Paid ads and PPC campaigns are all well and good, but their lack of organic appeal is a big deal. Of course, it’s not to say that you should shy away from paid advertising entirely. A well-executed PPC campaign can deliver a superb ROI.
But when it comes to building genuine trust with your target audience…well, let’s say the vast majority of people instinctively distrust conventional paid ads.
With paid advertising, you’re almost always looking at rapid but strictly temporary results. By contrast, trigger a major organic influx of traffic to your website and the benefits could be permanent.
SEO is, by its nature, a long-term strategy. An ongoing process of channelling qualified leads to your website, by giving them exactly what they are looking for. Rather than paying to have your name at the top of the search rankings, you make your way up the listings by way of merit.
All well and good, but where to start? Given the complexity of the SEO landscape, how can the average small business steer its organic search marketing strategy and the right direction?
As is often the case, the key to successful search marketing lies in taking things back to basics. In fact, there are just eight things you need to do to benefit from a major organic traffic increase, which will prove to be anything but short-term in nature:
1. Define Your SEO Goals as Clearly as Possible
First up, for an SEO campaign to succeed, it needs to be based on a series of clearly defined goals. Your SEO objectives should be aligned with your broader business goals, which likewise should be as clearly defined as possible.
An organic search marketing campaign can be launched with a variety of objectives in mind. Your priority could be channelling as much traffic is possible to your website for brand development purposes, irrespective of whether or not they buy anything. Elsewhere, the goal could be to focus more on highly-targeted traffic for a better conversion rate, effectively reducing traffic volumes, but boosting sales.
Try to map out your goals in stages – three months, six months, 12 months etc. Be realistic with what you want to achieve and when, ensuring you assign the right responsibilities to the right people.
2. Conduct a Detailed SEO Health Check
Starting from scratch with an SEO campaign shouldn’t necessarily be taken literally. Chances are, there are plenty of great things about your website in its current form, and your approach to search marketing. Rather than tearing the whole thing down and heading back to the drawing board, it’s better to conduct a detailed SEO audit.
At this point, it’s worth familiarising yourself with the basics of a handful of free website health-checking tools. Just a few examples of which include Neil Patel’s SEO Analyser, Nibbler and Dareboost – all of which take things much further than Google Search Console.
There’s a moderate learning curve involved with these tools, but the insights they provide can be worth their weight in gold. Rather than making things up as you go along, you’ll be given a detailed overview of what’s working, what isn’t, and what to do next to make things happen.
3. Profile Your Target Audience
The next step in the process is to gather as much information as you can about the type of people you want to attract to your website. Their age, their location, their income level, their hobbies, their preferences, their online habits – any and all information you can use to your advantage.
Taking a look at demographic data in Google Analytics can be great for finding out who’s already visiting your website, and building a basic profile of who is taking an interest in what you do.
At this point, you can also see which of these visitors (and broader demographics) are converting, taking action of some kind, or bouncing.
4. Identify Your Main Competitors
The quickest and easiest way to identify your closest competitors is to find those who are ranking more prominently than you for the same keywords you’re targeting. A few quick Google searches will provide you with a fairly endless list of potential competitors, which you can then take a more detailed look at.
Bear in mind that your main competitors are only those targeting the exact same people as you, with similar products and services in the same price bracket and in the same location.
While checking out your competitors, take note of how they promote themselves to their customers. How active are they on social media? Are they investing heavily in paid ads? What does their organic content marketing strategy look like?
5. Research Your Competitors’ Approach to SEO
This is where your own SEO strategy will begin to take shape, as your goal should be to provide your shared target audience with something they cannot.
The first question you need to ask yourself is what makes their website ‘better’ than yours? Why is it that Google is showing them preference over you, and allocating them a more prominent SERP position? Is it more visually appealing and technologically sophisticated? Does it have more high-authority content than yours? Do they encourage engagement and interaction with a blog?
Bear in mind that you can use the same SEO health-checking tools on your competitors’ websites as you used on your own website. Doing so can provide a fascinating insight into their own SEO performance, and perhaps shed light on shortcomings you could subsequently exploit.
6. Expand and Improve Your Website’s Content
Never lose sight of the fact that content remains king in organic search stakes. The content you create will be the determining factor that differentiates you from your competitors.
The best place to start with a content marketing strategy is to set your sights on improving your existing website content. Have you optimised the metadata of your current content? Is every post you have published genuinely useful and relevant? Are your posts long and detailed enough by today’s standards? Are you following Google’s E-A-T quality guidelines? Is the format of the content readable? Are there plenty of useful internal and external links? Does any of the factual information in your posts need updating?
Chances are, there’s plenty of scope for improvement with the content you already have. While all this is going on, you also need to work on expanding your site’s content with a continuous stream of consistently relevant, useful and authoritative content.
Think about the questions your customers are asking, and use your content to answer them. Look at which of your competitors’ posts are performing best and ranking well, then set your sights on improving on them.
Backlink building must also be brought into your organic search marketing strategy, but isn’t something to attempt before getting your content in order.
7. Technical SEO
This is where most smaller businesses seek outside support, as technical SEO can be quite complex. Nevertheless, there are several things you need to do to strengthen your site’s SEO profile, and boost organic traffic.
Examples of which include finding and replacing 301 directs, ensuring your pages are optimised for mobile devices, making every effort to reduce page loading times, finding and fixing 404 pages, improving your site’s internal linking structure, improving metadata, searching for issues with keyword cannibalisation and so on.
If you lack the knowledge and expertise needed to cover your own technical SEO requirements, consult with an established agency or provider. Just be mindful of the fact that Google is increasingly showing preference to sites that demonstrate flawless technical performance, and deliver a consistently superior UX.
8. Create an Ongoing Content Marketing Strategy
Last up, an organic search strategy is anything but a one-time-only task. It’s the very core of SEO, and as SEO is ongoing, so too should be your content strategy.
Adopting a random approach to content marketing and publishing sporadically is a recipe for failure. Everything you do is to be pre-planned, scheduled and as regimented as possible.
At this point, you should know exactly are you are targeting, and what kind of content they are looking for. You know what kinds of questions they are asking, what they respond positively to, and what you need do to both grab and retain their attention.
Creating a content calendar is essential, mapping up exactly what you intend to post and when. Allocate certain days of the week/month to specific topics, or different types of media – videos, infographics, tutorials, Q&A sessions and so on.
In the meantime, take every opportunity to cross-promote your content and your website via as many outside channels as possible. Your social media profiles, your blog posts, the emails you send – anything you can use to funnel more organic traffic to your website.
Be mindful of the fact that consumers (and website visitors) in general respond well to consistency. As does Google, further emphasising the importance of creating (and sticking with) a carefully planned and appropriately structured content marketing strategy.
For more information on any of the above or to discuss your website’s SEO performance in more detail, contact Tait Pollack today for an obligation-free consultation.