A Tesco superstore, I’ve decided, is a lot like Google in the sense that a superstore, as the name suggests, has a super amount of products stacked and placed neatly for us to choose from. Those products are, for the uninitiated, strategically placed (or ranked) in terms of relevance, popularity and the ability to make Tesco money.
Some products are better placed on the shelves than others (as decided by Tesco – the search engine). Some products are better packaged than others (as decided by the manufacturer – the website owner), and some of those products are more relevant to our needs right there, right then (as decided by us – the customer).
In a nutshell, SEO is like buying products from a supermarket, the purchase selection is down to three key factors:
- Relevance – do we need and like the product?
- Packaging – is the product clear on the shelves, is it appealing?
- Brand – do we trust the manufacturer?
Basically that is how Google will analyse and rank your website. It will display only relevant web pages based on the search query entered within its search engine. If its web crawlers – the spiders Google sends out to search for the best sites – find your site has relevant content, has goods links, contains effective keywords, then you can expect to beat your competitors.
In order to fight spam and maintain relevance in search results, the weight of consideration of these elements made by the Google algorithms – which change once every day – is a closely guarded secret. The search engine’s number one priority is the constant battle against spam sites to prevent them appearing ahead of legitimate websites in their listings.
“Other factors such as keyword weighting in your site’s content, your website’s build structure, quality and strength of incoming links to your site and the age and relevance of your domain name are also taken into consideration.”
Ayaan Mohamud – Marketing Assistant
SEO what, why bother?
So why should you be interested whether your company’s website ranks well in the search engines? Well, it’s a great question. Many of you will be saying “…our website is a brochure site, we don’t use it to sell… it doesn’t matter if we’re not on page one…it’s not how we win business.”
That may be true for relationships already developed but as online becomes the norm, your company’s website and your online presence is a selling tool for the next generation of influencers and decision makers – it is not just a browsing tool. Your competitors will beat you on ranking if you do nothing. As the graph below spells out, more and more buyers, specifiers and engineers use the internet as a primary source to find out about products, companies and services.
“SEO is about making your product, services or brand visible on search engines, and using relevant content to lure searchers towards your site” [http://econsultancy.com/reports/topics/seo]
“SEO is massively important for every business, construction-related or not. Whether you sell products or services, consultancy or conservatories, your content needs to be relevant and easily found by key decision makers and influencers within your sales chain. As a marketing manager or the person charged with your company’s business development you should be making sure you have the most visible website possible and ensuring that the content is relevant to your audience. After all, your website is like a salesperson on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
Pritesh Patel – Digital Marketing Manager
Having a website shouldn’t be considered a marketing ‘box ticked’. Marketing has moved on since the 90s. The internet now plays a major role in changing the way businesses present themselves and do business. A well designed visible website on page one of Google – still, by far, the most widely used search engine – for search terms relevant to your prospects and customers, is a pre-requisite for doing and generating business. The box to be ticked in these web savvy times is the ‘have-we-got-and-do-we-maintain-a-search-and-content-strategy’ box.
In the following section of this article I’m going to show you how, by following five simple steps, you can create your own search and content strategy that will enable you to leap up and forge your way in the search engine results pages [SERPs] and blow your competitors out of the water.
- Benchmark – where are you now, where do you want to be?
- Keywords – what do your customers want, what do they search for?
- Search & Content – what and where do the search engines look for?
- Implementation – what can we change quickly and easily?
- Review – what will we review and evaluate and how often?
If you don’t currently rank within the top two pages for any given one or two word search query relating to your services or products, then it is safe to assume that you are starting from a fairly low base. As more and more people are using longer search queries of three words or more, it demonstrates that there is a growing number of users finding less value in the search results they get from broad short queries. The idea then is to take a number of your most relevant longer tail search queries and see where you fall in the rankings with those.
“In my opinion your website does not have a notable ranking unless you are within the top two SERPs (search engine results pages). I say that because if you embark on an SEO adventure you will need to benchmark your existing position in order to see what effect if any, your efforts have had on your position.”
Nick Pauley – Managing Director
If your site is currently languishing in the deepest depths of the search engines for the terms on which you desperately want to be ranked, there are a number of ways that you can quickly buy your way on to page one as a short term campaign. Some may disagree but I believe pay-per-click has its uses as a constant practice, but that is for another article. For the purposes of this article we are concentrating on ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ search.
What are they and do they matter? Keywords are a bit of an anomaly. They are important in the sense that you need to know what they are, yet they no longer play a key role within the metadata i.e. Google is no longer influenced by keywords within your metadata, the technical information that forms your page title, keywords and description. Search engines crawl a website from page to page looking for metadata and then store it in a database so that a user can search against this database. It is equally important to have as many pages indexed and therefore stored by search engines as possible.
“Your keywords are the backbone of your search and content strategy. The keyword research you do up front on your web project, or retrospectively after reading this article, is the most important piece of work you can do. And it’s not just a one off job.”
Ayaan Mohamud – Marketing Assistant
There are many tools that can help you refine the search terms, keywords and phrases that help you build your keyword lists with relevancy in mind. Google’s own search-based Keyword Tool (http://www.google.com/sktool/#) is a great place to start.
Better described as multi-phrase search queries, your long tail keywords are the variety of unique low-volume searches by which visitors reach your site. They are not the high volume one or two word phrases that everyone fights over in the search engines, like “construction marketing” for instance. These are the more considered searches that people who know what they are specifically looking for will type. So for example: “construction marketing” is a broad high volume search query, whereas a long tail equivalent would be “digital marketing for construction companies”, i.e. a low volume but more specific query.
Your most effective keywords will come from the long tail keywords outside the top 10, 20 or 50 (depending on the size of your site) of search terms. They will reside deep in your analytics package and will have grown over the years to be a very long list with only a few visits against them. It is these keywords & search queries which users are entering into search engines to find your site and which are refined search queries.
“What can you do to leverage these long tail keywords? The answer is to develop the content to contain these keywords within your web pages. Be careful though, as overusing the same or a group of keywords on one page could result in Google penalising you and classing your site as spam.”
Pritesh Patel – Digital Marketing Manager
Your long tail multi-phrase search queries will form the structure of your content strategy. The keyword research is the piece of valuable work you do at the start of your content strategy project and contains the phrases which you should be writing more of on your website.
What your long tail keyword analysis will provide you with is a narrowing of your audience and a culling of your competition. Here’s a great example. If you Google “facilities management” you will see it gets around 1.5 million results whereas, if you Google “facilities management central London banks”, that gets about 90,000. So if you are a facilities management company and London banks is your niche, you have just shaken off 1.4million competitor searches.
Search & Content Strategy
Search and content strategy is not the new buzz phrase which gives agencies the opportunity to charge more. It is now, and probably always has been, the only sensible way of maintaining a significant presence on the web. By formulating a search and content strategy you will be able to make so many intelligent decisions around the rest of your marketing efforts that you’ll be kicking yourself that you didn’t get it sorted out years ago.
It is by definitition the marketing challenge to meet the criteria of the ever changing Google algorithms. There are several clever types who have tried to make a case for the way Google ranks sites and web pages. In truth there are around 200 ranking factors that will govern your placement on the Google web charts.
“While we never ever guarantee a page one top-spot we recognise that there are good practices of which marketing managers should be aware. They should be able to control and implement these themselves so that their websites have the best possible opportunity to rank higher than those of their competitors.”
Nick Pauley – Managing Director
Your biggest job will be to write down the list of the most relevant long tail search queries. Place them in the order of relevance and priority to sell your products and services. Break them down into manageable chunks of similar service focused lists and give them category titles.
This is the start of your content strategy. Next, draw up a production schedule to manage time and effort. Make it as clear and as achievable as possible. Then start writing your content. Remember the more you write the more the search engines will love you. The steps again are:
- Write down a list of the most relevant long tail search queries.
- Place them in order of relevance and priority
- Break them down into lists with category titles – this is your editorial list
- Draw up a production schedule
- Write for your life bearing in mind who uses your site and who you want to attract to it, remembering that relevance is the most important factor of your content strategy.
Your search strategy will come from your content. The terms, topics and categories that your content focuses on should be integrated religiously into your website’s structure. For example, your home page is built of several core elements that help SERP’s to rank you, the basics of which are outlined below:
- The page title also known as the title tag
- The meta description
- The main heading H1 tag
- The sub heading H2 tags
- The number of internal and external links
- SEO friendly URL links
- Page rank flow
The page title or title tag is what you see here:
“Construction marketing digital agency – Pauley Creative”
It’s the same text that shows up above the site’s description within search results. As you can see it should be long enough to explain your product or service but not too long as to get cut off, so around 70 characters or 11 words is the just the ticket.
The meta description is the little paragraph that describes the content of the page and is the lure for the prospect to decide whether to click or miss your site. Keep it succinct at around 70 words and make every word count, so don’t waste the opportunity by copying the text you have used for the title tag.
The H1 or title tag sounds geeky and in fairness it is. But it is important. Within the build of our content managed sites it is called the page header:
“Pauley Creative is the digital marketing firm for the construction industry” comes from our search and content strategy being a long tail phrase which uses the words relevant to our customers, ie. digital, marketing, construction.
Google assumes that if something on a page is surrounded by a title tag it contains something important. For this reason H2 tags, which sound even geekier, are great for visibility and are therefore important. They too are formed from our keyword research and content strategy and they also include links into the rest of our site.
The number of internal and external links are what Google sees as providing the relevance to the terms we are using. So for example, “design” goes to the page explaining more about the designs we create, the “websites” link goes to the page about how we build our clients’ websites and so on. The number of inbound links pointing to your website, for example an online directory listing, also contributes to your site or page ranking. But the benefits of a link from a site depends heavily on that site’s own ranking. If the online directory has a low page rank then this low rank will be passed onto your site also.
SEO friendly URLs mean that your page addresses contain the keywords within them that help the user make a more confident decision to visit that particular page. For example, with the URLhttps://www.pauleycreative.co.uk/contact/it would be safe to assume you will find contact details on that particular page. And, of course, you will.
Page rank flow is the term used for the percentage of internal and external links on a page. Google only scans the first 100 links and it is best to have a 50 / 50 split of links, 50% linking to other pages on your website and 50% linking to other external sites. That 50% split in Google’s eyes is a winning combo.
Making changes to your site can be a quick process. Most websites with content managed systems allow you to change meta data (tags, keywords and headers) and page content at a click of a button. However, the process is not easy as there are so many areas which can effect the site or page rankings, as discussed earlier.
“Start off with your homepage or top product pages. These are the priority pages you want to be indexed and easily found by users. Adjust each element within the page – that’s the page title, meta description, H1 and H2 tags, SEO friendly URLs and the main body content – to include long tail keywords which are relevant to the page and to the audience.”
Pritesh Patel – Digital Marketing Manager
When writing copy the smallest of changes can create the biggest impact so by just merely changing or adding keywords you will see an improvement over time. It is a test and monitor process. It is not about quantity, it’s about quality. Big changes do not necessarily mean big results. Make sure you log your changes over time as a record of what worked.
So how do you monitor and review your changes? There are lots of free online tools which you can use to assist with monitoring your SEO performance. Ideally review your performance on a weekly or monthly basis depending on the number of changes made or the amount of traffic your website yields.
As a suggestion your key performance indicators (KPIs) for review should look something like this:
|Total Organic Traffic||Weekly|
|Number of organic keywords||Monthly|
|Brand and non-brand keywords||Monthly|
|Number of pages indexed||Weekly/Monthly|
Five Quick Tips For An Effective SEO Strategy:
- Effective keyword placement – leverage long tail keywords and specific search terms as there is less competition for these keywords.
- Effective content – write relevant content for your site using search terms. Remember who you are writing for. A buyer will require different messages from those of a design engineer or architect. Don’t overuse keywords within the body copy or duplicate content.
- Quality inbound links – place or buy links to your site with a high page or site ranking. There are lots of online construction directories to choose from but choose those with a high quality score.
- Web architecture – ensure your web site is coded accordingly and includes common keywords and descriptions on every page.This will increase the number of pages indexed by search engines.
- Sharing – Create sharing bookmarks on each page to increase traffic from other high traffic websites such as Twitter, Delicious or Stumbleupon.
If your website is optimised for search and your content and search strategies are established with an integrated schedule of action, your ascent of the results pages should be assured. It’s a long term project and one that should be monitored and measured every step of the way. But do start, be consistent and relevant, don’t stop and you will benefit. That much I will promise you.
For further information on our digital marketing services please call us on 01908 671707.