Posted on: 19 Feb 2016
Lock in those Top SERPs With These Marketing Tactics
If you want your business to be a big player in the online market, you have to rank highly in Google. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. You can shout and beat your fists on the ground as much as you want, but there’s no getting around it. The buck starts and stops with Google.
The increased search visibility, brand exposure, brand trust, and the constant influx of new prospects you’ll receive from being in the top organic SERPs for your vertical is worth its weight in gold. Seriously. I’m not exaggerating, and I can’t stress this enough. If you’re looking to push the proverbial needle and grow your business, you absolutely, positively must have an organic marketing plan in place. If you don’t, you’re jeopardizing your company’s long-term growth and sustainability.
Yes, you can scrape by with ranking well in other search engines. Yes, you can get a good deal of referral traffic with a strong social media presence. Yes, you can even source your all of your inbound traffic from Google AdWords / Bing Ads. However, it will all be a drop in the pond compared to what you can get if you rank higher organically in Google.
Now, we could give you a nice little checklist of granular action items you can do to help each of your pages rank higher in Google, but that’s only going to get you so far, which isn’t very. Traditional SEO, while still important, does not carry nearly as much weight as it did a few years ago. The days of making a handful of quick changes and jumping up multiple pages in the SERPs are long gone.
We could tell you what a jillion other marketing firms are parroting, “Be unique! Be relevant! Make great content!” but like those granular actions, these catch phrases don’t do you any good when it comes to putting the rubber to the road.
What can you do to rank higher?
The good news is that you can still rank highly in Google, but you have to change your mindset towards marketing your website. Keep these principles in mind whenever you start a new project on your website and, with a little elbow grease, they’ll help you rise through the SERP over time.
Fill your visitor’s needs
Alright, first thing’s first. Google’s primary goal with their search engine is to provide searchers with the highest quality and the most relevant websites for their queries. They are providing a service and this service is based around need fulfillment. A searcher tells Google, “Hey, I’m looking for this thing. Little help?” and Google does the best it can to match websites based on their need.
When a visitor lands on one of your pages from Google, it’s because Google believes that you can fulfill their need. Now, if said visitor lands on your page, looks around, isn’t enthused by what you have to offer, and bounces right back to Google to see what other websites have to offer, this interaction sends a negative signal to Google that your particular page wasn’t relevant for what they were looking for.
Now, on the small scale, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What a person searches for doesn’t always reflect what they’re actually looking for, and as the saying goes, you can’t please all the people all the time. Google gets that. However, if your visitors bounce far more often than they stick, that’s a serious problem. Google will show your page less and less for that particular query because it isn’t fulfilling searchers’ needs and your rankings will suffer as a result.
We won’t go too in-depth on this, but there are three fundamental types of searches:
- Navigational: They want to find something. Search queries for brands / websites like “Home Depot” or “Facebook”. (You aren’t going to rank for these.)
- Informational: They want to learn something. Search queries about “hanging a door” or “Raspberry Pi tutorial”.
- Transactional: They want to buy something. Search queries like “Dallas bike shop” or “iPhone case”.
Whenever you’re building a new page for your website, you have to understand which type of search will bring visitors to that page and build the content around it. If you’re writing a guide on how to hang a door, it’s probably not the best idea to intersperse each step of the guide with product listings for different types of doors and luxury doorknobs. That super abrasive and not what the visitor is looking for. They want to learn, not have products shoved in their faces.
When you fulfill a searchers need, you’re delivering a positive user interaction. Your visitors stick around on your website and this is reflected by low bounce rates, high time on page / average visit duration, > 1.0 pages per visit, and, in a perfect world, more conversions. That last one isn’t always guaranteed, but users are indeed more likely to convert if you give them what they’re looking for.
Don’t make things difficult
Hopefully, you’ve heard about user experience (UX) when it comes to websites and how it’s carrying more weight in Google’s search algorithms in recent years. If you haven’t, they are.
The satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, a visitor feels when using your website based on its functionality, easy of use, and aesthetic.
Why is this so important? Your competitors are just a click away and your customers know it. If your website is clunky, archaic, or just plain hard to use, they aren’t going to stick around. They’re going to find a different website that isn’t frustrating and leave yours in the dust.
Your holistic site engagement is a big deal. Each user has their own amount of patience they’re willing to extend to a website’s design and usability, some people are more stringent than others. However, this goodwill is whittled away each time an aspect of your website grates on their experience, i.e. your font’s difficult to read because it’s too small, you have broken images, you have improper mobile formatting, etc. Once you pass their threshold, they’re out. They’ll most likely never come back.
Sp the ultimate goal of UX is to deliver a completely painless and seamless user experience so your customers are never slowed down by roadblocks or speed bumps. Any barriers that prevent your users from getting from A to B need to be broken down.
How do you know if you have a UX problem?
Now, I’ll be completely honest with you. The roots of this problem are tough to analyze, and even tougher to perfect, which is why UX designers get paid so much. However, you can still tweak and streamline the UX of your website to break down pain points that are giving your visitors a tough time, but how do you identify said pain points? Testing. Bunches and bunches of testing. Get as many eyes on your website as you can, especially those belonging to your target demographic, and have them give you incredibly detailed feedback on what they think about your site.
Ways to collect data on UX
- User Testing: Paid service to have users test your website based on specific criteria.
- Crazy Egg: Paid site engagement analytics tool that gives you incredibly detailed user engagement data.
- Survey Monkey: Quick way to create and post surveys with detailed feedback.
- Google Customer Surveys: Free, noninvasive pop up survey to poll site users.
If your website sells clothes to teenagers, get teenagers’ opinions of your site. If you sell software that makes the job of purchasing managers easier, get purchasing managers to take a gander at your website. Consolidate their feedback into a list of the most common complaints, associate a priority level to each, and attack those things. You will be surprised by what these tests have to say about your website.
Keep them coming back for more
The best way to rank higher in Google is to be the authority for your industry and one of the ways that Google understands that you’re an authority is that users keep coming back to your website. Whether you have the lowest prices and best selection on flooring, you’re the only company that serves a specific need, or you just happen to have the best instructional guides on home repair, getting return visits to your website tells Google that you have the content that searchers are looking for in your particular vertical.
What does that mean to you? You need content, and lots of it. That doesn’t mean that you should flood your domain with a new throwaway blog every day, but your content needs to be stellar. Quality is much, much more important than quantity when it comes to content marketing. You can’t settle for mediocrity. Google wants your content to be unique, informative, relevant, and engaging. If you aren’t willing to dedicate the time and energy to becoming your vertical’s authority, somebody else is and they’ll reap the benefits of putting in the work.
Depending on your product / service, you can do this multiple ways. We’ll take the home repair example from earlier. Let’s say you run a website that aims to help DIYers with their home improvement projects. A solid content marketing strategy for your site would be to make in-depth, step-by-step guides that explain how to complete a project that’s accompanied by images and videos of the steps in said project.
Quality is much, much more important than quantity when it comes to content marketing. You can’t settle for mediocrity.
They could cover anything from fixing a leaking roof, patching a hole in drywall, installing a dishwasher, replacing kitchen cabinets, and so on and so forth. The topics are really limitless and over time, provided you do them correctly, you’ll build up this catalog of authoritative guides that your users find incredibly useful and instrumental in the completion of their home repair project.
Because of this goodwill you built up by having stellar content, your visitors will poke around your website looking for other guides or to find inspiration for a different project. They’ll also remember you the next time they have another project and return to your site to see if you have any information on said project.
Don’t rest on your laurels
A search marketer’s job is never done. Just because you have good traffic today doesn’t mean that it will always be there. Google’s search algorithm is always changing. You need to stay on top of any search algorithm updates coming down the pipeline so you can get ahead of the problem if your website has the possibility of being negatively affected by said update.
Google does a fair job of giving the search marketing industry a heads up when they have a new update to their algorithm planned for release. Last year when Google was planning on integrating a website’s mobile friendliness as a ranking factor in their algorithm, they gave marketers two month’s warning to make their websites mobile friendly or they’d see a hit to their site’s mobile organic traffic, as non-mobile friendly pages deliver a poor user experience on mobile devices.
This was affectionately dubbed “Mobile-geddon” as Google had been dropping hints for years for webmasters to make their sites mobile friendly and they finally got fed up and just said, “Screw it. Do this or you won’t rank.”
By staying proactive and keeping on top of industry trends and best practices, you can guarantee that your website will be in Google’s good graces and has the best chance of ranking in those top spots. The search marketing landscape can change in the flash of an eye, like it did with the Penguin & Panda algorithms, and what was once considered a “best practice” might be considered “gaming” the system tomorrow.
If you aren’t watching closely, you can fall into a hole that you can’t get out of.
Don’t take shortcuts
It can be very tempting to go the grey / black hat route of search marketing, but these practices are either already frowned upon by Google or will be in the near future and your website will be penalized for them. Whatever short term growth you may gain by taking shortcuts will be lost in the amount of time you’ll have to spend fixing them when Google hits you for them.
Here’s the deal, Google search engineers are incredibly smart people and their algorithms are specifically designed to find and penalize websites that take shortcuts and don’t adhere to best practices. If you do take shortcuts, you may fly under the radar for a time, but those halcyon days will end and they’ll end hard.
One of our previous clients took a huge shortcut some years before we came on board and created roughly 600 doorway pages on their domain in an effort to rank for their target keywords + a city name. Now, this tactic worked for a time and they were sitting fat and happy on a mountain of leads, but we cautioned them about how they were in serious danger of being penalized by this new algorithm Google was planning on rolling out. They didn’t want to hear it, but when Google released the Panda algorithm, which was designed to target these types of pages, their domain took a huge hit.
Their Google organic traffic dropped by 76% and their lead generation plummeted by 70%. That was 3 and a half years ago. They still haven’t recovered from it.
Don’t take shortcuts. If you do things right the first time, you never have to do them again.
Practices to Completely Avoid
- Buying links & engaging in unnatural inbound link tactics
- Plagiarizing or scraping content from competitors / other websites
- Copy & pasting blocks of content across multiple pages
- Unnatural internal linking profile
- Keyword stuffing & over-optimization
- Press release spam & article syndication
- Guest blogging poor content
- Buying social media followers
- Building out doorway pages
Even with Google taking a hard stance on unnatural inbound link profiles, and rightfully so, with the Penguin Algorithm, links are still the gold standard for site authority and ranking higher in Google. Inbound links are essentially votes of confidence in your website’s content being both valuable and useful because, let’s be honest, people won’t link to you if your website’s terrible.
The more “votes” a page has, the greater its authority and the better its chances of ranking in the top spots of Google for topic related searches.
If you don’t put in the work to earn links to your domain, it doesn’t matter how amazing your content is or how phenomenal your website is. You’re going to have a very hard time ranking in Google and searchers aren’t going to be able to find you.
You want to rank? You have to get links and you need to get them naturally.
Even though it’s harder than it’s ever been to get those coveted top spots and it feels like you’re navigating a minefield, it’s still possible and it’s worth the effort. You just have to be willing to dedicate the time, stay the course, and be patient.
No matter what new page, marketing campaign, or sales funnel you’re creating on your website, keep these principles in mind and you’ll see your SERP rankings climb.
Key Search Marketing Principles
- Focus on filling your visitors’ needs rather than just ranking highly
- Make things as easy as possible for your visitors while they’re on your site
- Keep your visitors coming back for more
- Always be proactive and stay ahead of potential problems with search algorithm updates
- Never, ever, ever, ever take shortcuts