While the world goes into Covid lockdown, it’s imperative your business doesn’t. However, with events cancelled, biz dev teams facing reduced networking opportunities and telesales teams calling empty offices, it’s important you’re set-up to generate as many inbound leads as possible.
Appearing in Google’s search results for words and terms prospects are searching for is central to your inbound new business efforts. This process is called search engine optimisation (SEO).
We’ve put together a very rough and ready guide to get started. If you’re working form home and looking for things you can do to support your sales teams, have a read and then drop us a line with any questions.
Jump to section:
- Before you get started
- Keyword research
- Keyword analysis
- Adding keywords to your site
- Sort technical issues
- Attract links
- Track performance
- Get help
Before you get started…
Watch Google’s Search for Beginners YouTube series – ten quick lessons in the basics of SEO: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLKoqnv2vTMUOHPb5IJIn-7egNRmsvbPIE
Read the official Google Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/7451184
Then read How Google Search Works: https://www.google.com/search/howsearchworks/
Now you have a solid background in SEO and you’re prepped to measure the traffic you’re about to start generating.
Do your keyword research
There are loads of guides out there on this – I’ll point you in the direction of Moz’s as they have a long history of producing excellent SEO content: https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo/keyword-research
TL;DR – make a long list of terms and phrases relevant to your business – ask yourself the following questions for inspiration:
- What are your priority services/products?
- What are the various names of your product/solution?
- Are they known by anything else?
- Have they been called anything else in the past?
- Will they be called anything else in future?
- Is your product modular? Does it have component parts? What are they known as?
- Are there any common suffixes or prefixes (known in the SEO world as ‘modifiers’) customers use when describing the product or solution e.g. price, training, support, partner, implementation, modules, reviews, geographic, industry specific, plurals?
- What are the typical customer pain points this product/solution addresses? Are they associated with questions people search for answers to online?
- What keywords appear in PPC ads in Google when you search for some of the most common words and phrases you’ve unearthed so far?
- Review Google’s autocomplete and ‘Searches related to…’ suggestions when you search for some of the most common words and phrases you’ve unearthed – anything worth adding to your long list?
- Review your competitors’ websites – who appears when you search for the generic names of your services/products online? What kinds of keywords are they including on their product/solution website pages?
You have a long list of keywords. Now you need to figure out which ones to target.
You’re looking for the right combination of high volume (lots of searches per month) + low competition (organic search engine competition is low) + correct user intent (keyword is likely to be searched for by someone at the right stage of the buying journey/sales funnel).
Bottom of sales funnel keywords (e.g. B2B PR agency) tend to get the most searches and result in the most conversions, but also tend to be the hardest to rank for; longer tail keywords, higher up the sales funnel, tend to get fewer searches but are easier to rank for
Consider your competition:
- If your website has a higher domain authority than the other websites that appear on the page one when you search for your keyword, then you’ve probably got a decent chance of competing for a page one spot (likewise, if your domain authority is lower, but the page authority of the page you’re intending to optimise is higher, then you may still have a chance)
- Google your target keyword and assess page one results – are you able to create content that’s better than the content that currently ranks?
You can use Moz’s Keyword Explorer to assess keyword difficulty (if you sign up for a free Moz Account you get ten free queries per month) and Google’s Keyword Planner to assess search volumes (it’s free to assess search volumes, though if you don’t have a paid advertising campaign running you’ll only get the broad ranges – still, better than nothing!). This ahref’s blog is a must read if you’re going to use Keyword Planner: https://ahrefs.com/blog/google-keyword-planner/
If you do want to spend a little bit on research (and the more accurate you can be the better so this is sensible expenditure) then we’d recommend Keywords Everywhere – it’s pay as you go and combines Google data with clickstream data to give you a realistic idea of search volume. Setup and usage video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpKNXGQCHzU
Add target keywords to your site
Basically you need to optimise your existing site content or create and upload new site content.
At a really basic level, produce content you think your users will find the most useful.
Do a technical audit and fix the most obvious stuff
So you understand what SEO is, you’ve got a good idea of the keywords you want to target and you’ve optimised your site content. Now it’s time to assess your website from a technical SEO perspective to make sure there’s nothing hindering your ability to rank in Google’s search engine results pages.
Easiest way to do this for free is to use Google’s open source Lighthouse Chrome plugin.
Install it, select ‘SEO’ and generate a report.
It’ll review (on a page by page basis):
- Mobile suitability
- Meta data
- HTTP status code
- Whether links have descriptive text
- Whether pages are blocked from indexing or not
- Whether your site uses a valid robots.txt file
- Whether your site uses valid hreflang tags
- Whether your site uses valid rel=canonical tags
- Whether your site uses legible font sizes
- Whether or not your site avoids plugins
- Whether or not your tap targets are sized appropriately (i.e. can people press them with fingers on a mobile phone)
- Whether or not your images have [alt] attributes
The one thing it won’t check is structured data, but a lack of structured data won’t stop you from ranking (more on structured data here if interested: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/intro-structured-data).
A lot of the Lighthouse feedback is fairly easy to fix – especially if you’ve got a well-supported CMS like WordPress. You can use the free Yoast plugin to sort most of it.
Lighthouse will also provide mobile and desktop simulated feedback on page performance, accessibility and best practices.
Google has separate tools to check speed and mobile friendliness that are also free to use:
The Lighthouse Chrome plugin, PageSpeed Insights and mobile friendliness tool analyse single pages. So make sure you test your most important revenue generating pages with them.
If you want a sitewide analysis then you’ll need to turn to a paid SEO tool like Moz, Ahrefs or SEMrush (or if you have a site with fewer than 500 pages you could turn to Screaming Frog which will crawl your site for free – however, if you’ve never used it before, the output will take a bit of time to extract useful insights from).
Build some links
You need links from other sites to point at your site. Google treats them like votes of trust.
If you’ve got more quality links than your competition, then all else being equal, you should outrank them.
Easiest way to do this is to think about your online stakeholders. Can you ask suppliers, partners etc. to link to you? Do you have to create some compelling content to give them a reason to link? Go after this low hanging fruit first.
Unfortunately, if you want to track where your site appears in the search results for your chosen keywords you’ll need to invest in some keyword tracking software – the aforementioned Moz, Ahrefs and SEMrush will all track keywords but can be a bit pricey. Cheaper options include Authority Labs and Agency Analytics.
If you can’t/don’t want to invest in keyword tracking software then you can get an amazing amount of data from Search Console and Google Analytics.
Now’s the time to watch the Google Webmaster YouTube series on Search Console. It gives you a really good steer on how to use Search Console and what to look out for.
Get professional help
You’ve made a lot of progress. If things have gone according to plan you should see increases in keyword rankings, organic traffic and organic leads.
If you’re stuck or you want a professional to take care of the above (and everything else we’ve missed that’s non-essential to get started, but essential to make more progress) then it’s time to get support from the experts.
When looking for SEO support it’s worth remembering: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Spammy practitioners offering page one rankings are worth avoiding – no-one can guarantee a #1 spot in organic search, but they can certainly help you make progress towards it.
Watch the Google video on how to select an SEO consultant – it’ll keep you on the straight and narrow.
If you need help with the above, or you feel you’re ready to take the next steps in your SEO strategy, then drop us a line.