links through PR
Link building is not something that should be done en masse. When it comes to link building (find out why link building is important), quality matters so much more than quantity – Google has said so repeatedly. And the best quality links come through PR – learn how to do it, or invest in a good PR agency. Don’t expect your SEO agency to be able to build good enough links – unless they have a specialist PR division.
Don’t neglect the technical stuff
Either make sure you understand the technical stuff (like crawling for broken links and monitoring site speed) or find someone who does. The technical stuff is important, but it will have zero impact on its own. Unfortunately most SEO agencies are really good at the technical stuff, but useless at the link building and content creation, which is why so many SEO strategies fail.
Set realistic expectations
Whether for you or your management team, setting realistic expectations is critical to SEO success.
I’ve heard too many CEOs demand of a search exec: ‘Why aren’t we ranking first for this term?’. The answer is that there are many factors that are out of your control, such as how good your competitors are at SEO, how Google’s algorithm changes and how old your site is. Only one site can rank first for each term, and so it really is about being better than your competitors.
Another unrealistic expectation is to think that ranking first for a term that generates 1,000 searches a month will generate 1,000 leads per month. Remember that not all of those searchers will click on your result, and not all of them will convert to leads.
Make sure that all your stakeholders understand these core concepts and also that they recognise that progress will not be linear: you will have gains some weeks, and lose ground in others, but the overall trend should be upwards.
SEO success takes time. You are at the mercy of Google’s algorithm updates and you need to build the profile of your site as time progresses. But once it starts working, it really does pay off.
Heather Baker, CEO, TopLine Film