You may think that customers are finding you through your website, but, unfortunately, that may not be the case if you’re ignoring SEO.
Simply put: if your business is not on page one of Google’s search results, it doesn’t exist for your potential customers!
What Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Why Does It Matter?
Every day, people search online for the solutions your business provides. If you’re not helping them find you on Google, you’re missing out on qualified leads (and letting them fall into your competitor’s lap).
The process of making your website visible on Google is called search engine optimization (SEO).
The goal of great SEO marketing is simply to help potential customers find your website. Since more visitors = more opportunities to convert them to paying customers, you can clearly see that SEO is a worthwhile investment.
When you rank on page 1, you’re seen as an authority in your market, whether local, national, or global. Even if the highest-ranked company isn’t the top-rated or the highest-grossing, it can seem that way to prospects.
You may be getting great results from strategies like paid advertising or business partnerships, but that doesn’t mean you should fall asleep at the wheel and ignore SEO as an opportunity for growth.
Younger, newer companies often outrank older, established companies because they prioritize SEO. They may partner with SEO agencies and advertising companies to make sure they’re nailing their search result ranking.
SEO increases your organic traffic (AKA your free traffic), which is a smart long-term strategy for growth. Investing in organic traffic doesn’t pay off immediately like paid ads, but it will free you from the perpetual cycle of increasing your ad spend to keep your business growing.
How SEO Has Evolved
Some companies are hesitant to invest in SEO services because, in the past, there were scammy SEO marketing strategies.
We recommend that you avoid the following old-school SEO tactics:
- Keyword stuffing – You know those articles and pages that repeat the same keyword or phrase in every other sentence? Yeah, don’t do that.
- Fictitious link building – It sure seemed like a good idea to set up fake websites and give yourself backlinks, but Google caught on and penalized the perpetrators.
- High volume, low-quality content – Back in the day, sites used to churn out dozens of blog posts per week in a strategy that was only about volume, not quality. Boy, do we feel bad for anyone who ever worked at a ‘content mill’.
Those old ways of doing SEO will actually hurt your search rankings and lower your chances of appearing at the top of page one, which means fewer potential customers.
It’s All About Google’s Algorithm
We know what Google doesn’t want, but what about what it does want?
Google has created and continually improves one of the world’s most complicated algorithms. It considers over 200 factors when ranking thousands of websites in a few milliseconds, for a single internet search.
The algorithm not only determines the rank of websites but also measures the desire and intent of the person performing the search based on their online behavior. Then it matches up all these data sets to display their search results.
In addition to how they gather data, Google is always updating its algorithm to deliver higher-quality search results. And while much has been said about the constant Google algorithm updates, only a few updates have had a big impact on best practices.
Most updates are simply maintenance tweaks to their core algorithm and minor features such as marking HTTP sites as ‘not secure.’ (Getting an SSL certificate lets site visitors know that any information they enter on your site is protected. It’s a simple process and an easy fix if you haven’t already done it.)
There’s much hoopla and hype, but fortunately, what Google ‘wants,’ so to speak, is clear.
Google’s algorithm prioritizes
- Domain authority
- User experience on-site
- Search term relevance
- Updated content (you should post and update your content regularly, but never prioritize speed over quality)
Now that you understand the importance of SEO, we’ll dive into the difference between on and off-page SEO and 6 actionable ways you can improve both.
On-Page vs. Off-Page SEO
On-page SEO (also called on-site SEO) is anything you do on your website to make it easier for Google to understand what your page is about. When Google understands your page, it’s easier to rank higher. On-page SEO is 100% in your hands to improve, so it’s a great place to start.
Off-page SEO (also called off-site SEO) is any action that happens off your website that improves where you land on the search engine results page (SERP.) Off-page SEO is a little harder to control, but there are some great principles you can apply.
Both on and off-page SEO are important to focus on if you want to improve your rankings and get found by customers, so our list includes strategies for each.
6 Ways to Improve Your SEO
6 steps of a modern SEO campaign that you can start implementing today are
1. Reverse Engineer Your Top-Performing Competitors
To beat the competition on Google, you need to know their wins so you can make sure you’re playing on the same field. One way to do that is with the free tool UberSuggest. A quick search lets you see which key phrases your competition is currently ranking for.
If any of those keywords or phrases are relevant to the product or service you offer, you can start targeting them on your own website pages. Easy ways to do this are by updating the current content on your pages, adding a new website page about the topic, or creating a blog post about it.
Don’t worry if your competitors are out-ranking you! You can also use Ubersuggest to spy on your competition to see why they’re ranked so high for their key phrases.
In our experience, it’s often because they have other relevant websites that link to their site. These are called backlinks, and they’re a big deal in Google’s eyes (for more on backlinks, see strategy 5 below).
2. Use Ubersuggest for Keyword Research
In addition to competitor research, you can also use Ubersuggest to research keywords you can target on your site. Type in the kind of business you run and your location, and you’ll see dozens of related search terms that you can target in your current or new web pages.
Getting a huge list of keywords can be overwhelming, so don’t overcomplicate it. Start by targeting keywords that represent your core business offerings.
If you offer low-interest rate loans for veterans, make sure that key phrase appears on your website.
3. Improve Your On-Page SEO
Once you’ve determined the key phrases your competitors are ranking for and which you want to rank for, you can:
- Target one main keyword or phrase per webpage, including related secondary key phrases
- Write metadata that includes your target keyphrase
- Place your target keyphrases sparingly throughout your content
- Include alt image tags for all images on your site that include your target keyword
- Publish fresh content regularly targeting keywords and phrases that are relevant to your target customers and product or service
Other ways to improve your on-page SEO that aren’t related to keywords are:
- Make sure your website is optimized for mobile (since 58% of Google searches are on mobile devices)
- Add internal links between related pages on your website to increase credibility
- Create a consistent naming convention between page names and URLs
- Optimize your website’s speed
4. Manage and Update Citations
A citation is an online directory that lists your relevant company information. With over 1,000 online directories on the web, it’s important that your phone number, website, and office hours are accurate and consistent across the most relevant ones.
The citations sites you should optimize first are:
- Google My Business
- Yahoo (yes, some people still use it!)
In addition to these, there are usually industry-specific citations you should consider updating. For example, if you’re a community bank, you should also optimize your citations with the ICBA. If you’re an attorney, you should also optimize your citations within Avvo and SuperLawyer.
5. Increase Domain Authority with Quality Backlinks
A backlink is a link from one website to another, and they’re often a major contributor to a successful SEO campaign. However, getting backlinks to your site means that other websites need to choose to link to you.
How do you go about getting another website to backlink to you?
Sometimes, you just need to ask.
For example, a mortgage broker who wants to create a high-quality backlink to their site might reach out to Quicken Loans asking to write a guest blog post for Quicken’s website. The blog post would credit the mortgage broker by mentioning their name, and, more importantly, Quicken Loans would also link to the mortgage broker’s website.
Google loves this because you’re making their job easier.
Of the over 200 ranking factors that Google considers, backlinks are one of the top 3 factors for determining relevance and placement on the search results page.
If Quicken Loans, one of the largest mortgage companies in the US, is linking to a mortgage broker’s website, it’s considered a high-quality backlink and helps that mortgage broker’s website rank higher.
If you discover (after using UberSuggest) that your competitors are actively building quality backlinks, you definitely can’t skip this step, or your chance of outranking them is very low. Even if your competitors don’t have a lot of backlinks, you’ll quickly gain ground on them by establishing some of your own.
In addition to reaching out to credible websites yourself, you can use HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to acquire backlinks on your own. HARO helps journalists source experts on a variety of topics. The journalist provides some details about the article they’re writing and a few questions they’d like to ask an expert.
Respondents email the journalist answers to their questions for a chance of being featured (and linked to) in their upcoming article. This is a free service that’s it’s very worthwhile since many regional and national publications request expertise. The result is more quality backlinks that increase your domain authority and give you a higher chance of ranking for your desired search terms.
Backlinking is often viewed as the cornerstone of a modern SEO campaign.
Once your website is optimized for on-page SEO (strategy 3 above), your SEO strategy must focus on gaining high-quality backlinks to outrank your competition and get discovered by your target customer.
6. Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
You’ve probably noticed the Google Map at the top of some search results pages for things like ‘San Diego dentist’ or ‘Bay Area credit union.’
Almost one-third of all mobile searches are location specific. If you have a location-specific business, you must show up on that local map.
However, Google only lists three businesses. To see more business listings, you must click on the ‘More Places’ button, which very few people do.
To increase your chances of appearing in the top three, you can optimize your Google My Business page by adding your:
- Physical address
- Phone number
- Website domain
- Hours of business
- Photos of your business, employees, products, and happy customers
In just a few minutes, you can make it much easier for your target customer to find your business.
Bonus Strategy: Get Online Reviews
91% of consumers say that positive reviews increase their chances of using a business, so you need to get online reviews. Positive reviews attract new customers and factor into your organic ranking on Google’s online directory.
Companies that have a lot of positive reviews almost always rank at the top of Google, which means they continue to get their brand in front of more potential customers.
Like backlinks, the best way to get more reviews is to ask! When a customer has a positive experience with your business, text or email your Google My Business listing and ask them to leave you a review. Over time, you’ll build a large library of raving reviews.
Take Your SEO to the Next Level
At the end of the day, SEO optimization is a really important part of your strategic marketing plan because it will help your business get in front of the right customers.
However, most businesses simply don’t have time to manage their own marketing. That’s where a marketing agency or specialized SEO agency comes in handy.
We’ve mastered SEO and can create a custom approach tailored to your business and target customers.
If you’d rather focus on the high-level strategy work that only you can do and let us bring more customers your way through SEO optimization, get in touch.