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While the rules of SEO are ever-evolving, this article will get you up to speed on the essentials so that your business can establish a competitive position online.
Updated: Feb 17, 2022
SEO is an essential digital marketing channel for capturing new, high-intent audiences.
While paid ads, social media and other channels can also generate website traffic, search traffic — potential customers that clickthrough to your site via Google Search — is in a unique class of its own for several reasons.
First, most online website traffic comes from search engines, primarily Google. In fact, a joint study by Moz and Jumpshot found that SEO generates ~20x more traffic opportunity than pay-per-click (PPC) on both mobile and desktop.
Second, SEO is one of few marketing channels where traffic naturally compounds over time. One compelling content piece can continuously attract more and more website visitors for years to come.
Third, search traffic typically has high commercial intent. If someone is already searching Google for “the best credit cards,” they’re likely in the market for a new card. This is rarely the case for other channels, where your ad or social media post intrusively competes for your prospects’ attention while they consume other content.
Finally, SEO is a proprietary channel that you own and control. Promoting your brand on a third-party platform is essentially digital sharecropping, leaving you at the mercy of advertising tech giants that don’t understand your business as well as you do. In the long run, there’s more opportunity in building sustainable strategy on your own turf.
Understanding User Intent
When a user performs a Google search, Google’s algorithm identifies, ranks, and displays a list of pages that contain relevant, high-quality information. So, a good first step in designing an SEO strategy is to look at your user intent: understanding who your ideal customers are, and how they search for your product.
Start by answering these questions:
- What problems do customers seek to solve with your products?
- What language do they use to describe your products?
- What questions do they typically have about their problem or your products?
- Who else are they buying products from – including competitive, substitute, and complementary products?
Your answers to these questions will serve as your initial list of possible SEO keywords to target. The next step is to organize these keywords by commercial intent. Searcher intent generally falls into one of three buckets:
- Top of Funnel: These searchers are looking for general information within a subject area. Although they have some sense of the problem they’re trying to solve, the problem may not be well-defined, nor are they ready to take action just yet. Examples: “How to get a home loan”, “Should I get a line of credit”
- Middle of Funnel: These searchers have a more specific understanding of their problem and are evaluating potential solutions. Examples: “What kind of health insurance is right for me”, “What to look for in a savings account”
- Bottom of Funnel: These searchers already have a particular solution in mind, and are either looking for answers to specific questions, or the right provider for that solution. Examples: “Best online brokers for high-volume trading”, “Scotiabank credit card reviews”
Armed with this information, you’re ready to dive into keyword research.
The purpose of keyword research is to identify the most promising opportunities to target with your content. Three factors to consider when evaluating keywords:
- Search Volume
During your previous step – the analysis of commercial intent – you might observe that keywords closer to the bottom of the funnel are most attractive to target. That’s because they’re used by searchers who are ready to buy soon or in the near future. Because the intent to purchase is greater, traffic from these keywords will naturally have higher conversion rates than keywords higher up the funnel.
To determine the popularity and volume of keywords in your list, use keyword research tools such as Google Keyword Planner or Wordstream’s Keyword Tool. Note that larger keyword numbers are typically better, though an overly high search volume often implies lower intent and higher competition.
The exact level of keyword competition can be tricky to evaluate, but it usually depends on three variables:
- The domain authority of the websites competing for that keyword
- The page authority of the specific webpages targeting that keyword
- The quality and relevance of the competing content
A number of helpful tools can help in assessing keyword competitiveness, such as Moz Keyword Explorer, SEMRush Keyword Analytics, and Ahref Keywords Explorer.
There are always tradeoffs between the three variables above, but by the end of this process, you should have a list of keywords with reasonably strong intent, decent search volume, and modest competition.
Apart from producing quality content, aim to optimize your website enough to get full credit from Google. Though on-site optimization is technical in its application, you don’t have to know website code to start a conversation with your team about best practices. Here are key areas to focus on.
No matter how refined Google becomes in delivering search results, your business can still influence and help its search engine understand the value of your content through its individual on-page elements. Some elements are more important than others to keyword targeting; for best practices, here are the elements where you should include particular targeted keywords:
- Title Tag
- H1 Tag
- Alt Tags
- Meta Description
- URL Structure
Remember, Google rewards good content and frowns on intentional keyword stuffing. If it’s apparent that your keywords are being stuffed into these elements without context, your results may be less effective. Instead, when creating content, write for humans first and search engines a distant second.
Search engines heavily prioritize fast-loading websites because they’re more easily accessible. Even a difference of just a few seconds can make a significant impact on your site’s ranking. The good news is that speedy sites are not just good for SEO, but measurably improve conversions as well. Start by using Google’s Pagespeed Insights tool to see how your site stacks up, and what you can do to improve.
Mobile accounts for approximately half of all web traffic worldwide. To support this behaviour, Google’s algorithm weights mobile optimization more heavily than before. Simply put, the more mobile-friendly your site is, the higher it will rank on all mobile devices. As such, it’s worth investing into mobile accessibility, particularly for consumer-facing businesses. If you’re unsure of how well your website performs on mobile, Google offers a great free tool for this.
Build a Solid SEO Foundation
This step-by-step guide can help you build a solid foundation for your website’s SEO and drive organic traffic to your business. If you’re working on your website and are curious about how affiliate marketing can be an effective part of your website’s revenue plan, let us know and we’re happy to discuss. You can contact us to book a free demo.