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Leads, Leads, Leads

In previous posts, we talked about the difference between Web and Lead metrics and how you can fill the gap by using cookies to attach […]

Marketing Metrics

The metrics I’m going to describe in the following section come from disparate sources, primarily your Content Management System (CMS), a Web Analytics platform like […]

The Marketing Channel Report

In previous posts, I talked about putting together the foundation for a Marketing Channel report, one that would show us for the first time not only […]

Lead Analytics vs Web Analytics

In our inaugural post, we talked about the birth of the Marketing Channels report, our first look at the true contribution of all marketing efforts – […]

Prove Marketing ROI

This story begins in 2010, when Nate Otiker joined Quest Software as our Director of Internet Marketing. Nate came to us from T-Mobile and before […]

SEO – Search Engine Optimization

SEO, Search Engine Optimization

Ah, SEO.

SEO is like revenue – you can never have too much.

We did a little SEO just now when researching the title of this blog. Using SEMrush, a great tool for keyword research and site performance, we found that “SEO” gets 90,500 searches/month in the USA while “Search Engine Optimization” gets 22,200. So, we put “SEO” in the title first and “Search Engine Optimization” second. It’s a very competitive keyword space, naturally. Every SEO agency wants to rank highly on the Google SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) in order to prove their chops, and there are a lot of smart people out there fighting over those first few spaces.  Congratulations to MOZ, SearchEngineLand and Wikipedia for earning the top three results in our search:

If you’re new to SEO, then any of those sites can give you a much more comprehensive introduction to the subject than we could hope to provide here. But if you’re looking for an overview, a refresher or ideas on how to get started, ProveMarketingROI is here to help!

First, an overview of the search-o-sphere at time of writing. In the first decade of this millennium, SEO was all the rage at CEO summits, and for good reason. With the Web exploding in relevance and volume of content, achieving top rankings was critical for every business with an online presence and a need to grow. Google was and is the top search engine, even with the recent emergence of competition from Facebook, AmazonDuck Duck Go and others.

But, as usual, we Search Marketing specialists were our own worst enemy. All around the Web, we began to invest time and energy into manipulating our way to the top of the results page through what are now called “black hat” techniques like stuffing a page with highly-searched keywords or building “link farms”, sites that exist only to redirect search spiders to target sites, thereby giving the impression of authority without the authoritative content.

Authority is critical to high search rankings. The longer a site has been providing valuable, meaningful content, the more other sites link to it for reference and the more Google sees it as deserving of a high ranking. Over the past few years in particular, updates to Google’s ranking algorithm have rewarded sites that provide high-quality content and punished the sites that engage in the black hat techniques mentioned above. Sites like Wikipedia have benefited greatly. For just about any keyword, a Wikipedia page appears in the top 10 results. That’s because Wikipedia is completely focused on serving its users with high-quality content, even at the expense of its own viability. I know, I know, I need to donate.

So, what can a well-meaning site owner do to develop higher rankings on the SERPs? Let’s start with these top five SEO tactics:

  1. Keyword research. What are people actually searching for? Business owners often want to develop new buzzwords that benefit their perspective, but in most cases, it’s smarter to benefit from real-life traffic, rather than waiting for the market to catch up to your genius. MOZ and SEMrush have great free tools that you can use for this purpose, although eventually they’ll ask you to sign up for their paid service. The Google AdWords Keyword Planner used to provide the same service for free, but now they only want to give you that information as part of setting up your Paid Search campaigns.
  2. Place keywords in the <title> tag. It’s gotten less and less visible to users as Web browsers have evolved, but the <title> tag is where SEO begins, as it’s where you tell Google what your page is about. Most Content Management Systems (CMSs) have a very visible title field on the page/post editing screen for this reason. Your highest-volume keywords should go at the beginning of your title. For example, we found that “Marketing ROI” generates 590 searches/mth but “Prove Marketing ROI” generates zero. Guess what we went with for the title of our home page?
  3. The H1, or first-level heading on your page. This tells the search engines that, not only is your <title> tag about the keywords, but the content on your page is too. Again, high-volume keywords go first here.
  4. Relevant usage of the keywords in the body content of your page. “Relevant” is key. You must mention the keywords to tell the search engines that your page is relevant to searches on them. However, you don’t want to “stuff” the page with the keywords. Google is smarter than that and will not reward you.
  5. Quality. Again, let’s look at Wikipedia as an example. Through their community-edited model, they focus on developing content that is of the highest quality possible. As a result, they’re seen as authoritative all over the Web, with thousands of sites linking back to them. Doing the research and developing high-value content is so much wiser than attempting to dupe the search engines. Chances are, no matter how smart you or your agency might be, the search engines have seen it before.

There will be plenty more to come in future posts on SEO: local SEO, backlink building and cleanup, when to invest in paid results … there is so much more to discuss. Please come back!

Comments, questions, violent disagreement? Let’s hear it!

Please like, share, tweet and retweet.

Thank you!


6 Responses

  1. Vee

    Mark, you’re a genius! Best of luck. You deserve the best!!

  2. Jennifer

    Really helpful! You always gave good advice when we worked together. I needed this refresher for my new role.

  3. Awesome stuff Mark!
    I’m going thru this process for my little beach soccer firm right now.

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