“Discover your voice.” I bet you didn’t hear to expect that again after finishing 12th grade English, but when people ask me the secret to SEO, that’s the answer I give them. People see the success we’ve had at SEOP producing rankings for our clients and assume we must have a connection at Google. I am here to tell you that the conventional wisdom that states there is no substitute for hard work still holds true today. There are no shortcuts – no combination of linking and black hat SEO techniques – that will skyrocket you to the first page of SERPs. The secret to long-lasting SEO results is to know how to reach your customer base and, more importantly, how they will reach you.
You must first put yourself in your customer’s shoes. A complete understanding of your demographic is essential to your profits and, by no coincidence, your rankings. What’s your elevator pitch? Job applicants are encouraged to remember a combination of words, short and to-the-point, that best describes who they are and what they offer the world. But this idea should not be limited to those seeking employment. If you found yourself in an elevator with a total stranger, how would you describe your product or service in such a way as to convert him or her from a total stranger to a potential customer, and ultimately into a brand fanatic?
In the world of SEO, your keyword is your elevator pitch. What short combination of words will your potential customers type into their search engine of choice to find you? Assume everyone in your industry is competing for the same piece of real estate. The broader the term, the more competition there will be. I come across clients who tried the scattershot approach, targeting dozens, if not hundreds, of keywords either on their own or with the “help” of an agency. This is counterproductive. Often, less is more. Any SEO agency worth their salt will tell you that it is far better to rank on the first page for one keyword than to rank on the third page for three keywords. An SEO agency will take a good idea and make it great, but we can’t optimize air. You might think every man, woman, and child from Los Angeles to Timbuktu should purchase one of your winter parkas, but be rational. If most of your sales come from the Midwest or New England, consider geographically-specific keywords.
Businesses that thrive can be found on the first pages of the SERPs. Businesses that survive can be found on the second page of the SERPs. Anything beyond that is in jeopardy of being weeded out through the process of natural selection, with Matt Cutts playing the part of Charles Darwin. The bottom-line difference between occupying space on the first, second, or third page on the SERPs is staggering. Attaining organic rankings is a long-term proposition, much like changing direction on a steamship. Negative changes seem to occur overnight, whereas positive changes take months of hard work. Beware the agency that promises results overnight, for this is tantamount to stealing. You must be prepared to commit to this for the long haul; positive organic rankings will take no less than six months to gain traction.
For a quick jolt to your lead generation in the interim, consider supplementing your SEO campaign by investing in a PPC (pay-per-click) campaign. Not only is a winning bid guaranteed space atop the organic search results, but it comes with the added bonus of access to Google Analytics, where you can study your customer’s habits in depth. There you will find how long they stayed on your website, what pages they visited, and what page led them to leave (“bounce out”).
So how will discovering your voice lead to SEO results that last? Consider search engine optimization an extension of your brand marketing. Visiting a website should be as enjoyable and informational an experience as visiting a brick-and-mortar location. Have you ever been impressed by a salesman who took the time to go above and beyond your expectations? The content you produce must serve this purpose. Google’s ranking algorithm prefers websites that are updated frequently with fresh content. Kill two birds with one stone by starting a blog. The steady flow of new content will lead the search engines to conclude that your website is authoritative in your industry; engaging, practical, and informational content will give your customers something to latch onto, or share with their friends and family. Incorporate social media in order to not just make the sale, but to keep your customers interacting and coming back. At SEOP, we create content for our clients when they prefer, but we encourage them to write their own material that we then optimize for their targeted keywords. We have found the best results come from balancing their insights with our expertise. An SEO agency can’t tell you what to say, but we can find the people who want to hear it, and we can give you the megaphone you need to ensure your message is heard loud and clear.