By Megan Patrick and Tina Clark
As part of Roberts’ commitment to ongoing training and development, we took a class with MarketingProfs called Search Marketing School. The course included 12 sessions on optimizing your website for search, getting quality traffic, and then using testing and analytics to gain insights on your visitors’ behaviors and preferences.
Together, we presented a high-level overview—a BrainSnacks presentation— at our client holiday party. We streamed to Facebook Live—so if you want to see the full presentation, check out the video on our Facebook page.
In covering what we learned at search school, we touched on these key areas:
- The algorithm and SEO
- The SEO audit
- SEM / PPC
- Google Analytics
THE ALGORITHM AND SEO
Each year, Google changes its search algorithm around 500–600 times!! So while it can be a challenge to keep up with exactly how it works, if you follow the key principles, you can achieve search engine optimization and boost your ranking.
So what is SEO? SEO is Search Engine Optimization. Essentially, it is the work needed to ensure you show up (rank high) in search results, ideally on the first page, when potential customers search for something relevant to your business.
SEO is like going to the gym—you can’t expect to work out once and be a fitness model. You have to work at it, work the various muscle groups, and continually optimize to build a strong result.
So to build up that SEO muscle, you need to focus on the key elements of SEO:
RELEVANCE—what you say matches what people expect/want.
AUTHORITY—this is about linking. The more inbound and outbound links, the more the search engines see your site as an authority. This is also where Social Media plays an important role, providing those critical inbound links. Additionally, an Influencer Marketing campaign can give you extra bang for your buck, providing additional, well-trusted inbound links to contribute to SEO.
TRUST—trust is also about linking, but it’s about the quality of links. Your inbound links need to be coming from good sources—not all links are created equal. The quality of your site also impacts trust. Broken links and 404 errors will diminish trust in the eyes of the search engines, so it’s important to keep your site well maintained.
THE SEO AUDIT
An SEO audit is a process that looks at the health of your website and whether the right measures have been taken to help it be easily found by search engines. We do this with new clients to establish their current state, and to uncover any gaps or weaknesses. We’ve also been asked to run a higher-level audit on clients’ competitor’s sites—there are a lot of tools out there that can unlock SOME of this information, and don’t require internal site access. It’s also a good idea to conduct an audit on a regular basis—it may be impossible to keep up with the Google algorithm, but there are a lot of factors that you can control, and you want to stay on top of those!
In an audit, you’re looking for everything from your first impression of the site as a user, to broken links, to hidden elements like sitemaps and tags.
Keywords are the meat and potatoes of SEO. They are so important for that RELEVANCE muscle. Keywords ensure that what you say you offer matches what customers are looking for and expecting to find. You need to know your searcher—their search terms may not match the terms you think describe your product or service. There are various tools to help identify keywords, which include the Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends—a favorite for comparing keywords.
Once you’ve identified your keywords, you want to use them in ALL areas, website content, PR articles, social media posts, etc. to build relevance.
PPC / SEM
When your keyword foundation is set, search engine marketing—or AdWords—can help boost your SEO efforts and supplement your organic traffic by allowing you to bid on your keywords. It’s never guaranteed that your site will show up in a search result, but this helps get you closer.
Ads in search engine marketing are ALL about relevance. When someone does a search on Google, the algorithm fires away and Google looks at the user’s search phrase, the keyword you’ve bid on, the content of your ad, and your landing page. Google always wants to deliver a good match and a positive user experience, so they want to see that your landing page is well-organized—and if the search is mobile, they want the landing page to be optimized for mobile—and that it contains content that is relevant to the user’s search.
Per Google, over 50% of search is done on mobile devices, so it is critical that mobile be considered in your SEO strategy. Mobile uses a different algorithm—the search engines specifically look for the mobile version of your page, a responsive site that scales images and videos, a site that is usable on a mobile device. If your site is not optimized, their algorithm is not inclined to present your site to a mobile searcher.
Even for B2B search, mobile is growing in usage and importance.
If you’ve done all these things, you should be seeing the traffic to your site increase and improving in quality. It’s SO important that you have Google Analytics code included on the site and you’re using it to get the full picture of what’s bringing visitors there, and what they’re doing while they’re with you.
Analytics is great for a quick view of things like the number of visitors to your site, how long they’re staying and which pages are visited the most. But if you’re using unique tracking URLs for different tactics and campaigns, you can really precisely segment which efforts are driving traffic. And when you add goal and event tracking to track specific actions like downloads, form fills and adding items to a shopping cart, you can tie all of that together to understand which tactics are driving those key actions and converting your customers.
So anytime you’re sending people to your website, you want to make sure you have Analytics and Unique Tracking in place.
So remember, if you work at using the “equipment” we spoke about, to build RELEVANCE, AUTHORITY and TRUST, you too can build a strong search marketing game!