As a marketer, there are all kinds of ways you can spend time and budget. But for some pursuits, it’s difficult to measure ROI and ensure you’re headed in the right direction. Regardless of your experience, or what you’ve tried in the past, it’s essential to constantly ask yourself what strategy will make the biggest impact. And it’s essential to ask yourself: what investment is the surest bet when it comes to my marketing budget?
I’ll let you in on a little secret: if you do SEO, and you do it well, you’ll generate new and qualified traffic, guaranteed. Yes, guaranteed. In the often ambiguous world of marketing, SEO is one strategy that’s crystal clear and bankable. Good organic presence is a gift that keeps giving. A site that ranks well will consistently generate new traffic and set a strong foundation for growth, while simultaneously freeing you up to experiment with other campaigns on your to-do list.
Ready to get started? We’re here to help.
Set a Strong Technical Foundation
The technical side of SEO focuses on how Google crawls and indexes your website. You can make sure Google finds your site (and likes what it finds) by starting with a technical site audit. Getting this initial step right will improve your site’s long term ability to rank within search results. This will lay a foundation for all ongoing SEO efforts.
If you build a brick house on a straw foundation… well, good luck. And the same goes for SEO. If you try to build an SEO presence on top of a site that’s not optimized on a technical level, you’ll have a hard time ranking for things in the long run.
An essential part of establishing a technical foundation for SEO is keyword targeting. Keywords are still the best way to help Google understand what you’re all about and who your pages are intended for. You should start with thorough keyword research, then take that research and ask yourself these questions:
- How are potential customers searching for my business on Google?
- What questions are my potential customers asking?
Once you have a good grasp on keywords, try using tools like "Answer the Public," to help establish which questions people are asking about things related to your business. (To use this tool, enter a keyword and it will display a number of questions related to that keyword.)
Tap into Link Equity
At the end of the day, Google's search engine is a big popularity contest. Google determines the value of your business and your content based on how many links are pointing to your site from other sites. Websites that have a lot of links pointing to them outrank sites that have fewer links. Google’s algorithm may seem complex and mysterious at times, but in this regard there’s nothing fancy about it. Links matter, and they matter a lot.
How do you earn more links? Good question. To be honest, earning links is a real challenge, and it takes a lot of work. One thing’s for sure—it takes a lot more work than waiting around for other sites to link to you while you promote your business in traditional ways. That won’t get the job done, not even close.
Become a Creator
The key to link building is content creation.
While you have a lot of options in terms of the types of content you create, and the subject matter you pursue, at the end of the day content created for the purpose of link building needs to be highly professional and engaging. If not, it’s a waste of effort—mediocre content is fine for filling your blog, or having something shiny and new to send to your list of email subscribers, but it won’t earn you links and it won’t impact your search engine performance.
Above all, content that generates links is content that’s useful to people. It's not about the length or how much time you spend on it, or even how good it looks. It’s about the value created for other people when they consume your content.
We find that high-value content falls into one of two categories: it’s either entertaining or it’s educational (and sure, in some cases it’s both). High-value content always represents a fresh take on a subject, and it always provides value to those who consume it. Perhaps most important, it’s sharable.
An important note to remember: content that generates links is different from content that converts visitors to your site. Content that generates links is not about your brand. When it comes to link building, forget your brand and what anyone thinks of it. Getting links to your site is about building a relationship with Google, not with potential customers. Create things that are broadly appealing and useful to the public, not things that promote what you do and how you do it.
So what about the juice? What’s the ultimate performance enhancer when it comes to SEO (and in this case, one that’s both healthy and legal)? Outreach is the juice. Outreach is the process of dedicating many hours to building relationships and pitching your content to people who matter. Outreach is the work that separates businesses that meddle with SEO from businesses that nail SEO and supercharge their performance in search engines.
Once you’ve done the work to create great content, you need to reach out to journalists, editors and influencers in your business community, to tell them about that content and to ask them to share it. If you don’t hear from them, reach out again. Do your homework to find relevant outreach targets, be strategic with your subject lines, and stick your neck out there in pursuit of providing value to others without asking for anything in return. (We promise this works—we’ve built an exciting and rapidly growing agency on this work and we can tell you first hand, the future is bright!)
Like it or not, that one crystal clear, bankable strategy to succeed in marketing, is one that requires a lot of hard work. But that’s all it requires. It’s not risky, it’s not esoteric, it’s not trendy—so long as you commit to the work, you will get results. And when you get to that final phase and reach for the SEO juice, we promise there no nasty side effects!
George Zlatin is Co-founder at Chicago based SEO services firm Digital Third Coast services firm Digital Third Coast, George has over 10 years of experience in the SEO space and has managed or overseen SEO campaigns at Digital Third Coast for approximately two hundred clients. Feel free to connect with Digital Third Coast on Twitter or Facebook.