Mastering the SEO Game
Search engines have become a core resource for individuals looking for a business, product, or service. In terms of marketing dollars, SEO remains a powerful investment for brands. Investing in organic search can yield significantly higher returns on investment than traditional outbound marketing methodologies.
The practice of SEO has changed significantly over the past decade, primarily in response to changing consumer behaviors. The field of search intelligence, including language processing, is changing rapidly. Your business needs to adapt to the changes of the new consumer searching landscape. In the words of HubSpot CTO Dharmesh Shah, “Solve for the humans!”
As a marketing professional, you’re certainly familiar with at least the fundamentals of search engine optimization and the importance of this practice. Whether you’re looking to invest additional budget into SEO in the months to come or stay updated on how search has changed, this book will help you gain a stronger understanding of the state of search. We’ve curated expert guidance from leading search experts to help you stay informed. -Dharmesh Shah
Why Mobile is Critical
Mobile optimization is no longer an option. Following the April 2015 release of Google’s “mobilegeddon” algorithm update, websites that lack an appropriately mobile-friendly or responsive version are now being penalized in mobile search results. Even aside from SEO penalization, your business can’t afford to exclude mobile consumers.
The benefits to your business of deciding to mobile-optimize are immense. According to Search Engine Journal Research, mobile users are more likely to convert to leads or even make a rapid purchase, especially during local searches.
Organizations have three options to choose from that are appropriately mobile-friendly in the eyes of Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines. Your website will provide adequate user experience if it is:
- Built for Responsive Design
- Dynamically Serving Content
- Has a Distinct Mobile Version
Your pages need to be rapid-quick to load on mobile devices. Microsoft Research has found that abandonment of web pages rises dramatically if a page takes 4 or more seconds to load. Ensure your content displays correctly on screens of all sizes, the mobile navigation is clear and easy-to-use, and all relevant buttons are appropriately sized for clickability without a stylus.
Additionally, it’s critical to ensure that you’re not guilty of any of the most common mobile optimization mistakes. According to Google’s webmaster guidelines and HubSpot research, mobile sites often don’t deliver adequate user experience due to the following issues:
- Unplayable Video
- Faulty Redirects
- Smartphone-Only 404 Errors
- Aggressive App Download Prompts
- Irrelevant Cross-Linking
Remember, just because your website loads correctly and beautifully on a single mobile device, you may not have achieved total mobile optimization. In an era where no single screen size has more than 20% market share among mobile consumers, many organizations are increasingly opting to invest in responsive design. Test ruthlessly, and test again to ensure that you won’t lose the interest of your mobile prospects.
Mastering On-Page SEO
The first rule of on-page SEO is to think about what your target users might be searching for and make sure those keywords are on the page. This increases the likelihood of reaching those users as they go to Google, Bing or other search engines.
That being said, on-page SEO is basically about two things:
Picking the best phrases to create quality on-page content around
Making sure your pages are optimized for humans and search engines
Search engine algorithms rank web pages based on numerous factors. Moz reports that the latest iteration of the Google algorithm has well over 200 linking factors. The basic premise is that a page will show up in search engine results because the website has a page that mentions the searched for terms. Of course, many websites use the same keywords on the same page.
Hundreds of tools are littered across the web that allow you to measure the keyword density of a page. Some of them teach that more is better, but this simply isn’t the case.
The Core Components of On-Page SEO
Meta tags are the official data tags for each web page that are found in-between the open and closing head tags in the HTML code. The most popular Meta tags are the title tag, meta description, and keyword tag.
These tags alert search engines with relevant information describing the content of the page, which helps the search engines decide if your website is an appropriate listing in response to a particular search query.
Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Meta tags are the official data tags for each web page that are found in- between the open and closing head tags in the HTML code. The most popular Meta tags are the title tag, meta description, and keyword tag. These tags alert search engines with relevant information describing the content of the page, which helps the search engines decide if your website is an appropriate listing in response to a particular search query.
Title tags and Meta descriptions are two of the most important tags when it comes to SEO and enticing potential visitors to click through to your website. A title tag is an HTML tag which contains a sentence of text describing the contents of its associated webpage. These tags are the first aspect of your page that a search engine crawler – (crawlers are what search engines use to analyze the content of a site in response to a search to then present the best results) comes across when visiting your website, so it’s important to make a good first impression by optimizing them with your keywords and brand. Titles generally run about 77 characters, so make sure to easy each character wisely.
Meta descriptions are what appear on SERP describing the content of the page being linked to. While these descriptions are not used by the search engines to determine relevance, they are used by your visitors to determine said relevancy and entice them to click – think about when you search!
You almost always read the description of each link before deciding to click, right? Or at least skim. Make sure you include your keywords and the main call-to-action right in this description.
On-page content is a critical component of on-page SEO. Content is what the search engine crawlers need to associate your page with a set of keywords and/or key phrases. Without it, crawlers are left in the dark as to what your page is about.
When building your content, it’s important to remember to give the crawlers enough to bite into. A hundred words typically isn’t enough copy for these crawlers to read and understand what the content is about. And this content shouldn’t be stuffed with keywords either, as some search engines (as you’ll learn in later sections) punish websites for keyword stuffing.
Instead, you should write about your product or service or idea naturally, and let your keyword variations naturally fall into place. Quality and potential for social sharing matter significantly more than keyword density in modern SEO!
Using Off-Page SEO Tactics
Off-page SEO is all about building online authority – trust and reputation – for your website. Off-page SEO has long been defined by the quantity, quality, and relevance of links to your website that establish your SEO authority and ultimately influence your search results ranking.
Authority historically was established as other websites linked to you; building your link portfolio. The problem, however, was that authority was almost entirely defined by just links. Essentially, off-page SEO used to be a fancy word for “getting more links,” but now it should focus on earning links through multiple channels instead. Understandably, it will require a paradigm shift to stop thinking about off-page as just link “building” and instead as link “earning.”
Your site’s authority is only partly based on analysis of the sites that link to you. Off-page SEO is more than just link building). The way you diversify authority for your website is through the conversations people are having about your brand and the references they make to it.
Link building is essentially the practice of building inbound links to help give your website authority. The modern efforts of “earning” links are discussed more in the next chapter.
Optimizing for off-page SEO is still about content marketing. After all, without content it’s hard to earn those links. The best way to earn relevant links from other sites to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can quickly gain popularity online, particularly with your target audience. While relevance can mean significantly different things according to industry, many B2B marketers can find the following types of content attract a high volume of links:
- Fresh Data
- Analysis of Recent Research
- Expert Interviews
- In-Depth Coverage of Common Questions
The more useful, relevant and compelling your content is, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable and link to it. Your content must align with your target audience – that persona that surmises your ideal customer. Content must also be authentic and unique, and ultimately solve a problem or answer a question. That content then also should be easily sharable which combined with solid on-page SEO best practices makes for awesome link bait.
Co-marketing defines the efforts of lots of cross promoting, networking and community building. It’s a partnership between two or more companies in which both companies jointly market each other’s content, products or services.
The great thing about co-marketing is, like the idea with guest posting, that you have access to another company’s social networks, prospects, leads and/ or customers, which ultimately increases your reach. And what better than to have one or more companies brag about the content that you are creating, especially since it benefits them too? It’s brilliant.
Social media is no silver bullet for quick, off-page SEO. As search algorithms have become more intelligent, social media marketing has also become more challenging for organizations. Strive for organic, authentic engagement to build shares the meaningful way.
When you think of PR you may think of it as just an announcement that blasts multiple news sources. However, well planned and optimized PR can be awesome for your SEO efforts. PR should promote genuine and ethical dialogue driven content to improve a brand’s organic search engine results.
Effective PR outreach should include more than the traditional publication channels. Your strategy should include outreach to bloggers, industry influencers, and social media leaders.
Why SEO Is Winning
The age of finding new service providers via the Yellow Pages is well behind us. While B2B organizations have long relied on client referrals to gain new business, this isn’t necessarily enough. It’s critical to engage your future customers via high-quality content. In order to gain prospect attention and win leads, you’ve got to be able to be found in search.