If you are like most marketers, you likely kicked off 2013 with a budget against each of your primary marketing channels: paid search, email marketing, social media, media spends, and et cetera. This year, I implore you not to neglect the traffic and revenue source with the biggest return on marketing investment of them all: organic search. A recent MarketingSherpa study on the most effective traffic sources for conversions illustrates that organic search is not only the highest traffic generator around; it’s also the best at converting leads.
In this article, we will share some of the tactics we use to maximize the number of organic leads entering the top of the sales funnel through search engine optimization, or SEO. There’s an entire industry based around SEO, but our goal is to share the most impactful tips that you can begin using immediately, at no cost to you other than your time!
Create great, user-friendly content
This list of five SEO tips for 2013 is in no particular order, except for this one. Before you implement any SEO tactics, it is best to think of your visitors first. They aren’t interested in increasing your number of organic search visits; they are interested in finding what they are looking for. You may have heard of the dreaded “Penguin” and “Panda” updates Google made to their search algorithm in 2012. These updates were aimed at improving user experience and penalized websites trying to trick the system. These updates had absolutely no negative impact on webmasters focused on providing the best possible content for their visitors without using “black-hat” SEO tactics. Google is constantly refining their search algorithms in the best interest of their users, so the best long-term bet is to create great, user-friendly content that your visitors are naturally inclined to share.
That being said, there are SEO tactics that will help you increase the number of organic searches leading to your content while also helping users find what they are looking for. The best way to do this is to get into the mind of your consumer so you are both speaking the same search language. You may find you have been calling your product a “gadget” while your potential customer is calling it a “widget.” Use the Google Keyword Tool to discover how many searches are happening each month around terms related to your content and to uncover possible variations.
Once you have one or two high-volume, and highly relevant to your content, keywords, ensure the keyword exists in critical areas of your content including your page title, content introduction, headers, and links.
The hope is to clearly communicate the focus of your content so if somebody shares a link to your page, they use your keyword in the anchor text of their link. Anchor text is the text that is linked and is one of the main ways Google knows what your page is about.
Keep in mind that 20% of Google searches each day have either never been entered before or have not been searched for six months. Ubersuggest.org is another keyword research tool that can be used to discover variations of your content’s keywords that have been used in real queries.
Submit a Sitemap
Google and other search engines will eventually find your content and naturally index quality webpages, but sitemaps are a way to expedite the process. Google probably says it best:
“Sitemaps are an easy way for webmasters to inform search engines about pages on their sites that are available for crawling. By creating and submitting sitemaps to search engines, you are more likely to get better freshness and coverage in search engines.”
If you are using a WordPress CMS, generating sitemaps is as easy as installing a plugin such as SEO by Yoast. You can also use the Google Sitemap Generator, which will automatically create a best-practice sitemap to facilitate the indexing of your newest content. Sitemaps are a great way to have content indexed that you may not otherwise link to (thus making it difficult for search engines to find).
One great example of this is images. Work to optimize the titles, alt-text, and captions of your images with your high-volume keywords and you are bound to see a new stream of organic searches via Google image search.
The image below illustrates the benefit of submitting a sitemap. This screengrab from Google Webmaster Tools shows that indexed pages were stagnant until the sitemap was submitted on May 20. Notice the immediate spike, and the consistent growth ever since.
Optimize Top Searched Pages / Queries
Google has an entire suite of search engine optimization reports in Google Analytics that are unlocked by simply creating and linking to another free service, Google Webmaster Tools. Among other benefits, Google Webmaster Tools is an easy way to monitor the health of your sitemaps in the prior tip and how many of your pages have been indexed.
Once you unlock the SEO reporting found in Google Analytics at Traffic Sources > Search Engine Optimization, you can see (1) search queries that caused at least one of your pages to display in Google search (2) the most popular landing pages on your site via search and (3) a geographical summary of search impressions and clicks.
The search queries report’s value comes from its ability to provide insight into which terms are helping your website garner the most impressions. There is an opportunity to optimize your content containing these search terms in two ways. First, it will help you prioritize which meta-descriptions you should experiment with to determine which variation delivers the best clickthrough rate. The meta-description is the short blurb about your content under the title in search engine results pages. While meta-descriptions do not help move your content up in search rankings, tweaking these to contain high volume keywords and strong calls-to-action can increase clickthroughs. Second, these reports are even better than the keyword research suggested above, because they show you what your audience is most interested in, and the search terms they are using to find it. Use this information to inspire and optimize new content.
Monitor Keywords and Site Search Closely
Taking the idea of learning what your audience is most interested in one step further; make use of keyword reporting to learn not only how your visitors are searching most frequently, but how they behave once they land on your site. Time on page combined with bounce rate, or the percentage of people who left your site after viewing just one page, are good indicators of how relevant your content was relative to a specific search term. Keep in mind that time on page can only be calculated for visits containing at least two pageviews.
- A high bounce rate with low time on page = low relevance.
- A low bounce rate with high time on page = high relevance.
Use this information to either position the content in a different way or work to create new content that more directly helps solve your visitor’s problem.
Last but not least, site search reports are the best possible way to know what your audience is after. These visitors have found your website either through search or another channel, and taken the extra step of searching again within your site. These people want to buy from you! Make sure you have a good answer waiting for them when they use your site search by using their search queries to inform copy, and potentially even site layout (prioritizing highly searched content).
In conclusion, all five of these SEO tips for 2013 and beyond have one thing in common: they are in the best interest of web searchers because they help them find what they are looking for. Implementing any or all of these ideas will prove to withstand the test of time because you and the search engines will be trying to accomplish the same thing.