Even if Google didn’t regularly change its algorithm that determines which organizations’ listings it serves up on the first two pages of search results, and even if new competitors haven’t entered your marketplace or existing competitors haven’t up’d their SEO game, your organization still needs to regularly revisit your SEO strategy and tactics. By regularly, I mean, at least quarterly.
My digital marketing agency is often engaged to implement activities related to keyword research and planning (such as employment of appropriate keywords in website content and behind-the-scenes website tags). While keyword research and planning is a large, complex, and time-consuming activity that doesn’t need to be revisited monthly or quarterly, there are a number of SEO review and audit type activities that should. I won’t repeat those activities in this post because I’ve already outlined them in the recent blog posts shared below, but I hope you’ll take the time to read or re-read these past posts. They outline easy tasks you can and should complete to make sure you are up-to-SEO-speed and that potential issues with your website aren’t impacting your SEO, or that tactics that you are or aren’t employing related to your social media presence, aren’t harming how your organization ranks in search engine results in some way.
Don’t have the time or capacity to complete the above monthly or quarterly SEO activities? My team is always here to help! E-mail or call us for information about the services we can provide related to quarterly SEO reviews.
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.
Because I’m a digital marketing expert, and advise clients on social media strategy and/or serve as their social media voice, I felt I owed it to the many individuals who use LinkedIn — both the right way and the wrong way — to call out a major user “faux pas” and how to fix it.
Given the fact no job or business is ever 100% secure — times and interest in products and services by current customers change rapidly, management comes and goes, new technology makes certain products or services obsolete, etc. — if you are of employment age, then you should be maintaining an up-to-date profile on LinkedIn and actively using it to connect with both individuals you do know, and individuals you don’t. This will ensure you are adequately connected when you find yourself in need of identifying your next permanent or contract gig.
So, now to the “faux pas”. If you’re going to reach out to someone via LinkedIn whom you don’t know well or don’t know at all, and it’s not totally obvious why you want to connect with them (for example, they are not a close friend, or former co-worker or manager), you should never, ever send an invite to connect without 1) devising a note of some sort that goes beyond the standard one of “I’d like to connect on LinkedIn.”; and 2) including in your note some context around why you want to connect.
As a marketer who understands “best practices” and the proper use of various forms of social media, for some time now, I haven’t accepted requests to connect from individuals I don’t know who haven’t taken the time to explain why we should “connect.” However, I’m kind enough to reach out to these “inviters” and ask them why they want to connect before I completely write them off as a possible LinkedIn connection. I hope by doing so, I’m teaching them how to better make connections going forward, so they they and all LinkedIn users will benefit.
A good salesperson knows you have to explain the value-add associated with any product or service you sell. In the case of LinkedIn, you are selling yourself, and you need to explain to your “invitee” why and how they would benefit from connecting with you. As the inviter, you have the responsibility to identify the “link” for your “invitee”. Hey you wouldn’t invite someone to a party or event without explaining what it’s all about, right? The “link” could be having careers in the same field, volunteering at the same organization or ones with similar interests, having attended the same college or graduate school, having a lot of mutual connections, having the same passions/interests, etc. The explanation you provide with your invite doesn’t have to be long. In fact, ideally it shouldn’t be (you can and should wait until your target “invitee” accepts before providing too much detail; you can use the LinkedIn “message” function later on to provide that greater detail). Sample explanations include:
“I’d love to connect with you because of our similar interests in healthcare technology”
I’d love to connect because I see we have quite a few mutual connections from our careers in community banking”
“I think we’d enjoy being connected because I see we are equally passionate about digital marketing”
“I’d welcome connecting because I really enjoyed your article, blog post, presentation, etc. about x,y, and z, and I’d love to keep the conversation going.”
So, the next time you go to send a LinkedIn invite to connect, give some good thought as to why you want to connect with the individual in-question, and why they’d want to connect with you. If all LinkedIn users employ this protocol, we can improve on the great tool that LinkedIn already is and make it an even more effective environment for ensuring interesting conversations and beneficial connections happen between the right people.
An 8/12/19 Update to the Post Below: It is believed that Google takes into consideration “social signals” when deciding what organizations’ listings it will serve up in search results to searchers. So, as mentioned below, be active on social media. You can use Google Analytics to see which forms of social media drive the most traffic to your website to determine where you may want to put most of your social media energy (call or e-mail us if you don’t have a Google Analytics account or don’t know how to use it to determine the aforementioned). Another social media and SEO tip: Don’t have a Google My Business Profile? Get one right away (we can help you with this as well). Your Google My Business Profile will not only enhance how your organization ranks locally in search engine results, it will also support your ranking well overall in search. Think of your Google My Business Profile as another form of social media and be sure to post to it regularly.
With the increase in the number of forms of social media and the use, by both consumer and business professionals, of mobile devices to access Web sites, search engine optimization (SEO) has become a more complex task than ever for marketers. Since 90+% of individuals conduct internet searches via Google, and Google regularly changes its algorithm for organically ranking Web sites, individuals charged with keeping their organization’s Web site at the top of search engine listings must regularly take courses, like the Basic SEO course from Yoast that we just completed, as well as read everything they can get their hands on, to ensure they are up-to-speed on optimizing their site for search.
We like how Yoast encourages marketers to take a “holistic approach” to SEO. Marketers need to keep in mind that both “on-site” and “off-site” activities influence results ranking. To help you in your quest to have your site appear before your key competitors in search engine results, and preferably on the first or second pages of listings, we’re sharing some of the less-complex-to-implement and less-technical takeaways from the recent “refresher” we underwent to ensure both our own and our clients’ Web sites are well-positioned for SEO.
Link internally – Google’s “spiders” that search the internet and your site hop from link to link to link to index information and to determine the credibility of your site. Help the spiders take their journey by posting links throughout your site pages to appropriate content on other pages of the site. Share links frequently throughout your site to your most valuable internal content – what you want site visitors to be most aware of/know most about your organization, its services, and mission.
Link externally– Share links to relevant external sites via your site, and most importantly, where appropriate, ask those external sites to share a link to your site on their site. This will reinforce the trustworthiness of your site with Google, and help improve both organizations’ rankings.
Don’t overthink – Google recognizes when sites are overusing certain “keywords” (phrases or individual words) throughout their site because they are the search terms which they hope or think searchers will use to find their site. Google will actually penalize you if it believes you are trying to “game” them in this fashion, and it will take some time, even after you make adjustments to reduce the overuse of certain terms, for Google to re-index your site. Don’t try to beat Google at its own game.
Do tag and title appropriately – While we mentioned above to not overuse “keywords”, you do want to make sure your pages are appropriately titled and tagged with relevant keywords. Just don’t tag a page with certain keywords if your page doesn’t contain content relevant to those keywords. Also, be cognizant to not “over-tag” or “under-tag”.
Aim for the best site and user experience– By focusing on having the best Web site possible – one that makes it obvious to visitors what you do and why you do it – and on providing the best user experience (UX), your site should be well-positioned to receive higher search results rankings than competitors. Google wants internet searchers to land on the sites that best meet their needs and provide for the best possible experience. As Yoast shares, just make an “awesome” Web site, one with high-quality writing/content, and good, intuitive site structure and navigation.
Be social – Be sure to have a strong presence on social media platforms like Twitter and Google+; while Google can’t “read” a lot of Facebook content, it can read the aforementioned social media sites, and does take your social media presence and content into consideration when indexing and ranking your site.
Be responsive – “Responsive” sites respond to the vehicle on which they are being viewed, e.g., desktop, tablet, mobile phone, etc. If your site isn’t “mobile-ready” or “mobile-friendly”, Google isn’t going to rank it high in search results that it presents to a user entering relevant search terms on a mobile phone.
Be authentic– In keeping with not “overthinking” and providing the best UX, be real and be honest about who your organization is and the services your offer. While, as mentioned, you want external organizations to link to your site, don’t offer compensation for sites to do so. Google recognizes when the connection between organizations is forced vs. real and natural. In addition, don’t just write for SEO. Tell a good story, get people talking about you, be newsworthy, etc. Write about the things that matter most to you and your customers.
Be strong and be well– Regularly review your site to check for and fix “broken” links. “404” error messages that visitors receive when clicking on non-functional links to internal or external content send a red flag to visitors that your organization is not minding their Web site shop and/or doesn’t care enough or have the manpower to regularly make sure any site links still point to appropriate pages. Don’t let something so small and unnecessary as a broken link influence visitors’ first, second or tenth impression of you! In keeping with being viewed as “strong and well”, make sure the speed with which your site loads does not cause visitors to abandon it. If you need to eliminate large images or other media that may be contributing to slow site load, do so. Faster site load is more important to Google and your visitors than a pretty picture.
Look outward – As you title and tag pages and content, and even write content, use terminology you believe prospective clients and clients would use and understand. That may differ significantly from the terms and acronyms you use within your organization.
We’ll continue to stay abreast of what’s new and different on the SEO front and provide our thoughts about how to improve your site’s ranking. We’re always welcome and ready for a conversation on immediate and longer-term steps to improve your site’s SEO.
Every marketing blogger probably already has or plans to blog about the success of the ALS ice bucket challenge, but I’d be remiss as a marketeer who understands both the perils and benefits of social media, if I didn’t post about the great example of using social media for good that the ice bucket challenge represents.
Social media is no longer a new or innovative form of promotion. It has been around for quite some time now and, almost undoubtedly, is here to stay — for better or for worse. Since both organizations and individuals have very little control over what is said about them on various social media sites, particularly Twitter and Facebook — and even YouTube because of the ability to comment on videos — it’s a wonderful day for an organization when social media users use these channels to support good activities and altruistic behavior.
I imagine there will be lots of copy cats now — particularly, non-profit organizations who could really use a large influx of funds to support necessary research for their cause, or just to carry out their social service activities. I certainly won’t blame or criticize any organization with health-related or other social service missions for trying to launch an equally effective campaign. However, I do believe the organization in-question will need to still come up with a theme and activity that differs a fair amount from ALS’.
First of all, it wouldn’t seem fair or right to steal ALS’ thunder or divert funds away from them using tactics they employed so effectively and on a large scale. Secondly, if the majority of large non-profits decide to implement similar campaigns, I believe there is going to be a limit to the return on investment. Perhaps, I’m wrong, and I welcome your thoughts, but each and every individual and organization only has so many $$ they are willing and able to contribute annually, so regardless of the effectiveness of such campaigns, both the dollars and newness/fun factor that encourages people to participate are going to run out. So, those implementing such campaigns are going to need to come up with something very different and engaging to both grab the attention and donations of their target audiences.
I have to close with thanks, prayers, blessings, and good thoughts for both Pete Frates and his dear friend, Corey Griffin, who was so instrumental in launching the campaign. As most of you may know, Corey recently lost his own life to a scuba diving accident. My heart and thanks goes out to both of their families too — for all the pain and suffering they’ve endured or will endure and all the good they’ve done through their support of and work related to the ALS campaign.
I am adding Pete and Corey to my Keep Up the Fight page right now as I can’t think of anyone more deserving.