Search Engine Optimization – Traction Channel #7

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the ranking in search engines in order to get more people to a site. Almost all Internet users turn to search engines for answers. “At its base, SEO is starting with a content strategy and finding a way to attract relevant visitors through search engines. It is important to intelligently design this kind of content and make sure search engines can find and rank that content.” SEO allows amplifing all of the good things a site is already doing in other traction channels (PR, non-traditional PR, content marketing) and use them to bring in more customers from search engines. Though competitive, SEO can scale well at any phase, and often at low cost. In an excellent article, 5 Essential SEO Trends, Jim Yu explains, each year, SEO evolves to become a more sophisticated discipline. As marketers refine their skills sets, as search engines improve their search products, and as brands across industries continue to see the impact that organic search can have on their growth, search engine optimization has come from humble beginnings to become a recognized strategic field of marketing.   Below are the 5 essentials he suggest SEO practitioners do to keep the momentum going:

  1. Map Strategy To Audience & Competitive Insights
  2. Align Your Content & SEO Teams
  3. Make Mobile SEO A Priority
  4. Find Measurement & Reporting That Works
  5. Integrate SEO Data Across Teams
Two SEO Strategies  In SEO, there are two high-level approaches to choose from: fat-head and long-tail strategies. Both refer to different parts of the Search Demand Curve,  which is a graph depicting the relationship between the price of a certain commodity and the amount of it that consumers are willing and able to purchase at that given price. It is a graphic representation of a demand schedule.  (This SEO Strategy section is mainly a summary of Traction by Weinberg and Mares Chapter 12)
  • Fat-head strategy involves trying to rank for search terms that directly describe your company. For example, a bed company that specializes in wooden beds might try to rank for “wooden beds.”   The best way to determine a fat-head SEO worthwhile to research what terms people use to find products in your industry, then see if the search volumes are large enough to make it a worthwhile growth opportunity.
    • Google currently provides a useful tool for this process called Keyword Planner (part of Google AdWords).
    • Type in search terms that describe your products, and then see the search volumes for these terms. Get keywords by looking at your competitors’ websites and seeing what words they use in their homepage titles and headers.
    • If, however, the product is so new that there’s no search demand for it yet, a fat-head SEO strategy will not be as effective.
  • Fat-head SEO Tactics  If you find keywords with good volume, test them by buying Google ads for your chosen keywords. If these ads convert, you have an indication that SEO could be a strong growth channel for such keywords. In other words, there is no point wasting time on terms that don’t yield traction.
    • Choose some fat-head keywords with decent search volumes and that convert well, take steps to narrow the list of targeted keywords to just a few. First, go to Google Trends to see how the keywords have been doing and to compare keywords to one another and see which have higher relative search volumes.
    • The next step in selecting keywords is determining the difficulty of ranking highly for them. Using tools like Open Site Explorer, determine the number of links competitors have for a given term.
    • Once you’ve settled on a few terms that will move the momentum, there are only two steps left. First, orient the site around terms you’ve chosen. If you are an accounting software site and “small business accounting software” is your main term, include that phrase in your page titles and main site.
    • Next, you want other sites to link to your site, ideally using the terms you want to rank. The more links that utilize the terms you want to rank, the better. An article may read something like “XYZ Company releases version of small business accounting software” (where ____ denotes the link).
  • Long-tail strategy involves trying to rank for more specific terms with lower search volumes.  Even though these searches have lower volumes, in the aggregate they account for the majority of all searches. Determining which strategy to use, you should keep in mind that the percentage of clicks you get drops off dramatically as you rank lower on a search results page. Only about ten percent of clicks occur beyond the first ten links, so you want to be as high up on the first page as possible. In other words, your ability to rank on the first page should be a deciding factor in deciding whether to pursue a particular SEO strategy at all.
    • Individually, searches for these terms don’t amount to much: together though, they make up 70% of all searches.  Because it is difficult to rank highly for competitive terms, a popular SEO strategy for early stage startups is to focus on the long-tail. With this approach, you bundle long-tail keywords together to reach a meaningful number of customers.
    • As with the fat-head SEO strategy, the Google Keyword Planner is the first way to evaluate whether a long-tail SEO strategy may be effective for you. But this time you are seeking information on more specific long-tail terms.
    • A second way to evaluate a long-tail SEO strategy is to look at the analytics software you have on your site (such as Google Analytics or Clicky). These applications will tell you some of the search terms people are using to get to your site right now.
    • If you do not have any content that is drawing users to your site via long-tail keywords, you have two choices. First, you could create some and see which search terms are bringing people to your site. Second, look at competitors’ websites to determine if they are getting meaningful long-tail SEO traffic.
    • There are two signs that they have good traffic: 1. They have a lot of landing pages. You can see what types of pages they are producing by searching in a search engine. For example, if I wanted to see how many landing pages Moz has created targeting long-tail keywords, I could search and get a sense of how many landing pages they have.  2. Check out Alexa search rankings and look at the percentage of visitors your competitors are receiving from search. If you look across competitors and one site receives a lot more visitors from search than others, you can guess they have some kind of SEO strategy.
  • Long-Tail SEO Tactics  Long-tail SEO boils down to producing a lot of quality content.
    • You can implement this tactic by designing a standard landing page with some basic content and a simple layout structure.
    • Then use oDesk or Elance to find freelancers willing to churn out targeted articles for long-tail topics that your audience is interested in.
    • One tactic that startups have succeeded with (especially if your product involves geography in any way) is to choose several keywords and target them with geographically modified content.
  • Automation  Another way to approach long-tail SEO is to use content that naturally flows from your business. To evaluate whether you could use this tactic, ask yourself: what data do we collect or generate that other people may find useful?  Large businesses have been built this way: Yelp, Trip Advisor, Wikipedia have all gained most of their traffic by producing long-tail content. This tactic was also the main channel for Gabriel’s last startup, Names Database (which he sold to for $10 million)
  • Link Building  Whether you pursue a fat-head or long-tail strategy, SEO comes down to two things: content and links. The more aligned your content is with the keywords it’s targeting, the better it will rank.  
    • Link-Worthy Content There is a difference between creating amazing content that spreads like wildfire and hiring freelancers to write boilerplate articles for long-tail keywords. Both are valid strategies (and can work well in tandem), but there is a big difference in quality.
    • Creating amazing content in this context is to make it remarkable enough that people actually link to it. Rand suggests using infographics, slideshows, images and research to drive.
Jim Yu’s challenge in 5 Essential SEO Techniques To Master In 2015; Search engine optimization should be a part of a website for its lifetime, continuously improving its ability to make a brand (and its content) be more visible and to create a better experience for users.  You can’t master SEO in a day, but you can resolve to make small steps in each of the areas of SEO that will make your site better and your efforts more impactful in 2015. Resources ]]>