The Total Guide to Investing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
By: Tristan Tarpley, CEO of Market(r)
Over the last decade, online marketing has seen a handful of trends grow in popularity, while others faded into obscurity. One strategy that has stood its ground because of its timelessness and overall effectiveness is Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Implementing SEO has given companies outstanding results and has helped small businesses keep up with industry giants in terms of digital marketing.
Why invest in SEO
As a marketing strategy, SEO is not easy to pull off. It requires a lot of time, effort, flexibility and even a bit of luck to find success. However, SEO has proven vital to the lifespan of startups, micro-businesses, big enterprises, and sole proprietorships for the following reasons:
Organic Search reduces average customer acquisition cost (CAC)
Customer acquisition cost (CAC) is calculated by dividing the amount of money a company invests in marketing and sales by the number of newly acquired customers. Paid ads often result in high CAC because it requires a substantial monetary investment and paying for ads does not always guarantee new customers. Paid ads only guarantee website views, but not all views convert into sales.
With SEO, you can attract more website views without spending money. By carefully choosing what keywords to rank for and injecting them smartly into your website content, you can gain the upper hand over competitors who need to spend hundreds of dollars per month to pull in website views.
Builds credibility and trust with customers evaluating your offering
Search engines have refined their algorithms over the years to guarantee that only substantial and reputable websites will reign supreme in their search results page. So if your website appears on top of the search result page, it sends a message to potential visitors that your website is trustworthy and credible.
Reduces cost of service (self-service)
Companies can benefit greatly by creating a knowledge base on their website for questions regarding their product or service and general industry-related queries. If given a chance, people are willing to do research and find answers on their own. While some still need the help of customer service, the majority of Internet users are willing to read up on the topic if given the chance.
If your website has a lot of helpful content, it helps your SEO efforts in several ways. For one, it reduces the cost of service because it encourages visitors to seek out answers by reading your content. If a customer is having trouble with a gadget they purchased on your site, you can set up troubleshooting guides that they can follow to fix the problem. If your website is abundant in helpful guides, it minimizes the need for customer service personnel, saving you money.
Helpful guides can also bring in outside traffic, or traffic from non-customers. Taking the same example as above, let’s say someone bought a similar gadget, but on another website. They also encounter the same problem but the website they bought it on didn’t have troubleshooting guides on their website. So they end up on your website and you end up helping them fix the problem. Your website will come off as more professional and credible, and you may even gain a new loyal customer in the future.
How to invest in SEO
Invest your time
When people see the word “invest”, they always connect to some monetary value. However, with things like SEO, time is the biggest resource that will determine whether you succeed or not. In some cases, investing your time is even more important when it comes to SEO compared to money.
SEO requires a lot of focus and dedication. I believe that all business owners must at least have some basic SEO knowledge, even if they decide to outsource their SEO efforts in the future. When you start, it is important that you study the basics of SEO and its benefits for your business. SEO is about making your business a credible resource in your field in the eyes of consumers and search engines. And nobody knows more about the business than you do.
Most small businesses fail with SEO, not because they don’t have the right tools, but because they lack patience. SEO is not a magic spell that will increase your profits and consumer base overnight. Many companies quit after not seeing results in their first month. The truth is, it requires at least 2-3 months to start seeing results and even more time to see the full benefits. SEO is not for companies who want a quick scheme to get popular. It is a great tool for those who want to naturally increase their reputation and brand credibility over the course of time.
Hire full time or part-time Employees
Since SEO will require a lot of your time and attention, it is something that you cannot pull off alone. Yes, you can start building your SEO efforts on your own. However, growing your SEO campaigns and maintaining them will be too much for a single person. As a business owner, you need to manage several aspects of your business. It’s better if, in time, you train someone who can take over and manage your SEO for you. If your business is struggling, you can start with part-time employees and transition them into full-time employees once your business grows.
If your business doesn’t have the budget available to hire employees, you can also contract freelancers to do it for you. For small businesses that are just starting, an hour or two per day of SEO-related tasks is enough. You can pay freelancers by the hour so you don’t have to pay full rates for a 2-hour workload. The biggest advantage of hiring freelancers is that they work remotely, meaning no extra electricity bills and equipment-related expenses.
A blog is a great way for businesses to show their consumers that they are experts in their chosen field. It is the easiest way to keep a website active and up-to-date with the latest trends. If you constantly update your company’s blog with substantial content, you can show the world that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re a credible expert in your industry.
However, setting up and maintaining a blog takes time and effort, and not all business owners are adept at copywriting. Even if you are a distinguished wordsmith, you may not have the time to sit and write. You are the owner of the business, and therefore, busy with several other things.
This is where blog writing services come in. Companies that offer blog services will write and upload your blog posts for you and promote the posts on your social media accounts. Great blog writing service providers will sit with you and talk to you about your business. This will give them a good idea about what your company does and what your values are. This way, each blog post will seem as if it’s taken directly from your own thoughts and ideas.
The most common and easiest form of SEO is written SEO. This encompasses tweaking everything from blog posts to website content so that it is accessible to search engines. For example, if your company provides web hosting services, “web hosting service provider” or “web hosting company” can be your primary keyword. This keyword is inserted naturally into key areas of your website content to inform search engines what your website is all about.
This includes How-to articles, tips, and guides which are meant to be key resources for your company’s consumers. Back in the day, companies weren’t too keen on releasing informative guides because they were afraid that it would lead to loss of profit. For example, if you are a carpet steam cleaning company, releasing an informative guide on how to maintain your carpets could mean that your customers would maintain their carpets themselves instead of calling you.
However, the benefit of writing such articles outweigh their potential risks. Since these guides cover the basics, these will never render your services obsolete or unnecessary. Going back to the carpet steam cleaning example we used, releasing a guide on how to maintain carpets doesn’t mean your clients will just clean their carpets on their own and won’t need you anymore. Maintenance by an untrained individual has its limits and soon they will need professionals to come in and do the work.
Posting helpful resources will boost your reputation as an expert in your field. If potential customers see that you know your stuff, they’re more likely to hire you or purchase items from you. Guides also help beef up your website’s viewership, since people who want answers without the intention of purchasing anything will also visit your site. This is not a bad thing per se, because Google will see your large viewership numbers and deem your website a reliable resource for your chosen industry.
Thought Leadership and Opinions
We see a lot of these when it comes to businesses that do their own SEO. This includes “About us” pages or any written copy that contains the company’s ideals, mission, vision, and goals. This also includes blog posts that owners typically write, where they share their opinions regarding certain trends in their industry. They are usually more opinionated as opposed to informative, and their purpose is to reach out to the viewers and to tell a story.
Nowadays, people want to feel emotionally connected to the brands they support. According to a recent study on emotional branding, people were 3x more likely to support a company that prioritized personal value over business value. By giving consumers a glimpse into your company’s “soul”, you can win them over and show them that you’re humans with real emotions. People need brand values they can relate with - they prefer companies with a personality and a heart.
By now, you know that the gist of SEO is to reach the top of the search results page for keywords you rank for. However, it’s more than just stuffing whatever keyword fits your business all over your website. Spamming keywords is the easiest way to get blacklisted by Google and other search engines. So how does one use written SEO effectively? Here are a few basic steps:
Determine Your Target Audience
Before you even begin with SEO, you need to establish your customer profile first. Ask yourself these questions before you start drafting an SEO plan: who is your target market? Do you want to go local or global? Do you want website views, or do you want views that convert into sales? A successful SEO campaign starts with planning. If you don’t know who your target market is and what your end goals are, your campaign will be all over the place.
Next, you need to determine what keywords to rank for. Remember, stuffing keywords is a definite no-no. For each page, it’s better to rank for only one or two keywords. For example, if you are a pest control company, your main page can rank for “pest control company” while your About Us page can rank for “pest control service provider”. Not sure what keywords to rank for? There are several tools and resources available online which can help you with that. You can use Google’s very own keyword planner - after all, if there’s anyone who knows how to rank on search engines, it would be Google themselves.
Actual Content Writing
This is the part where you write the actual website content. As stated above, business owners don’t have enough time on their hands to successfully write content for their websites. You can use Blog Services or Freelance Writers to do this for you. As a bonus, hire people who are already adept at SEO so they would take care of keyword placements and density for you.
SEO doesn’t stop once you are done writing and posting content. SEO is actually a never-ending process of writing-analysis-more writing. Once you post content, pages must be analyzed (again, Google has a great tool for analysis and reporting) to see how well they’re doing. Are people visiting your web pages? Do they find the content interesting? Content that does well needs to be promoted heavily, while content that doesn’t get a lot of attention needs to be tweaked and reworked.
While written SEO will always have a place in our hearts, video SEO has proven itself to be an effective tool in terms of website credibility and relevance. One of the biggest Google Algorithm changes included the emergence of average visit duration. Before the update, all companies had to worry about was getting people to visit the website and browse through the different pages. After the update, how long people stayed on a certain page became quite as important.
The logic behind this is, if a website’s content is relevant and important to a visitor, they will stay at a certain page longer. If they immediately back out of a page, it means that the page’s content wasn’t helpful to them.
After this update, companies decided to make their articles longer - the problem is, not everyone has the patience to read through a 1,000-word article. Most people would skim to find the necessary information or go somewhere else. This is where video SEO came in. According to recent video marketing statistics, a whopping 66% of consumers would rather watch a video than read up on a certain topic.
Videos allow companies to disseminate information in a creative and interesting way. Let’s say a company that installs custom baths and showers use video SEO on their product description instead of written reviews. Each page has a 5-minute video that explains the shower’s specification, dimensions and uses. If every visitor watches the video until the end, that’s an average visit duration of 5 minutes per page.
Video SEO is also a great way for small businesses to gain leverage in a competitive industry. This is because search engines also index videos and have their own rankings separate from the general search tab. If you look at Google’s homepage, you’ll see that there is a separate tab for videos. This is good news for companies who are struggling in the general search department.
Let’s say for example you own a real estate company in New York. There are several realtors in the state and most of them use SEO. If landing on the first page for keywords like “real estate agent New York” feels impossible for you, you can use video SEO to even the odds. Even if you can’t compete for your desired keywords when it comes to general search, but your videos may show up on the Videos tab of the search engine.
As its name suggests, audio SEO helps your company rank high on search engines using audio content as opposed to written or video content. Similar to video SEO, audio SEO is a great way to diversify your SEO efforts. Since not all businesses invest in audio SEO, your chances of reaching the top of search results is greater.
Audio SEO comes mainly in two forms:
These are audio recordings of discussions either by an individual or a group. Podcasts usually focus on a single topic of discussion,whereby participants would share their knowledge or opinions regarding said topic. Podcasts can be streamed or downloaded and are usually episodic in nature.
Audiobooks are simply books which are read out loud and recorded. Unlike podcasts, which are more opinionated, audiobooks can be purely informative, depending on the content of the original book.
Audio SEO is gaining more importance in today’s society due to time constraints. With written and video content, you have to stop whatever you’re doing to focus on what you’re reading or watching. With audio files, you can simply play these files while walking to work, exercising at the gym or even while you’re working.
Landing pages are standalone pages used for advertising and marketing campaigns. They’re called landing pages because it is where visitors “land” or end up when they click an ad or a social media link. Although landing pages are commonly used with paid ads, you can also use them for organic SEO campaigns, as long as you are smart with keyword choices.
Landing pages are great because you don’t want all organic searches to lead to your homepage. For example, your company sells branded T-shirts and you want to create a marketing campaign for Christmas-themed shirts. It’s always better to create a separate landing page for people who search for keywords like “Christmas T-shirts”.
Without landing pages, visitors would always “land” on your homepage even if they searched for something specific. This means they have to browse through your website before they find what they’re looking for. With landing pages, they are taken directly to the subject of their search inquiry, which means there’s a higher chance for sale conversion.
In a general sense, metadata means data about a piece of data. When it comes to SEO, metadata is how search engines know what kind of content is in your web pages. Search engines make use of spiders that “crawl” from one website to another in order to document and discover content. It’s not a group of humans that manually go through each website to discover what’s within. Since everything is done automatically, these bots rely on metadata to categorize and document web pages on the Internet.
Metadata is important when it comes to landing pages. You must properly document your landing pages so the metadata reflects the content accurately. Taking our previous example of Christmas T-shirts, if you don’t properly document on the page’s metadata that it is about Christmas T-shirts, when someone searches for Christmas shirts on Google, the search engine is more likely to show your homepage rather than your landing page, rendering it ineffective.
Mobile-friendly Landing Pages
Do you know that mobile devices count for around 52% of all internet traffic worldwide? This means that desktop computers and laptops are no longer the main devices for web surfing. Your landing pages, and your entire website, should be mobile-friendly. If your website is not responsive, browsing through each page becomes an inconvenience and you will lose valuable site visitors.
This also means that your SEO campaigns should not only focus on desktop users. With mobile users, reaching the top of search engine results becomes even more valuable. Why? Well, try searching for something both on your desktop and on your mobile phone. More searches are visible when it comes to desktop browsers. You can clearly see the top paid advertisements or around 2-3 organic search results without having to scroll down with your mouse.
With mobile devices, it’s different. There’s only enough room on the screen for one paid ad or organic search result. This means that unless your website is at the top of the search results page, the searcher needs to scroll down a bit to find you.
To seasoned SEO professionals, it’s easy to distinguish landing pages from regular ones. Landing pages usually have more images compared to regular pages, and there’s a good reason for it. Since landing pages are created solely for the purpose of marketing or advertising, its goal is to convert visitors into buyers. This is why there are less text and more imagery. You don’t want to bore your visitors by overwhelming them with information and boring them with a giant text wall.
Invest in vivid images that evoke emotions of happiness, satisfaction, and positivity. Not only should they keep the viewer’s attention, they should also give them an indication that purchasing the product or service will make them happier.
This SEO guide has covered the various types of content that you can optimize for SEO on your website to make it more appealing to search engines. However, that’s only a part of the equation. Aside from investing in content for your own website, do you know that you have to invest in content for other websites as well?
Once your website SEO is up and running, it’s now time for link-building, which is similar to building your rep online. Your success with SEO depends not only on how much you spend on your SEO efforts, but also your connections.
Let’s say you’re a butcher. The florist the next block over is a regular customer and if someone asks, they always recommend your butcher shop. Imagine if you have the same relationship with other people in the neighborhood. It’s only natural that your butcher shop would gain a steady and positive reputation. That’s the gist of link-building. It’s getting other websites to view your brand in a positive manner to the point where they want to link back to your website.
Link building isn’t as straightforward as it looks, though. Links should come from reputable sources, or else Google will deduct points from you. Continuing with the example we used above, let’s say there’s this local restaurant that’s infamous for using substandard and spoiled meat in their cooking. If they say they get their meat from you, no doubt your reputation will suffer. The same concept is true for link building. If websites that are shady in Google’s eyes link back to you, there’s a chance Google will also see your site as shady.
Internal linking is the practice of linking pages within your own website. It may not seem much because technically, you’re only linking to yourself. However, it’s a great way to increase interest for viewers who do visit your website. Let’s say you wrote a listicle for your latest blog post. Each number on that listicle can link to another article that expounds more on that particular topic.
By placing internal links in your pages, you give visitors recommendations on what to check out next. Pages will get more visibility and visitors will stay longer on your website as a whole, which is a good thing in Google’s eyes.
Speaking of Google, internal linking also makes it easy for search engines to index your site. As mentioned previously, search engines discover pages through links, so if your website content is linked to each other, it’s easier for Google to index your content.
To grow your website’s online street cred, you need inbound links from high-quality sites. While several trends in backlinking come and go, a few of them have stood the test of time. One of the most dependable ways to get backlinks is guest blogging. With guest blogging, instead of writing a blog post for your own website, you’re writing one for another website. Your blog post will be featured on their site with you as the author. Posts usually include a small bio at the bottom, where your website link is displayed.
Another way to get decent backlinks is through outreach. Instead of writing a blog post for another website, your goal is to simply promote a piece you’ve written on your website. This is a lot harder than guest blogging because it requires you to reach out and create a relationship with established names in the industry.
Outreach comes in many forms - you can either email the author or comment directly on their blog. Strike up a conversation, express your interest in discussing their work even further, and casually mention a piece that you’ve written that can complement theirs. If you’re lucky, they’ll read your work too and find it interesting enough to mention on their next blog post.
No matter what technique you use, your chances of success increase the more content you put out. Doesn’t matter if it’s blog posts, videos or podcasts - the more content you create, the more likely someone’s gonna take an interest in it and take an interest in you.
Special considerations for SaaS companies investing in SEO
SEO in general works the same across all industries, although some techniques may work better for some fields than others. If you’re a SaaS company, here are some things you need to focus on:
Thought leadership is critical
With SaaS companies, innovation is everything. Customer retention is the lifeblood of SaaS companies, and you need to keep them interested so they’ll keep subscribing to your service. Nobody wants a stagnant service, which is why you need to continue finding new ways to keep your customers interested.
SaaS company owners usually blog about their thoughts, their plans and their visions for the future more so than any other industry. Doing so shouldn’t be seen as exposing your plans to your enemies, but rather getting your consumers excited for what’s to come next. SaaS company owners should be forward-thinkers and should always stay on top of the latest trends in the industry. Blog posts or videos dissecting the latest technology in the industry will brand you as Subject Matter Experts to your contemporaries and consumers.
Comparisons are Powerful
A lot of small businesses shy away from comparing the quality of their products and services versus their competitors. However, comparisons are not at all unethical; after all, you’re simply stating facts, not bad-mouthing your competitors. Investing in competitor comparisons tell your potential consumers that you are confident in your service and you’re transparent enough to show others your strengths and weaknesses.
Keep in mind, comparisons must be objective. While it is easy to paint your service in a positive light while downplaying your competitors’ strengths, consumers can spot obvious exaggerations and may end up distrusting your product. You must never be afraid to show what your competitors have that you don’t - after all, it’s also an opportunity for you to discover areas of improvement.
Tools and Learnings can be great ever-green content
SaaS companies must be ever-evolving. Thankfully, there is some leeway for trial and error in this industry. Studies show that customers won’t drop a subscription from a single mistake especially if it’s a minor one. On the contrary, consumer loyalty increases when companies fix their mistakes and improve their services in accordance with customer feedback.
Content that revolves around tools and learnings are particularly popular with consumers. People love to see a service grow and improve, and they feel an emotional connection with the brand if they contributed to these so-called improvements. It also increases transparency when SaaS companies are honest about areas where they faltered. Consumers love it when companies listen to feedback and improve their service because of it.
Special considerations for eCommerce companies investing in SEO
Before, eCommerce sites were lacking in content. The biggest draw of eCommerce stores was the online catalog and the only pieces of content you’ll see are technical ones, such as payment method guides, FAQs and Terms and Conditions.
Nowadays, eCommerce sites are thriving with content, from buyer’s guides, product reviews to listicles. All content on an eCommerce site has one purpose: to help customers come to a decision so they can make their purchase right then and there. 85% of consumers conduct research before making a purchase, so it’s imperative that your website has these important resources available. If you’re thinking of setting up an eCommerce site, here are some content ideas you should definitely go for.
Comparisons and Deep Reviews are great
Buyer’s guides are one of the most viewed content when it comes to the eCommerce industry. This is because consumers are now smarter, and they do their research before making a purchase. Buyer’s guides make it easier for consumers because all the information they need can be found on one page. No more browsing through different sites looking for reviews on similar products. Buyer’s guides often review the most popular products and pit them against each other.
Creating product comparisons on your eCommerce site is especially effective because it can help consumers come to a decision faster. People consult buyer’s guides because they are not sure if they really want to purchase a product, or if they’re unsure between two brands. If you have product comparisons on your website, they can make the decision to buy right then and there, which means one more conversion for your site.
Nowadays, no eCommerce site is complete without reviews and testimonials. It is now a vital part of eCommerce because most people make decisions based on the reviews that they’ve read. A whopping 93% of consumers say online reviews have impacted their decision to buy products and services in the past.
When setting up an eCommerce site, make sure you have product comparisons and reviews available for your visitors. With eCommerce, it’s important that once someone visits your site, you do everything in your power to keep them. If you do not have comparisons and reviews on your site, a consumer might hesitate and exit your website to find reviews and comparisons somewhere else. There’s a chance that they won’t find their way back to your site. If they end up in another eCommerce site with all the resources they need, that’s your loss right there.
Seasonal or niched “Top Gifts” lists
As mentioned earlier, the goal of eCommerce-related content is to help the consumer make the decision of what to buy. Only around 2% of website visits convert into sales, which means the majority of visitors are only there to browse or look around. And one of the biggest reasons why they tab off an eCommerce site is because they’re not sure about what to get. This frequently happens when a person is shopping for someone else.
Listicles are very helpful when it comes to visitors who aren’t sure about what they want to purchase. Content that revolves around top gift choices for birthdays, weddings and holidays can help them make the decision to purchase right then and there. If you release “top gifts” lists regularly to keep up with changing seasons and holidays, it also gives you bonus points with Google, as they love websites that are active and regularly rolling out new content.
We’ve already established that some people prefer to watch videos over reading articles. The same is true for video reviews. Online marketplaces have made it possible for reviewers to upload photos and videos to support their reviews, and eCommerce stores everywhere should follow this example.
It’s easy for someone to say that the dress they received was in good condition and well-made. However, a video showing the actual dress being unwrapped and worn by the customer is more effective. These video reviews are even more important for products like gadgets and appliances. A video of a customer performing a test run on a product received can assure potential customers that the product is legit and works perfectly.
List of awesome SEO resources that we have found to be valuable
The best way to gain knowledge about a particular topic is to have several resources at your disposal. While this SEO guide is a great first step for businesses who are considering SEO for the first time, we’ve barely scratched the surface. For more in-depth resources, we’ve compiled this list of must-read SEO resources for those who want to take their SEO efforts to the next level.
General SEO guides
Beginner's Guide to SEO [Search Engine Optimization]
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide
SEO Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide for 2020
by Neil Patel
SEO Basics: Beginner’s Guide to SEO Success
Learn SEO in 2020
SEO Copywriting: How to Write Content For People and Optimize For Google
by Neil Patel
Intro to SEO Writing for SEO Writers
by the balance small business
SEO Writing for Copywriters → The Ultimate Guide
Video SEO: The Definitive Guide
The Secret Guide to Video and SEO
by Neil Patel
Video SEO: 9 Ways to Optimize Your Video for Search
Video SEO: The Ultimate Guide
Podcasts in SERPs: Is Audio SEO the Next Frontier?
Audio SEO: How to make your podcast appear in SERPs
Podcasts & SEO: How to Make Your Podcast SEO-Friendly
by Search Engine Journal
Landing Page SEO
How to Rank (and Convert) with Landing Page SEO
How to Build SEO-Friendly Landing Pages
Landing Pages for SEO
The simple guide to SEO for your landing pages
Link Building Tactics - Beginner's Guide to Link Building
Learn the Basics of Quality Link Building for SEO
The Noob Friendly Guide To Link Building
Link Building for SEO: The Definitive Guide (2020)
SEO for SaaS: Actionable Tips on How to Grow Traffic for Your SaaS Company
by Mike Khorev
The Definitive Guide to SaaS SEO (2020)
by Whale Pages
The SaaS Guide to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The Ultimate Guide to SEO for E-commerce Websites
by Neil Patel
The Beginner's Guide to Ecommerce SEO
Ecommerce SEO: A Simple (But Complete) Guide
Ecommerce SEO Guide: SEO Best Practices for Ecommerce Websites
by Crazy Egg
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