Marketers: Do you have a love-hate relationship with SEO?

Marketers: Do you have a love-hate relationship with SEO?

Most marketers I know have a love-hate relationship with these three words: Search Engine Optimization, more commonly called SEO. That’s because while SEO helps your target audience find you, it can also be tricky to navigate. There’s also the constant struggle to balance marketing content with the right number of keywords while staying true to your brand voice and writing style. (Here’s a hint: DON’T think about SEO when creating your Message Map; weave it into your copy afterward.)

To help answer the many questions I receive about SEO, I sat down with Harry Semerjian, Principal at Infinium Marketing Group, for a Q&A.

Q: What should marketers consider before starting an SEO project? 

A: There are several things marketers should consider before embarking on an SEO project, whether they are hiring an SEO professional or taking on SEO activities internally. They are:

Goals and Objectives:

This is the foundation of any SEO project. Are you looking to increase brand awareness, drive more traffic, boost conversions, or all the above? The goals you set will dictate your SEO strategy.

Target Audience:

Understanding your audience is critical for effective SEO. You need to know what your audience is searching for, the language they use, and what type of content they consume. This will help you choose the right keywords and create content that is relevant and compelling to your audience.

Keyword Research:

It is critical to get this part right. Your keywords should reflect the terms your target audience uses to search for your products or services. Tools such as Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, and Ahrefs can help you research, analyze, and produce a list of target keywords.

Competitor Analysis:

Personally, I love competitor research. It’s important to be aware of what competitors are doing in terms of SEO. Look at the keywords they’re targeting, the type of content they’re producing, and their backlink profiles. This can give you valuable insights, provide inspiration, and help you identify gaps in your own strategy.

Budget and Resources:

SEO can be resource-intensive. You’ll need to consider whether you have the necessary resources for content creation, technical SEO, link building, and ongoing monitoring and optimization. If done correctly, SEO can provide a healthy return on investment.

Current Website and SEO Status:

Before getting started, perform a comprehensive audit of your current website and SEO situation to benchmark your current status. Identify any technical issues that need fixing and assess your current keyword rankings and backlink profile. Ensure your website features a clear and easily navigable user journey.

Algorithm Understanding:

Familiarize yourself with the latest search engine algorithm updates. SEO is a constantly changing field, and understanding how search engines rank content is key to implementing a successful SEO strategy.

Analytics and Reporting:

Tools such as Google Analytics 4, Google Search Console, and other third-party SEO software can help you monitor key metrics and measure your progress.

Patience and Commitment:

SEO is a long-term game. It can take several months to start seeing results, so you’ll need to be patient and stay committed to your strategy.

A successful SEO project requires a strategic approach, careful planning, and ongoing optimization. It’s not a one-time thing, but a continuous process of improvement and adaptation to changes in search engine algorithms and user behavior.

Q: How would you explain the importance of SEO to someone outside of marketing who doesn’t understand what it is? 

A: SEO is a process of improving a website in ways that help it rank higher in search results.

Imagine you have a shop in a big city. There are many streets in this city and your shop could be located anywhere. Now imagine your shop is in a tiny, obscure alleyway that people rarely visit. Even if you have the best products, few people are going to find you, and your business may not succeed.

On the other hand, if your shop is on a busy street, many people will pass by, see your shop, and potentially come in to buy something. In this case, your chances of running a successful business are much higher.

SEO is a tool that helps you move your shop from an obscure alleyway to a busy street. When people go to a search engine like Google and type in words related to what you sell, SEO ensures your website shows up in the search results…ideally as close to the top as possible. This means more people see your website and have a chance to become your customers.

Q: How do marketers find out what keywords their target audience is searching on? For example, the airline industry used to advertise “low fares” before they realized most people search for “cheap flights.”  

A: Keyword research is an essential part of SEO strategy, and there are various tools and methods to discover the keywords your target audience is using.

Here are some strategies:

Use Keyword Research Tools:

Tools such as Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz’s Keyword Explorer can provide insight into the search volume and competition for different keywords. They can also suggest related keywords that you might not have thought of.

Analyze Search Terms Report in Google Ads:

If you’re running Google Ads, you can view the Search Terms Report to see the actual queries people have used to click on your ads. This can help identify popular keywords and phrases. Sometimes setting up a Google Ads campaign just for this information is worthwhile.

Analyze Your Competitors:

Analyzing the keywords your competitors are targeting can give you insights into potentially successful keywords. Tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs can help you identify the keywords for which your competitors are ranking. Use these keywords for inspiration when creating your own target keyword list.

Analyze Your Own Site’s Search Data:

If your website has a search function, analyzing the queries users input can provide insights into what your visitors are interested in. You may be surprised at the various words and phrases people use to describe your product or service.

Use Topic and Question Tools:

Tools like AnswerThePublic aggregate questions commonly asked about a given topic. These questions can highlight important keywords and long-tail phrases. Try it once and you’ll be hooked!

Interview Your Target Audience:

Ask your target audience what terms they use when searching for products or services in your industry.

Q: SEO isn’t a one-time project. How often should marketers revisit their approach to SEO? 

A: You’re right, SEO is an ongoing process. How often you revisit your approach depends on several factors: changes in your business, industry trends, updates to search engine algorithms, and the results you’re seeing from current SEO efforts. Here are some general guidelines:

Consistent Monitoring:

Monitor on a daily or weekly basis. Tools like Google Analytics 4, Google Search Console, and SEO-specific tools such as SEMrush or Ahrefs enable you to monitor important metrics such as organic traffic, bounce rates, and keyword rankings. By monitoring these regularly, you can spot any sudden changes that might indicate a problem (like a significant drop in traffic) and react swiftly. These tools are invaluable during times of search engine algorithm updates.

Keyword Research:

Revisit your list of target keywords at least every few months. Trends and search-term popularity can change over time, so ensure your keywords are still relevant and effective to drive targeted traffic to your site.

Content Review:

Review and update existing content regularly, usually quarterly. This can involve refreshing outdated content, improving content that isn’t performing as well as expected, and adding new internal or external links.

Technical SEO Audit:

Conduct a full technical audit of your site monthly. This includes checking site speed, mobile-friendliness, XML sitemaps, broken links, duplicate content, etc. This will help you catch issues before they become large-scale problems and will help keep your site health scores up.

Backlink Profile:

Review your backlinks monthly to ensure you’re receiving links from high-quality, relevant sites, and to disavow any spammy or toxic backlinks that might have appeared.

Algorithm Updates:

Google and other search engines update their algorithms regularly, sometimes with significant updates that can heavily impact your SEO performance. Stay up to date with these changes and revisit your SEO strategy whenever a major update occurs. SEMrush’s Sensor tool is wonderful at tracking these updates.

Marketers: Do you have a love-hate relationship with SEO?
Use a sensor tool to track how search engine algorithm changes affect your SEO.

Remember, SEO is a long-term strategy. It may take months to see the full results of your efforts, and you’ll need to continually adjust and refine based on the data you gather and changes in the search environment. My motto is “Try It. Track It. Change It.”

Q: What’s the best way to measure SEO success? 

Measuring SEO success can be challenging because it relies on various factors. Here are key metrics to consider:

Organic Traffic

The primary goal of SEO is to increase the visibility of your website on search engine result pages, which should lead to a growth in organic traffic over time. Use Google Analytics 4 to track this metric.

Keyword Rankings

Another significant indicator of SEO success is your website’s ranking for specific keywords relevant to your business. You can monitor your website’s position for specific keywords over time using SEO tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs.

Click-Through Rate (CTR)

This measures the percentage of users who click on your site after it appears in their search results. A high CTR often signifies that your title tags and meta descriptions are compelling enough to pique searchers’ interest.

Bounce Rate

This is the percentage of visitors who leave your website after viewing just one page. If your bounce rate is high, it suggests that your site content isn’t relevant to what users are searching for or that the user experience is poor.

Conversion Rate

This is the percentage of users who complete a desired action on your website, such as making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or filling out a contact form. High conversion rates indicate that your SEO efforts are attracting quality traffic.

Backlink Profile

A strong backlink profile is a good indicator of SEO success. This includes the number of backlinks, the quality of those backlinks (referring to domains’ authority), and the diversity of those backlinks. SEMrush is my favorite tool to analyze backlink profiles.

Page Load Time

Website speed is a crucial factor for both SEO and user experience. If your website takes too long to load, it can negatively affect your search engine rankings and deter users from staying on your site. I rely on GT Metrix to monitor my websites’ speeds.

To sum things up, a successful SEO project requires a strategic approach, careful planning, and ongoing optimization. It’s not a one-time thing, but a continuous process of improvement and adaptation to changes in search engine algorithms and user behavior. Stick with it and in 6 to 12 months you’ll be reaping the rewards that an effective SEO strategy can bring.

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