Search engine optimisation (SEO) has become the bread and butter of content marketing for websites in all kinds of niche. After all, Google processes a whopping 3.3 billion searches a day — and taking advantage of this figure means ranking your website on the first page on SERPs.
Because of the sheer amount of traffic processed by search engines, ranking your website on their front page is the deciding factor that can make or break your business online. One crucial element is developing an SEO strategy that works best for you, for search engines, and your target audiences.
But first, what exactly is SEO?
SEO In a Nutshell
Search engine optimisation, also known as SEO, is the practice of improving the quality and quantity of your website traffic and brand exposure through organic search engine results.
While it has ‘search engine’ on its name, SEO focuses as much about the people who read your content as it is about search crawlers themselves. Through SEO, you can understand what people want to consume online as well as determine the answers they are seeking through keyword analysis and auditing SEO tools.
Therefore, SEO allows you to engage with your audience and to the people who are actively searching online for the product or service you offer.
Why Is SEO Important For My Business?
Knowing what your audience wants is one side of SEO. On the other hand, SEO also focuses on delivering your content in a way Google crawlers can find, index and understand what it is about. As a result, SEO promotes your business in a way that grants you more exposure on Google or any other search engine.
Aside from that, search engine optimisation is one of the remarkable digital marketing channels that generate sales over time when implemented correctly.
In fact, by aiming for reliable content that ranks for your target keywords, your traffic may eventually skyrocket — unlike paid advertising that requires consistent funding to send traffic to your site.
That said, delivering relevant information by optimising your content will help search engines to properly index and display your page within the search results.
Now that you have a better grasp on SEO and how it can help for business growth, here are four (4) critical factors to consider before getting started with SEO.
There is no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to SEO since it will significantly depend on your website type, content, audience, and most importantly – your industry. However, all niches that thrive in cyberspace share an equal desire for discovery.
What Do You Want to Be Found For?
Keywords are the bread and butter of SEO since they help both customers and web crawlers to discover and rank your page. Because of its importance, stepping up for SEO without keyword research won’t get you anywhere near in driving organic traffic to your site.
In other words, no traffic = no enquiries = no sales. Besides, you want your audience to find you through your target keywords. So, you must outline your marketing strategy and your business or SEO goals.
When conducting your research, make sure to:
- Identify keywords that you already rank in search results to pinpoint topics that resonate with your target audience and prevent duplicate content.
- Brainstorm new keyword topics and classify them based on keyword intent, competition level, and others.
- Use keyword research tools such as AnswerThePublic, Keyword Planner, Google Search Console and similar tools to identify profitable and less competitive keywords.
How to Create Engaging Content for Your Keywords
If you’re able to narrow down your target keywords, it’s time to flesh out the idea by creating an engaging content out of it. To do that, you must implement content organisation and content promotion.
- Content Organisation ‒ Organising your content through header tags, sitemaps, and other methods will help your readers and search crawlers understand your content. Moreover, it helps other visitors to find relevant content without leaving your website.
- Content Promotion ‒ Enhance visibility to new material by leveraging social channels and link building to your content (both from internal and external sites).
Note; Adding keywords on every corner of your content is considered spammy and part of black hat SEO. That means stuffing your website with your target keywords will only make Google penalise your site.
To give you more ideas of how to optimise keywords for your content, here are other key areas where it makes sense to use keywords for search engine optimisation:
Ideally, you should use your target SEO keywords at the start of your content title. That way, it won’t get cut off in mobile SERPs, which can occur for smaller screens. You can also tweak the SEO title using SEO tools (depending on your CMS platform) to improve search ranking potential.
While meta descriptions are not among the direct ranking factors, it can help your audience decide to click through the link from a SERP — making it relevant and essential for your SEO.
Subheadings organise your content for readers and improve your chances of getting a featured snippet in SERPs — since subheadings make your content scannable for readers and search crawlers alike.
The best URLs give search engines and visitors an idea about your content, so optimise your URLs by making them descriptive using target keywords instead of just long strings of numbers.
Link Anchor Texts
Links are among the top ranking factors set by search engines, so you have to optimise them for keywords and SEO. The key is to vary your anchor texts and avoid using the same words for every inbound link as it might get you penalised.
Directories and External Listings
When adding your business website in external business listings, consider including your target keywords in the business description. Placing keywords on directories increases your likelihood to show up when people search for related keywords. Thus, improving your online authority and click-through rate (CTR).
While SEO is an online endeavour, a lot of it has to do with your industry’s physical location. That’s because more than 70% of users search online before ending up with an offline purchase. Besides, you need to know how saturated your target location is to make the most out of its potential traffic and also identify your true local competitors.
Who Are Your Local Competition?
Identifying your local competitors isn’t as easy as searching for the best brands in your local industry, especially for larger cities. A user from the Sydney CBD may have completely different local search results as a user in Darlinghurst. Because SERPs are diversified, you need to audit and evaluate your competitive landscape before stepping into SEO.
How to Find Your True Local Competitors
SERPs can be incredibly diversified, but despite that, you can find your true local competitor by conducting local search and following these easy steps. Note that it is best to do this on your business location and with a spreadsheet.
Learn About Local Packs
Most often, Google will include a local pack for local searches. These packs typically contain three physical locations that Google deems relevant to the search. Also, local packs usually dominate mobile searches where people usually search on the go.
Perform a Local Search Using Your Target Keywords
Since you are on the lookout for competitors within your local niche, you’ll have to conduct several local searches using the target keywords you’ve listed earlier. Take note of the local search results included in each pack in a blank spreadsheet column and repeat this for the rest of the keywords.
Make sure to do this on your business location as it is the best way to see what searchers in that area will see in search results. That’s because Google prioritises your physical proximity to the nearest business.
On the next column, list down your physical distance from every business using Google directions. Depending on how much data you have, the process may take around 10 to 15 minutes. Also, note the greatest distance covered among each search instance.
Identify Local Competitors by Strength
Finally, rank your competitors by the number of times each business appears across all local packs. Now, you can tell which ones are your direct local competitors in your niche as well as how wide Google can cover to create a local pack for each query.
Using your gathered data, you may also discover a pattern of dominant competition across different search keywords. Your data also gives you a clue about which competitors need to be audited to uncover secrets that let them dominate the niche.
Now that you know who your competitors are, it’s time to do an SEO competitor analysis. If you are planning to expand your online reach through SEO, competitor analysis gives you insights from your top competitors to reinforce your SEO strategy.
In other words, SEO competitor analysis lets you:
Determine what works best and what doesn’t in your industry
- Uncover competitors’ weaknesses and capitalise on them
- Find competitors’ strengths and learn from them
- Determine which SEO tasks to prioritise business progress
- Understand the difficulty in outranking competitors in SERPs
To begin analysing your competitor, you need to have access to an SEO analysis tool. However, if you find this task daunting, you can always seek the services for an SEO agency and let them do the auditing for you.
Analyse the Competitive Landscape
Getting a vantage point of view of the competitive landscape requires extracting a few key statistics and SEO metrics from your competitors. Using an SEO analysis tool that can benchmark multiple sites at once, you’ll have a clue about how intense the competition is.
When evaluating your competitors, these metrics may be essential for benchmarking:
- Domain rating – Describes the strength of a website in terms of its backlink profile
- Organic traffic and keywords – The higher and more robust their traffic is, the better they are performing in organic search
- Referring domains – Stronger websites have more referring domains, provided that those links are high-quality.
While these metrics don’t tell you everything about your competitors’ SEO growth, they do however give you a good idea about their position and the amount of work to do before you outrank them.
Examine Competitors’ Sitemaps to Determine Website Activity
Sitemaps are vital website documents (HTML or XML) that act as a directory or list of all pages included in the site.
We’ve discussed how sitemaps are essential in organising your content for visitors and crawlers — but you can also analyse your competitors’ sitemaps to determine how often they make new content and update their websites.
Nowadays, website sitemaps have gone incognito. However, with a few tweaks, you can most easily uncover them within your competitors’ sites. Keep in mind that it is standard practice to save a sitemap on the root directory of a site.
Moreover, most CMS platforms such as WordPress have built-in plugins that automate the sitemap creation process, and you can almost always find these at ‘websitename.com/sitemap_index.xml and ‘websitename.com/sitemap.xml’.
If both addresses aren’t valid, you can switch to high gear, and create a version of their sitemap for yourself. Simply plug in the competitor’s URL in the tool, and it will generate a sitemap based on the website’s index pages.
Save this as a ‘.txt’ file together with your website’s sitemap and compare the two to figure out strengths and weaknesses among both sites. Consider asking these questions:
- Do you have fewer pages than the competition?
- Is your content better structured than theirs?
- Are they ranking for a specific keyword or page?
- Do they have pages that you lack?
- Are their blog posts optimised for long-tailed keywords?
- How often are they making updates to their pages?
By answering these questions, you can approximate your website performance compared to the competition and benchmark specific areas which you can improve.
In other words, your time, skillset, and creativity. Other than your business goals and SEO budget, these attributes are equally crucial in getting started with SEO. Thanks to Google’s Penguin and Panda SEO algorithm updates, you have to work twice in delivering a better ROI and rank better in SERPs.
At this point, you probably know that SEO involves a lot of technical and content marketing aspects that can be challenging for amateur business website owners and web admins to handle.
When deciding whether or not to seek an SEO agency, consider it as a two-way factor that can impact your own business and website.
Time, Resources, and Skillset
SEO is a long-term marketing strategy that consumes significant time and resources. Moreover, it is impossible to accomplish SEO by a single person in their spare time. Hence, as an entrepreneur, you have to decide if you have the time and budget to allocate for learning and performing SEO.
If you are personally running a business and want to handle website SEO on your own, then you have to find room in your busy schedule to learn it from scratch and necessarily master all corners of search engine optimisation.
Besides, keep in mind that doing black hat SEO to achieve instant results is no longer valid and can severely harm your business in many ways. For entrepreneurs who already made a profitable business performance, it is best to spend time working on keeping the company afloat than sailing uncharted waters to learn and practice SEO.
So, taking the burden of doing SEO while running a small to medium enterprise isn’t quite profitable. Time is a valuable and non-renewable resource, so avoid getting distracted from things that pay the bills.
Should I Seek an SEO Agency?
It really depends. When weighing time, budget, and skillset in outranking the competition through SEO, you might get more benefits by working with an SEO agency rather than doing the task yourself. In general if you are in a highly competitive industry I would be cautious of doing this yourself if you’re new to the craft.
Also, outsmarting your competitor doesn’t end with SEO, since you’ll have to be creative in making prompt decisions by getting insights from website metrics and analytics.
There is still a lot to do for your business, so it is best to have your SEO managed by either an in-house employee or by an agency. That way, you can cement your position online before competition saturates it even further.
It is important to note that hiring an SEO agency is cheaper than managing your in-house team, and it doesn’t take as much of your time discussing your goals with SEO practitioners as learning the entire thing on your own.
Another thing that makes SEO agencies beneficial for most businesses is that they have several experienced SEO professionals on their team. Here at Red Search, we have our senior marketing directors, account managers, content writers, strategists, link builders, and project managers working closely with each other.
As a result, the team can focus on analysing your competitive landscape and improve every SEO-related aspect of your brand to generate more traffic and revenue for your business.
Search engine optimisation is not new in the face of the internet. However, most entrepreneurs are unfamiliar with SEO’s aspects and elements. Since we consider SEO as a long-term investment, it would be best to consider your industry, geolocation, competition, and personal skillset as well as resources before doing your first few steps in SEO.
Additionally, SEO is an ever-changing algorithm, and the changes in ranking can be volatile. So if you can only do so much in your time and lack enough budget to power your page, partnering with an SEO agency will be a good decision to launch your page off the ground.
At Red Search, we help you develop a time-tested search engine optimisation strategy to secure your spot on the first page of SERPs and outrank your local competition.
Reach out to our SEO experts at 1300 101 712 or drop your message in our contact form.