Going beyond keywords to write high-quality content that attracts new customers and is SEO-friendly is the way to go, says contributor Jessica Foster. Here she shares eight ways to create content that satisfies people and engines.
Just when we thought the saying “Content is king” was gone for good, there it goes showing its sneaky little face again in the search engine optimization (SEO) world.
Bearing in mind also that “Content is queen,” it appears that content is, in fact, pretty danged important — so important that a new sub-industry has squeezed its way into the search engine world: SEO content writing.
Otherwise referred to as “SEO copywriting,” SEO content writing has a bad reputation for being chock-full of keywords and little else. Though this may be more of a stereotype than reality, there is something to be said for going beyond keywords to write high-quality content that attracts new customers AND is SEO-friendly.
What’s the deal with ‘high-quality’ content?
The focus is typically on “high-quality” content — a term that becomes more subjective by the minute. It leads to questions like
- What really makes SEO content “high-quality?”
- Is it measurable?
- More importantly, can it be recreated again and again?
The standard formula of:
keyword research + good writing + on-page SEO = high-quality content
may not be the move anymore. It’s simply not enough. In fact, keywords may be even less important than we all think.
Beyond keyword research
Being consistent with great SEO content writing doesn’t mean it should be formulaic.
Depending too much on robust keyword research and on-page SEO will result in dry content that appeals more to search engines than it does your target audience. Mastering the art of SEO content writing can be the difference between attracting a few website visitors and creating dedicated customers
That all being said, there is a sweet spot between creative content and “content” as we know it. The key lies in going far beyond keyword research and really understanding how words can be used to both attract traffic and drive conversions.
1. Keyword research, the right way
Though this post is all about going beyond keywords, it’s worth addressing what level of keyword research should be done before hopping into content writing. Keywords are still a component of SEO content — but perhaps shouldn’t be as important a component as traditionally thought.
First, your approach to writing new content should fit in with your existing SEO strategy. This should be a no-brainer, but it is a frequent issue I see in SEO content.
For instance, many business owners and SEOs outsource copywriting with little collaboration with the writer on what keywords are to be used. And, even if keywords are provided, it is unlikely that the writer really understands the fundamentals of using keywords in their writing beyond “keyword density.” This results in content that is incohesive and not SEO-friendly.
Second, when it comes to performing keyword research for your new content, look beyond the data. Sure, SEO tools can tell us a lot in terms of search volume and competition level, but can they tell us what content is really engaging to users? Doing a Google search on your target terms and seeing what post titles come up and how many comments and even social shares they get will give you some ideas as to what content is drawing people in and enticing them to engage.
Finally, SEOs and copywriters alike can spend far too much time focusing on terms they think are relevant without stepping back to see the full picture.
Sure, your rankings may increase due to great SEO, but there are many other factors to consider. Is your audience reading through the entire post? Are they sharing it? Are they opting into your calls to action? These elements of your writing should be your main focus. Be sure to have an outline in place, along with your keyword research, to ensure that you aren’t skimming over what matters most: what is going to help you drive conversions.
2. Get organized
How often have you had a new content idea pop into your head and instantly put fingers on the keyboard?
As much as I am a fan of writing when you feel inspired, there needs to be a structure for your content from the very beginning. Content that is too “stream-of-consciousness” or unorganized simply doesn’t convert well. There is a difference between having a conversational tone and writing whatever comes into your brain. I’m here to say that there is a way to capture that creative flow, all while putting out content that works.
Create an outline of the potential post or page, including the title and headings. Organize your content into sections that are cohesive and keep the reader interested. Figure out if and where the content fits into your website overall and what purpose it serves. You can even go as far as to decide what internal links will be used. Having a plan will both help in overall organization and ensure that it fits into the framework of your existing site.
3. On-brand is your best friend
One component of SEO content writing that is rarely, if ever, talked about is branding. As more SEO experts become aware of the intersection between SEO and a larger marketing strategy, it becomes apparent how big a role branding plays in a business’s success.
Your website content is no exception. This is why hiring out for copywriting outside of the brand, or even the industry, can be a risky move. For one, you risk having the overall tone of the writing shift and become incohesive with the rest of the brand message, and even the most subtle variations can be picked up by readers.
A good way to ensure that your content is on-brand and stays true to the business message is to utilize language that is used throughout the existing site and marketing materials.
- Does the brand use the word “passionate” rather than “driven?”
- Are there elements of their tagline that can be broken down and used throughout the text?
- Does their About page have a conversational tone or a professional one?
These are all subtleties to look out for that can make all the difference.
A great SEO copywriter will be able to pick up on the tone, vocabulary and message a brand is putting out and capture it in the posts and pages. There should be no question from the target audience who the content came from and what the message is.
On-brand content means that users can come to depend on the brand acting and sounding a certain way. It ultimately comes down to trust. If a user trusts a brand and understands its core mission, then they are more likely to buy.
4. Integrity & authenticity matter
Integrity and authenticity may seem like “fluffy” words that have no place in the often formulaic world of SEO. But when it comes to writing content that drives more than just traffic (i.e., sales), then these two elements can be the difference between website visitors and paying customers.
There are many SEO and marketing strategies that can drive traffic to a page. What matters is what actions users take once they get there. No amount of strong-arming will convince a user to buy. It takes integrity and authenticity to get them there.
People are becoming more and more aware of shady marketing tactics, and traditional methods of manipulation simply don’t work anymore. A website that makes it clear what the brand’s message is, the service it provides and how it can help potential customers truly has a leg up on the rest. Your content should be authentic, honest and in line with the ethics of your business. Otherwise, you will lose your customers before you even get them.
5.Know your target audience
Creating great SEO content goes beyond writing what you think your target audience wants to read to truly listening to what they want to know.
Are you in tune with their needs? Are there questions in the comments section that should be addressed? Are you writing down their common concerns and pain points? If so, these all open the door to creating solid content that will meet their immediate needs and drive them to seek out your services.
It is not enough to do keyword research to see what they are searching for. If that is the foundation of your content, you are likely to attract some readers but little else. But if you are able to keep them on site longer by creating a vast web of information, you are more likely to get them hooked from start to finish.
Even more, if you engage with them using language they understand and bring up their pain points, you are likely to convince them to fill out that contact form, subscribe or pick up the phone.
If you are struggling to think up fresh and engaging content ideas, be intentional about paying attention to what your customers and potential customers are telling you and asking for. Then, do a quick search to see if any other sites have addressed this issue, and how.
If you aren’t snatching up those opportunities, and another business is, you may be leaving money on the table.
6. Micro-engagement makes the difference
Long-form content can be a bore. For that reason, keeping readers engaged throughout the content can be quite difficult. However, mastering the art of micro-engagement can take your SEO content to the next level.
When it comes to informative content that can be a bit of a yawn, it’s a good move to try some different tactics to keep users engaged. Micro-engagement, as I refer to it here, means incorporating elements in your content to keep readers clicking, scrolling and reading more.
This is where a solid understanding of your target audience really comes into play. You should have a sense of what kind of content keeps your audience engaged. Testing different approaches and looking at the results can be a great data-driven method for seeing what works and what doesn’t.
Here are some suggestions to boost micro-engagement:
- Numbered or bulleted lists.
- Engaging photos (that are relevant to the text).
- Funny GIFs or memes.
- Informative and interesting videos.
- Quizzes or surveys.
- Visually appealing design.
- Calls to action.
- Block quotes.
- Bold text.
- Thought-provoking questions.
- Helpful tips.
Incorporate a few of these ideas into your SEO content and see the difference. Over time, you will get a sense of what your audience likes, what keeps them engaged and what entices them to perform certain actions on your site. This list is by no means exhaustive; feel free to get creative with it and see what happens!
7. Content ‘freshness’ and competitive analysis where it counts
“Freshness” usually refers to having fresh new content on your website, but I believe this should extend beyond that. In other words, you should be putting unique ideas out into the world. How do you do that? By making competitive analysis a part of your SEO content strategy.
Scroll through any SEO or digital marketing site, and you are likely to find the basic posts and pages: “What is SEO?,” “Why You Should Hire an SEO Expert” and the like saturate these sites, and these topics are covered ad nauseam.
What these sites, and others outside of the SEO industry, fail to do is proper competitive analysis when coming up with new content ideas. That is, they are rewriting and reworking the same content that their competitors are using. This is not a good move.
What takes businesses to the top is looking at what competitors are doing and doing it better. Sometimes this even means doing something different. Whenever you are about to write a new piece of content, look to see what your competitors are doing, and consider how you can take it up a notch.
Your best approach is to stay ahead of the curve.
8. Data is everything
You simply can’t create great SEO content without looking at the data.
With a vast array of tools, SEOs and business owners alike should be looking to see what content is performing well, and why. They should be tracking conversions everywhere users are performing an action and seeing what works. This data will indicate the kind of content they can and should create in the future.
Staying on top of your analytics will not only show you the numbers in terms of traffic, but time on page, bounce rate and other valuable metrics that indicate how your content is performing. Through these, you can learn from your mistakes and imitate the strategies that are working. Without this knowledge, you are essentially flying blind and are again playing the guessing game.
Following the data throughout the process will help ensure that you are on the right track and that your utilization of the above principles is working for your business.
There is no cookie-cutter approach to SEO content, but the fundamentals are still there. Write content for people, structure it for search engines and create an experience that is engaging and bound to drive the traffic you deserve.
If your sales and SEO team need a refresher on how to work together, Columnist Casie Gillette has the answer with five communication tips that will get them talking in no time.
It’s no secret that marketing and sales don’t always see eye to eye.
The sales team gets mad at the marketing team for lack of leads and marketing gets mad at sales for not closing deals.
For two areas so closely tied to one another, the lack of cooperation is pretty amazing.
In fact, according to a recent study from InsideView titled, “The State of Sales and Marketing Alignment in 2018,” only 37 percent of salespeople reported meeting with marketing to discuss lead scoring.
Even more telling, Hubspot’s State of Inbound 2017 report noted only 44 percent of marketers feel they are aligned with sales. Yikes!
Breaking down silos isn’t simple, and it certainly isn’t a new concept. We’ve been talking about this for years, and while technology has made it much easier for sales and marketing to align, many companies still treat these departments separately.
How can we better align our sales and marketing efforts, specifically when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO)?
Obviously, there isn’t one answer, and for each organization it will be different. However, when thinking about SEO and sales, there are a few things we can do:
1. Set up monthly integrated meetings
When I worked in-house, the marketing team held weekly calls with the support team. The goal was to discuss common issues facing customers, identify problems or gaps on the site and ensure the marketing and support team were aligned with communication.
The same thing can apply to sales and marketing.
Set up monthly meetings to discuss goals, strategies, results and campaigns. The key to being successful is ensuring everyone knows what is happening, why it’s happening and how to address it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a marketing team launch a campaign without telling the sales team. How are they supposed to sell something they don’t know anything about?
Consider creating a Slack channel for the teams to communicate. Open lines of communication and shared knowledge equate to a more cohesive team.
2. Use sales data to inform SEO tactics
When we bring a new client on board, we spend a considerable amount of time talking through the sales process, evaluating existing sales materials, and in many cases, sitting through product demos and sales pitch decks.
We ask questions like:
- Who is the target buyer?
- Who is the decision-maker?
- What are key issues you hear during the sales process?
While these questions may seem basic, they help determine how and where buyers search and what type of content we need to give them.
For example, if a client only sells to companies with over $100 million in revenue, addressing the challenges facing small business doesn’t make any sense. If the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is the decision-maker, their main concern is likely tied to how your product or solution will help them financially.
Understanding the nuances of the buyer, the sales process and everything that comes with it is key to creating an SEO strategy that helps drive sales — which leads us perfectly into our next point.
3. Map your keywords to the customer journey
What is the goal of an SEO program? To be found by the right people, at the right time, in search results. More or less.
Easier said than done. We need not only to understand the buyer but also to understand the keywords our buyers are using and the search intent behind them throughout the entire customer journey.
That feels like a lot!
Fortunately for us, the data found in the material used to bring on a new client, the sales process, the pitch deck and common problems can help form the keyword research process.
A keyword research process must also adapt. It has to focus on themes and intent and can no longer be about selecting a few phrases and calling it a day.
Once you have your keyword themes, you can review with your sales team, start mapping them to the customer journey, and more importantly, begin applying them to the overall content and SEO strategy.
4. Create assets that work for everyone
As an SEO, you typically have firsthand knowledge of what content is needed, what content is being created and where that content lives. That isn’t the case for every department.
A few days ago, a client mentioned she found a bunch of really great content on the site that wasn’t linked from anywhere and was only being used for sales. The marketing team didn’t know about it, and we didn’t know about it. What could we do with it?
Understanding what is out there and how it can be used across marketing and sales can be beneficial to your overall strategy.
Let’s take webinars, for example. Most companies hold a webinar, and then you never hear about it again. But what if we took that webinar and used it across departments? What if we took that one piece of content and turned it into several? We could have:
- A blog post summarizing the webinar which can be optimized for search, shared across social and sent out to everyone who registered for the webinar to re-engage them.
- Short clips from the webinar which can be shared on YouTube, added into the blog post and embedded into landing pages for the sales team to utilize.
When creating assets, we have to think beyond search and consider how we can create something that benefits the organization as a whole.
5. Use SEO data to inform sales
We already talked about using sales data to inform your SEO strategy, but it also works the other way around.
As SEOs, we spend a lot of time in analytics working to understand how our site is performing, what our visitors like, what they don’t like and where we can improve. We also spend a lot of time looking at search results and competitors.
How much of that are you sharing with your sales team?
During the monthly meeting I mentioned above, make sure your sales team is aware of the following:
- Top-performing content themes. They don’t have to know the exact pieces of content, but if specific areas are resonating with visitors, they can push that topic during calls or share the materials with prospects.
- Competitor updates or campaigns. Very few people are looking at one solution and one solution alone. They are also looking at your competitors. The team should be aware of how competitors are performing, the type of messaging they are using and any other updates coming from them.
- Customer reviews or complaints. What are people saying about you on the internet? What are the positives and the negatives? By sharing these with the sales team, they can proactively address potential concerns and promote positive reviews.
Sharing information between departments will go a long way in helping the organization. While the three bullets mentioned above may not seem significant to your efforts, they could be to someone else’s.
Tying it all together
Aligning efforts across the organization, specifically between SEO and sales, can make both teams better and drive growth faster. It may not be easy to get a process in place, but if you start with communication, the rest will follow.
What can 2018 throw at us that can top the un-ending dystopian nightmare of 2017?
Thankfully, in this article we’re concentrating solely on SEO (..and breathe). We’ve already looked at the big trends from this year, now let’s look into the crystal ball with the help of some search experts.
I think we’ll see Google push again at local marketing. This will likely mean even more improvements to Google Local but I think we might also see expanded use and tests with coupons and codes in PPC.
There is a common opinion I’ve seen growing which I think is partly as a result of the market and regulatory changes that happened in 2017 (Google’s TAC – Traffic Acquisition Costs – increasing, and their loss in the EU dispute) and partly as a result of the incredible UI changes Google has rolled out as they’ve gone mobile-first, card-based, and ML-powered. The received wisdom is that it is getting harder and harder to get organic traffic from Google, and that more and more clicks go to either ads or Google’s own properties.
I predict that we will see some brands pull back from organic search investments as a result, and that it will hurt them in the long-run.
The reality (from clickstream data) is that it’s really easy to forget how long the long-tail is and how sparse search features and ads are on the extreme long-tail:
- Only 3-4% of all searches result in a click on an ad, for example. Google’s incredible (and still growing) business is based on a small subset of commercial searches.
- Google’s share of all outbound referral traffic across the web is growing (and Facebook’s is shrinking as they increasingly wall off their garden).
The opportunity is therefore there for smart brands to capitalise on a growing opportunity while their competitors sink time and money into a social space that is increasingly all about Facebook, and increasingly pay-to-play. I think that is going to be a trend through 2018.
Recently some of the biggest brands are waking up and realising that as we begin to move towards voice, and move further away from the keyword game, the SERPs landscape and the content produced will change dramatically. Like with Mobile-Geddon, we will see a Voice-A-Geddon.
Are brands ready? How will Google (and Amazon) respond to this? Will position one be the new page one? And how will advertisers deal with this? Will organic be considered ever more important?
What will be the commercial impact for those who are prepared vs those who are not?
We’ll see more measurement of conversational UX/voice search. I can see Google creating Analytics for voice commands – for example a way to measure the most common intents and conversation patterns:
Me: OK Google, tell me what films are showing in Leeds tonight
Google: OK Mike, films are X Y & Z
Me: Tell me about Y
Google Synopsis for Y is …
Me: Book me some tickets for Y tonight
This example could measure the conversion rate from Google home devices, of those people that ask for a synopsis what percentage go on to book tickets. If on Alexa, what entities and utterances have been used by category and therefore work out intent per product category?
Data and privacy
I think we’ll see ongoing focus on data and privacy. This will manifest with the likes of GDPR, new EU privacy rules (which the UK may or may not get in on) and data security. Helping to keep the latter in focus will be various governments increasingly concerned with cryptography and perhaps with legislation struggling to keep up with the pace of technology.
This loops back to search marketing because some of the analytics practices used by big brands in the US and the UK are enough to make you blink.
GDPR will make life more difficult for agencies, there’s greater risk to agencies and clients in sharing personally identifiable information (e.g. PPC, email marketing etc.). The new E-Privacy regulation may have a huge impact on analytics tools such as Google Analytics but still too early to be certain.
Faster, Google-centric UX
We’ll see further moves towards a faster mobile friendly web. Features that allow you to access products, services information without leaving Google in preparatiob for voice search. There will be less reliance on links with a potential move towards sentiment and mentions
‘War for the living room’
Lastly, I think we’ll see tech brands ramping up the war for the living room. This will manifest through hardware pushes such as connected TVs, personal assistants like Alexa and even VR. I’m not confident enough to predict whether there will be much progress on that front beyond the advertising campaigns I’m expecting but if I had to pick a winner I could always roll an internet connected dice for you.
With over 200 factors in Google’s algorithm, SEO is a complex science. But it’s not how much you need to know that makes it really challenging — it’s the ever-changing nature of the rules of the game.
As search engines strive to improve the quality of search results, some ranking factors shift shapes, others fall into oblivion, and completely new ones arise out of nowhere. To help you stay ahead of the game in 2018, here’s a list of the most prominent trends that are gaining momentum, with tips on how you can prepare for each.
1. The rise of SERP features
Are you assuming a #1 organic ranking is the way to get as much traffic as possible? Think again. Increasingly, SERP features (local packs, Knowledge panels, featured snippets and so on) are stealing searchers’ attention and clicks from organic listings.
And it’s only fair if you consider the evolution the Google SERP has been through. It has gone all the way from “10 blue links”…
… to something that makes you feel like you’re part of a Brazilian carnival.
What can you do about it?
With the evolution of SERP features, it’s critical that you (a) track your rankings within these features, and (b) monitor the features that show up for your keywords and are potentially stealing traffic from you. You can do this with SEO PowerSuite’s Rank Tracker by simply starting a project for your site. The tool will track 15 Google SERP features, along with organic results. The Google SERP Features column will show you all features triggered by your keywords, with the ones you rank in highlighted in green. Additionally, you can measure the volatility of SERP features day-to-day under the SERP Analysis tab.
Based on this data, analyze the opportunities that SERP features pose. Can you squeeze into the local pack? Can you get a featured snippet for this query? How about a Knowledge Graph panel? Which brings us straight to the next point:
2. Structured data
Structured data is a way of formatting HTML that uses a specific vocabulary, telling search engines how to interpret content — and how to display it in the SERPs.
Google’s never officially confirmed structured data is a ranking signal — and in itself, it likely isn’t.
Why bother, then? Glad you asked!
Structured data lets you enhance your search listings in several ways: Think Knowledge Graph panels and rich snippets. The latter can increase your listings’ CTR (click-through rate) by 30 percent. Multiple real-life experiments show an increase in clicks boosts rankings.
With search results getting more diverse, you can’t ignore the opportunity to stand out. In fact, you’d better get at it right now, before a competitor does.
What can you do about it?
Go on and do it, really. There are several structured data formats, but most SEOs stick to Schema.org. This step-by-step guide to Schema for SEO is a good place to start. Once you’ve implemented the markup, track whether rich snippets show up for your site with the Rank Tracker tool mentioned above.
3. Survival of the fastest
Speed is big. Not only is it a ranking signal; it’s a major UX factor. UX, in turn, impacts rankings. It’s a loop of sorts!
But how fast is fast, exactly? Google expects pages to load in under three seconds. Here’s what you can do to get there.
What can you do about it?
First, take Google’s page speed test. The test is integrated into WebSite Auditor and available in its free version. Just launch WebSite Auditor and create a project. Jump to Content Analysis and specify the page you’d like to test. In a moment, you’ll see a selection of on-page factors calculated for you. Go to Technical factors and scroll to Page speed (Dekstop).
For any problematic factor, click on it for an explanation and how-to-fix advice.
4. Relevance 2.0
Increasingly, it’s getting harder to convince Google you have great content when you really don’t (and easier to get penalized for trying). There are a number of ways Google assesses content quality, one of them being Latent Semantic Indexing. By looking at billions of pages and terms used in them, Google learns which terms are related and builds expectations as to the terms that are likely to appear in a given context. This helps Google decide whether a piece of content is “comprehensive.”
With RankBrain, Google may further analyze the best-performing search results (according to Google’s user satisfaction metrics) and look for similarities between them. These shared features, such as usage of certain terms, may become query-specific ranking signals for the given search term.
What can you do about it?
How do you make sure your content is comprehensive? By researching the top-ranking pages in your niche and looking for the features they share, just like RankBrain does. Clearly, you can’t do this manually for each term, so here’s a simple framework that uses WebSite Auditorand its TF-IDF tool.
In WebSite Auditor, jump to Content Analysis > TF-IDFand select a page. The app will go to Google’s search results, analyze the 10 top-ranking pages and calculate a TF-IDF score for each term used on each page. As a result, you’ll get a list of relevant terms and phrases, sorted by the number of competitors that use them.
You can implement the recommended changes and edit your page right in WebSite Auditor’s Content Editor.
5. Voice search is the real deal
Still skeptical about voice search? Consider this: Google reports that 55 percent of teens and 40 percent of adults use voice search daily; and, according to Google’s Behshad Behzadi, the ratio of voice search is growing faster than type search. Voice search calls for a whole new keyword research routine: Voice searchers use normal, conversational sentences instead of the odd-sounding query lingo.
What can you do about it?
Rank Tracker is a great help in researching questions voice searchers are likely to ask. Launch Rank Tracker (free version is fine), jump to Keyword Research, and press Suggest Keywords. Pick the Common Questions method from the list, and type in your keywords.
In a minute, you’ll end up with hundreds of questions you can target!
6. Mobile is unignorably big
With the rise of voice search, over half of Google searches coming from mobile devices, the impending mobile-first index, and mobile-friendliness being a ranking factor, you simply can’t afford to ignore mobile SEO anymore.
What can you do about it?
First off, check if your pages are mobile-friendly. Google’s mobile test is available in WebSite Auditor, under Content Analysis. Enter the URL of the page you’d like to test, switch to Technical factors, and scroll down to Page usability (Mobile).
Click on the problematic factors, if any, for how-to-fix advice. Forward the tips to your dev team, and re-run the test once the improvements have been made.
7. ‘Linkless’ backlinks
For years, links have been the trust signal for search engines — one that SEOs spent the most time on optimizing (and often manipulating). But times are changing, and linkless mentions may be becoming an off-page signal of equal weight.
Search engines can easily associate mentions with brands and use them to determine a site’s authority. Duane Forrester, formerly senior product manager at Bing, confirmed that Bing is already using unlinked mentions for ranking. This patent and many SEOexperts’ observations are reason enough to believe that Google may be doing this too.
What can you do about it?
In addition to a backlink checker, use a web monitoring tool to find mentions of your brand and products. Awario is perhaps one of the best apps for this, with their own real-time index of the web and the Reach metric that lets you see the most authoritative mentions first.
8. An increasingly personalized SERP
Personalized search results aren’t just based on the traditional ranking factors, but also on the information about the user (such as their location, search history or interests).
Google, Bing and Yahoo all personalize their search results in multiple ways. Back in 2011, an experimentshowed that over 50 percent of Google searches were being personalized; that number has likely only gone up since.
What can you do about it?
Don’t panic: Personalization doesn’t have to work against you. When someone searches for your target keyword for the first time, you’ve got to do your best to appear among the top results in the unbiased SERP. If the searcher clicks on your listing, you’re becoming their preferred entity, and their subsequent searches will most likely include your site as the top result.
One thing to keep in mind is to ensure your rank tracking is accurate. Rank Tracker will check your rankings in a depersonalized way by default, so there’s no need to set up any extra prefs. But if you’re looking to see unbiased results in your browser, make sure you’re using an Incognito/Private mode.
Common PPC keyword mistakes (Understanding broad match vs. phrase match vs. exact match) | Search Engine Watch
Google AdWords offers three major keyword match types: broad match, phrase match, and exact match. It’s safe to say that if not you don’t know how to use each correctly, you could be wasting your PPC budget.Choosing the right keyword match types can help you target your ads better so you get higher-quality traffic to your site. Match types are simple to understand, so it’s important to take time to learn about them before you do anything else with your PPC campaigns.
What are match types for PPC advertising?
The first question is easy: What does match type mean? In short, the match type you choose for each keyword specifies which searches Google can show your ad. Your match type determines whether a wide audience will see your ads or whether your ads will only show for a few highly targeted searchers.
Your first step is to create a keyword to track by navigating to the “keywords” tab and clicking the red “+Keywords” button, as shown below:
After clicking the red button you will be taken to a page where you can add multiple keywords, as shown below:
Once you save that keyword, you can select the keyword to change the match type. Consider the specific differences below:
Of all the keyword match types, broad match casts the widest net. When you choose broad match for a keyword Google will show your ad to people who type in all kinds of variations of your keyword, as well as the keyword itself.
For example, let’s say your keyword is ceramic pots. If you set this keyword to broad match, your ad won’t just show up for people who type ceramic pots into the search bar. Google will also show it to people looking for blue ceramic pots, ceramic cooking pots, and cooking pot ceramic. Your ad can even show up when people type in synonyms of your keyword, like pottery cookware.
Simply click in the keyword to change the match type:
Broad match is the default match type for keywords, so if you haven’t adjusted your keywords’ match type, they’re currently set to broad match. You don’t need to use any special symbols to set a keyword to broad match, although you do need to use symbols for other match types – more on that in a minute.
It’s a good idea to use broad match keywords when you want to reach the widest audience possible. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, though, this strength could become a weakness. The impressions you get from broad match keywords aren’t very targeted, and that could mean you’re paying for clicks from people who weren’t interested in your offer to begin with.
Modified broad match
You can get around some of the downsides of broad match keywords by using a modified broad match type instead. This lets you specify which words must be in a search query for your ad to show.
If you do this, your keyword still falls under the broad match umbrella, but you have a little more control over who sees your ads. Modified broad match is a powerful tool for keeping your keywords flexible while cutting down on irrelevant traffic.
To modify a broad match keyword, place a + sign directly in front of any word that must be in a query for your ad to display. For instance, to re-use our example above, you could modify your keyword by changing it to +ceramic pots.
This tells Google not to show your ad unless “ceramic” is somewhere in the query. For instance, your ad could show up for ceramic bakeware and stockpot ceramic, but not for pottery cookware.
You can also insert a “+” before more than one word in your keyword. If you wanted your ad to show only for queries that included both the words “ceramic” and “pots,” you could modify your keyword to +ceramic +pots.
Phrase match lets you specify an exact phrase that must be in a searcher’s query for your ad to appear. It lets you hone in on your intended audience more than the broad match type, but isn’t as restrictive as exact match.
To set a keyword to phrase match, put quotation marks around it. This lets Google know to only show your ad to people who used your exact keyword (or close variations of it) somewhere in their query. If your phrase match keyword is “ceramic pots”, your ad can show up for the searches “heavy-duty ceramic pots” and “ceramic pot with lid” but not “ceramic cooking pots.”
When you use an exact match keyword, your ad will show up for people who type in that exact keyword (or close variations of it) and nothing else. This match type will limit your impressions the most, so use it with caution. The impressions you do get, however, will be highly targeted, so they’ll be more valuable than the impressions you’d get from a broad match keyword.
Set a keyword to exact match by putting it in square brackets – for example, [ceramic pots]. Only people who type ceramic pots or close variations of it into the search bar will see your ad. There’s no way to turn off close variation matching in Google, so your ad will still show for people who search for ceramic pot or another very similar term.
Negative match isn’t a keyword match type in the same way as the ones above. Rather, it lets you specify words you don’t want your ad to show for. If you know your ad won’t be relevant if a certain word is in a search query, set that word as a negative match. Google won’t show your ads to any of those searchers.
For instance, if ceramic pot is your keyword and you’re selling cooking pots, you might want to set “vase” as a negative match. Otherwise, people looking for ceramic vases might stumble upon your site and then leave right away, which only wastes your advertising dollars.
Set a word as a negative keyword by including a “-” in front of it, like this: -vase. Below shows you how to navigate to the negative keyword tab. You simply click the red button once again, and here you have a choice if you want these negative keywords to be for one campaign or your entire ad group, as you can see below:
What counts as a close variation?
We’ve mentioned a couple of times that Google automatically lumps very similar terms in with your keyword. At this point, you might be wondering what a close variation actually is. According to Google’s page on keyword matching options, close variations include all of the following:
- Common misspellings
- Singular versions of plural words, and vice versa
- Stemmings, or words that all have the same root – e.g. cook, cooking, and cooked
How can you make sure you’re choosing the right match type?
Now that you know what all the match types do, how should you plan your keyword strategy? Google recommends starting out with broad match keywords and then narrowing them down as appropriate. Keep an eye on your search terms report, which tells you which queries people typed in to see your ad.
If you notice that your ad is showing up for a lot of unrelated or irrelevant queries, try adding negative keywords to weed some of them out, or use more restrictive match types for your keywords.
You can find your search terms report using a variety of tools. AgencyAnalytics is one such tool that allows you to also click the keywords tab (shown below) for all of your keyword data to help create a full picture:
It’s also a good idea to vary your keyword match types. Don’t use all broad match keywords, or your ad will display for too many people who aren’t interested. Likewise, if you only use exact match, your ads might not show up often enough to get you good results.
Mix it up based on what makes sense for each keyword, and aim for a good balance between reaching a wide audience and showing your ads to the right people.
You can choose great PPC keywords, but if you don’t deploy them well, they won’t get you the results you want. Choosing your keyword match types is an important way to determine which searchers see your ads, and this ultimately impacts your sales.
Monitor your search terms report to see how your match types are performing, and adjust them as needed, and you just might notice a big difference in your traffic and sales.
What’s your strategy for using keyword match types? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!
Content is the first thing that comes to mind with search engine optimization. There is a process, however, to creating and optimizing strong content.
The process involves four separate tasks: data analysis, programmatic optimization, content creation, and manual optimization. These tasks are often performed by three teams: SEO, marketing, and IT.
This article covers the first of those four tasks, the critical data analysis. Data may not be sexy to most people. But strong data is the basis of every good SEO plan. Do not skip this first step in the content optimization process for any reason, no matter how quickly you need to move. Poor data inevitably leads to poor execution.
Keyword data shows the potential demand that each keyword concept holds based on how many searches are conducted for that concept in an average month. Demand is an important consideration. It is separate from performance. Demand identifies how strongly you could be driving traffic and revenue to your site for specific keyword concepts. Performance identifies how well you have already done so.
Keyword data shows the potential demand that each keyword concept holds based on how many searches are conducted for that concept in an average month.
The difference between the two is your missed opportunity, which organic search competitors are capitalizing on. (For additional details, see my how-to articles on keyword research planning and execution.)
Search Engine Rankings Data
This data is a little trickier to get without an enterprise SEO platform like Searchmetrics or BrightEdge, or a dedicated search rankings tool. If you cannot afford ranking tools and must do it manually, at least sign out of your search engine accounts and open an incognito window. This is not a foolproof technique, but it’s better than nothing.
When collecting rankings data in the U.S., it makes the most sense to use Google as the engine to target based on the large percentage of traffic it drives. In Google, collect not just the position that individual keywords are ranking at, but also the URL that ranks for that keyword.
Google Search Console Search Query Report
Sadly, the Search Console “queries” report (Search Console > Search Traffic > Search Analytics > Queries) will only yield 2,000 search queries, but it’s the only reliable source of keyword data for Google searches. Everything else is either estimated or inaccurate based on the keyword “not provided” challenge that SEO professionals have faced since the search engines began stripping search query information from referral strings by default in October 2011.
An important aside: Do not use your web analytics’ natural search keywords report as a substitute for this data. It is not accurate, and hasn’t been for years.
Google Search Console also provides average rankings for each keyword. It’s a good idea to keep all the data that any report contains, but you’ll especially want the rankings data because it is the only accurate indicator of Google’s true average ranking for your site.
While the online keyword report showing all 2,000 search queries allows you to click deeper to see all of the URLs that drove natural search impressions and traffic for that keyword, unfortunately there’s no way to download that information. That pairing of a keyword that ranks and the URL that ranks for it can still only be found in bulk with a third-party rankings tool.
SEO Keyword Data Mash up
Using VLOOKUP formulas in Excel, create a worksheet that contains a row for every keyword with columns showing the values from keyword research, rankings, and Google Search Console search query reports. This mash up will inform the next three steps. Save it, update it regularly, and consult it religiously for every important keyword or content-based decision you make.
Web Analytics Sessions and Revenue
While not keyword based, the reports showing sessions or visits, and orders and revenue, by natural search page or URL are another important source of content optimization information.
Whether your analytics platform is Google Analytics, Adobe Analytic, Coremetrics, or something else, your natural search landing page report is one of the most critical tools for determining everything from how well your content is performing today to how well it should perform tomorrow and how you should get there.
If you have the support of an analytics team, it may be tempting to rely on it to do the pulling and analysis of the data for you. Resist that temptation.
If you have the support of an analytics team, it may be tempting to rely on it to do the pulling and analysis of the data for you. Resist that temptation.
To be sure, consult with your analytics experts to get a recommendation on which reports to use in which profiles to get to the correct data that you need: visits or sessions, and orders and revenue. But data analysis inevitably leads to additional questions that can only be answered with additional data.
Rather than requesting and waiting for additional reports to be pulled for different timeframes and with different levels of granularity, it’s much more productive to become familiar enough with the analytics tool to extract the accurate data yourself. You’ll also get a better feel for the data when you’re actually using the tool.
Initiatives, such as supporting new product launches and the need to boost sales in certain areas, will also feed into decisions about which content to create and optimize. But they shouldn’t be the only information you reply on to drive your SEO content plan. If one-time initiatives supersede potential and performance data, your SEO plan will be primarily reactive as opposed to driving broad, strong performance.
PPC can be an incredibly cost-effective way to generate leads through search engines. The key is to look at the right metrics for the right situations and use that data to make the most meaningful changes to your campaigns.
There’s one thing nearly every potential B2B buyer does before buying a product or signing a contract for your services: search.
In fact, 77 percent of B2B buyers are said to research on Google before making a buying decision.
And while improving your organic search engine ranking is important, executing an search engine optimization plan takes time. It’s a long-game approach that pays long-term dividends.
For many businesses, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising through services like Google Adwords has become an incredibly effective way to leverage the keywords potential customers are using to search for your business or industry.
Here are a few reasons why PPC might be an incredibly valuable marketing tactic to increase traffic to your website and generate new leads.
1. You don’t have to wait to start generating leads
Because you’re paying for them, PPC allows you to get up and running with ads for the keywords you want to rank for pretty quickly. While an organic SEO strategy takes time, PPC allows you to get in the game for important industry keywords.
2. You only pay for what you convert
With PPC campaigns, you only pay for the clicks you generate. This means you’re only paying for the people who actually click through on the ad and visit the landing page you intended them to visit.
3. You can easily track conversions to measure ROI
By adding conversion pixels to your landing pages, PPC allows you to identify the exact cost-per-lead of your campaign, which can be a lot more arduous to generate with other marketing tactics. As a result, you’re able to continually tweak and optimize your ads to decrease the cost-per-lead.
How to measure PPC success
The truth is there are dozens of PPC metrics you can track. So, which ones matter most when it comes to reaching your business goals?
Rather than focusing solely on PPC analytics like clicks, impressions and click-through rates, here are some metrics that allow you to analyze macro metrics that speak to the ROI of your efforts:
- Cost-per-conversion. This helps you determine if the PPC clicks you’re generating represent quality traffic that’s actually converting into sales.
- Most valuable keywords. Being able to track which keywords lead to sales can help you zero in on where to give credit within your PPC campaigns.
- Lifetime value of PPC customers. Once you have an understanding of how much it costs to convert a PPC lead, compare that to the other cost-per-customer marketing tactics against the lifetime value of your customers.
At the end of the day, PPC can be an incredibly cost-effective way to generate leads through search engines. The key is to look at the right metrics for the right situations and use that data to make the most meaningful changes to your campaigns.
What is a landing page? A landing page at its most basic is any web page that a person can visit or “land” on when navigating the internet. They are stand-alone pages, distinct from your main website, that are developed for the purpose of advertising, and with a goal to generate conversions and leads.
Since landing pages are designed separately from the main site, there are usually no options to navigate, forcing users to focus on the copy or message that is tailored to the conversion goal of the page. Featured images, use of color, calls-to-action, and a lead generation form are all essential parts of a landing page that help to increase conversions.
For the purposes of this post, we will focus on the relationship between landing pages and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns; however, the following best practices can be applied to all traffic sources.
1. Landing pages improve paid search campaigns
If you have ever advertised on Google AdWords, you’ll be familiar with its grading system known as Quality Score. Your Quality Score is determined by the following factors:
- Your ad click-through rate (CTR)
- The relevance of each keyword to its ad group
- Landing page quality and relevance
- The relevance of your ad text
The quality of your landing page is an important factor that contributes to your Quality Score, and the better your Quality Score, the lower your cost-per-click will be—resulting in you getting more value from the campaign.
Google wants to show ads to its users that are most likely to solve their problems so they can take action. A landing page serves this purpose as it does not have excess navigation links and includes messages on the page that are specifically designed for advertising campaigns. The information, therefore, is very relevant, meaning there is a high likelihood that users will fill out call-to-action forms or call your office.
2. Landing pages increase conversions
Businesses that advertise through search engines are more focused on increasing their sales versus trying to increase brand awareness. As a result, their PPC traffic is psychologically different from their organic traffic and needs to be marketed to differently. A user who visits a landing page will either immediately take action by filling out a form, or will simply just leave the page, so the window of opportunity to convert PPC traffic is small. However, since limited information is presented on a landing page, visitors are not overloaded with extraneous information, and if they are the right audience, they will be more likely to take action.
Landing pages are set up separate from main websites, and with the help of online tools like Leadpages, Unbounce, or Instapage, advertisers can do split tests (also known as A/B tests) of the copy, calls-to-action, and other features to test and improve conversions without affecting the main site.
3. Landing pages generate data and insights
To find out whether Google AdWords is right for you or if you should advertise somewhere else (on Facebook, for example), a landing page can help identify the most efficient channel for generating leads. The insights generated by a landing page can also help to identify the right message or call-to-action that will increase conversions, which can then be used to increase user experience, resulting in a lower cost per lead.
Should you ask for users’ phone numbers on a landing page, or just names and emails? You can do split testing on your landing page to find out if adding a field for a phone number increases conversions.
In conclusion, landing pages are an invaluable part of a PPC campaign and will not only help improve ad performance, but will directly contribute to the bottom line of your business.
You may be the best in your business or practice but, without search engine optimization, you’re either average or a nobody in your field.
As digital marketing consultant Alex Chris writes, “Search engine optimization or SEO is a set of rules for website (or blog) owners to follow for the proper optimization of their websites to improve their search engine rankings.” He also added that “millions of users per day are using the internet to look for answers to their questions and solutions to their problems.”
With a proper SEO guide, any website and business can grow into one of the most trusted brands on the internet.
Unfortunately, there are some issues with SEO that you should know about before you hire an expert. In Bob Sakayama’s article “When SEO Failure Results in Google Penalties or Rank Suppression,” he pointed out that the professionals are the ones who often trigger most of the severe Google penalties. In short, these “experts” who were hired to prevent such problems from happening in the first place are the ones who really trigger the penalties. If that is the case, why should we even consider the idea of hiring an SEO expert? In my years of experience in the search engine optimization industry, there are many factors that can trigger penalties due to the constant changes in rules. Whether you’re an optimizer or a website owner, you should know the factors that can cause serious problems in the long run.
We can live with owner-triggered rank issues because they won’t affect your established traffic, rankings and profit the way penalties would. On the other hand, Google penalties can ruin your business. There are many different types of penalties; you could get a penalty for unnatural (spam) links to your site or an over optimization anchor text penalty from using a piece of software to build links. You could also be penalized for using the same exact content from another website or using a keyword too many times on a page, which is known as “keyword stuffing.”
Penalties are also due to the constant changes in the rules. With the rapid changes, most SEO agencies can’t keep up with the latest improvements. Most optimizers are passive which is bad because you can’t make proper adjustments in time. Here are some tips for beginners and old professionals on what to look out for to avoid a penalty from Google.
Unnatural Links To And From Your Website
If we take a look at the link schemes section of Google’s Quality Guidelines, we’ll find out that any links made by an SEO with the intention to manipulate a website’s ranking are clear violations of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. In short, unnatural links to your site can get your website in trouble.
Google also warns about unnatural links from your site. Google is now capable of determining natural links from unnatural links. It focuses on links that act as editorial votes for a site. If you somehow manipulate links from your site, there’s a high chance you’ll receive a penalty. My firm recently helped water filtration company AquaOx (which I am a partner in) recover from a major Google penalty. The previous SEO company used a link-building software to create unnatural links from the website. Unfortunately, the company got caught and the site was pushed far down in the search engines to page 10. We had to go through a list of links, tag the ones that were really bad and disavow those links in Google Webmaster tools. Our next move was to build high-quality links from the site. Once Google noticed our cleanup operation, the search engine made some adjustments in the search rankings. Although penalty recovery is not a quick process by any means, the accomplishment is rewarding.
Publishing Keyword-Heavy Content
Spamming keywords into compelling content is an old trick that used to work for many SEO agencies. Unfortunately, Google made the competition tougher with its frequent changes. My personal belief is that the search engine prefers a website with about 2% of the content being keywords. If it is annoying for users to read unnatural keywords in a website’s content, the same thing is true with the search engine. Website owners or SEO companies should keep track of their keyword count by using keyword counting tools. In my practice and belief, high-quality content does not need many keywords to rank higher in Google. Avoid many of the top 10 Google penalties by investing in other tactics like proper keyword research and keyword placement instead of spamming with keywords.
Spammy Structured Data Markup
Although schema markup (structured data markup) can boost your search engine content discovery and make other improvements, this strategy can get you slammed by Google. A spammy structured data markup can potentially hurt your site as you will receive penalties from the search engine. The best way to avoid structured data markup penalties is by following the rules set by Google. You can either adhere to the guidelines of the search engine or use a structured data testing tool. Either one is better than getting into serious trouble.
Deliberately Cloaking Web Pages For SEO Or CTR Purposes
Cloaking web pages for your personal interest is a big crime against Google. Cloaking is where one version of the site is shown to search engine spiders and a different version is shown to the user viewing the site. Once caught, your site will face serious challenges and issues. The search engine discourages any form of manipulation to level up the game and keep the credibility of websites on the search result.
Being penalized isn’t the end of the world for website owners, though. There are ways to get your website back on track. As a professional SEO, my first recommendation would be to look for the right people for the job.
According to digital marketing expert Jordan Kasteler, 1 in 3 of all Google searches has local intent. This means users search for and expect local information
SEO for businesses in 2017 will be revolutionary.
Within the space of 3 years, it has become significantly easier to find businesses, stores or items nearby, creating a shift in user’s intent and search behavior.
Users no longer have to include their location in search queries, such as inputting “coffee shops in Queens” into Google.
This trend has given way to the “near me” search query – Google “coffee shop near me” while in Queens, and Google will fetch coffee shops in your local area.
According to digital marketing expert Jordan Kasteler, 1 in 3 of all Google searches has local intent. This means users search for and expect local information in SERPs, and now more than ever, priority should be given to optimizing on-site and off-site strategies for local SEO.
Below are a few things to note when optimizing for local SEO in 2017.
#1: Title tags and meta descriptions still work
Title tags and meta descriptions are on-site HTML elements which reflect the content of your page, and are shown in SERPs and browser tabs as text. With Google increasing the width of the SERP to 600px, the length of title tags falls between 40 and 50 characters (best practices) while meta descriptions should be a maximum of 160 characters.
Titles display what your page is about to both visitors and search engine crawlers, while meta descriptions summarize the content of your page. Your title tags and meta descriptions must include the keywords you are trying to rank for, for example, “cheap hotels in Las Vegas” (title tag includes a keyword and locality).
Titles and meta descriptions must be unique, compelling and descriptive, as this can affect click-through rates from search results to your page.
Using the length guidelines above, ensure your title and descriptions are displaying in full on the SERP. Use tools like Yoast’s SEO plugin, SERP preview tool, and SEOmofo to emulate how your title tags and meta description will look in search results.
#2: Keyword research
Keyword research represents the very foundation of your SEO campaign and when done properly, keywords can drive traffic and rankings for your web pages. Keywords represent terms and phrases people type as search queries to find local businesses.
Keyword research for local SEO involves optimizing your web pages for keywords with geo-modifiers – i.e. place names and locations. For a furniture making business, a generic, non-local keyword might be “furniture makers” but for businesses optimizing for local SEO, an acceptable keyphrase would be “furniture makers Portland” or “furniture makers Portland Oregon”.
To optimize your keyword research for local SEO, brainstorm keywords or phrases with a geo-modifier that customers might use when searching for a business like yours. Run generated phrases or words through Google Keyword Planner or Keyword.io to get keyword ideas together with monthly search traffic stats.
Keyword research can be time-consuming, but rewarding when done properly. For a more in-depth guide, check out our complete guide to keyword research for SEO.
#3: Optimize for Google My Business and Bing Places for Business
Google My Business, formerly known as Google Places, allows you to display your business hours, phone number and directions to your office on Google Search and Maps. This service is free and will aid your SEO efforts, as your business is listed when customers search for your services.
When optimizing your Google My Business page, remember to upload your business logo and photos of your business (staff, office building, etc.).
For an online business with no physical location, you can hide your address, but be sure to fill in and validate every other piece of information entered. A misplaced phone number or wrong address can result in you losing customers and revenue.
#4: Local structured data
Structured data, sometimes referred to as schema markup, are codes which are added to websites to provide search engines with in-depth information about your products, your business offering, prices of your products, location-based offerings and much more.
According to ACMQUEUE, a measly 31.3 percent of websites use schema markup, and most of these on a very basic level. Schema markup on your websites make your business stand out in the SERP with things like rich snippets, which in turn will boost your CTR.
There are various options for businesses when implementing Schema markup, you can optimize your website according to your business type (dentist, travel agency, etc.), events (business listing in upcoming events) and location (location markup).
Google is forcing marketers to use schema markup and is rewarding websites who use this feature as structured data helps crawlers understand your web pages and the content in it. To check if your website is optimized for Schema markup, you can check out Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
The above points are a drop in the ocean for optimizing for local SEO, but implementing the points above will have you generating results and better conversion rates.