Let’s start with a few important and telling statistics:
- Longer content tends to rank higher. The average first page result on Google contains 1,890 words. (Backlinko)
- Marketers see SEO as becoming more effective, with 82% reporting effectiveness is on the rise and 42% of that group stating effectiveness is increasing significantly. (MarketDive)
- 72% of consumers who did a local online search visited a business or company within five miles. (WordStream)
- 75% percent of internet use will be mobile in 2017. Nearly 40% of people search only on a smartphone in an average day. (Reuters)
It’s pretty obvious from the statistics above that potential customers are now looking for information about a business, their products, or services online. In order to meet the needs of this target audience, your company has most likely taken the time and spent the money to create an attractive and informative website. Not all that long ago, this was all you needed to do in order to be found during an internet search for your type of company, products, or services offered in a specific location or area. However, these days, the internet is flooded with webpages, blog articles, eBooks, infographics, whitepapers, and social media pages, all vying for the same customers and that elusive top spot on the search results page. In order to stand out from the competition, drive relevant traffic, and generate leads, you’re going to need a powerful SEO strategy. SEO will increase your company’s ability to attract qualified visitors to your website and then turn those visitors into new customers and clients.
Keywords: It’s not just about research, it’s about intent
Keyword research is the starting point for any search engine optimization strategy and will give your SEO a solid foundation. It’s important to remember, that keywords are not necessarily “words” but search phrases potential customers use to get answers. To find the best and most effective keywords, you need to look at the intent of your target audience...why are your potential customers on the web, what are they searching for, and where are they looking to buy?
It’s essential to research and choose keywords that are not only relevant to your company, product, or service, but that convert well and have the right mix of value versus competition. Strong keyword research helps you better understand potential customers, their habits, and the terms and phrases they use when searching for a business or the products and services offered. Good keyword research acts as a guide for building out relevant and valuable content on your website; content that potential customers are looking for. So, how do you start keyword research?
- Find terms related to your specific type of company, product, or service.
- See what phrases your competition is ranking for.
- Find low competition keywords that you can target.
- Use related terms to your main target keywords and phrases.
- Go after keywords with high search volume but moderate competition.
Local search engine optimization is arguably the most powerful tool for businesses targeting customers. When potential customers are searching for a product or service online, they probably don’t have a specific company in mind. So a business that does not come up on the first page of search results is simply going to lose out. Most potential customers are looking for a business within 5-10 miles of their home. For this reason, keeping your SEO local is a crucial tool for driving relevant traffic and generating leads.
Make sure that your name, address and phone number (NAP) is correct, and consistent throughout all your web pages and properties. List and verify your company in high quality, major directories and review pages, such as Yelp, and make sure that your information on these pages is up to date. Be specific as to the area(s) you serve.
- 71% of people looking for a company think it is important to work with a local business.
- 85% of potential customers use online maps to look for and find a local company’s office.
Bonus Tip: A note about Google My Business listing: Google My Business plays a HUGE role in local SEO and search results. Your listing appears when people are searching for your company or businesses that are like yours on Google Search and Maps. This helps you stand out from the competition and connect with prospective customers right when they're in need of your products or services. If you don't have a Google My Business page, you are losing out on potential customers and business. Make sure you:
- Claim your page and get verified – You won’t show up in local and map searches until you verify your page!
- Optimize your Google My Business page – Use your keyword(s) in the title. Edit the short description to personalize it and make it customer-centric. Include the products and services your company provides, and then link them to your website pages. Update your page with photos, business hours, and additional information of value to potential customers.
- Go out and ask for reviews to build trust and credibility - Everyone is looking for those gold stars! Over 43% of prospective customers search for companies by reviews. Over 40% of potential customers form an opinion about your company by reading just 1-3 reviews online.
- Add local directory and citations listings.
Going mobile is a must
In 2016, the inevitable happened...mobile overtook desktop as the primary device used to access the web. With the growing mobile-use trend, potential customers are searching for information on the go, meaning that they are searching for your company, products, or services on their mobile devices, 24/7. This is a trend that shows no sign of slowing down. Responsive website design (RWD) is Google’s recommended way to tackle mobile-friendly sites and, as such, is the approach you should take. If your website is not built using RWD and is not mobile-friendly, it will be difficult, if not impossible for customers to navigate, read, or use it successfully on a smartphone or tablet.
It's important to understand that mobile users are goal-oriented and expect to be able to find what they're searching for quickly and easily. No pinching or zooming. No confusing navigation or touch elements too close together or small for grown-up fingers. Success comes from focusing on the mobile experience. Give users what they need and on their own terms. Make it easy for them to achieve their goal. The competition is only a click away!
Without mobile optimization, your website won’t show up on the search results page when the query is made on a smartphone or tablet. If you want to reach the largest possible audience, make sure that your company’s website is optimized, not only for desktop or laptop, but for all mobile devices too. The good news is that this represents a chance for those businesses who really put in the work to develop an advantage over their competition. Remember that prospective customers unable to use your website effectively or read content and take action on a mobile device, are lost to your company forever. 2017 is the year that mobile will become the key factor in your quest for improved rankings and conversion rates from site visitors. The cost of failing to meet mobile users’ needs is steep. There is a clear opportunity here for companies who move and adapt quickly. Focus on your mobile users and leave your competitors in your digital dust.
Some powerful facts about mobile:
- Today, more people search on mobile devices than computers.
- Over 90% of all Internet users are using a smartphone and many use it exclusively.
- People are 5 times more likely to leave a website if it isn't mobile-friendly.
- Over 50% of mobile users will leave a website if it takes longer than 2 seconds to load.
- Only 1/3 of company websites are optimized for mobile devices and over 31% of all company related traffic comes from mobile searches.
- 61% of visitors are unlikely to return to a company’s mobile site they had trouble using, and 40% will visit a competitor’s site instead.
- 88% of potential customers who search for a company on a mobile device, call that business within 24 hours.
Relevant content is your key to success
SEO needs content to stand out in the universe of web pages, blogs, social posts and other information clogging up the internet these days, and Google has stated that one of the top three ranking factors for organic search is “content.”
An effective content marketing strategy should start with keyword and user intent research. Once you know what queries your target audience is using, and what kind of information they are looking for, you can design and implement a content strategy that answers specific questions and helps move those potential customers through the sales funnel.
SEO isn’t about what the search engines want, it’s ultimately about what your ideal customer will find valuable. Therefore, focus on your target audience. This includes more than just the pages on your company’s website. It also includes images, video, social posts, blogs, eBooks, whitepapers, case studies, newsletters, testimonials, infographics, code, links, and anything else that is used to create web content. All of these content items can and need to be optimized for SEO purposes. You can't plug in a few keywords and links and call it SEO. That is not search engine optimization.
Long content of 1000+ words ranks better in organic results because Google considers it thorough. Prove to your target audience that you’re an expert. Write strong, comprehensive pages and don’t skimp on the details. Show why your products or services are worth it. Continually add new content to increase your company’s authority with information that is useful, helpful, and relevant to your potential customers. Great content drives social shares, link creation, and traffic. It builds credibility and establishes your business as a trusted voice and industry leader. Make sure you feature an enticing call to action and a clear "next step." Knowing your readers and their buyer's journey will help point them to more of what they want. Really great optimized content:
- is written for your target audience and ideal potential customers.
- uses strong titles and headlines - Create enticing, actionable titles that use keywords strategically and naturally.
- can be scanned quickly - short paragraphs, bold text, bullet points, numbered lists, quotes and so on to make the text easy on the eyes and easy to digest quickly.
- anticipates your prospective customer's hopes, fears and concerns.
- is shareable - are social sharing buttons readily available on every page?
- is better than currently ranked pages - Check out the competition. Review the pages that are currently ranking well for target keywords and work to make your content better.
Don’t forget to measure, analyze, and tweak
How successful are all your web properties? Which of your content marketing efforts are most effective? What is performing well or not well enough? SEO is essential to increasing website traffic and generating relevant leads for your company. But in order to learn what is working, and what’s not, you need to continually track your progress. With the help of analytics and other metrics tools, you can monitor what’s working well, where you’re succeeding, and what areas need improvement. Analytics will tell you how SEO is impacting your web properties and can give you the information you need to improve content and conversions. For example you can learn:
- how potential customers got to your website
- what device was used to access it (a laptop, desktop, tablet, or smartphone)
- which pages on your website were visited and in which order
- if they filled out a Contact form, downloaded material, or requested more information
- if they are following you on the social platforms
- if they are reading and/or subscribing to your blog
- or, if they are abandoning your site and not coming back!
The list goes on and on. Information is power and can help you better aim your web properties to your target audience and prospective customers with engaging content they want to read when they want or need to see it. You can't improve what you don't measure.
Search engine optimization is not a cost, but an investment that will help your company build brand awareness, generate leads, and increase revenue. SEO will increase your company’s ability to attract qualified potential customers to your website and other web properties, build trust and credibility, and then turn those visitors into new customers and promoters.
Located in McLean, Virginia, just minutes from Washington, DC, Bethesda, MD, and all of Northern Virginia (NoVA), we have been helping businesses locally, and across the U.S., leverage digital marketing since 2003. We know that growing your business needs an orchestrated approach with a strong marketing message, website, search engine and advertising visibility, and a strong presence on social media.
With industry veterans possessing over 30 years of experience in translating technology into business tools, we have the experience to create the blueprints to leverage these assets, and a rich set of tools to help you successfully execute the plan.