Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a key Digital Marketing topic. SEO is the art of improving the ranking of specific Web pages for specific keyword phrases in the “natural” or “organic” search results of the major search engines.
This section of the Digital Marketing Tutorial is my “SEO Starter Guide” (Google authored the original SEO Starter Guide) for those Web site owners who consider themselves SEO beginners. (If you’d rather have me help you with your SEO work, please review the Digital Marketing Consulting Services I offer.)
Learn SEO Basics in One Hour – Really! I think you will be VERY grateful if you click on this blog post link and take just one hour to watch 6 videos by Rand Fishkin and MOZ!
Also see my Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Blog posts for the latest information on this subject.
How Search Engine Optimization Works
Search Engine Optimization for attracting new Customers/Prospects still starts with trying to gain a basic understanding of what your potential Customers will search for in Google and other Web-based search engines to find the products and/or services they need and (hopefully!) you produce.
The “conversation” that searchers have with a search engine is typically for one of 2 reasons – either
1) they are using the search engine as “short cut” to get to a Web site they are already familiar with, or
2) they are trying to gain new insights into a subject they are not familiar with.
Searchers will enter, by typing or speaking, very different search terms depending on which type of search they are performing.
Search #1 will typically be a phrase just like in the “good old days” of SEO. A company or organization name, a specific product or product type, a place, an address, etc. This type of search is very straightforward and does not require much SEO, if any, to get the desired result. For example, all a company needs to do is make sure a link to that company Web site appears in the first few search results when a searcher enters that company name in a search engine.
Search #2 is what SEO has always been about. And how you go about optimizing pages on your Web site for this type of search may or may not be VERY different from how you’ve performed SEO in the past.
Web Site Learning Environment
Basically what’s happened is the need to create a learning environment on your Web site centered on your product or service. In the early stages of a search, your potential new customers/prospects are seeking knowledge to solve a problem that your product or service may solve, not about a specific product or service, and you better provide that knowledge if you want to rank highly for this type of search!
Web Site Optimized for Knowledge Searches
So how do we get a Web site optimized for knowledge searches?
FIRST, step away from that search engine! You need to sit down with a pad of paper and describe in as much detail as possible the characteristics of the major “Buyer Personas” that you are most interested in attracting to your Web site (i.e. your new Customers/Prospects).
Buyer Persona – what’s that? Here’s a primer on the subject from HubSpot: How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas for Your Business [Free Persona Template]
SECOND, now that you have a clear idea of who your major Buyer Personas are, next you need to write down the type of “semantic searches” (conversations) those potential customers will make in Google or other search engines. Specifically, they are searching for answers to the problem(s) they have that YOUR product or service solves.
What a Semantic Search Looks Like
What does a search like this look like? Here’s an example:
Assume you sell a new type of solar energy panel, one that is more efficient at converting sunlight to electricity than the competition, and when state and federal tax credits are included in the net price calculation, it is cost-effective enough for the average homeowner to purchase.
What questions are homeowners (your potential new customers/prospects) who want to learn more about solar panels and the cost to purchase and install these panels likely to enter into the Google search box?
- How do solar panels work?
- What types of solar panels exist?
- What type of solar panel works best in my area?
- How many solar panels do I need for my house?
- What do solar panels cost?
- Who sells solar panels in my area?
- Who installs solar panels in my area?
Key Takeaway for Web Site Owners
Here’s the KEY point for Web site owners – does your Web site ANSWER these questions?! And note the ORDER the questions will be asked – potential new customers/prospects don’t ask who sells and installs solar panels in their area until the very end of the search process.
Steps in the Web Site Optimization Process
So write down on that pad of paper the series of questions you think potential customers will need to answer in order to make an educated purchase of YOUR products/services.
Next step: enter those questions in the same order you think they’ll be asked into Google and see what Google thinks are the 10 most relevant answers (page 1 search results) to each of those questions in its database. You should also see either some of your competitors or the type of site that offers a knowledge-based response to those questions (i.e. Wikipedia) in those search results. If you don’t, you might be on the wrong path regarding the questions you have formulated.
Once you have a very good idea what questions your new potential customers/prospects would use to educate themselves on the products and/or services you offer, you then must apply that knowledge to both “on-the-page” and “off-the-page” search engine optimization techniques.
After you have completed the question/answer educational process, made all the required changes, both on the specific pages and on the Web, you then must monitor the progress of this effort to insure that the changes do in fact improve your pages’ rankings on the major engines.
Real World SEO Example
Now let’s have a look at the search results for the phrase “How do solar panels work?” from the example above using Google and SEMrush SEO and search analytics software (free version):
You’ll find lots of company on the search engines for this phrase/question!
So what do you do as a solar panel dealer or installer to get your site found? Take ALL of the semantic search questions listed above, keep them in the same order, answer each one in as much detail as possible under that question and make this the new solar panel FAQ page for the Web site.
The monitoring process should become an ongoing task. Why? Because the anticipated initial boost in page ranking for a given search phrase on a specific engine can quickly be followed by a decline in ranking for that same phrase on that specific engine.
You also need to have an aggressive, targeted Linking Strategy – this will ensure the long-term success of your Search Engine Optimization program.
Another important area to pay attention to, especially for businesses that depend on walk-in business (a classic “bricks and mortar” operation), please be sure to read about one of the most important search engine trends, Local Search, particularly Google Local Search and Google Places.
Finally, in order to get your site immediate attention on the search engines, you need to do some well-targeted Search Engine Advertising
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) 80/20 To Do Lists
Links to two detailed, step-by-step Search Engine Optimization (SEO) 80/20 To Do Lists™ are provided below. Follow the “SEO To Do List” for your situation and you will reap 80% or more of the benefits of optimizing your site for the major search engines.
Additional SEO Resources
Here are several excellent search engine information resources on the Web. If you would like to understand Search Engine Optimization in more detail, please take advantage of these excellent resources.
Here’s the (very) short list of my favorite Search Engine Optimization resources:
Search Engine Marketing – Return to SEM Start Page
Note: My name is Dave Ingalls. If you need help with your B2B Digital Marketing tasks, please review the B2B Digital Marketing Services I offer.