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From the Trenches

Admit It, You Don’t Fully Understand SEO

Right Source | June 9, 2021
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Picture this: You’re in an executive meeting. Someone says, “We need to do more to rank on Google’s search results.” Everyone nods emphatically in agreement. Someone else says, “Great, how do we do that?”

Cue blank stares, empty suggestions, and half-baked strategies.

Sound familiar?

You’re an expert marketer, so you know SEO matters. But in practice, you can’t quite fit the pieces of the SEO puzzle together to garner real results.

You need to go back to the basics to understand how SEO strategies work in tandem — not in silos — to build your site’s Google reputation. And, of course, to learn how content marketing can facilitate lasting SEO success.

The Challenges Facing Generalist Marketers Today

It’s not your fault SEO sometimes eludes you. There are lots of factors at play that make it hard for marketers to execute SEO and content marketing strategies.

  • You’re under increasing pressure to explain the ROI of SEO and content marketing. C-level executives typically love paid media because they see instant results. This has made it challenging to prove the value of organic search tactics, which take longer to produce results.
  • The nature of the marketing profession has changed. It used to be that marketers could dabble in all aspects of the field — from SEO to light graphic design. These days, because each area of the job has become so complex, you almost need a specialist for each task.
  • Google is constantly editing the script. Just as you get a handle on a Google update, they release something new. Worse, each update is shrouded in mystery; Google isn’t exactly straightforward about their practices. It’s almost impossible — yet necessary — to keep up.
  • You can’t talk about SEO in layman’s terms. Despite SEO’s complexity, you understand the simpler stuff in theory. Explaining it to the rest of your C-suite in terms they’ll understand so you can garner buy-in on your SEO game plan? That’s another story entirely.
  • The holistic SEO picture is blurry. You get keywords, you get that ranking high on Google is vital, and you get that you have to produce content. But you definitively don’t get how it all fits together.

Building Your SEO Foundation

It’s tempting to stuff some keywords in your H2s and add alt text to your images and call it a day. But that’s far from the holistic SEO approach we’re after.

As mentioned, you might be missing the foundational pieces — the stuff that informs an entire, well-thought-out SEO strategy. Instead you’re dealing with piecemeal SEO tasks

Study Searcher Language to Align Content with Search Intent

To you (and your bosses), winning at SEO probably looks like organic leads that turn into closed deals. But how do you think those qualified leads find you in the first place? Through top-ranking search results that match their queries (aka search intent).

Let’s break this idea down.

First, your site pages need to show up first (top of page one of Google) because 75% of searchers won’t click past the first page of Google results at all.

Second, you need to match your content to search intent. This is one of the ways you can rank well, too. Searchers will click your link when it answers the questions they have, and Google will reward you for your relevant content by elevating it to page one.

Now we’ve arrived at the SEO basics part. To match search intent and win clicks, start by studying the language people use to talk about your product or service.

You might think you know how to discuss your business best, but people use diverse language to discuss the same things. Soda and pop, sofa and couch, content and copy, telehealth and telemedicine — these are inconsequential examples that prove the point. You’ll never answer your searchers’ questions correctly (and, therefore, rank well on Google) if you don’t know what words they’re using to talk about your industry.

Bonus: Google actually extracts snippets of your content that directly address searchers’ questions, putting your result above all others. That’s the power of using the right language.

Clearly, even a little bit of background research on searcher language can fuel relevant website content that attracts excitement-worthy leads.

Continuously Review the Competitive Landscape to Come Out Ahead

Marketers sometimes forget about their competition because they have their heads down working on their own SEO game. But sussing out the competitive landscape is another not-to-be-missed SEO building block.

Say you’ve done the legwork and adapted your content to better fit search intent. Your Google rankings have improved as a result. The worst thing you could do is rest on your laurels, leaving yourself vulnerable to competitors sweeping in with similar — but better — content that steals your hard-earned spot on SERPs.

As you’re researching language and developing content, keep an eye on your stiffest competition. You should:

  1. See what keywords they’re ranking for.
  2. Study their content, including what makes it stronger than yours.
  3. Consider how you can adapt your content to outrank theirs on Google.

Although this is a beginning stage step to SEO success, it’s also ongoing. We guarantee your competitors are monitoring you — don’t get blindsided by their SEO accomplishments.

Optimize Your Website for Google’s Discerning Eye

Website optimization is another term you think you get, but then you have trouble carrying out actual optimization activities. But neglecting site optimization — or doing it haphazardly or halfway — could mean your pages are never strong enough to rank on Google, regardless of other SEO groundwork you’re laying.

To get started, consider the following site optimization techniques many marketers neglect:

  • Internal linking. Once you’ve published something, link out to your other topically relevant pages from that piece. Giving site visitors associated content keeps them on your site longer and boosts your authority on a topic in Google’s eyes.
  • External linking. Lots of marketers link to outside resources from their content, and that’s fantastic. First, be sure your external links are credible. Also, work with marketers of other authoritative sites to get them to link to you and vice versa. External linking is checks and balances to Google. It’s how they affirm your site’s legitimacy.
  • Meta titles and descriptions. You’d be shocked by the number of websites that don’t bother with meta titles or descriptions at all. The message is simple: Don’t be like these sites.
  • Site structure. Make sure you organize your site — your navigation, your URLs, etc. — in a logical way. If Google can’t easily crawl it and know right away what your business is about, you’re in trouble. Not to mention that human searchers will be confused, too.

Quality Content Is the Glue That Holds Your SEO Strategy Together

You could spend hours upon hours infusing your content with the right language to capture the right searchers. But if these searchers click on your content, see that it’s terrible, and exit your site immediately, you will not see lasting SEO success.

Similarly, you can track your competition until you’re blue in the face. If you never create content that’s seriously superior to theirs, that research is utterly useless.

And what’s there to optimize if you don’t have content?

You can’t predict Google’s next algorithm update. You can’t predict what your competitors will release next. What you can do is create kickass content that’s so good, searchers can’t help but click it and Google can’t help but reward you.

You were looking to understand how SEO activities fit together to equal SEO success. Content is the answer. Exceptional content is the fuel in SEO’s tank, and these foundational SEO practices will get you started.

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About Right Source:

The Marketing Trenches blog provides thought leadership from actual marketing practitioners, not from professional thought leaders. Designed to help business leaders make more educated marketing decisions, our insights come directly from our experience in the trenches. You can find more from Right Source on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and LinkedIn.