SEO, or ‘search engine optimization,' is a term bandied around by many in the marketing world. It’s the process of getting ‘free’ traffic from search engines and is also referred to as ‘organic’ search because companies don’t have to pay to be shown in the results.
It’s an important part of any inbound marketing plan because it helps people find (then share) content. We've detailed some of the key tactics involved in integrating SEO into your inbound marketing strategy from the start.
1. Blogging for SEO
One of the first active sections any company should have on its website is a blog. In addition to providing insights and keeping customers and prospects interested in what they have to say, a blog can also seriously boost your SEO prowess.
Here are six practical steps marketers can take to ensure their blogs are doing SEO work for them:
- Write for humans first. Think before writing, and don’t write solely based on keywords.
- Prioritize headings. They’re important to help clue readers in on what’s coming next, but they also aid search engines in which words and phrases are prioritized. Try to use keywords in headings when it makes sense.
- Answer questions. What questions do customers and prospects have? The answer to that question will often let businesses know which keywords and phrases they should research.
- Invest in a good plug-in. Blog plug-ins such as Yoast take the guesswork out of SEO and help organizations remember to do all of the little things, like including keywords in metadata,texts adding alt tags to images and including keywords/phrases in URLs and titles.
- Update often. It’s best practice that businesses give their audiences blog content at the same time each day or week. How often an organization posts often depends on internal resources, but providing Google with a wealth of new, optimized content on a regular basis is imperative.
- Longer is better. The days of the 500-word blog post are gone. According to a recent study from QuickSprout, longer blogs (above 1,500 words) perform much better than their shorter counterparts. This graph from serpIQ reiterates this idea.
2. SEO Battleground: Intent vs. Keyword Optimization
These days, there’s no competition between optimizing for search in the original sense (i.e. placing keywords in strategic places throughout content) and answering the questions the audience is asking. The latter will win almost every time.
While the Google bots are still working on refining their understanding of each and every user, intent has come a long way in a few short years. SEO elements that were considered an imperative in the past (e.g. keyword density) don’t have the same power that they once did. Instead, user behavior is guiding the SERPs (search engine ranking pages) ship.
Before building a content strategy around keywords only, marketers must take a step back and also focus on customer personas and intent. To do this, they must ask their audiences the following questions:
- What products or services do they currently use or have they used in the past?
- What are their pain points?
- Which topics do they want to know about?
- What questions are they asking?
Marketers can also use Google Trends and Google Analytics to explore search trends, queries and site flow to better understand intent. The graph below from Neil Patel is an example of how users navigate through a website after ‘asking’ Google something. What insights could you gather from these events?
Users are asking questions when they use Google or their preferred search engine. Companies need to be there to answer those questions, whether it’s in content on their homepage, product pages, resources section or blog. It’s all about providing the most value to the audience.
Semantic SEO or basing search engine results on relevancy, is the path Google continues to travel. Before writing a single piece of content for a new website, marketers should create a simple spreadsheet outlining their topics, concepts and keywords. Take a look at this example from Search Engine Journal:
As you can see, the topic is the broad category a business would cover; concepts are based on their customers’ pain points and keywords are the questions their customers ask. Free tools such as LSI Graph can help savvy marketers research these keywords and phrases, while tools like SEMRush help verify the amount of traffic and suggest related options. Once these keywords are established, all of the “old” rules apply. Keywords/phrases should be included in titles, body content, meta descriptions, URLs and alt tags.
3. Social Media: A Hidden SEO Treasure Trove
Both SEO and social media are inbound strategies, and their similarities don’t end there. Both also rely on great content to fuel their popularity. And while most marketers agree that social has an impact on their SEO success, many leave out the specific details. Here are three of the top ways companies can see their social profiles influence SEO:
- Expand external links. When companies share great content, other people share it too. And when they link back to the content on a company’s site, that company gets a shiny new external link-of which Google is quite fond. Hashtags and tagging influencers are two ways to get the most eyes on social content.
- Grow follower counts. If a user is searching for a particular topic and one Twitter account has 100 followers, while another has 10,000, the one with the most followers will always find its way higher in the SERPs. Organizations must share useful content, start conversations and follow others to organically grow their follower bases.
- Get local. Google’s recommendations are heavily based on locality, and social media provides the perfect place for businesses to get active in their local communities. Companies can update their location, post about local events and follow other local businesses to earn SEO authority.
Google is still in the early stages of understanding social signals and searching social websites, but it’s quickly evolving. And while social media alone won’t help anyone reach the top of the SERPs, sharing optimized, useful content on social media certainly won’t hurt to get the word out.
For a detailed study of social media and how it fits within a great inbound marketing strategy, check out our Diploma in Social Media Marketing.You’ll learn everything from how to manage content seeding and promotion to using social networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for a stellar social media career.