Ranking high on Google search engine using SEO is the easiest way to gain customers to your business. After this coronavirus pandemic, every business knows the importance of being visible online, and huge lessons have been learned or are being learned.
What happens if your physical brick and mortar business is not accessible, can you be found online to transact? Businesses know this now and some have started investing heavily in their search engine optimisation.
In this article, we will put down some SEO tips & tweaks which you can do yourself to gain some big SERPs ranking and you can also use this to evaluate other SEO agencies when you request for a proposal.
- 2. Select your keywords based on buyer’s intent
- 3. Scope Out Your Competition: Competitors analysis
- 4. Alter your website structure to optimize for search
- 5. Create Keyword Specific Website Pages
- 6. Optimize for local search
- 7. Create content that attracts new eyeballs to your website
- 8. You need high authority links at scale
- 9. Optimize Your Profiles
- 10. Track results and scale efforts
Understanding some SEO Basics
Most people have a limited understanding of what SEO is and what it entails. Successful SEO campaigns require you to have more knowledge of how the search engines and algorithms work which is hard since the goalpost keeps being moved with updates like Panda, Penguin, BERT amongst others. By optimising your site, you are telling Google and your customers a clear indication of who you are and what your business is all about.
SEO stands for search engine optimisation and is the process of ranking websites high and as a result increase clicks and visitors and generate more business leads.
1. Understand the state of Google SERPs results for search queries
The average internet user doesn’t go past the first page of any search engine, therefore, if your website whether business or personal is coming up anywhere below this people are less likely to find you. On top of this Google’s layout makes it extremely hard to be visible and here is why.
- The first 4 slots 7 spots are occupied by sponsored or paid ads and local map pack results
- Nearly half of the results are big reviews and aggregator sites like Yelp, Trip advisor, Gumtree which offers reviews
- The competition is fierce depending on your industry and CPC (cost per click) is high e.g. Industries like plumbing and car finance you will end up paying upwards of £4-8 per click which insanely high.
Although we could run successful campaigns to outrank the aggregator sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor in the longterm my best advice as it relates to your keywords is not to fight them but leverage their authority and rank your profile within them whilst you work on your website.
2. Select your keywords based on intent
The more specific your target keywords, the higher the chance it will attract more qualified leads. This is the single most important step of optimising your website for SEO success as it lays the foundation for your whole SEO campaign. I tend to classify keywords into 3 types: money/purchase intent keyword (service driven for a particular action), discovery keyword (information driven like reviews about your business), and attention keyword (looking for a solution and tends to answer how to, what is?). All three have their own benefits. Money keyword is more of what you want to focus on to land that decisive action.
Consider your main business areas i.e. products and services as a starting point. This will help you think about what kind of searches you want your entity to rank for. Consider the “search related to” section at the bottom of the Google search page to get some relevant additional keywords that are helpful as they show you what people are currently searching for in relation to your keyword input. For example, “dentists in manchester” is a broad term and every dentist will be competing for this term. You should consider refining it to areas of your business like “dental implants dentist manchester” or “Invisalign manchester” or “teeth whitening manchester”
Don’t rely on only Google search engine or (Google ads keyword planner if you have an ad account) to offer you the keyword suggestion, try and find some other free independent keyword tools like Keyword.IO and WMS Everywhere which has a free Chrome extension addon and most importantly Google Trends that shows you what’s trending and how popular that search term is.
You get this process right you are set for an easy ride ahead as the foundations will be solid.
3. Scope Out Your Competition
No business runs in a vacuum and if you think you are, it a matter of time until someone spots the opportunity and enters the market. One of the hardest industries to compete in on google is in the provision of SEO services. If we as a business want to neutralise our competition we need to scout what other local SEO experts are doing using business methods like SWOT to neutralise their advantage and this is an activity that takes time but in return pays dividends. Most of the clients will want to see links you have built for them but they don’t understand research plays a very big roll in their success over their competitors. How do we do this?
Let take an example, Simba Digital has identified a purchase intent keyword like SEO for dentists or SEO for lawyers that we would like to rank for, we will then google this search query for the SERP results. This will give a clear idea of where we are ranked in comparison to our competitors. We would look at the top ranking SEO companies open their websites and see what we have in common and what unique elements they have that we don’t. Whilst we are doing this we will evaluate various areas that we know count to Google rankings factors. Factors like page load speeds, how often is their blog updated if any, how are their headings (H1, H2, H3), technical & on-page SEO elements like URLs, image title, image alt tags, backlinks, etc.
If you have a chance to get hold of tools that can dig out the links portfolio of your competitors please do so at this stage too. By identifying websites that link to your competitors will help you discover opportunities for how to get links from the same sites and this will move you closer to neutralising their strength and leveling the playing field.
Therefore, scoping your competitors, will give you a better idea of what you need to do to gain onto your competitors and eventually outrank them and gain that number one spot for the target keyword as well other keywords in the same niche.
4. Alter your website structure to optimize for search
Search engines like Google have always advised webmasters to write content for users and this not only applies to readable material but also URL addresses. It comes without saying that user experience goes hand in hand with rankings and an easy to navigate and well ordered website means it also easy for Google bots and spiders to crawl it. In simple terms, site structure is an essential part of a successful SEO campaign.
Giving an example is the best way of explaining this methodology. Assume you are in the business of selling second hand cars (www.thedealer.net) you can group your content into buckets for easy easy navigation 3 ways:
- Single car type sale (eg. just sells BMWs)
- Multiple services & car makes (e.g. BMW, Audi, VW, Vauxhall, Mercedes, etc)
- Multiple locations dealership (e.g. Liverpool, Manchester, Warrington, York, London, etc)
If you are offering a single service it makes sense to purchase a domain that states you are a BMWdealer.net as an exact match domain (EMD), however, it wouldn’t make sense to add another service like BMWdealer.net/vw as this wouldn’t make sense and will confuse both the user and the search engine. This is why I discourage the use of EMD for any business and leave that for people pushing for affiliates or for use as private blog networks (PBNs).
If www.thedealer.net is a dealership selling other car models then it makes it easy for website users to understand that if I see such a pages www.thedealer.net/audi, www.thedealer.net/vw, Mercedes, BMW as extra products and therefore, creating new pages for this individual products will allow for easy ranking capability without sending a mixed signal to Google. This is the advantage of using a branded domain name rather than an EMD.
If www.thedealer.net has multiple locations we could use cities or towns as organisation buckets and this will also help in local SEO efforts. For example, you could split www.thedealer.net/liverpool/vw, www.thedealer.net/liverpool/bmw, etc.
All this organisation we have mentioned in this section is what we call siloing. You can clearly showcase this through menus.
What is Siloing?
It is simply grouping related content on your website into distinct sections and making this building block for hierarchy purposes or deep site architecture either through strucure or linking.
5. Create Keyword Specific Website Pages
This talks for itself. Please ensure the primary page and content elements of your landing pages use the keywords you are targeting. This includes Title, headings, CTA (call to action buttons), and most importantly the content. However, do not stuff keywords in the pages as this could be detrimental to your efforts. Let’s take an example of a beauty school in London trying to rank for “Beauty therapy courses“.
The heading and the call to action are keyword-rich, the subheadings leading to the various other individual course have a similar keywords theme of the course levels you could take. The images on the page should also have the tags and descriptions with the target keyword. These simple steps go along way to give Google some positive signals and show them you know what you are doing plus it also guides website users to exactly what they want regarding course selection. It has good user experience and you can choose a level 2 beauty course, level 3 beauty course, or even IPL laser beauty course in London.
6. Optimize for local search
Google support page has published simple tips on how to improve your local rankings on their search engine including tips and how they determine who goes on top of the local pack. As a business, you want to dominate your local area before you expand outwards. Therefore, this section is highly critical for local search optimisation efforts done by you as a business and any agency promoting your business on the world wide web. We will discuss these 3 areas: Relevance, Distance, and Prominence.
a. Relevance – Your Google my business (GMB) listing must match the search query and therefore, it is important you pick the right and most accurate business category you fall under. Describe it thoroughly and incorporate your main target keywords. There is a limit in the number of characters you can use and at the moment its 750 characters and this will max out quickly if you are not careful. This is the equivalent of 2.5 tweets, if you are a twitter user you will know that they allow only 280 characters per tweet. That’s not much but certainly means its doable for a description. Fulfil all the other requirements like photos, add services in detail where possible, and ensure the address is consistent with all your structured citations and directories (NAP – Business Name, Address and Phone number)
b. Distance – Since Google uses proximity to the searcher this will determine what local GMB directory results will be presented to the user. In local search, this is the number 1 ranking factor, unlike organic search where Google still uses links to identify who has greater authority and therefore rank you high. It wouldn’t make sense for Google to show you beauty colleges in Liverpool if you are living in London and made a search in London for beauty schools.
c. Prominence – by definition means well known or easily discovered. This is potentially the hardest part of local SEO and various factors contribute to success in this: Links from authority sites and guest post articles, images added to your GMB profile (adding more imagery and photos than your competitors will directly increase your prominence), directory listing and other structured citations showing your business NAP, and finally reviews which send good signals especially if they high rated and also if there is a response from you as a business. Reviews also act as part of reputation management and this is another part of a marketing strategy that needs to be considered overall. Having high review ratings allows you to rank higher for superlative based searches (for example, “best estate agents”, “best web hosting services“, “best injury lawyer”, “top criminal solicitor”, “top ” etc).
Reviews are not only for restaurants and pubs, and every time someone leaves a review it’s considered as content (user-generated) and this should be used as an opportunity to increase your online presence and remember to push those keywords within your reply but make it look natural.
Some people have learned how to play the system and if you realise that the keywords you are aiming for as being spammed by crafty competitors like fake reviews, listings, virtual offices and keyword stuffing you can submit a complaint directly to Google if you have evidence they are violating Google’s TOS using this form.
7. Create content that attracts new eyeballs to your website
Remember we mentioned we have various types of keywords. You must have heard this quote, Content is King! White hat SEO success hinges on your ability to generate and also distribute creative content and this can only be done by creating valuable content around info intent keywords that the majority of people use to find solutions on the web. Let’s put this into perspective: Most businesses have now been tuned to use purchase keywords and rightly so they might rank higher for them, however, as a business you need to think outside the box, actually burn that box and go right into those problems solving solutions people look for. Trust me this will win you more qualified leads as by the end of reading your information post they will be turned from a cold lead to a warm lead. Read this article about why every business needs a blog.
Back to our example: Why would someone share a normal service page? People only share valuable content of which majority of info intent pages start with (How to…, What is…, Why are…, Guide to…). Give people content they can’t find anywhere and Google will reward you for this too. I have a pet and occasionally I would go searching for products but most of the articles I find are just reviews. One particular website(Rangersdog.com) stood out as it offered genuine information about dog food and what’s contained in all the products I was searching for.
This is what I am talking about. Prove you are an expert in your field by writing, in-depth guides, case studies, and also generate infographics.
8. You need high authority links at scale
Building links to your website is not as easy as it used to be and if you are in a competitive industry you will need more than a handful of links to gain trust and authority for Google to rank you on page 1. As SEO professionals we know that links are still the number 1 ranking factor that search engines use to send traffic your way. SEO experts know the drill but for most of you, you will need someone to hold your hand. One key element to link building is the use of anchor text, get this wrong and you will never rank: actually you will get penalised by Google for over optimising and spamming.
Some of the best places to acquire links from include:
- Forums and Social media (You can easily create a buzz for your site through value adding on places like Quora, Reddit, etc)
- Guest post outreach opportunities on high PR sites
- Whitehat link building to go to your main keyword pages
- Borrowing links to even playing field e.g. blog comments, resource pages and don’t be afraid to use the local press but they might charge for this
- Internal linking from blog content to main keyword pages will pass valuable link juice which are good signals for ranking
Some very resourceful tools to help with link building or spy on what links your competitors have to include Majestic SEO, AHREFs, SEMRush, SEOProfiler, SPYfu all of which have a paid subscription cost but you can also use Ubersuggest which is free for some basic features and will give you a snapshot of what your competitors are doing.
9. Optimize Your Profiles
Search engines like consistency and this are how you build trust with them. Optimising your profile on websites like Google my Business, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Yelp is one way of doing off-page SEO. Optimising these profiles and digital properties increase your online presence and will help your website rank higher. Remember consistency is key and you do want the content posted on your profiles to be up to date and in line with what you have on your website.
For example, on LinkedIn you can optimise it and get loads of valuable links from it: Create killer profiles with an opportunity to bag 3 websites link, form a company page, LinkedIn group profile website link, LinkedIn profile publications link, LinkedIn profile projects link.
Another important profile you can optimise was discussed in #6. Local SEO optimisation using Google My Business.
See example below:
Once your GMB listing is verified, all the information about your business, Name, Address, Phone, Services, Photos, reviews is now readily available to be delivered to potential customers, and therefore, it gives you an opportunity to improve how you appear on both Search and Google maps. Google my Business has a shed load of features that can also be linked to your Google Ads account and as such why we insist on ensuring consistency all through.
10. Track results and scale efforts
One of the first activities we forgot to mention is you need to ensure all necessary tracking pixels have been installed so that you are able to see progress. Google Analytics is a free tool therefore, take maximum advantage of this powerful resource. In all honesty, it takes about 12 months to reach the top of Google, but 3-6 months to see SERPs visibility, so till that time measure your SERP visibility using tools like Ubersuggest or SEMRush.
Google Analytics can also tell you where people visited on your website and if you are running an eCommerce website you can check funnels where they are falling off if the conversion rate is low etc. Some elements that might be used to justify the cost and output of SEO include SERPs visibility and the overall number of keywords that rank, total organic traffic being received and mainly what’s going to target keyword pages, most importantly are you receiving leads, sales and phone calls from natural traffic. Below is a Google Analytics screenshot with a segment showing Organic traffic from search engines only.
The above SEO tips work in all industries, however, we do know you cannot get that organic traffic for free, you have to invest a considerable of time, resources to get the results you want and it doesn’t stop there, you have to keep on top of it otherwise, you lose your position. SEO growth is gradual and therefore good to include in your digital marketing longterm strategy unlike PPC which drives immediate traffic but is temporal and subject to payments therefore not suitable for most businesses.
In summary, if you want to rank on page 1, you have to do things the right way. If you need help with eCommerce SEO or general SEO and digital marketing services, drop me a line via our contact page here.