A general introduction to SEO
Our Marketing Matters blogs are primarily aimed at business owners and management teams working for start-up enterprises and ambitious SMEs in and around the London area. However, the same basic principles apply for larger organisations and blue chip companies working across the UK, Europe and globally. So hopefully this article will be of interest to anyone wanting to know more about SEO. You have no doubt heard a lot about search engine optimisation (SEO). It is one of those subjects which is well known, but not necessarily well understood, nor in fact that well delivered. And that is why so many SEO strategies are wasteful, at least to some degree. In part, this is the motivation behind this article, to help you to make a more informed decision. It might be that your current SEO activities are harmful or unhelpful. Google releases updates on a regular basis that penalise anyone who tries to beat the system. In the last 15-20 years, the war between Google and SEO activists has been fought in an ever more sophisticated way. Put quite simply, only white hat strategies and tactics will now work in the long run. Grey hat activities might provide you with some medium-term benefits, but they will eventually catch you out. And black hat activities that deliver instant results will ensure you pay a huge penalty when (and not if) you are caught out.
Serving up relevant results
The reason for this is worth thinking about. Google wants to serve up the best possible results to its customers. And you are highly likely to be a Google customer too from time to time, so this is something which is also demanded by you. We all want high quality results. If I am searching for – say – “the best UK triathlon races in 2019”, both myself and Google want to make sure we get the right results. And that means the results need to fit the needs of the search, so there is no point getting information about triathlon equipment or the best walking routes. If I don’t get the results I want, I shall go elsewhere, such as to Bing. That’s an important point. You don’t have to search on Google, but because about 90% of all UK search engine traffic comes through Google, you can be pretty sure that if you focus on getting your SEO right on Google, then you will also do well on Bing (which accounts for pretty much all the other search traffic in the UK). So, Google and Bing are looking for trustworthy results. That means they are going to give more weight to websites with strong reputations that have been around a while, rather than those which have popped up in the last few months. And they are going to rank websites highly if they have backlinks from relevant and reputable third party websites with high authority domain scores. This in a nutshell is what SEO is all about.
Helpful guides to search engine optimisation
There are ways to improve your website’s optimisation and there are various tools you can use to help you to achieve this aim. Probably the best place to start is to look at Google’s SEO Guide for 2019 which pretty much tells you everything you need to know. It’s an online tool which sits within Search Console, so it is constantly updated. Another place to look for excellent advice is SearchEngineLand’s Periodic Table of SEO. You need to provide your email address to gain access, but this seems a small price to pay for such a heavyweight guide. They update it on a regular basis, and the most recent format is a 15-page PDF which explains how it all works, in layman’s language. There are six key factors to consider – content, architecture, HTML, trust, links and user – and each factor has a number of component parts of different weighting that need to be addressed. It also warns you about toxins (i.e. anything naughty that you just must not do) and emerging verticals (important new factors to bear in mind like local, voice, image and video). Of course, layman’s language is a subjective term. I personally don’t think anyone but a specialist should be delivering SEO, and so whilst it might well be that this all seems like quantum physics to you, that’s OK and quite normal. All you need to know as a business owner is what needs to be delivered by your SEO specialist so you can ask the right questions. And whilst I would also recommend a different team deliver paid advertising on search (such as Google Ads (the newish name for Google AdWords) and Microsoft Advertising (the brand new name for Bing Ads), the paid and organic teams should definitely be working closely together.
Make sure you choose the right keywords
One of the most important things to decide upon before investing in SEO is the keywords that you wish to be found for. For instance, Abacus focuses on three primary keywords (marketing agency, marketing company and marketing firm), which, with plurals, prefixes (such as integrated or digital) and suffixes (such as London or M25) account for multiple variations. And then we always talk around our subject matter concerning the services we offer (e.g. corporate branding, digital advertising, and website design and development) or the solutions we solve for our clients (e.g. generating sales leads, improving conversion levels and increasing customer lifetime value), and this sends out strong signals to Google about Abacus Marketing – who we are and what we do. Why not try it for yourselves? Search for “integrated marketing agencies in London” and you should find that Abacus appears on the first page of both Google and Bing. So how do you go about finding the best keywords for your business to focus on for SEO purposes? Well, you obviously need to relate them to what you do as an organisation in terms of the products and services you provide and the pain points you seek to overcome for your customers. That’s obvious. But you also need to think about what your competitors are doing. It may well be that the most obvious keywords are not the right ones for your SEO strategy. They might be too competitive or too generic. That’s why Abacus Marketing doesn’t compete for “marketing agencies” without a suffix or prefix like “London”. We receive sufficient traffic volumes from “marketing agency in London” that are relevant to the geographical area we serve. They are also therefore high quality too. One of the best ways to identify your most effective keywords is to run a PPC campaign for – say – three months, to get some high quality market intel under your belt. This will help you to see how much search traffic there really is for each keyword, and the cost per click (CPC) will give you a clear idea of how competitive each keyword is too. You can also gain lots of insights into what competitors are doing from the paid advertising dashboards. None of this is possible from analysing Google Analytics, at least to any degree of sophistication. There is some evidence to suggest that a small PPC campaign can also support an SEO campaign by signalling the keywords you wish to be found for to Google. Whilst we would not hang our hat on this hypothesis as being fact, it feels logical and intuitive to me and in fact we have had some success with this approach recently, even when bidding less than is necessary to actually appear on the first few pages (in other words, you don’t actually spend any budget). So it might be something for you to consider too…
Why should you invest in SEO?
But you might ask why you should invest in an SEO strategy at all, especially as the results are not guaranteed and will take months to achieve. Well, the answer is that organic search results (i.e. non-paid ones) are more trusted by users than paid ads. We would suggest this could be by a factor of up to x10. And that means you are always on the back foot if someone finds you through a paid advertising medium. Also, there is an implicit trust one feels when clicking on a natural search result served up by Google. The other reason is cost. We estimate that SEO can be cheaper than PPC by a factor of up to x10 too. Once you are on the first page, you are always there, day and night, whenever someone is searching, as long as you maintain your activities and continue to do the right thing. That means that, overall, one could argue that SEO is x100 times as effective and efficient as PPC – or that every £1 spent on SEO would need £1000 spent on PPC to see comparable results. Of course, things are never quite as black and white as this in the wonderful world of marketing, so there are always situations when a PPC strategy will in fact be the right one for your business (such as to get instant leads) – but it is certainly worth thinking about. And although the holy grail of SEO is always going to be about appearing on the first page of Google, ideally in one of the three top listings and preferably high up on the local map listings too, don’t knock results that appear on Page 2 or 3 completely. It might well be that suppliers will look through more than one page, especially if the first page is dominated by irrelevant results. For instance, if you were to type “marketing strategy agency” into Google, and you are searching for a marketing consultancy that can help you to create the perfect marketing plan for your business, then you might be compelled to search through more than one page to find meaningful results. Also, don’t be concerned by non-clients searching for your website – this can actually be a really good thing, and help to push you up to Page One. To explain this, just imagine that a company is looking to offer you their services. They may well spend quite some time taking a look around your website before sending you an email to introduce themselves. That is a good signal to Google in terms of time spent on website, bounce rate and pages visited that will all help your SEO efforts. We actively encourage freelancers and suppliers to visit our website and take a good look around – partly for this reason, and partly because it allows us to sort the wheat from the chaff. Logically, it even helps if competitors and researches take a look too.
Other important factors to consider
Of course, your SEO can be perfect, but that’s no good if your website isn’t up to scratch. You might get plenty of site visits, but that might not necessarily lead to sales enquiries. And even if your website delivers an impeccable user experience, it might still fall short of delivering leads if you don’t have a compelling offer in place (aka reason to call), or if your sales pipeline process is disjointed, your sales teams insufficiently trained or your presentation materials poor. That’s why it is so important to look at the entire marketing plan when considering how to generate sales, as there are so many factors which can contribute to the success or failure of goal achievement. Our strategic marketing planning process provides a robust framework that will enable you to take a holistic look at your business from a sales and marketing perspective – in terms of branding, communications, lead generation, sales pipeline management, and analysis and measurement. Just one quick word about sales pipelines now it springs to mind. We are having lots of positive feedback from clients using ActiveCampaign as an integrated CRM system that provides automated email marketing and prospect/customer management, and from clients using Leadfeeder, which provides really insightful information about site visitors (this is for B2B environments only).
So, what is the number one secret to SEO success? Well, what it all boils down to is continually creating fresh content (such as blogs, videos and presentations) for your website. Content that talks about what you do in an informative and genuine way. Do not think about keyword stuffing or word counts. Write naturally. Demonstrate your credentials. Focus on your readers, not on the search engines. Share content on social media. Be consistent and professional. Reflect your strategic brand proposition. And if you do this right, then you will do OK.
The holy trinity of SEO success is technical onsite optimisation, external link building and user-focused content generation – with social media an important added consideration. And above all, it all has to be high quality. Do not give content generation to an intern or junior member of staff to deliver, or send it outside to an inexpert journalist without a proper brief. Do it yourself or get senior people inside or outside the organisation to do it for you – it has the added benefit of helping you to understand what you do in order to explain better why people need it. Creating content does not just inform your customers – it educates the creator too. And that is why I now create or oversee all content creation at Abacus.
Marketing agency in London
If you’re interested in finding out more about how a marketing agency in London like Abacus can deliver a high quality SEO strategy for your business, please take a look at our website to find out more at www.abacusmarketing.co.uk or contact Stephen Taylor-Brown, our senior marketing consultant on 020 3858 7836 or by emailing him at [email protected]. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss your goals – by phone, email or in person. We offer a free marketing consultation to talk about your challenges and to give preliminary advice on how to achieve your goals.