SEO is essentially the dark arts of digital marketing, because the rules constantly change as search engines like Google update their algorithms. New tips and tricks that will help you find optimize your content for success are guarded as closely as the Chamber of Secrets (any other Potter fans out there?).
Here, we’ll run you through the basics that will help you Ravenclaw your way out of obscurity (okay, sorry, we couldn’t resist) and onto the first results page for your target keywords. It’s a really competitive arena, but the truth is simple: identify your keywords, analyze Google’s results, and create something better.
Oh, and make sure your website is working better than a Nimbus 2000.
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Identify your keywords
Keywords are at the core of every good SEO strategy, because they help people find you. The easiest way to start is by creating a list of what your business does, including all your products and services. HVAC? Insurance services? Flightseeing tours? Then list a couple of words that explain why you’re the best choice for each of those keywords. Certified? Local? Experienced? You’re already on your way to a winning SEO strategy.
There are two ways you can incorporate keywords into your content: short-tail (e.g. new furnace) and long-tail (e.g. Where to buy a new furnace in Reno, Nevada). Both are important, but because they’re more specific, long-tail keywords tend to be less competitive than short-tail keywords. It makes sense if you think about it, because rather than trying to compete with every other HVAC service in North America to make your “new furnace” page rank on Google, you’re instantly cutting the competition down to other local services. This will help your webpage skyrocket up the list of results, while qualifying any leads generated to those in the local area.
Read more: 3 ways to boost traffic to your website
Analyze Google’s results
Once you’re confident that you’ve chosen the right keywords to summarize your business, go ahead and type them into Google. As soon as you enter some words into the search bar, Google’s autocomplete function will let you know what’s trending on that topic. This is really helpful, because it may help you tighten your strategy:
To continue using HVAC as an example, assuming we disregard “new furnace minecraft” straight away (LOL), you can see that people are most interested in how much a new furnace costs, whether they can get a deal on a new furnace and new air-conditioner, and installation services. These are great topics that you can address in long-tail keywords to hone in on the questions people are asking in real-time. The more specific, the better.
If you’re stuck between two terms, you can use the Google Trends tool to see which is performing better. Here’s an example, which compares all searches for “new furnace” and “furnace installation” in the United States for the past 12 months. It’s immediately clear that “new furnace” is a stronger search term.
Now that you’ve tightened up your list, go ahead and actually search those terms.
Here are the results for “new furnace cost Nevada”.
Desert Valley HVAC has jumped straight to the top of the list. Why? It’s the only one that actually includes prices in its excerpt. The others are vague, talking about “lots of things to consider,” “maintenance and repairs costs,” and “free quotes.” These are all great things to talk about in the blog post itself, however, when people want answers… they want answers. Simple and direct responses are likely to help you jump up the list.
This is just a random example, but it’s a helpful reminder that no-one is here to play a game of hide-and-go-seek. They want things to be as clear and easy as possible, so providing information upfront is actually more likely to drive traffic to your page. If people click through, and have a good experience, they may come again.
Read more: What should I track on Google Analytics?
Create something better
This is obvious, right? As soon as you’ve seen what your competitors are doing, look for strengths and weaknesses and do what you can to exploit them. Do something differently, like adding pricing details. Add a hook, like a special offer. Make it look as good as it can, with snappy wording and sparkling clean copy.
Let’s talk through another example, this time looking at the tourism industry. Beacon Media + Marketing has an office in Reno, Nevada, so let’s go with “Lake Tahoe bike rental.”
This is a different game. The first spot (which isn’t shown in the picture), is snapped up by an advertisement from Anderson’s Bicycle Rental. This is an incredibly powerful tactic to boosting traffic to your page, because Google Ads work on a pay-per-click method based on a bidding system. If none of your competitors are advertising for the exact combination of keywords you’re using, you can put yourself right at the top of that food chain.
The next three results on the page are taken by Google My Business listings. Every business automatically has a Google My Business listing, so it’s really important you go ahead and claim yours as soon as possible. Just type your business name into Google and click the “Own this business?” link on the right-hand side.
Once you’re in, you can optimize your listing by adding details about what you do, opening and closing hours and special offers. Importantly, you can also respond to all reviews and comments filed by the public. If you have great reviews, awesome! Keep doing what you’re doing. If you have negative reviews, respond calmly. Thank the person for their feedback and explain how you’re planning to fix the situation. You may find it’s beneficial to take this conversation offline, so invite them to call or email you to discuss the problem.
If you check out the three listings in the image, you’ll note Anderson’s Bicycle Rental is at the top of the list, followed by Tahoe Bike Company and Over the Edge. Click into each business’s profile and check out what they’re doing that you’re not. This is a really simple way to implement best practice.
Tidy up your tech
The other essential is to make sure your website is optimized and running smoothly. Even the best strategy in the world won’t help if your website is a mess! If you’re new to the world of websites, the Google Webmasters have published a really handy Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide. It’s a really helpful DIY tool for anyone looking to give their SEO strategy a boost from the back-end of their website.
We’ve spoken about some of the technological aspects that can boost SEO before. For example, backlinks, headings and sub-headings, metadata and images (you can read more about that here). We’ve also talked about the ways in which Google judges your site based on mobile-friendliness (that blog post is here).
However, Google’s guide will run you through current best practice on things like:
- Helping Google find your content
- Managing your appearance in Google search results
- Organizing your site
- Optimizing your content
- Activating your images for SEO
It’s worth a look, as you may find there are a lot of easy wins hidden in your website.
One example is making sure your pages are titled correctly – for example, a page titled “furnaces and boilers” will do exponentially better than a page titled “page three.” Similarly, an image titled “Lennox furnace” will do you many more favors than an image titled “IMG_1234.” In a game as competitive as SEO, it’s worth investing the time to take care of the easy wins so that customers will come knocking on your digital door.
Want to ask the professionals? Schedule a free consultation.