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The 3 Most Important Steps for New SEO Campaigns

A beginner’s overview to launching a new SEO campaign.

On average, 71% of Google searches will lead to a click on the first page of search results.

Moz, 2014

SEO is far from dead. Although the statistic above is from a 2014 study conducted by Moz, SEO is just as powerful as it was in the years of its initial inception. At the end of the day, if the website for your business isn’t easily visible in search engines, your business most likely won’t be very successful. It’s really that simple.

Here are some tips to make sure your next SEO campaign gets off to a good start.

Step 1: Keyword Research

Keywords represent the ideal words or phrases that you want your website to rank for in search engines. Choose the right keywords, and you dramatically increase the likelihood of seeing the fruits of your SEO labor. Choose the wrong keywords, and you run the risk of setting your campaign up for failure.

With that being said, it shouldn’t be a surprise that keyword research is the most important step in the SEO process. I cannot stress this enough. The last thing you want as a marketer is to realize that, after 3-6 months of hard work, you were targeting the wrong keywords the entire time. Trust me, you want to get this right the first time around.

Finding the right keywords

As a general rule of thumb, the keywords you choose to target should have a good balance of monthly search volume, competitiveness, and profitability. Let’s quickly define these 3 categories:

Search Volume: The number of people that search for a specific keyword per month. 

Competitiveness: Represents the amount of competition there is from other marketers who are trying to rank for a specific keyword.

Profitability: The amount of commercial intent in a specific keyword phrase.

The relationship between search volume and competitiveness

If you’re new to SEO, you might think that targeting keywords that have the highest monthly search volume would be the best campaign strategy. However, unless you’re apart of a large corporation that has a nearly infinite marketing budget, this most likely is not the best course of action.

The higher the search volume for a given keyword or keyword phrase, the more competitive it likely is.

High Search Volume = Higher Competition = Greater difficulty in achieving high search rankings

Big brands often have a tight grip on the top 5-10 results for high-volume keywords, so if this is your first SEO campaign and you want to target super high volume keywords, you have your work cut out for you. You can still target them if you really need to, just don’t expect to see significant ranking results in less than one year.

For most campaigns, I recommend starting with highly specific keyword phrases that have a low-medium amount of monthly search volume. These phrases are otherwise known as long-tail keywords. Although long-tail keywords usually have a lower search volume, they often convert better because users are (1) more specific in their search and (2) expressing informational or commercial intent.

For example, let’s say that you run a wedding photography business in Buffalo, NY. Long-tail keywords that you might be interested in targeting include:

  • Cheap wedding photographer buffalo ny
  • Best wedding photographer in buffalo ny
  • Summer wedding photography buffalo ny
  • Portrait wedding photographer in buffalo ny

While all of these long-tail keyword phrases have a low monthly search volume, they all express either informational or commercial intent. People searching for these types of terms are further down the sales funnel and are more likely to make a buying decision. We’ll explore this concept further in the next section.

Keyword profitability

At the end of the day, you want your website to rank for keywords that are going to generate sales for your business. Keep this in mind throughout your SEO campaign cycle. The entire point behind increasing your search engine rankings is to make it easier for potential customers to find your business.

Assessing the profitability of keywords relies on determining the intent behind the keywords. There are two types of keywords that can lead to conversions: informational intent keywords and commercial intent keywords.

Commercial Intent Keywords

Commercial intent keywords are keywords that express a purchasing interest on behalf of the searcher. Commercial intent can be found in any keyword phrase that uses words such as:

  • Cheap
  • Buy
  • Hire
  • Schedule (an appointment)
  • Openings
  • Book (flight or hotel)

You want to capitalize on commercial intent keywords as much as you can because the users behind these searches are going to represent a large portion of your short term sales that come as a result of your SEO campaign.

Informational Intent Keywords

Informational intent keywords are keywords that display an educational interest on behalf of the searcher. The users who are searching for these types of terms are going to represent potential top of the funnel leads. They are not currently interested in making a buying decision but they are interested in learning more about your business or topics related to your business. Informational intent can be found in phrases that use words like:

  • Tips
  • How to (do something)
  • Guide
  • Strategy
  • Advice
  • Ideas

The main goal of targeting these keywords is to funnel website traffic into your content marketing strategy. If your business has a content marketing strategy that produces valuable content for your target audience, targeting informational keywords can drive traffic to that content. With a solid content marketing and lead generation strategy, a portion of the traffic produced from the informational keywords should eventually convert into purchasing customers.

Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all when it comes to targeting the best keywords. It all depends on your business, your industry, and the goals you have for your campaign. However, focusing on keywords that have a balance between search volume, competitiveness, and profitability should set you in the right direction.

Step 2: Webpage Optimization

This step includes everything you do in terms of content and coding to please search engines. In general, search engines want to see that your webpages are: relevant, crawlable, and engaging.

Relevance

Every page of your website should have a specific target topic/keyword and be supplemented with keywords that are closely related to that topic. There are a number of ways to show search engines that your page is relevant in relation to your target keyword. These strategies include optimizing your:

  • URLs
  • Title Tags
  • Header Tags

Ultimately, you’ll want to ensure that these three elements are relevant and contain your target keywords whenever possible.

Crawlability

If your website is difficult for search engines to crawl, you’re going to be penalized for it. There are a number of ways to make your website easier to crawl, however for the sake of brevity, I’ll only be covering a few of them here.

Tip 1: Mobile Friendliness

In one of the most recent core updates to the Google search algorithm, Google stated that mobile friendliness will play a large role in Google search rankings. Mobile friendliness indicates that your website performs seamlessly on mobile devices. This means that your website functions properly, all of the text is readable, elements are not overlapping over one another, and elements of the page aren’t distorted in any way—among other things. The easiest way to check to see if your website is mobile friendly is to use Google’s mobile friendly testing tool.

Once on the page, you’ll be greeted with this screen:

Simply type in your site URL and Google will analyze your website for mobile friendliness. After a couple of seconds, you will be redirected to another page that looks something like this:

In this case, Google is telling me that my website is mobile friendly. However, Google may also tell you that your website is not mobile friendly and they will provide you with a list of improvements you should make in order to improve your site usability on mobile devices.

Tip 2: Creating Content

Google likes to see websites that are regularly updated with new and relevant content. The logic behind this is that Google prefers not to rank websites that contain old and outdated information. That’s not helpful or relevant to most search engine users. So, regularly updating your pages with new information and creating new pages with fresh content is a great way to show Google that your website is relevant and up to date.

Tip 3: Remove Duplicate Content

Duplicate content refers to any two or more pages that have the same content or very similar content. Duplicate content is a big red flag in the SEO world because it confuses the Google’s search bots. Not only does it confuse Google, but users who land on your site will most likely be confused to find multiple pages that have the same content.

In order to ensure that Google does not penalize your site for duplicate content, make sure all of your pages have a specific topic.

Engagement

With Google’s new RankBrain algorithm update, the behavior of your website users will play an increasingly vital role in your search engine rankings. Google wants to see that you are keeping your users engaged for long periods of time when they land on your website. If you have a high bounce rate (users are leaving your page as soon as they land on your page) that is a bad sign to Google and they will penalize your rankings. Here are a few ways you can optimize your user engagement:

Good Meta Descriptions: Having a relevant, attention grabbing meta description is a great way to improve the click-through-rate (CTR) for your website. The better your CTR, the more relevant Google will view your website.

Site Speed: I’ll keep this one simple. You want your webpages to load in 3 seconds or less. If your webpages take longer than 3 seconds to load, you run the risk of users bouncing away from your website.

Quality Media: Having a page full of black and white text isn’t the most exciting piece of content in the world. Incorporating engaging images and videos into your webpage can dramatically increase the page dwell time for your users.

Dwell time is the amount of time users spend on your page. If a good number of users spend long periods of time on your website, this is going to tell Google that your website is relevant and engaging.

Step 3: Backlink Acquisition

This last step is all about how other people around the web link to your website. Backlinks are a vital part of SEO because quality backlinks show Google that your website is credible, authoritative, and relevant.

So, what are quality backlinks? Quality backlinks are links from other authoritative and credible websites related to your industry. It should be noted that the entire website does not have to be related to your topic, only the page that contains the backlink.

For instance, let’s say you own a new restaurant in New York City and the New York Times wrote an article about the best new restaurants in New York City. If the New York Times linked back to your website in the article, that would be a quality backlink. Although the entire New York Times website isn’t about restaurants, this specific article was specifically about restaurants.

For instance, let’s say you own a new restaurant in New York City and the New York Times wrote an article about the best new restaurants in New York City. If the New York Times linked back to your website in the article, that would be a quality backlink. Although the entire New York Times website isn’t about restaurants, this specific article was specifically about restaurants.

Having a large number of quality backlinks is almost a form of social proof in the eyes of Google. If other credible websites are linking to your website, Google is going to assume that your website must be credible as well.

The Biggest Takeaway

Do thorough keyword research, create fresh and relevant content, and build quality backlinks. If you do these 3 things, you are going to put your SEO campaign in a great position going forward.

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