A critical factor to understand before you launch your SEO efforts is the nature of the market in which you are competing. This tells you how competitive the environment is in general, and augmented with additional research, you can use this information to tell how competitive the SEO environment is. In some markets, natural search is intensively competitive. Market competitiveness does not mean you should give up on competing, especially if it is already the focus of your business; however, you might choose to focus your SEO efforts on less competitive terms that can still bring you many qualified leads.
To get a very quick read on keyword competitiveness, use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner (https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner) to see what your cost per click could be if you bid on your target phrase in a PPC campaign. Higher cost per click prices in Google AdWords often mean that the terms are more competitive in organic search as well.
Your SEO strategy can also be influenced by your competitors’ strategies, so understanding what they are doing is a critical part of the process for both SEO and business intelligence objectives. There are several scenarios you might encounter:
- The competitor discovers a unique, highly converting set of keywords.
- The competitor discovers a targeted, high-value link from an authoritative source.
- The competitor saturates a market segment, justifying your focus elsewhere.
- Weaknesses appear in the competitor’s strategy, which provide opportunities for exploitation.
Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your competition from an SEO perspective is a significant part of formulating your own SEO strategy.
SEO tools such as SEMRush (http://semrush.com ) and SearchMetrics (http://searchmetrics.com ) can provide insight into your competitors’ SEO performance.
SEO for Raw Traffic Optimizing for search engines and creating thematically-targeted content helps a site rank for key search queries, which typically leads to direct traffic, social sharing, and referral traffic from links as more and more people find, use, and enjoy the content you’ve produced. Thousands of sites on the Web leverage this traffic to serve advertising, directly monetizing the traffic sent from the engines. From banner ads to contextual services such as Google’s AdSense, to affiliate and social media marketing – internet advertising spending has become a massive industry. In October 2014, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) measured internet advertising revenues for Q3 2014 at $12.4 billion, a 17% increase over Q4 2013 (http://www.iab.net/about_the_iab/recent_press_releases/press_release_archive/press_release/pr-121814). Here are some factors to accept once considering SEO for raw traffic:
When to employ SEO for raw traffic:
Use it when you can monetize traffic without actions or financial transactions taking place on your site (usually through advertising).
Keyword targeting in this scenario can be very broad. The goal here isn’t typically to select specific keywords, but rather to create high-quality content that naturally targets interesting, searched-for terms. Instead of singular improvement on specific terms, the focus is on accessibility and best practices throughout the location to earn traffic through each high-volume and long-tail queries. Concentrate efforts on nice content, and use keyword-based optimization as a subsequent application to confirm the titles, headlines, filenames, metadata, and other elements of the content you create.
Page and content creation/optimization
A shallow, highly crawl-able link structure is critical to getting all of your content indexed—follow good information architecture practices (see “Creating an Optimal Information Architecture (IA)” and use intelligent, detailed category and subcategory structures to get the most benefit out of your work. You’ll also need to employ good on-page optimization in title tags, headlines, internal links, etc. and make your articles easy to share and optimized for viral spreading (see “Root Domains, Subdomains, and Microsites” and “Optimization of Domain Names/URLs”.
SEO for Ecommerce Sales
One of the most direct monetization strategies for SEO is driving relevant traffic to an ecommerce shop to boost sales. Search traffic is among the highest quality traffic on the Web, primarily because a search user has expressed a specific interest through his or her query, and when this matches a service, product, or brand a website carries, conversion rates are often extremely high.
Below are some factors to think about when considering SEO for ecommerce sales:
When to employ SEO for ecommerce sales
Use it once you have products/services that ar directly purchasable on your web site.
Keyword targeting Pay per click (PPC) advertising is an excellent way to test the efficacy and potential ROI of keyword targets. notice people who have affordable traffic and convert well, and pursue them further. You’ll often find that the more specific the query is—brand-inclusive, product-inclusive, and so on—the more likely the visitors are to make the purchase. The best use of this manoeuvre is for generic terms that you simply can find harder to win on than brand/company named terms, so you can decide if they are worth the effort.
Quality content creation & optimization
Your site will need to provide interesting, unique, and accessible content for both users and search engines in order to begin gaining traction in organic search. The links and social sharing that come from such content are highly influential in increasing overall site traffic, as well as improving organic search performance. Creating link-worthy, deeply engaging content should be the primary focus of any website seeking search and referral traffic, and should be incorporated into both the content development and SEO strategies. Manual link building is always an option, but scalable strategies that leverage a community or customers is equally, or maybe a lot of, valuable. Remember: content that keeps users on the page, instead of clicking away rapidly is a signal of quality – and also serves to increase the value of traffic to the page (improving page monetization through advertising).
SEO for Mindshare & Branding
An equally powerful application of SEO is to use it for branding purposes. Bloggers, social media platforms, community websites, content producers, news outlets, and dozens of other web publishing outlets have found tremendous value in appearing atop the SERPs and using the resulting exposure to bolster their brand recognition and authority. The process is fairly straightforward, very like the goal in ancient advertising of ad repetition to enter the buyer’s consideration set. Online marketers have observed that being at the top of the search rankings around a specific subject contains a positive impact on traffic, thought, and perceived authority. A 2012 study by Conductor, Inc. highlights the significant branding value of a website appearing in organic search results: http://www.conductor.com/blog/2012/07/search-reimagined-the-branding-value-of-page-onestudy/
Here are some factors to think about when considering SEO for mindshare and branding:
When to employ SEO for mindshare/branding
Use it once stigmatisation or act a message is your goal.
A keyword focus is less critical here—you’ll likely have a few broad terms that receive the high traffic you want, however the long tail could also be much more realizable and also the higher target. Focus on keywords that are going to bring you visitors who are likely to be interested in and remember your brand.
Page and content creation/optimization
Make your site content easily crawled by the search engines, intuitively navigable for users with intelligent linking structures, and implement SEO best practices.
SEO for Lead Generation and Direct Marketing
Although online lead generation is less direct than an ecommerce transaction, it is arguably just as valuable and vital for building customers, revenue, and long-term value. Millions of search queries have commercial intents that can’t be (or presently aren’t) consummated directly on-line. These can include searches for services like legal consulting, contract construction, commercial loan requests, alternative energy providers, or virtually any service or product people source via the internet.
Here are some factors to place confidence in once considering SEO for lead generation and direct marketing:
When to use SEO for lead generation and marketing
Useful for non-ecommerce products/services/goals that you want users to accomplish on your site, or for which you are hoping to attract inquiries and/or direct contact over the Web.
As with ecommerce, choose phrases that have measurable traffic and have previously converted well in PPC campaigns. In a “considered sale” or enterprise-scale business decision for users, include long-tail keywords that might pertain to customer research activities or pain points, to educate and persuade via content. Avoid arcane jargon terms that aren’t typically understood outside your company.
Page and content creation/optimization
Although you may assume it’d be easier to rank high within the SERPs for lead-generation programs than for ecommerce, it is often equally challenging. A solid combination of content development and on-site optimization are necessary to be competitive in the more challenging arenas.
SEO for Reputation Management
Since one’s own name—whether personal or corporate—is one’s identity, establishing and maintaining the reputation related to that identity is usually of nice interest. Imagine that you search for your brand name in a search engine, and high up in the search results is a web page that is highly critical of your organization. SEO for name management may be a method for neutralizing negative mentions of your name within the SERPs. In this type of SEO project, you would strive to occupy additional spots in the top 10 results to push the critical listing lower, and hopefully off the first page.
SEO enables this process through both content creation and promotion via link development, as well as through optimization of content on third party platforms, such as Pinterest, Facebook, and Linkedin. Although name management is among the foremost difficult of SEO tasks (primarily as a result of you’re optimizing many results for a query rather than one), demand for these types of services is rising as more and more companies become aware of the issue. Here are some factors to place confidence in once considering SEO for name management:
When to employ SEO for reputation management
If you’re making an attempt to either defend your whole from negative results showing on page one or down already existing negative content.
Chances are this is very easy—the keyword you are targeting is a person’s name, your brand name, or some common variant (and you already recognize what it is). You might want to use keyword research tools just to see whether there are popular variants you’re missing.
Page and content creation/optimization
Unlike the opposite SEO ways, reputation management involves optimizing pages on many different domains to demote negative listings. This involves using social media profiles and other third party platform pages, public relations, press releases, and links from networks of sites you might own or control, together with classic optimisation of internal links and on-page parts. It is certainly among the most difficult of SEO practices, particularly in Google, wherever the utilization of the question deserves diversity (QDD) algorithm can mean you have to work much harder because of how it favors diverse content. On the topic of negative search results in Google, in May, 2014 the Luxembourg-based European
Union Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that people can ask Google to remove search results containing information about them, with the new, EU-specific “right to be forgotten”
(http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/13/eu-google-dataprotection-idUSL6N0NZ23Q20140513). While some view this as a victory for privacy laws, others view it as censorship – time will tell how this plays out internationally and on a case-by-case basis for individuals.
Advanced Methods for Planning and Evaluation
There are many methodologies for business planning. One of the better-known ones is the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. There are also methodologies for ensuring that the arrange objectives are the proper kind of objectives, like the sensible (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, TimeLined) plan. We will take a glance at each of those within the context of SEO.
Sometimes you need to get back to the basics and carry out a simple evaluation of where you are in the marketplace, as well as where you would like to be – for this, a SWOT analysis is a great starting point. It creates a grid from that to figure and is incredibly easy to execute.
As you’ll be able to see from the SWOT chart in Figure 3-3, strengths and weaknesses usually stem from internal
(on-site, business operational, business resource) sources, whereas opportunities and threats are from
Identifying strengths is usually one among the better objectives:
- What sources of traffic are working well (converting on established site goals) for your site/business?
- Which projects/properties/partnerships are driving positive momentum toward traffic/revenue goals?
- Which of your content sections/types produces high traffic, conversions, and ROI?
- What changes have you ever created traditionally that created vital value?
Determining the weaknesses can be tougher (and requires emotional separation from the data):
- What content is currently driving low levels of search/visitor traffic?
- that changes that were supposed to supply positive results have shown little/no value?
- Which traffic sources are underperforming or under-delivering?
- What projects/properties/partnerships are being leveraged poorly, or not at all?
Parsing opportunities requires a combination of strength and weakness analysis. You want to find areas that are doing well but have room to expand, as well as those that have yet to be explored:
- What brainstormed however undeveloped or untested projects/ideas will have a major, positive impact?
- What traffic sources currently sending good-quality traffic could be expanded to provide more value?
- What areas of weakness have direct methods to recovery?
- Which website changes have had positive results? Can these be applied more rigorously or to other areas for increased benefit?
- What new markets or new content are probably viable/valuable for expansion?
- What sources of recent content/new links have however to be tapped?
- What third party platforms (social media, content curators, etc.) can be utilized to expand reach and increase engagement? Determining threats can be the most challenging of the tasks. You’ll need to combine creative thinking with an honest assessment of your weaknesses and your competitors’ strengths, and consider the possibilities of macro-events that would form your website/company’s future:
- In your areas of weakness, which players in your market (or other, similar markets) are strong? How have they accomplished this?
- What shifts in human behavior, web usage, or market conditions could dramatically impact your business/site? (For example, consider the “what if people stopped searching and instead navigated the Web in different ways” perspective. It is a bit “pie in the sky,” but we have already seen Craigslist make classifieds obsolete, and have witnessed Facebook start to take advertising market share from the search engines.)
- What competitors have had the foremost success in your arena? How have they accomplished this? Where do they intersect with your business/customers?
- Are there any strategies implemented by start-ups in similar businesses that have had massive success in a particular arena that could be dangerous to your business if they were replicated in your market?
Conducting SWOT analysis from an online promoting and SEO perspective is definitely one among the foremost valuable first steps you can take as an organization poised to expend resources. If you haven’t taken the time to analyze the landscape from these bird’s-eye-view perspectives, you might end up like a great runner who’s merely gone off the course—sure, you’ll end quick, however wherever can it take you?
Every company is exclusive, therefore naturally their challenges ar distinctive. Even a second SEO initiative within the same company will not be the same as the first initiative. Your first SEO efforts will have changed things, creating new benchmarks, new expectations, and different objectives. Thus, each SEO effort is a new endeavor. One way to start out a brand new project is to line sensible objectives. Let’s look at how to go about doing that in the world of SEO. Specific objectives are important. It is easy to get caught up in the details of the plan and lose sight of the broader site objectives. You may think you want to rank #1 for this phrase or that, but in reality what you want is more granular than that – more leads, more page views, more customers. Perhaps you don’t even need more customers from organic search, but you want higher sales volumes, so in fact having the same number of orders however with higher average order price would meet your objectives better. Measurable objectives are essential if one is to manage the performance in meeting them—you can’t manage what you can’t measure. SEO practitioners have to help their clients or organizations come to grips with analytics, and not simply the analytics package, but the actual processes of how to gather the data, how to sort it, and, most importantly, how to use it to make informed decisions. Achievable objectives are ones that can be accomplished with the available resources. You could decide to put a man on Mars next year, for example, but it is just too big an undertaking to be feasible. You can be ambitious, however it’s necessary to select goals that may be met. You cannot possibly sell to more people than exist in your market. There ar limits to markets, and at a certain point the only growth can come from opening new markets, or developing new products for the existing market. Aside from basic business achievability, there are also limits to what can rank at #1 for a given search query. The search engines want the #1 result to be the one that offers the most value for users, and unless you are close to having the website that offers the most value to users, it may be unreasonable to expect to get thereto position, or to maintain it if you succeed in getting there. Realistic objectives are about context and resources. It may be perfectly achievable to meet a certain objective, but only with greater resources than may be presently available. Even a top ranking on the most competitive terms around is achievable for a relevant product, but it is a realistic goal only if the resources required for such an effort are available. Time-bound is that the final a part of a wise objective. If there’s no timeline, no project can ever fail, since it can’t run out of time. SEO generally tends to take longer to implement and gather momentum than a paid search advertising campaign. It is important that milestones and deadlines be set so that expectations can be managed and course corrections made. “We want to rank at #1 for loans” is not a SMART objective. It doesn’t identify the specific reason why the company thinks a #1 ranking will help it. It doesn’t have a timeline, so there is no way to fail. It doesn’t state an engine on which to be #1, so there’s a guaranteed argument if the intention is to rank well on both Google and Bing, but the result is only high rankings on Bing. “We want to increase approved loan applications generated by organic search by 30% over six months” is a far better objective. There is a point in time, and the company can certainly gauge progress toward the specific objective. The corporate will check up on its current market share and therefore the resources committed to envision whether or not this is an achievable and realistic goal.
To bring this all together successfully, your objectives, strategies, and tactics need to be aligned – and they need to take into account your market, your business, and the competition. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Remember to ask yourself the tough questions, such as:
- will your company want direct sales, traffic, branding, or some combination of these?
- Are there specific influencers you’re trying to reach with a message?
- Is that the organization/brand subject to doubtless negative material that has to be controlled/mitigated?
- Does one have products/services you sell, either directly over the net or through leads established online?
- Do you have the resources to develop new, unique, and interesting content? Getting the answers won’t be easy, but it will be worth the effort!