According to research conducted by my company, BrightEdge, approximately 51% of traffic getting to your website today comes from organic search.
This means that your position on the SERP has more impact on your site traffic than paid search, email, social media, and direct visitors combined. Attracting that attention is essential, but it also quickly becomes more difficult.
An estimated 88% of B2B companies and 77% of B2C companies report using content marketing.
In both groups, about half say they will increase their budgets in the coming year. The increased budget will lead to more content, and the digital ecosystem is about to become even more saturated.
Brands need to find ways to stand out despite this massive amount of content, and SEO is an important part of that equation.
SEO, however, presents problems for many markets and their departments. For starters, convincing those not involved in SEO — especially those in the C suite — of the value of these digital efforts to get the necessary budget, can be a challenge.
The industry itself is also constantly evolving as the algorithm and customer expectations evolve.
However, understanding the four pillars of SEO management will allow you to properly target your audience, see success, and grow your organization.
Here’s what every marketer should know…
Image source – Andy Betts, Adobe Summit EMEA, Optimizing content for the customer journey
Identify your request
The first step to creating an SEO management plan is to identify your demand. This means knowing what topics your audience is interested in so you can better entice them to follow your brand and slowly move up the conversion funnel.
Look at the existing content on your website, to start. You want to see what types of content and what topics are driving the most hits. Find out which elements relate best to traffic, conversions, and revenue.
Examine the connections between your pieces and see if your material is able to effectively move people from one stage of the buyer’s journey to the next.
The better you understand your content’s current performance, the easier it will be to identify your strengths and weaknesses. You will also be able to clearly see what content your audience appreciates the most, and thus build on this information in the future.
You also want to carefully consider the personas of your target buyers and their buyer journey.
Make sure you have a good idea of the market you’re targeting, including their budget, pain points, and motivations.
As you are able to understand what your potential customers want to see at each stage of the buyer’s journey, you can start creating the content that meets those needs. You can then drive your customers further down the buyer’s journey.
Once you’ve targeted your buyers and know what they want to see, use keyword research to find topics that are generating interest in your industry.
High search rates can help you discover topics people want to read about. Examine the keywords and look at existing top-ranking sites for that topic. Then select keywords that you can fully develop and earn a position on the SERP.
Compare the competition
It’s important to remember that in SEO, not only are you trying to rank your own content, but to be successful, you must also outrank the competition.
For this reason, it is important to know what other brands are doing, where they are succeeding and where they are failing.
When you discover methods that work for others, such as topics, social strategies, and types of content, you can look to incorporate some of these ideas into your own digital strategy.
Competing sites can help you discover new keywords important to customers, for example. You can also use areas where they are not to your advantage.
For example, if they lack content for a particular buyer, you can optimize that content on your own site to attract a greater percentage of customers who match that criteria.
It can also be helpful to look at the top-ranking sites for your big keywords. Look at the type of content that ranks well and how that content has been optimized. Use it to ensure your material is fully prepared to compete in search engines.
Create and optimize your content
Once you’ve gathered your information through keyword research, the buyer’s journey for your main personas, and your competitors, you now need to create the high-end material your customers want from you.
It’s important to provide material that shows depth, not thin content produced just to tick off a list of keywords.
Offer something meaningful that will inspire people to share it and come back to your page in the future. Remember, you want your brand to be seen as a leader, so don’t be a follower and just repost what everyone else has said.
Find ideas to explore and add your own unique ideas as an industry professional.
Once the content is created, it must then be optimized. This includes:
- Use your keywords naturally throughout the piece
- Using your keywords in areas like the title tag, headings, URL, and alt tags
- Link your page to the rest of your site via internal inbound and outbound links
- Include the page in your sitemap
- Improve the speed of your site
- Include local keywords when possible
- Make sure your site is mobile-ready and consider configuring the page for AMP if applicable.
You also want to work on creating an effective distribution system based on your target audience and where you think they would be. This includes your social media pages and mailing lists.
Finally, remember to look for backlinks whenever possible. If someone mentions your search, for example, but doesn’t quote you, consider reaching out and asking for a backlink.
Measure your results
When working with this SEO management system, it’s essential that you don’t overlook the last step: measuring your results.
The analytics you use will impact your entire SEO program. It will inform your future campaigns of the most effective methods. It will also directly influence how your presentations and reports are received by your organization’s leaders, and therefore your budget and resources.
You want to track every step of your campaign. Be able to tell your management what happened, why, and how SEO directly influenced positive results.
You want to be able to show how you will adjust your strategies in the future and how investing in SEO will benefit the business. Brand managers like to be able to see hard numbers, especially reflecting ROI – they don’t want to hear opinions or hunches.
SEO presents a unique challenge because it requires waiting and there are few immediate results. Create a story that shows your quantifiable progress over time and what you can expect to see in the future.
For your own insight, you want to make sure you can clearly see how your campaign influenced your brand goals, such as awareness, conversions, and revenue.
Look at how well you are able to engage people through their buyer journey, your bounce rates, and your revenue. Poor performance in these areas may indicate a problem in your management plan, such as poorly designed buyer personas or poor quality content. Use these metrics to decide on the best courses of action moving forward.
Managing SEO continues to be a challenge for marketers as technology and expectations are constantly changing. However, by implementing a firm strategy, brands can effectively reach their target audiences, engage them, and advance business results.