If you just nod and smile when other business owners are talking about their strategies for search engine marketing, you shouldn’t be too concerned, nearly half the companies out there have little or no strategy for SEM. This doesn’t get you off the hook. If you don’t investing in the basics of search engine marketing you’re neglecting an important opportunity that can lead to more traffic to your site, and when done properly your conversion rate will increase as well.
In order to stay relevant in your industry, it’s important to have a noticeable web presence. The internet isn’t going away any time soon, and the amount of people investing resources into their online marketing plan is only going to increase. If you haven’t put a plan into place yet, start now before you fall too far behind the completion. Here are some basics you should know to start.
Search Engine Marketing… What is it Again?
If we’re talking about the basics of SEM it helps to at least define it. When users search online they’re often browsing with a specific goal in mind. They’re using certain phrases they believe will be most useful in order to pull up relevant search results. To market through a search engine, you have to think like one.
What Are the Rules?
That’s the tricky part; no one really “knows” the rules. Google provides a list of guidelines and recommendations, but the specifics of their algorithm are somewhat of a mystery. We do know that Google values relevancy, engagement, and overall user experience. So regardless of what aspect of your website you’re dealing with, whether it has to do with design, content, or optimization techniques, make sure you’re doing so with your real life audience in mind. Google wants you to market organically to people, instead of trying black hat techniques that spam the system. Doing so will get you penalized which will make climbing to the top of rankings that much harder.
Since ranking for the most relevant search phrases that a high volume of users are searching for is the most important part of marketing online, it’s vital you begin by doing keyword research. The first step in the keyword research process is simply to brainstorm a list of the words and phrases a searcher might use to find your site or business. The key here is not to be too general. Forget broad terms like “cars” Focus instead on long tail keywords such as “good cars for winter.”
By running your list of proposed keywords through a keyword research tool, you’ll discover how many searchers are actually conducting searches for a given word or term every day, how many of those searches actually converted, and other useful analytical information. You can also use these tools to discover other terms or phrases similar to the ones you want.
Once you’ve determined which keywords to target, both for a general content marketing campaign as well as for specific, smaller initiatives, it’s time to build content around those phrases.
One of the important ways Google analyzes sites is by looking at the backlink profiles of each website. They’re interested in diversity, too many links coming from the same site doesn’t do much to impress Google, and if you’re linking to too many sites that are spammy and have low metrics, Google can penalize you. The best way to create a natural, healthy looking backlink profile is to generate good content that people want to link to and share. Focus on creating content that is valuable and engaging, and differentiate yourself from your competitors. Natural link building services can be hard to come by so make sure you’re using a reputable agency that knows what they are doing.
A great practice to put in place is reaching out to other site owners and writing an article for their site that contains a link back to you. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement that with the right type of nurturing could develop into a useful relationship.
The technical side of search engine marketing should never be overlooked. Google has to properly crawl your site for indexing purposes, and if you don’t have all your pieces in line, you may end up getting overlooked. Keeps these important tips in mind:
· Your content on your site should have title tags and Meta descriptions.
· Meta keywords are pretty much ignored by search engines nowadays, but if you still use them, make sure it talks specifically to that page and that it is also formatted correctly.
· Your Meta description should be unique and also speak to that specific page. Duplicate Meta descriptions from page to page will not get you anywhere.
· Title tags should also be unique! Think your title as a 4-8 word ad, so do your best to entice the reader so they want to click and read more.
· In addition to optimizing for the desktop experience, make sure to focus on mobile and tablet optimization as well as other media.
· Consistent Domains: If you type in www.example.com, but then your type in just example.com and the “www” does not redirect to www.example.com that means the search engines are seeing two different sites. This isn’t effective for your overall SEO efforts as it will dilute your inbound links, as external sites will be linking to www.example.com and example.com.
· Keywords in URL: Having keywords you’re trying to rank for in your domain will only help your overall efforts.
· Optimize your non-text content so search engines can see it. If your site uses Flash or PDFs, make sure you read up on the latest best practices so search engines can crawl that content and give your site credit for it.
An important lesson I learned from a teacher was don’t do something unless you intend to do it in the right way. You should definitely invest your time and effort into search engine marketing; it’s where the people are. But unless you commit to following the right practices, all your effort will go to waste. Continue to educate yourself and speak with professionals in the SEM industry to get you seen and heard online.