How To Get Started with SEO
Search engine optimization is a broad discipline with a lot to learn, so it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
SEO is foundational to nearly all your digital marketing activities and should be done early in the digital marketing transformation process.
Keyword research informs content marketing, social media, email and paid media marketing. You need to know what your customers are searching when they’re looking for answers to problems you can solve.
Too often, when owners of newer websites get started with SEO, they quickly become overwhelmed.
And the result is analysis paralysis.
No one can’t boil the ocean. You must pick an entry point.
I suggest starting by taking a look at where your existing traffic is coming from.
Go to Google Analytics > Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels
There are 5 possible options (highlighted above):
- Direct – They typed your URL into a browser
- Organic Search – They found you through natural search results
- Social Media – They clicked a link shared on a social network
- Referral – They clicked a link published on someone else’s site
- Email – They clicked a link in an email
- The origin of (Other) traffic is unknown
Is some other website sending you a lot of referral traffic?
Click on the “Referral” link (line 5) and see who’s linking to you.
And see if they’re sticking around after the click.
If they’re leaving right away, that’s called a “bounce.”
It means they clicked over to your site and quickly decided you don’t have what they’re looking for.
So they bounced off your page to another website.
Or maybe you’re getting some organic search traffic.
Perhaps you got lucky. There are some keywords that you’re ranking for by accident that are bringing in traffic.
To see what they are, go to Google Search Console and set up an account.
After a couple of weeks, you’ll start to see what terms you’re ranking for already.
Go to Google Search Console > Performance > Queries
Now you can see what queries are bringing people to your site.
What’s the quality of the traffic in terms of the intent?
Is it very top funnel?
I like a search term like “b2b growth marketing” better than “b2b growth.”
But “b2b growth marketing consultant” would have even more purchase intent.
That’s a term people would search toward the end of the consideration phase when they’re ready to hire a consultant.
At SalesHacker, bottom funnel search terms are “sales training” and “sales consulting.”
People don’t necessarily search “I need sales training” or “I need sales consulting.”
They search for things like “what is sales development” or “what does a sales development manager do?”
If you want to see related searches, scroll to the bottom of the page.
When you’re just starting out, focus on rankings for terms that are not that as tough.
Get some easy wins because SEO is very, very competitive.
If you want to start building traffic for a smaller website, you have to optimize for long tail keywords.
Long tail keywords are basically high volume keywords with modifiers attached.
If you’ve been working for someone else and are getting ready to go freelance and you want to SEO a digital marketing consulting website, you’ve got to start somewhere.
You’re not going to rank for a high volume term like “digital marketing agency” right out of the gate.
So go for a term like:
“best Los Angeles digital marketing consultants”
And if that’s too tough, try:
“best Los Angeles digital marketing consultants specializing in organic growth”
There won’t be much volume, but again, you need to get some runs on the board.
Once, you secure a ranking for your long tail keyword, start dropping off modifiers and see if you can rank for the broader terms.
For example, once you’re ranking for:
“best Los Angeles digital marketing consultants specializing in organic growth”
Drop “best” and try ranking for:
“Los Angeles digital marketing consultants specializing in organic growth”
And once you’re ranking for that, drop the geography and go for:
“digital marketing consultants specializing in organic growth”
That’s how you get started.
You start by going after search phrases that are easy to rank for and relevant to your business.
And you need to start there.
Because if you’re a new company that sells CRM, and you want to rank for searches for “CRM” it’s going to be too hard.
So you find long tail variations and go that route.
Most of the searches are long tail searches.
The rookie mistake is going after high volume keywords with low conversation probability.
If you can rank for a bunch of long tail keywords in aggregate, that can actually be more lucrative than a high volume keyword.
Long tail keywords are more specific and lower down the funnel toward the purchasing decision, so they have a higher probability of conversion.
Because as you search, you refine your queries and make them more exact.
You might start with:
And end up with:
“freelance digital marketing consultant SaaS Los Angeles”
That’s how you get started with SEO. I also have a free on-demand Introduction to SEO course you can check out.
How to Rank for Competitive Keywords?
Some terms are much harder to rank for than others.
Think about the search term “cloud phone system.”
For Gaetano DiNardi, who leads growth marketing at Nextiva, coming up first when someone searches “cloud phone system” was the goal.
He definitely wanted to rank for this term.
So he built an amazing landing page.
He wrote a really engaging title tag here and front loaded the right target keyword.
Features, cost and benefits were all there, because we know that’s what people want to see.
He made sure the page had schema markup with an FAQ, so he could go for a snippet in the search results.
If you use WordPress, Yoast Premium has an FAQ block you can use that handles the schema mark-up for you.
Just search “Yoast” in the blocks window. I believe the “How-to” block is just for mobile. The FAQ block is for both.
Here’s what the block looks like in a blog post, so it’s pretty easy to understand how to use.
And here’s what the FAQ schema tool looks like on a Beaver Builder Page.
It may be a Yoast premium feature, but if you’re not using Yoast Premium, you should be. It’s well worth it.
Once you’ve got your optimized page up and running, it’s time to get backlinks.
Gaetano reached to other webmasters to get them to link the phrase “cloud phone system” back to his landing page.
That’s actually really hard to do.
And that’s where guest blogging comes into play.
Getting Backlinks Through Guest Posts
Guest blogging is a great way to get backlinks.
It’s the main reason why guest blogging is popular among growth marketers.
Once you wake up to that opportunity, you learn how to submit a guest blog post, and you start building backlinks.
You actually put those links into your post before you submit it.
If you can write a good guest post for a high authority blog, they’ll reward you with a backlink.
For Gaetano, that link was against the anchor text “cloud phone system” which led to a landing page on his site.
That link might be in the body of your guest post, or it may in your byline.
Getting the guest post placed is how you build thought leadership. You earn the privilege of guest blogging on high profile site, so I call it earned media.
Getting the backlink is how you build search rank. Google treats links as recommendations and orders search results accordingly.
But guest posting for high authority sites usually requires that you establish yourself as an expert blogger first.
And most growth marketers start by publishing quality content on their own blog, first.
They show those posts to the editor of the blog they want to guest post for as an example of their work.
It all starts with owned media marketing.
When someone searches your names, they find your content, and it’s good.
If I search your name and I don’t find anything, you’re going to have credibility issues. So start by establishing your home base, your own blog or website.
Once you’ve done that, you need followers on social media. Cause the next thing they’re going to check is what kind of engagement you have around your content.
Shared media marketing is the second step. Once you’ve got a following, and other influencers in your space know you, you’re ready to start approaching other blogs about guest posting.
Well, because I’m known in the space credible person have done some cool things with my career history.
How To Create Engaging Content Marketing
You must be able to write good content.
If you’re not a good writer, owned, shared and earned media marketing aren’t going to be your thing.
And SEO is part of owned media, which is the first area to focus on in organic growth marketing.
Creating engaging content is fun because you get to be really creative. Too many digital marketing consultants have a shared media first approach, which I think is a cop out.
That’s what Gaetano DiNardi does. He covers all his bases.
But he does spend a lot of time analyzing what goes viral on LinkedIn and why.
After reading all the cold pitches he receives on Linkedin, he decided to make a video of himself cold pitching people at the mall.
The video was pithy and funny.
He shared it on Linkedin with a brief, written summary with his 3 top takeaways.
His Linkedin post got 1,500 likes and 700 comments.
On social networks, reach is a factor of engagement, so that activity caused many more people on the B2B social network to see it.
The amount of effort he put into was Herculean.
He started by producing an original, viral video on location at a mall.
Next, he shared it on LinkedIn.
Then, he had to figure out where to guest blog about it.
And finally, he had to pitch the guest blog post to HubSpot, write and submit it.
SEO is a Marathon
There are very few shortcuts.
That’s what it takes to rank for a competitive keyword.
Keep in mind, a term like “cloud phone system” is going to run $55 a click in paid media.
It adds up fast.
If you can rank for that term organically in natural search results, you get clicks in perpetuity.
It’s much more of a leveraged play than paid media. Instead of buying one click, you’re buying a clickstream.
The cool thing is, with SEO you can generate those clicks without having to buy them one-by-one, which adds up.
And even if you run out of advertising budget, the clicks keep coming.
It’s like the difference between buying bottled water and installing a water purification system.
And even after you get the click, regardless of whether it’s through organic or paid media, most visitors will not convert.
The majority will go to the page and take no action.
That’s just the way it is.
That’s why you should go all in on SEO. Because you want to stop relying on paid media and build your own organic pipeline.
The goal is to dominate search terms relevant to the problems you solve.
You want to rank number one for high purchase intent, organic search results.
And you want to have you paid listing right next to it, so you get a doubling effect in the search results.
Through repetition, your brand gets repeated exposure in a crowded environment, which improves your chances of breaking through.
You want people to keep seeing your website when they search all kinds of different search terms related to your space.
They keep seeing you, keep hearing your podcast, I keep seeing your content.
Then you’re on your email list and eventually they’re going to tell someone about you or want to talk to you.
You may buy at some point. Maybe not right away.
But it’s really just about optimizing as many avenues to discoverability as possible.
Growth marketing is about getting high purchase intent web traffic.
In B2B growth marketing, it isn’t always about getting more traffic. It’s about getting the right traffic.
If you’re invested in high quality content marketing, you’re going to win in the long run.
But it’s a marathon. And you can’t give up too quickly.
How To Convert Visitors into Followers
Gated content, aka content you have to sign up for, is a great way to convert visitors to followers.
A gated content upgrade is typically some sort of downloadable content you have to sign up to get.
And it’s usually related to the free or open content asset that’s related.
It might be a Digital Media Monitoring Report on a post that has an article about digital media monitoring best practices.
At SalesHacker, Gaetano noticed they were ranking for the term “sales excel pipeline template.”
They were getting a lot of traffic for that search phrase.
And it was going to a collection of different excel templates they had on their site.
The templates where searchable and downloadable one-by-one, without having to give them your email.
That made them really attractive, and git them a lot of backlinks.
But to save people the hassle of downloading all 20 templates one-by-one, we added a one click download option.
That option let you download the whole bundle with one click.
So you get to see and download them individually for free.
They didn’t force them to give your email to check them out. And they were really high quality templates, and that’s how they built their ranking.
And then at the top of that, they added the single download convenience for getting the bundle.
Enter your email address to get the whole bundle if you don’t feel like downloading all these one by one.
They had like a 20% opt-in rate, which means 1 in 5 visitors opted into their email list in exchange for the bundle download.
Once the content download option was in place, they added lead magnets on all relevant blog posts that were already getting traffic.
That way they could steer blog readers from related posts to their “sales excel pipeline template” download page.
At Nextiva, a cloud phone system company, Gaetano saw they were ranking for both “work from home tips” and “working from home tips.”
So he injected lead magnets to their State of Business Communication Report into those posts.
If you’re interested in information about how to work well from home, the report had useful insights.
And they were able to convince more of people reading their WFH blog posts to join their email list. It’s a value exchange.
A useful report in exchange for permission to try to build a relationship.
They also put the report on their homepage.
So if you went to Nextiva.com, they embedded report on the homepage. You don’t get hit with an obnoxious pop up.
Content injections are far less abrasive than pop ups.
If you click you go to the landing page. They ask for only your email address. No other required fields.
It;s low friction micro-conversion.
At SalesHacker, he added content injections for downloadable content to relevant blog posts over time, little by little.
It’s like slowly but surely climbing a mountain. When you get to the top, you start bringing in opt-in email addresses that really count.
By pairing relevant, search optimized articles with content upgrades, you get the right people.
So you know they’ll find your webinars engaging. And they’ll share your content.
They also produced a lot co-marketed webinars and co-marketed research reports with other companies.
And they’d cross promote the webinars to cross pollinate their email lists.
At SalesHacker they were doing two webinars a week with different partners each time.
The compounding effect of two companies promoting webinars generates a massive amount of emails over time.
And between content marketing, email marketing, in person events, virtual events and webinars, their deal flow grew very strong.
What’s the Low Hanging Fruit in Digital Marketing?
Focus is the key to quick wins. Isolate and do one thing and do it really well.
For example, let’s say you have no idea what’s happening with SEO.
You need a deep dive technical SEO audit of your site.
You need a huge list of recommendations.
And you need to prioritize everything and work through the recommendations with a developer.
Start there because unless the train is on the tracks, it doesn’t matter how much fuel you have.
The other thing might be, maybe there’s just one keyword you really want to rank for.
You know what that keyword is. And it’s supremely important to your business.
Start by focusing relentlessly on that keyword.
Is the URL structure of the page you want ranking correct?
Is the content on the page correct?
Are there some, like underlying issues technically that we can’t figure out as to why this isn’t ranking?
Or maybe you focus on figuring out a link building strategy. All you care about is one keyword.
That’s pretty clear that might be low hanging fruit.
The other low hanging fruit is traffic that’s not converting.
We have no idea how to convert all this traffic.
And we don’t know what we’re doing in terms of conversion.
What should we do with all these top of funnel posts?
You’re getting traffic every month, but you have no idea how to turn it into revenue.
Focusing on conversions is another option.
Or maybe Google has changed their algorithm.
And after each core update, you’re noticing a decline in traffic.
You look at where our traffic and rankings are today versus early 2020, and you’ve lost 40% of your organic traffic.
You don’t know how to fix or solve this or even figure out why it happened.
So you could focus and finding an SEO to help you get your traffic back.
That’s a very common problem that’s happening right now.
Practically speaking, the low hanging fruit always starts with things that are below position five in search results.
Look through your non-branded keywords one-by-one.
Are there any high quality keywords you’re already ranking for, that you could rank higher for by improving exists website content?
How Aggressive Should Your CTAs Be?
Striking the right balance with respect to the calls to action in your website can be tricky.
CTAs and calls to action, and they’re how you convert online traffic into email subscribers, podcast listeners or leads.
There probably are some conversions happening already, depending on what your digital marketing goals.
But if it’s a white paper download in exchange for an email address, ask yourself the next question.
That question is “What are you going to do with that list to generate revenue?”
Is your email marketing strategy in place?
How are you going to continue to add value after the download?
If you share the lead prematurely with your SDRs, or put them into an email cadence too quickly, they’re going to unsubscribe.
Let’s say it’s our “cloud phone systems” page. And we’re not getting a lot of conversions.
People are coming to that page, and they’re leaving.
Start listening to the conversions your SDR are having with prospects.
Get customer and sales feedback.
If that’s not an option, install a free tool like Hotjar and start looking at heat maps of people visiting the page.
Start watching the session recordings of what visitors to your site are doing.
Hotjar monitors what happens with every mouse click for every user that visits. You get video recordings of user sessions and you can see:
- Where do they click?
- Where do they move the mouse?
- Where do they scroll?
- How do they scroll?
- What do they do?
You can run a Hotjar poll on any page as well. And you can ask questions and get answers fast.
Maybe visitors want more information about features or pricing?
You can come up with a multiple choice list. And you can see based on the responses, what you need to add to the page.
That’s probably why conversions aren’t happening.
It’s as basic as figuring out what your audience is looking for that you’re not giving them.
Then you use a free tool like Google Optimize to create a new version of the page to test and see what converts better.
Getting CTAs right usually comes down to science more than art.
You just keep playing around with it until you can start to see uplifts.
This post was inspired by a discussion with Gaetano DiNardi on the B2B Lead Gen Podcast.
Featured Image by Photo by Gia Oris on Unsplash