What is SEO Marketing and How to Use It
You did not end up on this page by accident. The search engine you used was not drawing straws out of a hat to randomly pick which sites should come up in your search results. The same goes for you customers, the results that come up for their search queries will not appear through luck and wishful thinking. In fact, there is complex search engine algorithms in place that filters through millions of sites in order to give the user the highest quality and most relevant search results. Yes, there are Google Ads and PPC, also known as paid search campaigns, to help you out with advertising, but the world of SEO marketing runs so much deeper. Check out this beginner’s guide to SEO to help you start optimizing your site for higher search engine rankings.
What is Search Engine Optimization, SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization, which is a digital marketing strategy that focuses on a website’s presence on a search engine’s results page (SERP). The goal is to increase organic traffic to your website by curating the content in a way that boosts the site’s ranking.
In more basic terms, SEO is the practice of ensuring the content on your website is being picked up by the search engine as quality content to improve organic search results. In turn, the search engine will display your site at the top of the search result page. This way, when your target is using the search engine for their research queries, they see your site first (or at least one of the first).
How do search engines work?
There are 3 essential components to a good SEO strategy for your search engine marketing: on-page SEO, off-page SEO and technical SEO. Incorporating these components will provide the search engine with the information it needs to recognize your site as a high-ranking site.
Google search console is constantly making improvements so it can better understand new content. On-page SEO helps Google understand and analyze your website’s content; the better Google can understand your site, the more traffic it will get.
Let’s look at some SEO search engine optimization best practices for on-page optimization.
Optimizing your URL will help Google understand what your page is about. The way to do this is by:
- Using keywords in your URL
- Put the keyword as far left in the URL as possible
- Use real words
- Use hyphens between words
- Avoid session ID’s
Title tags and meta descriptions
Every page has a title tag that appears in the search engine results page as a headline. The meta description is a short summary of the page that appears under the title on the results page. The human users and search engines use both to understand the purpose of the website.
Meta descriptions are not technically a part of the on-page SEO ranking factors. However, they do affect how users interact with the site.
The title and meta descriptions influence a person’s decision to click on a listing in the search result. When both are optimized, it increases the click-through rate (CTR) which shows Google your content is valuable. Higher CTR equals higher rankings.
Some best practices for on-page SEO meta descriptions and titles:
- Primary keywords should be at the beginning of the title.
- To ensure your title does not get cut off, make sure it is around 60 characters.
- Each page should have a unique title so you avoid Google thinking you have duplicate pages.
- Use compelling copy in your title and description.
- Avoid all caps in the title tag.
- Write your meta description so that it accurately defines your site.
Use different headers (H1, H2, H3, H4) to organize the text on your page to make your content easier to read. If visitors see large chunks of text on a page they are less likely to want to read through it. Using multiple headers quickly informs the user what each section is about – and if you use compelling copy – entices them to keep reading.
Headers also give Google a better understanding of the content on your page. Remember, it is essential only to use one H1 tag per article to ensure proper optimization and a good user experience.
You should be using your keyword as often as you can while still making it appear naturally on the page. Don’t make the mistake of overusing keywords, known as keyword stuffing, by putting them in every sentence because that would just be awful to read. You can also use synonyms, long-tail keywords and related – which will all help your page ranking.
Internal and external linking
Internal and external links are links that are placed in your text and take users to additional content. They can be anything from another website, a video, a pdf, or a social media account. External and internal linking is essential to search engine algorithms for multiple reasons. They reinforce context and relevance as well as offer depth of coverage on a given topic. Focusing on internal and external links is known as link building.
Links to your site also help Google understand the relationship between the pages on your site. These are known as backlinks. Therefore, it’s critical to make sure the links you are using are authoritative links – meaning the content on these links is credible and trustworthy.
When creating the anchor text for your link, the text that will hyperlink to the URL, a good idea to keep in mind would be to use your keyword. That being said, do not use your keyword for every anchor text; otherwise, Google might flag it as keyword stuffing. Anchor text should always relate to the topic you are linking. When all of this is optimized, your site has a better chance to rank higher with major search engines.
Off-page SEO refers to all of the activities you and others do away from your website to raise a page’s ranking. This can include writing a guest blog or leaving a comment on another site, both of which counts as off-page site promotion.
Off-page SEO tells Google what other sites think about your page. If you have numerous other sites linking back to your site (as long as the other sites are authoritative), Google will recognize your site as credible content.
For the human user, off-page site promotion is great for advertising. It lets people know your site has valuable content and could therefore lead to a higher CTR.
Technical SEO is part of on-page SEO because it deals with what is actually on your site to optimize organic traffic, as well as page speed, mobile-friendly optimization, sitemaps, and so on. However, on-page SEO mostly deals with the content aspect of a website. In contrast, technical SEO improves the technical aspects of a website to increase ranking in the search engine. In addition, technical optimization makes the website faster and easier to understand for the search engine.
Why is SEO so Important?
If you are still wondering, but how will SEO help my small business? Search engine marketing (SEM) is one of the leading ways small businesses can gain traffic to their sites. Take a look at these key benefits below.
1. Easy to do on a budget
SEO can be quite inexpensive. Of course, you can hire a specialist, but to start you can learn and implement most of it yourself! Other than the cost of hiring someone, purchasing subscriptions or spending your own time, the actual implementation doesn’t cost much.
Technology indeed changes all of the time. But, the core processes and strategies associated with SEO should last a long time and will only need minor tweaks. SEO can be one of the best long-standing marketing solutions for your small business that provides a continuous ROI when done properly.
2. Works well with other marketing strategies
Testing what has worked through other marketing channels can reinforce if something will or will not work in your SEO strategy and vice versa. For example, if a clothing brand did email marketing, they could notice things like people reacting better to “Pink leopard shoes” as the subject line than they did to “yellow leopard shoes” as the subject line. As a result, when picking keywords, they would know their customers like pink better than yellow and choose the better word accordingly.
Research into your SEO and content marketing strategy to determine what trends are emerging in your industry, what customers are more likely to click on, what elements of a product or service are more useful, and even what you should name a feature. Again, you’re working to optimize your site by understanding what your customers care about. That can only help inform your other marketing efforts.
3. Improves brand awareness
In this day in age, people are searching for answers to their questions multiple times a day. Having your site come up as one of the top results to their queries will bring so much more attention to your small business.
Obtaining new customers is challenging since people aren’t familiar with you yet. That being said, by giving them valuable information, you are establishing trust. If people begin to feel like they can trust you for answers to their questions, they will be more inclined to spend their money on your products and services.
Local search engine optimization is another way to get new eyes on your small business. Think about it, how many times do people need information on the specific businesses in the area? More times than not, people want to know what’s close to them.
Also, simply having other sites link back to your content increases the number of clicks you’re getting. In turn, more people will become familiar with your small business.
How To Do SEO For Small Businesses
Always think E.A.T. – expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. These are Google’s metrics to determine if a website’s individual pages are credible sources of information about a specific subject. Providing real value to users through quality content is at the core of EAT and should be top of mind when doing SEO.
Now, the first step in your SEO marketing strategy should be to find what your target’s search intent is. Think about what the user wants to get out of their search query.
There are three main types of search intent.
1. Navigational search intent is used when the user wants to find a specific page or site. Like when someone types “Twitter” into Google.
2. Transactional search intent is when the user wants to complete an action. This isn’t restricted just to purchases. It could be an email signup, lead generation form submission, store visit, or a phone call.
3. Informational search intent is done by the user who wants a specific answer to their question. These queries often start with “how to,” “where to,” “where is,” “why do,” etc. For example, if someone types in “how to do B2B social media management” – this would qualify as an informational search intent.
After establishing what kind of search intent your target market has, you can start your keyword research. Depending on the variety of content on your site, the search intent may vary along with the keywords. For example, if you have blogs on your site that talk about kids’ birthday party ideas, the search intent would be informational. However, you may also be selling children’s clothing on your site, so you want to choose keywords for transactional search intent as well.
Choosing the right keywords is critical to the outcome of your SEO marketing strategy. There are various free keyword and SEO tools that can help you accomplish different goals. Topic has a keyword research tool called People Also Ask that allows you to plug in keywords, and it will give you the questions that people generally ask surrounding the keyword you put in.
For example, for the query “car insurance,” this tool can find questions such as “What does bumper to bumper not cover?” and “When should you drop full coverage on your car?”.
Answer The Public is another keyword research tool that uses autocomplete data from search engines like Google then quickly cranks out every useful phrase and question people are asking around your keyword.
Next, you can start thinking about the actual website and its site architecture. Consider using a site map. A sitemap is a blueprint of your website that helps search engines find, crawl, and index all of your website’s content. Sitemaps also tell search engines which pages on your site are most important, creating structured data for quick crawling.
Sitemaps can especially be helpful for new websites- this is because Google mainly finds web pages through links. So. if your site is new and has a small number of backlinks, a sitemap is vital for helping Google find pages on your site.
In terms of actually structuring your website, the Skyscraper technique is something you should be following! This technique centers around the goal of making your website the most visible (tallest) skyscraper on the internet – so that your site is the one everyone is using.
The first step in the skyscraper method is selecting your keywords. Using Google Trends can help you understand what keywords are popular in specific areas during different times of the year. For example, you can check how popular the keyword baking challenge in Canada was in 2020 compared to 2021. You can also see how specific trends affect other trends, like how the Covid pandemic affected searches around the economy.
After finding keywords, the next step in the skyscraper method is to analyze the top-ranking content for your chosen keyword. Next, look into industry competition to see how your content will compare to theirs. Think about how your content will stand out from the competition and grab the attention of your target audience. You can also try considering what content is missing and how you can fill those information gaps for your target.
This might be stating the obvious but make sure the content you create is better than the competition. Maybe this means more visually appealing content, including more embedded photos and videos to break up the text. It could also mean writing short, digestible paragraphs, inserting quotes from experts, or using statistics, math, science, or experience. To help optimize your content for SEO, you can use Surfer SEO.
Finally, make sure to check your backlinks and do outreach. Sites like SEMrush or ahrefs are useful to check on your content after it has been live for a few weeks. You can use them to study other sites linking to yours and see if there are new opportunities for backlinking.
With an influx of traffic to your site, you’ll need the right tools to track and monitor your revenue generation. With QuickBooks Online, your business will benefit from a whole set of features that can track cash flow, organize your finances, and make payments for your marketing needs. Try these features for free today.
Originally posted on the QuickBooks blog here.