Online Marketing: SEO in 3 Simple Steps
As we head further and further into an era of online marketing, the term “SEO” is frequently referenced, mis-referenced, and used as the basis of arcane marketing arguments. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, can be concisely defined as the practice of increasing both the quality and quantity of traffic to your website (as well as associated exposure to your brand) through non-paid or “organic” search engine results. Learn the three simple steps to SEO success and watch your digital marketing results soar.
SEO vs PPC
First a word or two about paid search results vs. organic search results. Some businesses wrongly assume that because search engine advertising comes at a cost (you will pay a small fee each time someone clicks on your ad), SEO is a superior form of digital promotion. In fact, pay per click (or PPC) advertising and SEO both have important parts to play in the world of online marketing.
Although various technologies and programs offer help with SEO, such as crawlers, which we will address later, there is a very human aspect to SEO that is often easy to miss. At its core, SEO is about understanding the topics that your prospects are searching for online, what answers they are seeking, the terms they are using, and the type of content that interests them. Search engines are complex, intelligent and ever evolving, but they still need the human touch. SEO can appear to be very complicated, however, we are going to simplify and break it down into three basic elements to provide a high level overview of key issues. We have also created an infographic to present a breakdown of some of the critical factors.
To maximize visibility and website traffic, you need both paid search engine advertising and excellent organic search results. Although there is no direct cost for SEO results, it will take time, effort, and money to improve your SEO. Achieving SEO visibility is neither quick nor easy and often requires hiring expert assistance. You will need to invest in SEO strategy and content development up-front and be prepared to play the long game. But SEO is still generally the most cost effective method of increasing website traffic and brand awareness, and once you properly establish your SEO presence, the competition can’t simply buy more prominent organic search placement.
While paid ads do appear above organic search listings on results pages (a clear advantage in many cases), more users seem to click organic search results than paid listings. High SEO rankings are also more effective in driving brand trust. To reach targets at every stage of the marketing funnel, however, an integrated online marketing search strategy is required. Organic website traffic is often largely at the beginning stage of the buyer’s journey (awareness). To guide them to action, you will almost certainly need paid digital advertising as well.
SEO: The Human Aspect
Although various technologies and programs (such as crawlers) offer help with SEO, there is a very human aspect to SEO that is often easy to miss. At its core, SEO is about understanding the topics that your ideal prospects are searching for online. What answers are they seeking? What terms are they using? What type of content interests them? Search engines are complex, intelligent, and ever evolving, but they still need the human touch.
While SEO can appear to be very complicated, we’re going to break it down into three basic steps to provide a high level overview of key SEO issues. We’ve also created an infographic that addresses three critical factors to achieving optimal SEO ranking.
SEO: 3 Basic Steps
#1 Audit Your Site
Before diving into an SEO strategy, you must lay a foundation and be clear about what you want to achieve. This should be more than simply “driving traffic” to your site and should be tied to a tracked conversion. If you are wondering what a conversion is, check out this post on “How Digital Advertising is Changing Consumer Habits”. Having a clear vision will help you create content that is relevant to your goals as well as how they relate to what your customer is searching for and, ultimately, play into your search engine ranking.
When it comes to search engine ranking, you want to come out on top. When someone searches for something online, the search engine they’re using goes through all the pages and sites they have “crawled,” pulling up sites and links it believes best satisfy your search. In theory, results are listed in order from most relevant to least relevant. We say “in theory” because there are some reasons the most relevant content might not appear at the top of the list. These reasons all relate to the term “crawling”.
Crawling is the strategy search engines use to discover new and updated content. Their “crawlers” scroll through websites, analyzing any content they can find. These crawlers move around sites through links within web pages. You can check the cached version of your site to see when crawlers last analyzed your content. To ensure that crawlers find and rate your digital content appropriately, you will need to review (audit) your website and then make changes (optimize) based on what you find.
#2 Optimize Your Site
There are several ways to optimize your website. The more optimized it is, the easier it will be for bots to crawl it, and the better the chances for your search engine ranking to increase. Aside from anything else, your content must be well written. It should be engaging and easy to read with useful and relevant information.
Other factors that affect your website’s SEO performance are::
- Backlinks and internal links
- Mobile adaptation
- Page load speed
Besides writing clear, engaging, and informative content, arguably the most important SEO tactic is incorporating strong and relevant keywords. Keywords (the terms people use in their searches) are what match online content with the target audience. They are the topics that your content is about. The keywords you choose to target will determine what kinds of traffic your website receives.
The oft-quoted SEO guru site Moz.com states that keywords are the “linchpin between what people are searching for and the content you are providing to fill that need.” Keywords are as much about your audience as they are about your content. The more you understand the needs and wants of search engine users and the relevant terms they’re likely to employ, the better your chances are to boost your search engine ranking by catering to those specific topics (and using those exact keywords and phrases) in your site content.
There are several tools available to conduct this type of keyword research. Here at MSS Media, Inc. our digital team uses the ever improving SEMrush to conduct keyword research and undertake site evaluations. Please note that keyword research isn’t a one-and-done proposition. Your target keywords will need to be continually managed (and updated as necessary) to ensure that your content stays relevant and keeps reaching your target audience. The ongoing effort is worth it, because keyword research isn’t just about SEO. Expert digital marketer Neil Patel explains the importance of keyword research when he states that it’s the foundation of all other digital marketing practices.
“Keyword research is the blueprint for your online marketing efforts, driving every decision you make."”
Backlinks & Internal Links
Upgrades to your online marketing content should also include consideration of backlinks and internal links. The systematic growth of backlinks from other third party websites to your content provides your site with authority. According to StatCounter.com, “Backlinks are an essential aspect of SEO because they help to build your website’s domain and page authorities, which directly contribute to search result rankings.”
If a credible third party website with a very high domain authority, say nytimes.com, provides a link to your site, this will boost your own online credibility. But beware of toxic links - if a website with low domain authority includes a backlink to your site, it can actually lower your domain authority. Therefore the quality of backlinks is the critical issue, not the quantity.
This Authority Magazine article is an excellent example of a positive backlink to the MSS Media, Inc. website.
Internal links (from one page on your site to another) are also important. These links create topic clusters within your site that direct the user, and the search engines they employ, to a group of related pages on your site rather than an individual URL. Search engines use these content connections to determine the context of your website and rank it accordingly. In addition to their positive effect on your site’s SEO rankings, these clusters of content and the associated links help direct users through your website.
Mobile Adaptation & Page Load Speed
The last two tips for optimizing your web presence are more about housekeeping than strategy. Make sure your site layout adjusts to be friendly to visitors on mobile devices (this is called a responsive design) and that your site’s page load speed (the time it takes to download on a user’s device) is optimized.
A mobile-optimized advertising campaign executed for the College of Nursing at the University of Houston by MSS Media, Inc.
According to Ahrefs.com, “40% of people leave sites that take longer than three seconds to load.” You don’t want to miss out on a conversion due to your website content failing to load in a timely manner. The same goes for making sure your site is mobile friendly. Mobile is now the most important channel for internet access worldwide, so make sure your content presents well on mobile. Otherwise, you’ll quickly lose interest from site users and potential customers.
#3 Track and Measure Success
Once you’ve taken the necessary steps to improve your website, it’s time to start seeing the results! Make sure to check in on your keywords periodically. The more frequently they’re being searched and the higher they’re ranked, the more chances there are of your website getting organic traffic.
Conversions are another way to track and measure success. After ensuring people find your website, you must also ascertain if they’re taking the desired actions toward your established goal. This means that people are not only visiting your site, but they’re also engaging with your content (clicking links, completing forms, downloading materials, etc.).
You should also monitor the bounce rate of your site. This is a measure of how many people visit your website and leave without taking action. High bounce rates are simply an indication that you need to readjust your digital marketing strategy and/or content to ensure it’s the very best it can be.
SEO: Final Thoughts
Optimizing your online marketing content for SEO ranking and maximum results is a continuous process of experimentation and refinement. Like most other promotional efforts, it requires commitment and regular attention. The three steps outlined above are essential in planning and executing a successful SEO strategy. If implemented correctly, you will see significant improvement in your website’s organic traffic.
At MSSmedia, we provide clients with creative digital media management and optimization services that provide real results, relevant to your specific business goals. Acquire an impressive return on investment by displaying ads when, where, and how they are most relevant to your target market. We help you cut through the digital media clutter, amplify your branding efforts, extend your marketing reach, and build deeper relationships with your target audience. Our mission is to propel your marketing message further and guarantee the best possible outcomes.
Are you looking to jumpstart your online marketing efforts?
Here at MSS Media, Inc., we’ve been providing Education, Government, Real Estate & Lifestyle clients with succinct, optimized, and successful marketing solutions for more than 15 years. Consider MSSmedia a full-service, one-stop shop for all your Media and Public Relations needs. Your goals are our motivation. And our mission is to propel your message, further and faster, to achieve the outcomes you’re looking for. If you found this blog post helpful, please share!
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