When marketing online, you have two main options: paid or organic. Many companies use search engine advertising as a form of paid online marketing. This tactic allows marketers to buy visits to their website (pay-per-click). On the flip side, search engine optimization (SEO), is the practice of getting organic website traffic through search engine results. SEO practices have been around since the ’90s, and they’re not going away. In fact, Moz found that SEO leads to 20 times more traffic than pay-per-click on both mobile phones and desktop.
Getting into SEO can present a steep learning curve, but despite its complexity, SEO is an advanced marketing skill anyone can use.
How does SEO work?
In order to understand how SEO works online, you need to also understand how search engines work. Search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing have three primary functions: crawl, index and rank web pages.
- Crawling: Search engines dispatch crawlers to explore the internet in order to discover new or updated content.
- Indexing: The information is then organized into an index, a massive database containing all of the content the crawlers have found. The index can then be used by the search engine to find URLs that fit with a searcher’s query. Google’s web indexing system is called Caffeine.
- Ranking: This is how a search engine determines which websites to show a searcher, ordering them from most relevant to least relevant.
When a search engine crawls a website, it gathers information from the URL, headers, images and body copy of a page, pulling out important words and phrases to determine what the page is all about. SEO allows you to guide the search engine in the right direction.
Using Your SEO Skills to Drive Organic Traffic
Getting started with SEO is an intimidating feat, but it doesn’t have to be. Many advanced marketing practices such as SEO are easier than they seem; in fact, you may already be doing some of them.
Keywords, the words and phrases people type into search engines in order to answer their query, are foundational to SEO. Properly optimizing your webpages for the keywords you identify is a great long-term strategy for generating additional web traffic.
The first step of SEO is finding the right keywords. Unless your website has a high domain authority (more on that later), you may need to be selective on the keywords you intend to target. This may seem counterintuitive, but it is much more challenging to make it to the search engine results page (SERP) with a broad term such as ‘cookies’ than with a more specific term such as ‘organic oatmeal cookie recipe’.
Vague or overgeneralized keywords also pose another issue: the people coming to your site may not be interested in what you’re offering. If someone searches ‘cookie,’ the question they are trying to answer could be almost anything: how to clear cookies from their browser, the nutritional value of a cookie, where to buy cookies, and so on. They are not likely to engage much with your website if it has nothing to do with what they were searching for in the first place. On the flip side, you also don’t want to optimize for keywords that are so specific or obscure that no one ends up searching for them.
This is the process of keyword research. The key to keyword research is finding terms that have a high search volume, yet are not too competitive. Finding that sweet spot can be a real challenge. Luckily, there are some great advanced marketing tools online that can lead you in the right direction.
How to Optimize Your Webpage for an Identified Keyword
Shoving tons of keywords where they don’t belong leads to content that is clunky at best and unreadable spam at worst. In general, it is best practice to target one keyword phrase per page. After all, keywords work best when they fit the content well; they need to flow so naturally that your readers don’t know you’re using keywords at all.
Once you have identified the keyword phrase you want to use on a webpage, you might find that it is a bit challenging to incorporate it in a way that adds value to visitors. This is one reason why blogs are such a useful asset to many businesses. They allow you to write in-depth on topics in your industry, so they’re great if you have a keyword that is relevant to what you do but doesn’t make sense on the pages of your website. If your company already has a blog, adding keywords to your future posts is an advanced marketing technique that you can start immediately.
Internal links are links on your site that lead to other pages on your site, while backlinks are links from other websites leading to yours. PageRank, part of Google’s core algorithm, determines the importance of a webpage by looking at the quantity and quality of the links associated with it. Having many backlinks from trustworthy sites indicates to Google that your site is important, and can lead to better search result rankings. Blogging is a great way for your site to increase internal links between pages. Achieving external backlinks, however, will take a little more strategy.
How to Get Backlinks
There are a plethora of ways to get links to your website, here are a few popular ones:
- Create high-quality infographics
- Guest blogging
- Reach out: bloggers, journalists, partnerships
- The skyscraper method: find a popular topic and write about it better than your competition
Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO
White Hat SEO
No matter what advanced marketing techniques you are using, the general protocol is to create content for people, not machines. When it comes to SEO, this also means using techniques that abide by search engine guidelines, often called ‘white hat SEO’. According to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, these are the basic principles your B2B company should be observing:
- Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
- Don’t deceive your users.
- Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
- Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.
Black Hat SEO
The opposite of white hat SEO is, of course, black hat SEO. This approach is meant to trick search engines, and it should be avoided at all costs. While these spammy tactics may work occasionally, they signal to the search engine that your website is not to be trusted. Worse, black hat SEO can make your site annoying and user-unfriendly. Google Webmaster Guidelines points out some key mistakes to avoid:
- Automatically generated content
- Participating in link schemes
- Creating pages with little or no original content (i.e. copied from somewhere else)
- Cloaking: the practice of showing the search engine crawlers different content than visitors.
- Hidden text and links
- Doorway pages: pages created to rank well for specific searches to funnel traffic to your website.
In summation: unless you are a tree or a queen, don’t be shady.
What Google Considers
Google looks at three major pillars when determining the quality of a website: the beneficial purpose, the stakes at hand, and E-A-T. Whether you are utilizing the most basic, or the most advanced marketing and SEO tactics, these three things are of the utmost importance when it comes to Google ranking.
In general, websites and pages should be created with the intention of helping users. Pages that are obviously a ploy to make money will be viewed by Google as low quality and will rank poorly in response.
Your Money or Your Life
Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) pages include information that, when given improperly, can have serious implications on the visitor’s health, happiness, safety, or financial stability. Because of the heightened stakes for YMYL pages, Google makes the accuracy of this content a top priority. YMYL includes topics such as:
- news and current events
- Civics, government and law
- Health and safety
- Groups of people
Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
Evaluating the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (EAT) of a page is how Google determines that page’s quality.
- Expertise: This looks at the qualifications of the creator of the page’s content. For non-YMYL pages, Google also allows for ‘everyday experience,’ meaning that people with relevant life experience on a given topic can be considered experts on that topic.
- Authoritativeness: This looks at both the content and the website itself. A site with high authority is well known and respected in its industry. Authority can be earned through backlinks from other high-quality sites, mentions in articles, and being shared across social media.
- Trustworthiness: This refers to how accurate and honest the information is that your company is publishing. Bad reviews and misinformation can seriously hurt you here. Luckily, Moz offers some ideas for how to improve your site trustworthiness:
- Having a clear way to make contact with the website owners.
- Associating the website with a physical location, i.e. your office or store address.
- Having a term of business or T&Cs page, which is easily accessible to users (usually from the footer).
- Making sure your website’s domain is secure. Correctly implementing HTTPS is very important to Google and helps to ensure any data your users’ input won’t be intercepted by a nefarious 3rd party entity.
- If you’re accepting transactions, you should have clear refunds and returns policies.
- If you’re selling products, try to include comprehensive specifications of the product and include any safety advice that might be relevant.
- If you’re sharing knowledge, in general, it’s a good idea to have an author biography included and to cite external sources where relevant. Linking out to authority sites is a good thing.
Brandcave is Here to Help
The ever-changing, ever-growing nature of SEO is difficult to keep up with, and this blog post just skims the surface. If you are ready to dive in, there are tons of online resources that can help. You might find that there is a lot to absorb when it comes to SEO, especially for companies who are just getting into it. If your B2B is in need of some SEO assistance, give us a call at BrandCave, it’s what we do.