CM 101: SEO Basics for Inbound Marketers
What You Need to Know About SEO for Marketing
This post will teach you about:
- How Search Engines Work
- Optimizing On-Page Content & Targeting Keywords
- Differentiate Your Messaging
- Create Relevant Content
- Technical SEO
SEO is something that you will hear about all the time in the digital marketing world. Why? Because good SEO leads to ranking highly in search engine results. Being near the top of the organic search listings on Google search drives more visitors to your website. But unlike Google Adwords, you aren’t paying for these visits!
Search Engine Optimization is the act of improving individual web pages to appear higher in search engine queries.
What you’re optimizing is how well your website communicates with the search engine. The better the search engine can understand and trust your website, the more likely you are to appear at the top of the search results!
In order to optimize and make SEO a part of your B2B marketing strategy, we need to know how search engines work. Since most internet users use Google (65% of them), let’s talk specifically about Google (although most search algorithms are very similar).
Google’s search engine “crawls” the web. It looks at web pages, analyzes their content and “indexes” (records) them.
In order for your page to show up at the top of a Google search, you need two main things to happen: the words need to match the user's search, and the content has to be relevant.
A site’s presence in search results is determined by some mixture of these two factors. You can’t just have a word match if 200 other sites have the same word match. In a situation like that, the site that ranks highly will be the one that is most relevant.
So how do search engines determine relevance? Popularity and domain authority are often used as proxies for relevance.
Popularity can be measured by shares on social media, page views and the number of other sites linking to your website (called “backlinks”). Domain authority is a score that measures the strength of your website over time.
While popularity and domain authority are important, they are not always equal to relevance.
Relevance could also be location-based! Google is smart. When you search for “pizza” it makes sense that you get back places near you. (For more on local business SEO, see this post.)
One essential must that will underscore your SEO success is to know who your customers are. What are their pain points? What problems are they searching to solve? Most importantly, what language do they use to search? Once you know this, you’ll know what words to use on your website!
Examine your website and ask, “do these words make sense to my customer?” Using industry jargon might fly with the engineering team at your company, but if you are targeting a user who wouldn’t search those words, then you need to make an adjustment.
Here’s a tip: Think back to phone calls and conversations with your prospects and customers. Write down specific questions they ask and words they use.
The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.
If you don’t know your customer, the rest of these strategies won’t be effective. While you could see a rise in your search rankings, if you’re not reaching the right people, you’re not going to see any ROI.
As a company or brand, you will need to decide upon a few key words or phrases for which you want to show up in the top search results. Be consistent. These words should be on your website, in your blog posts, on your social media profiles and wherever else you have room for a blurb or “boilerplate.”
There are many tools available to do keyword research and analyze what people are searching for. This involves more in-depth methods like using Google Adwords to see how your rank and how much competition there is for given words. This is something to think about, but will not be covered in detail here. Moz provides a starting point here.
As an existing company, maybe there are words commonly used to describe you. That’s great! Just make it consistent on your website and across all other platforms.
“I’m targeting the right words, but my site still isn’t ranking highly!”
This is a common problem that leaves many marketers feeling dejected. The simple, but somewhat unsatisfying, answer is: Ranking takes time and strong effort.
To make your site rank for a keyword, you should:
- Differentiate your messaging
- Create relevant content to gain authority
- Fix technical errors
These all work in tandem, so you have to pursue a combination of all three. SEO success does not happen overnight. You have to be willing to put in the work to generate quality content and follow best practices.
Who are you currently serving? Say you own a carpet cleaning business. Think about your ideal customer and the services they typically buy. Maybe your speciality is cleaning office carpets. On your website you should use “office carpet cleaning”, instead of “carpet cleaning.” The competition for office carpet cleaner will be lower than the more generic term. Also, people who are looking for that service are going to be more likely to search something more specific anyways!
If you’re targeting the right words and not showing up, that probably means there are many other quality websites doing the same. This is when SEO gets difficult. It’s not complicated, but you can’t make a website popular overnight.
Like we mentioned before, relevance is determined by many factors: pageviews, social media shares, and backlinks, to name a few.
The best way to excel in these categories is to be valuable to your users. If your website is valuable, people are going to share it, visit it and link to it. You might be thinking, “if this is all that matters, there’s a way to game the system.”
Don’t try to trick Google! It doesn’t work (anymore).
It was possible to create fake websites with tons of backlinks and send robots to view and share your site and rank highly. Google has gotten smarter. If you try to do these things, not only will it not work, but your site could get a penalty.
What you need is a large diverse set of backlinks from legitimate sites. That will boost your relevance and will increase your search engine rankings.
Lastly, it’s possible that you need to fix a technical error that is making it difficult for Google to understand your site. A few common and important errors:
- Site loads slowly
- Site isn’t mobile friendly
- No sitemaps
Fixing these technical errors is beyond the scope of this post, but a comprehensive guide can be found here on Quicksprout. Your CMS often does a good job of taking care of these issues by nature, but is a good idea to review the best practices to be sure technical SEO isn’t holding you back. Keep in mind that strong technical SEO won’t make up for a lack of content and generic keywords. It will lay important groundwork so that your site can communicate properly with the search engine.
Congratulations on Finishing SEO 101!
That was a solid introduction to SEO with some actionable steps to improve your marketing strategy. If you’re going to have a website or any web presence, you should be aware of these principles. The importance varies from industry to industry, but these are not difficult rules to follow. If you’re still curious and ready for a deeper dive, check out some of our posts on SEO.