Anyone who provides digital marketing services, like our digital marketing agency, or has a role at a organization where they are responsible for the planning, execution, monitoring, and reporting on of digital marketing tactics, knows that the landscape keeps changing. New social media platforms get introduced. The interfaces or management tools you use to execute activities or monitor results change regularly. It can all have your head spinning.
To help you “keep calm and carry on,” we thought we’d share a list of some of the organizations whose websites we go to when we are in need of answers and help or whose e-newsletters we read to stay on top of all things digital marketing and e-commerce. Since Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are two of our Greater-Boston-Area digital marketing agency’s specialties — we love any digital marketing work that is technical or analytical — you’ll see a number of websites that focus on those topics below. Note: use the scroll bar underneath the table below to see right-most columns.
We hope the below makes your life as a digital marketer easier and welcome ideas for organizations we should add. We expect to continue to update this list as we discover more digital marketing experts to learn from. We’re all in this together as the digisphere continues to evolve! Note: use the scroll bar underneath the table below to see right-most columns.
Knowing that I and my Boston-area digital marketing agency team help clients obtain, maintain, and optimize Google Nonprofit Ad Grants, a few weeks ago a fellow digital marketing consultant asked me if I ever had a client utilize the entire $120,000 in free Google Ads search advertising available thru the Grant. While I knew generally that a few of our nonprofit (NPO) clients who offered products and services across all of the U.S. (vs. in a smaller city/town or state geography) were able to really capitalize on the free advertising $/media buy available annually via their Grant, it prompted me to both dig deeper on what % of their Grant dollars were being used, and to detail in this blog post, the various ways our marketing agency’s Google Ad Grant clients have used their search-advertising funds.
I hope that, by documenting here the types of nonprofits we’ve worked with who have obtained a Grant and successfully employed Google Nonprofit Grant monies, I might inspire other NPOs to either apply for a Google Grant, or use their Google Ads Grant differently or better to maximize it.
What Types Of Nonprofits Qualify For A Google Nonprofit Ad Grant
Let’s start with the types of nonprofit organizations we’ve helped obtain and/or capitalize on their Google Nonprofit Ad Grant:
organizations that offer training programs/coaching to at-risk women/women in-transition
organizations serving those with special needs and/or disability
organizations that serve financially challenged/at-risk teens in both the U.S. and abroad
Most non-profits who apply for a Google Nonprofit Ad Grant will qualify for one unless they are a government agency/entity, a healthcare provider like a hospital, or an education institution (philanthropic arms of colleges and universities may qualify for a grant). We’d be glad to coach you thru the Google Nonprofit Ad Grant application process. The initial part is pretty simple, and starts with applying for a Google Nonprofit Account and joining Tech Soup if you haven’t done so already. But, you do need to know how to set up a campaign that effectively meets certain Google Nonprofit Ad Grant search advertising requirements, including using certain available advertising features.
Does Anyone Ever Use Their Entire Annual Google Nonprofit Ad Grant Funds?
The answer to the above is likely “yes,” or close to it. As alluded to above, the broader the geographic area in which a nonprofit offers support, services, and products, the more likely they are going to be able to employ much of the available monthly $10,000 in free paid search advertising, particularly if the volume of individuals searching on terms relevant to what the nonprofit offers is significant.
We just conducted an audit of several of our Google Nonprofit Ad Grant clients who are able to offer all or some of their products and services across the whole U.S. All three of them sell products and services that are available for purchase by anyone in the U.S. For example, one sells mass cards to fund the great work they do; another sells curriculum and online training programs; a couple have online gift stores whose sales allow them to provide the services they do to constituents. One client will likely use 70% of their annual Google Ad Grant dollars ($120,000) by year’s end; another about one-third; and another, about one-third. It’s not easy to properly and effectively employ those large search advertising budgets, but it shows it is possible! And, of course, we’d be glad to brainstorm with you to come up with creative ideas for optimizing Grant dollars.
How Can I Use My Google Nonprofit Ad Grant Dollars?
Many of our Google Nonprofit Ad Grant clients are using their Google Grant in a number of simultaneous ways, including the following:
Drive sales of products, therefore, tangible goods, such as those available in an online store/shop that fund their good work in our communities
Cause use of the organization’s on-site services or online/virtual services
Recruit volunteers for their organization
Through general/branding messaging, create awareness of their organization among appropriate audiences in an attempt to secure donations (keep in mind that ads specifically asking for donations aren’t effective; but letting individuals and orgs. that are interested in your cause know about you can be effective with development efforts)
Support attendance at paid or free events, including webinars, seminars, workshops, courses, and classes
Cause target audiences to visit/read/use resources/information on their site, or download information
Cause appropriate individuals to fundraise on the organization’s behalf/participate in the organization’s fundraiser
Cause target audiences to be an advocate for the organization’s cause or the general/broader cause with which the organization is associated
Cause other desired “conversions,” i.e., desired behaviors, such as:
visits to organization’s physical site for a variety of reasons
We think Google Nonprofit Ad Grants are a well-kept secret and are often under-utilized by nonprofits — either because they don’t apply for and employ one to see if it will work for them, or they obtain one and don’t use it for the many purposes they could or should.
There’s little downside that we can think of to being responsive. When not used in a digital marketing context, being responsive means to “react quickly and positively.” Responsiveness, and therefore, the ability to be flexible and adapt, is usually a much-envied attribute or characteristic, whether it pertains to a person, product, or service.
While we encourage our readers to be responsive on all fronts, given the nature of our business and our blog’s following, this particular post’s intent is to address responsiveness as pertains to the world of online marketing & presence. To be responsive in the digital marketing world means to present the digital content in-question in a fashion that makes it presentable (from an appearance standpoint), logical, legible and appropriate, regardless of the device on which the information is served up or viewed.
It used to be, as recently as 15 years or so ago, that when new websites were launched, the developer and/or the owner of the site did not give as much attention to the “responsiveness” of the website, i.e., how website page content would appear when viewed on a SMART device (devices that can access the internet) such as a mobile phone or tablet. Today, any web developer worth his or her salt would never launch a website that isn’t responsive to the various devices that might access it. And, most content management systems like WIX, Weebly, WordPress, Square Space, and Joomla, are designed to ensure that sites built and launched in them are mobile-friendly.
How and Why Google Ads Supports Search Ads That Are Responsive
Another digital marketing tactic/activity that rewards and supports responsiveness is Google search advertising, and it’s this digital marketing tactic’s responsiveness that’s the focus of this blog post.
I’ve been involved with Google Ads advertising — either in corporate roles or in my role at Results Communications & Research — for an estimated 12 years or more now. During the last 12 years, Google has continuously made revisions to its advertising platform, known as Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords), and I expect that to continue.
In the days when I first was involved with Google Ads search advertising, the amount of information you could include in a search ad — an ad that is presented at the top or bottom of search results when an individual in an advertiser’s target geography enters relevant search terms (keywords) into Google’s search engine — was very limited. If I recall correctly, there were only three lines of text and a website URL that appeared in the ad. These short ads were “static” and advertisers knew exactly what lines of text would be presented to their target audiences, and in what order the lines would appear. While Google has enhanced this advertising opportunity to include a couple of additional lines of text via two description lines, plus various ad extensions (such as what’s known as site links that appear below ads and allow for self-triaging), even these “expanded text ads” still require advertisers to set up a large # of “static” text ads within the Google Ads Manager tool in order to test various combinations of ad headlines to see which combinations are most effective as far as generating clicks or “conversions (desired visitor website behaviors or phone calls)” goes.
In 2018, Google rolled out Responsive Search Ads or RSAs. My experience managing paid search campaigns that include RSAs is that Google rewards you from an optimization, and ultimately a cost-per-click, and even possibly an impressions (frequency of serving up ads to relevant searchers) standpoint. Due to the aforementioned, you’ll see it literally does pay to be responsive.
I’m a big fan of responsive search ads and tend to employ them in all Google search ad campaigns for the above-mentioned performance and budget optimization reasons, but also because it ultimately saves my agency and my client set-up time. And, as they say, “time is money.” Why go thru the cumbersome, long process of setting up a number of static text ads to address various combinations of ad headlines, when Google will create and test the effectiveness of ad headline combinations for you? And, should you choose to test a variety of description line combinations as well, Google can do that for you too.
In addition to allowing for an organization to test various ad headline and description line combinations, RSAs are referred to as “responsive,” because they respond to the real estate that’s available on the device on which the ads are being shown. Sometimes, only two headlines will be served up; sometimes three.
Another reason it pays to start employing responsive ads in your Google Search campaigns now? Google announced on 8/31/21 that, as of 6/30/22, responsive search ads will be the only type of “new” search ad that advertisers can create. And, any static/expanded text ads that were created prior to this June date will not be able to be edited. So, that’s an additional incentive to start creating and using responsive ads now. Why set yourself up now, or prior to 6/22, to not be able to edit static ads you create in the future? Plus, why not get accustomed to creating responsive ads now?
Key Inputs For Responsive Search Ads
Google will serve up two, and possibly three, of the headlines you provide, along with two of your provided description lines, each time it presents a responsive ad to an appropriate searcher.
In addition to basic campaign and ad group targeting and budget inputs like geography, demographics, daily budget, and keywords, at a minimum, advertisers need to provide Google Ads with the following responsive search ad components:
Up to 15 headlines (30 characters or less per headline)
Final URL that ad clickers will land on (landing page address)
Display path – this differs from the above as it does not need to be a live/active URL, but rather should display the nature of the page that an ad clicker will land on, i.e., what content they can expect to find there
Google automatically fills in your organization’s domain; you must fill in 15 characters or less for each of the two display path fields. A display path example based on our own site: https://allintheresults.com/services/ongoing SEO. Both “services” and “ongoing SEO” are display path fields we would provide if we were running Google Search Ads and taking ad clickers to a page about our ongoing SEO services.
Up to 4 description lines (90 characters or less per description line) – think of this as boilerplate language that you might include in a press release, on an “About Us” website page, or in an elevator pitch.
We prefer to only provide 2 description lines to Google. That way we know what two description lines are appearing with each and every ad (since Google only serves up two at a time). That means the description portion of our advertising remains constant, allowing us to test the effectiveness of various headlines/headline messaging.
As you can currently do with expanded text ads, you can also set up a number of ad extensions to provide additional information about your organization. That’s a topic for another blog post, but a capability that does exist with responsive ads.
Need help preparing for next year’s June deadline related to expanded text ads? Want to brainstorm with us about how you’d benefit from running responsive search ads. Reach out today! We always welcome a good Google search advertising discussion.
A JOINT BLOG POST BY GAIL SNOW MORASKI AND RYAN BRUDER
Our first blog post in this two-part series focused on capitalizing on “spring cleaning” inclinations to tune-up your website and your social media presence. The purpose of this second post is to remind readers who run any kind of online ads — whether they be Google Ads (also known as search ads/search marketing), social media ads, or banner ads purchased directly from another external website — to revisit them and give them a thorough look-over if you haven’t done so in a while.
Since SEM (search engine marketing) is one of our digital marketing agency’s specialties, the focus of this piece will be on Google Ads, but many of reminders can be applied to other forms of online advertising.
OPTIMIZING YOUR GOOGLE ADS TO IMPROVE PERFORMANCE AND MAXIMIZE BUDGET
Often clients will engage our SEO company to analyze either current or past Google Ads campaigns to see what they could or should be doing differently or better. Or, to assume management of existing Google Ads campaigns. Because we are data geeks, we love getting under the hood of a Google Ads account — whether it be a paid account used by a for-profit organization, or a Google Nonprofit Ad Grant account that provides qualifiying non-profit organizations with $120,000 in free annual Google search advertising.
Elements of campaigns and associated ad groups within a Google Ads account that we review related to the above engagements that you should too, as part of spring cleaning your Google Ads, include:
KEYWORDS — what terms have you indicated to Google are ones for which you want your ads shown and are these all still appropriate? Are there keywords you should remove? Are there keywords you should add?
SEARCH TERMS — related to the above keyword element, what search terms (actual phrases that ad clickers put into Google’s search engine) have your ads actually been presented to searchers for, and are they the right ones? The “search terms report,” accessed via the keywords section of a Google Ads ad group, allows you to see the exact terms for which your ads are being shown. Are the terms appropriate? Should some of these terms be made “negative” keywords, i.e., terms for which you don’t want your ads to be shown?
RECOMMENDATIONS — as shown in the printscreen at the bottom of this elements list, Google makes regular recommendations — via a recommendations report — regarding steps you can take to “optimize” your campaign, and therefore, improve click-thru rate, and reduce your cost-per-click. Types of recommendations we see Google regularly make include: removing redundant keywords (keywords that are very similar in nature) from ad groups, adding certain types of ad extensions (such as structured snippets or call-outs), adding conversion-tracking, and using responsive search ads, along with standard text ads you already have in place. Not just as part of your spring cleaning, but each and every type you log into your Google Ads account to check on campaign performance, you should review the various recommendations, and apply the ones that you think make sense for your account.
SETTINGS — settings are assigned at the campaign level and allow for you to target specific geographies and set daily budgets, as well as other specifics about your campaign. At a minimum, as part of your sprng review, you should revisit your daily budget and the geography to see if they are still appropriate to the products, services, or solutions you are promoting via your ads.
AD CONTENT AND LANDING PAGES — if you haven’t checked your Google Ads campaigns in a while, you may even be running ads that land ad clickers on pages that promote either events that have already passed, such as a fundaising one, or products and services that are seasonal in nature and no longer apppropriate ones to be promoting due to the time of year. As you conduct your spring review, be sure that the products, services, and solutions are still the right ones for your organization to be promoting, regardless of whether you are paying for ad clicks, or getting them free via your Google Nonprofit Ad Grant. Also, revisit what makes for an effective landing page, and consider making any appropriate tweaks to current ad landing pages.
COST-PER-CLICK — as part of your review, give great thought to the cost-per-click associated with each of your active vs. paused ad groups. Does the profit you’d make from an actual sale to an ad clicker warrant the cost-per-click — therefore, what is the acquisition cost (this may be include other factors beyond the ad cost-per-click) associated with obtaining a new customer and does it make good sense from a profitability standpoint?
CLICKS — this is likely stating the obvious, but if your ads aren’t generating a decent volume of clicks, therefore, visits to your website, does it make sense to continue to run certain campaigns, or certain ad groups within campaigns?
We know that Google Ads advertising, and other forms of online advertising, can be complex and confusing. If you are concerned that your campaigns aren’t set up right to maximize clicks, conversions (ad clickers taking desired actions on your website), and your advertising budget, reach out to us for a complimentary discussion or for us to undertake online advertising spring cleaning on your behalf.
Infographics — images that are designed to condense and consolidate a bunch of complex information, and present that information in a fashion that makes it understandable by a variety of target audiences — have a variety of plusses, including, but not limited to, the following key ones:
they tend to get shared by others, whether it be in a social media post or on a website, so they have a lot of potential to go viral
they provide a vehicle for graphically/visually educating audiences on topics or concepts that may be hard to grasp when simply presented via text
The downside of infographics is when they are added to website pages without what’s known as “embedded text” or an “alt-tag,” they:
aren’t accessible to those with vision impairments or learning disabilities who use a screen reader to crawl a site and read the text aloud to them
can’t be crawled and indexed by search engines, so even though they may contain many high-volume search terms (keywords) for which you want target audiences to find your site, Google, Bing, and other search engines won’t know that the images contain those keywords or reward you from a search standpoint for using them
Spoon-feeding Google What It Needs to Index Your Infographic
Thankfully, there’s an easy solution to the infographic challenge described above. Regardless of what CMS (content management solution)/website platform your site resides on, your website solution should provide for the opportunity to enter an “alt-tag” or “image description” to describe to search engines or screen readers what an image is all about. This is an opportunity associated with all images used on your site, not just infographics.
How to Write an Effective Alt-tag for Website Images
So, what are some best practices for writing an alt-tag to accompany an image on your site? KEEP IN MIND THAT WITH ALT-TAGS YOU ARE BASICALLY DESCRIBING THE PICTURE TO GOOGLE’S AND OTHER SEARCH ENGINES’ SPIDERS/CRAWLERS WHO CAN’T SEE. Therefore, it’s important to adhere to the following:
Keep the tag simple, clean, and authentic, plus descriptive. Imagine describing the image to someone who has their eyes closed.
Don’t overstuff/use too many high-volume keywords. Google will ding you for that. Focus on one or two and only use them if you would fairly naturally use them in describing the image in-question.
You don’t need to include the terms “image of” or “photo of” in your alt tag – just by the fact that Google is crawling an alt tag, it knows it’s related to an image or photo.
Keep to 125 characters (including spaces) or less (you can use the “Word Count” function in MS Word to check for this.)
In general, only include the name of your business if you are writing an alt-tag to go with your Logo artwork/image. If you were describing a picture to someone based on what you are seeing, unless the name of the company were in the image/photo, you would not know what organization was associated with the photo and wouldn’t naturally mention it. Exceptions to this might be a photo where you described a staff member of your organization and the alt tag included a phrase like “Gail Snow Moraski of Results Communications & Research donates a check to…”
An Additional Opportunity to Increase the Positive SEO Impact of an Image
When and where appropriate, consider hyperlinking your images, so that when a visitor clicks on the image, it will take them to another page on your site. Google rewards sites from an SEO standpoint that effectively use “internal links” to support a good user experience (note that user experience is expected to be a key component of Google’s search algorithm in 2021). That said, don’t “link” just for the sake of linking. Only include links when image clicks take site visitors to appropriate content.
Help Implementing The Above and Other Organic/Technical SEO Tactics
Our team is always here to either train your team on implementing organic SEO tactics, such as those that are the subject of this post, or implement such tactics on your organization’s behalf. So, don’t hesitate to reach out. We adore a good SEO challenge!
There’s two broad factors any organizations should ponder before they engage an external individual or organization to help them optimize their site to be found on Google, ideally on the first two pages of search results. These are:
The Reputation/Credibility of the Firm or Individual In-Question
The Nature of and Time Frame Associated With the Services Being Offered
How to Determine if An Individual or Firm Offering SEO Services Is Credible?
My current clients, prospective clients, and I all regularly receive e-mailed or LinkedIn requests from individuals or organizations claiming that they can and will get our website to appear on the first page of Google search engine results for terms relevant to the services or products we offer, or to the solutions to problems we provide. In fact, these SEO vendors, sometimes use the phrase “guarantee” or “guaranteed” along with it. That’s a huge, huge red flag. Without talking to you about your organization’s objectives, the target audiences and geography you serve, and the competitiveness of your marketplace — as well as researching whether or not individuals are even searching for an organization who offers your products, services, and solutions — it is impossible for these SEO vendors to know whether or not it is feasible for a listing with a link to your website to appear on the first page of Google search results.
Another big red flag related to ascertaining the credibility of any organization who approaches you about SEO services is whether or not their initial sales pitch to you includes selling you backlinks, i.e., links to your site that will appear on external websites and blogs. As we discussed in a previous blog post, the only external organizations you want sharing a link to your site on their own site or blog are highly regarded organizations with which you have a prior relationship or with which there are some synergies. Allowing an SEO services provider to arrange for such “spammy” backlinks on your organization’s behalf will ultimately cause a decline in how you rank in search results vs. improve how you rank.
Before you engage an individual or organization to assist your organization with being found on Google, ask for examples of the types of organizations to which they have provided SEO services, how they have analyzed and documented/demonstrated the positive implications of the services they’ve provided, and the steps/tactics they took to achieve SEO success.
How Do I Know What SEO Services I Need: One-time/Initial vs. Ongoing?
As we described in this blog post, if you’ve never optimized your website for search or paid someone to do so, and particularly, if you’ve never conducted keyword research related to it, you should be starting from scratch with your SEO and engage an SEO expert to conduct an initial/one-time/one-off review of your website and execute appropriate technical/organic SEO tactics. These tactics include but are not limited to:
incorporating relevant high-volume keywords uncovered via keyword research within your website page content and in your behind-the-scenes/meta tags
help setting up and/or optimizing a Google My Business Profile, so that you rank well locally and support being found more globally on search.
Once you have completed the important SEO work outlined above, if keyword research has indeed revealed that a high volume of individuals are searching to identify someone like you, then you’ll want to continue to take actions on a regular basis — daily, monthly, or quarterly — to make sure your organization is as well-situated as possible to be found on Google for relevant terms.
Ongoing SEO Services Packages
Many SEO experts and SEO consultants, like us, offer ongoing (monthly or quarterly) SEO packages. Services offered via an ongoing SEO package engagement likely will vary, but at a minimum, we believe they should include:
checking to see your site has no broken internal or external links
testing to see that your site load speed or the responsiveness/mobile-friendliness of your site isn’t negatively impacting where your organization appears in Google search engine results
ensuring that any new images that are added to your site include an “alt-tag” so they will be indexed by Google
making sure that any new pages or blog posts that are added to your website are indexed by Google
writing content (that includes high-volume keywords) for blog posts, FAQs, or other site pages to support being found for those terms on Google
maximizing your Google My Business profile by keeping it comprehensive, current, and posting to it with the same frequency that your post to other forms of social media to support Search Engine Optimization efforts.
Got questions about what we shared above? Please reach out. We’re glad to talk you through all of this, and if appropriate, we’d love to present you with a proposal to provide you with one-time or ongoing SEO services.
Over the past six years, as a digital marketing agency owner and marketing consultant, I’ve had so many prospective clients approach me with a specific marketing tactic/activity that they’d like me to implement on their behalf. As I’ve repeatedly expressed on social media, in other blog posts, and in my website’s content, I never encourage clients to implement or continue with a marketing activity that doesn’t make sense for them. So, as part of discussing the particular tactic for which they’d like my help, I do a “preliminary check” to see if their website is “optimized for search,” and, therefore, likely to be found by individuals searching on relevant terms for the products, services, and solutions to problems the client in-question provides. Instead of a costly advertising campaign or direct mailer, the client might be better served investing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which could have longer-lasting impact.
You would be amazed by the number of organizations — both large and small — who have spent significant $$ and time to launch a comprehensive, user-friendly, informative website, but didn’t realize they needed to implement off-page (behind-the-scenes tags) and on-page (content) SEO tactics in order for their site to be found on Google. Some website developers and designers are well-versed in SEO, others aren’t, and don’t offer the service automatically, or as an add-on when launching a new site.
The above means that a for-profit or non-profit organization may have invested in a beautiful, effective website as far as design, user experience, functionality (interactive tools) and content goes, but they won’t likely benefit from it to the degree to which they could/should. Their site becomes like a pretty little unknown island that no-one knows is there, and therefore, no-one visits. In sum, building their new site, didn’t mean people would come.
Another factor related to lack of visitors may be this. If the products, services, or solutions to problems an organization offers are not ones that individuals are aware of, and therefore, aren’t actively searching on, even the most-optimized-for-search website isn’t going to get a lot of visits that stem from search engine inquiries. If your product or service is a brand new one — think something you’d see on Shark Tank — your target audience may not even realize a product or service like yours exists. Or, particularly, if you’re a B2B (business-to-business) organization, prospective clients may identify an organization like yours by asking one of their contacts or colleagues for a referral.
Both of the scenarios outlined in the paragraph above equate to your organization not being able to rely on “organic search” to drive traffic to your website. But, if you want and need to confirm that individuals aren’t actively searching to find an organization like yours, read our recent post that explains how keyword research can help you figure out whether or not individuals are searching to find an organization with your capabilities.
So, what are the takeaways from everything we’ve shared so far in this post, i.e., how do you ensure “if you build it they will come?“
Don’t assume that searchers are searching to find you and/or what you offer. Take the following steps to determine if they are searching to find you, and how.
use your Google Analytics data to see what percentage of your traffic is organic (comes to your site as the result of a visitor clicking on a search engine results listing)
use your Google Search Console data to see for what search terms, if any, Google is presenting a listing with a link to your website in search engine results, and the # of individuals who are clicking-thru to your site as a result of it being presented
conduct keyword research for the specific geographies you serve to determine whether or not a significant volume of individuals is searching to identify an organization likes yours
If the above exercises reveal that the percentage of organic traffic to your site is low (less than 30%), and your website isn’t being presented in search engine results for relevant search terms (keywords), but keyword research indicates a large number of individuals in your geography are searching for the solutions, products and services you offer, then you should optimize your website for search, i.e., implement organic/technical SEO tactics
If keyword research indicates that only a small number of individuals in your geography are searching for an organization with your capabilities, it’s time to consider “push” vs. “pull” marketing. Push marketing is all about putting the idea of your product/service in individuals’ heads and making them aware that a your solution to their problem exists. Display vs. search advertising is just one form of this and this blog post explains the push vs. pull dynamic, but there are many other forms of push marketing, such as an e-mail campaign, print or broadcast advertising, or a direct mail campaign.
Results Communications & Research is always here to make sure your website isn’t an island onto itself, so reach out to make sure it gets the admiring visitors it deserves.
Many business owners and marketers are not aware that or give much thought to the fact that keyword research and planning has implications far beyond organic SEO, i.e., beyond the putting of technical tactics in place (such as including high-volume search terms, known as keywords, in website content and page title tags) to ensure a listing with a link to an organization’s website or social media presence ranks as high as possible in search engine results for high-volume search terms relevant to the organization’s product and service offerings.
Before we get into how and why keyword research and planning extends beyond SEO, here’s Keyword Research & Planning 101:
Q: What is keyword research?
A: Keyword research is information generated by “keyword planner” tools, such as the tool that resides within Google Ads advertising manager platform, that shows the average monthly search volume (the number of people who have entered the phrase in-question into Google’s search engine over a month’s period) for search terms (keywords) relevant to the particular products and services an organization offers.
Q: How are keyword research lists generated?
A: Distinct keyword research lists are created for each of the products and services (and sometimes the sub-products and sub-services) an organization offers by walking in the heads of the various target audiences served and entering phrases (search terms) into a keyword planner tool which are thought to be ones target audiences would be using to identify providers of products and services relevant to the organization. In addition to the nature and actual name of the products and services in-question, search terms should include problems for which target audiences might be seeking a solution, such as “how to lose weight quickly.” The keyword planer tool will then normally generate 100’s or 1000’s of similar search terms that individuals have entered into Google to identify an organization who offers relevant products or services, and their associated average monthly search volume.
Q: Why do I need to define the geography for each of my products and services before keyword research begins?
A: The phrases used by individuals to identify a provider of a particular product or service, as well as associated search volumes, may vary by city, state, part of the country, or country.
Q: What does keyword planning mean?
A: Keyword planning means going through the above keyword research exercise, and then making some decisions and outlining the actions you’ll take next related to the benefits outlined below, based on what an organization learns from analyzing and reviewing its keyword research.
Now, that we’ve got some terms and their definitions behind us, just what are the key benefits of doing/uses of keyword research? Keyword research can be used to:
This one you’ve hopefully got down by now — Optimize your website for search (SEO), and therefore, improve how high up in search engine results a listing with a link to your website or social media presence (an organic vs. paid advertisement listing) appears for high-volume, relevant keywords entered in a search engine by your target audience(s).
Inform an integrated marketing plan for one or several of your products and services by providing information on whether or not a sizable number of individuals are actively searching to identify organizations that provide the types of products and services you offer. If individuals aren’t actively searching for certain products and services, then your marketing plan will need to include more “push” vs. “pull” tactics. For example, your organization would not want to invest money in paid search advertising that is presented to searchers searching on appropriate terms, but display advertising, a form of online advertising that allows you to target individuals with certain interests or who are reading about certain topics, might be effective as a means to create awareness of your particular product or service among appropriate target. Learn more.
Determine if there are new products or services you should be offering. Sometimes, a review of keyword research lists can reveal unmet target audience needs and opportunities to offer a new product or service.
Determine if there are certain products or services you should be focusing on or promoting more, based on what keywords and associated search volume reveal.
Uncover topics that are of interest/important to target audiences to influence what you talk about in social media posts, blog posts, videos, or sales materials. For example, you may discover problems for which your target audiences may be seeking a solution that you hadn’t thought of, and you’ll want to call that out in marketing activities and sales literature.
Not that long ago, I wrote about the importance of “differentiating with detail.” The more detailed an organization can be about what makes them the best provider of a particular service or product, and therefore, how they stand out from a competitor, the better.
In somewhat of the same vein, as I help organizations of all shapes & sizes better position themselves to rank well in search engine results for the terms their target audience(s) are most regularly searching on, I’m continually reminded of the importance of detail and the benefits of “unpacking your adjectives” called out in the Schoolhouse Rock piece from my childhood below. What I’m seeing on a fairly consistent basis is this — organizations are not qualifying or describing their services or products in enough detail. They know what product or service they offer, and therefore, expect their target audience(s) will know too. The problem with this is that their target audience may not find them in the first place, through a search engine search, because the organization isn’t sending out appropriate signals via their website content and behind-the-scenes page title tags.
Here’s some examples that demonstrate the issue above:
Let’s say you’re a business-to-business (B2B) organization primarily offering consulting services to a particular industry or related to a particular function/department of an organization. You need to call that out in website page content and page title tags. For example, if your organization primarily works with higher education organizations or individuals in HR roles at an organization, you need to qualify/modify the phrase “consulting” in website page title tags and content, i.e., use terms like “HR consulting services” or “higher education consulting services.”
Only offer your products or services in a particular geography? Well, that’s another reason to break out the adjectives and modifiers like “Greater Boston”, “South Shore MA”, or “New England” in website content and page title tags like “South Shore MA digital marketing agency” or “digital marketing agency serving New England.” You wouldn’t believe the number of organizations I’ve seen with websites that have no “geographic triggers” in website content or page title tags to inform search engines where they operate/who they serve. In this scenario, it’s impossible to rank well in local search or in geographies you serve that are “not local.”
Are your services or products offered on both a wholesale (B2B) and retail (business-to-consumer (B2C)) basis or just one or the other, and is that obvious to search engines who are crawling/indexing your website content and page title tags? For example, if you offer food products that can only be bought retail or wholesale, are you making that clear through using the right modifiers like “hospitality industry food products” or “food products for the hospitality industry?” Or, “consumer food products” or “retail store food products?”
Do both businesses and individuals/homeowners need the type of services you offer, and do you only offer one or both? Make sure you spell that out through language in page title tags, such as “home roofing services”, “residential roofing services”, “commercial roofing services” or “business roofing services.” Or, “residential real estate appraisal services” vs. “commercial real estate appraisal services.”
I think you get the idea, and trust me, you’ll reap great SEO rewards just by keeping the above need to “modify” in mind when you either review an existing website from an SEO standpoint, or are writing page title tags and website content for a brand new site. And, as you go through this exercise, as our blog post reminds, think about how and when to use acronyms, industry jargon, scientific terms, internal speak, etc. to modify/qualify certain services or products you offer. Give great thought to whether your target audience(s) are using the aforementioned in the search terms they enter into a search engine like Google. If you don’t think your audiences are using those terms, forego using them in website content and page title tags, and instead, use the “lay person” terms that they are likely using.
Not sure what search terms/keywords your target audience(s) are most frequently entering in search engines to identify organizations that offer your particular products or services? Reach out. We’re keyword research and planning experts and can help you determine what phrases to focus on in website content and page title tags and how to best modify and qualify the products and services you offer.