Everybody has heard of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) but, when it comes to actually implementing it, there are so many moving parts that it can be difficult to know where to get started.
In this article, John reveals what business owners should be thinking about when it comes to SEO and how to get started on the right path.
Before we get started, I asked John for his definition of SEO. Here’s what he said:
SEO – knowledge, reviews and great content
John: “In terms of marketing, there are two ways to use search engines:
- Paid ads: This means the business pays for every click, and when the budget runs out, so do your ads.
- Organic listings: Google determines which websites to rank on their first page according to how valuable they think that website is to the related search.
The main thing to understand about organic listings is that, in order to get on that first page, you need technical knowledge and you need reviews, reputation and great content.
All of these work together in synergy to rank your website on the first page.”
Tip #1: Understand business fundamentals
So, with so many elements working together, where do business owners start?
John: “Before I take on any client with SEO, I always tell people that they need to already (sort of) know how to run a business. Before the internet was what it is now, how did businesses stay afloat? They listened, they asked the right questions and they wanted to help people.
They were genuine, authentic, and they understood the gap in the marketplace. They understood what their competitors were doing and they brought value to them. That’s foundational business sense, which is something you need to have before you even start to build a website.”
So, for those of you who have been in business for some time, the good news is that you have cleared the first hurdle!
Tip #2: Know your customer
Now we can start focusing on the website, right? Well, according to John, not quite:
John: “Building a website is all about understanding who your ideal customer is. To do that, it is important that you are speaking directly to these people and have an avatar in place to understand all their personality traits. You can then use that avatar to inform everything you do, from the website to the product, landing pages, email copy, etc. It’s only when you really understand your customer that you should look at starting your website.
Then, once you know what kind of website you are going to produce, try and make an effort to create high-quality headlines and images. Building your website should first be focused on the user experience and their first impressions.
Once you’ve got that right, then you can focus on the finer details, like long-form content.”
Tip #3: Produce high-quality, compelling content and amplify it
John: “However, you still need to make sure you are producing quality, compelling content that resonates with your ideal customers, answers their questions and solves their problems. If you have the solution they need, back up your claims with case studies and testimonials and have a clear call to action with everything you put out.
People tend to forget that your main focus should be your users and not the search engines. If you take care of your customers, answer all their questions, put out great content and amplify it, Google will hear you and start ranking you higher.
Without other people knowing about the problems you solve, or letting people know that you’ve got a new website or blog, it’s very difficult to get eyeballs looking at you.”
So, focus on the customer first, create content for them, and then amplify it out into the world.
But how can we get inside our customers’ minds to provide them with the quality content they need?
Here is tip number 4:
Tip #4: Show your leadership, expertise and trustworthiness
John: “Creating quality, in-depth content that’s well researched and speaks directly to your audience is important. But more important is showing thought leadership, expertise, authority and trustworthiness.
Invite your users to see your journey, and show them who you are, what you do, how long you’ve been in business and what credentials you have.
Then, give people a reason to trust you by answering their questions.
Here are a few examples of some questions your customers might be asking themselves:
- Why should I use you?
- What have you done in the past?
- Have you solved a problem that is similar to the one I’m going through?
- And if so, what happened?
A great way to answer these questions is by talking about previous clients you’ve worked with and creating in-depth case studies for your prospects to follow.”
At Write Business Results, we know that creating great content works in business, but how can we make our content fit into the SEO mindset?
Once again, John had the answer:
Tip #5: Mimic the competition and publish on other sites
John: “Make sure you are going after content that is transactional or that people are actually looking for.
The best place you can go for this is probably your competitors. If they are ranking for terms that you’re looking to rank for, you can always mimic what they are doing. Just change up some of the different terms, keywords and strategies and create your own content around that.
Then, it’s all about amplifying it so that other people are engaging with it, sharing it, commenting on it, etc.
Another way to do it is to publish your content on other sites. Guest posts, forums, comments are very important on third-party sites, as long as they are sites that are relevant in your field.
You may not get the likes of HuffPost, Medium or Vice on board, but you can always start with small, local communities and build from there.
Remember, it’s not just about what happens on your website, but it’s what other people are saying about you that makes a big difference.”
As most business owners are aware, content comes in many different shapes and sizes. I was curious to find out how each one of them is treated regarding SEO.
I found John’s answer to be surprisingly simple:
Tip #6: All content needs a purpose
John: “When it comes to SEO (and marketing in general), all content should be designed in the same way. The whole reason we create content is to generate more traffic to that piece of content, and that piece needs to have a purpose, like a ‘download now’ button or some call to action.
Ultimately, the goal should be to gather personal data. You want to own the data so that you can market to them directly with emails or paid ads.”
One word that gets used a lot in SEO is the term “keyword”. We all know what it means, but finding the right ones to use is a much harder job. John gave me a quick rundown on keywords that any business owner can benefit from.
Here’s what he said:
Tip #7: Speak to paying customers
John: “We use a lot of software and tools to determine which keywords to go after. There are a lot of keyword tools out there, such as Google Trends and keywordtool.io, which can give you a good indication of how searched a word is, but I suggest asking your customers first.
It’s all about understanding their needs and what they look for when they search.
Try running surveys to your paid customers to understand how they think and the terms they use. If you can position yourself as an expert to these people, then that’s what’s going to show up when they search for your topic.”
Trying to find the balance between creating natural, free-flowing copy and optimising it for SEO can be difficult for many businesses. With this in mind, I asked John for some advice on how to find that sweet spot.
This was John’s answer:
Tip #8: Step into your customers’ shoes
John: “The best way to write compelling, SEO-optimised copy is to put yourself in the shoes of the customers. Look at ads online and ask yourself why you clicked on certain links.
Was it because of the compelling headline? Was it the reviews or the call to action?
This will give you a good foundation for writing copy that resonates with your audience and ranks on Google.
Your message has to be consistent with everything you put out, from the conversion page, the copy, title, tag, description, URL, etc. If you write clickbait, people will never return to your website.”
Search Engine Optimisation is undoubtedly an incredibly effective marketing strategy, but is it the right thing to focus on for every business? I asked John for some final words on this:
Tip #9: Own your asset
John: “If there is one thing business owners take away from here, it’s this – own your asset. Build a website and own every piece of asset that you can get with that brand name or URL. Once you have done that, I would say focus on building a community.
SEO is great for service-type industries but there’s a difference between the user behaviour of people who are actively looking on search engines and people who see paid ads. Although search has a higher conversion rate, you have to consider your own situation too because search takes a lot of time to get going and won’t elevate you right away.
What I would say is that if you are going to be in business for the next 15–20 years, search is the way to go, and if you are unsure, stick with ads for now.”
To hear expert advice from John, you can check out his website at localseosearch.ca or tune in to his podcast Local SEO Today.
You can listen to the full conversation with John and myself by tuning into my weekly podcast Interviews With Experts.
More to come next week!