Search Engine Optimization - the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic from search engines - plays a vital role in the success of your business's online (and as a knock-on effect, offline) presence.
A well-optimized site will help you to appear further up the pecking order when it comes to people searching for what you're offering – but with limited internal resources, how can you squeeze the most out of your SEO strategy?
In this article, our agency specialists discuss the foundations you need to have in place before you start and offer practical tips on how to improve your SEO strategy.
In this article
- What do marketers need to have in place before embarking on improving their SEO strategy?
- Common misconceptions about improving a business’s SEO
- 10 Practical Pieces of Advice for Improving your SEO Strategy
- Exploring the benefits of using a marketing agency to help improve a brand’s SEO strategy
What do marketers need to have in place before embarking on improving their SEO strategy?
Just like a house, you need to have certain foundations in place before building out a marketing strategy, and SEO is no exception.
We asked our experts what needs to be considered before embarking on improving your SEO strategy.
#1 - Internal buy-in
SEO will touch nearly every team within your organisation, from Marketing through to IT and development, and the likelihood is that you’re going to require support from every department (or external partner) at one stage or another to be successful.
We find our most successful clients have that conversation with colleagues early on, defining the vision for digital and helping them to understand the importance of getting things signed off and implemented."
#2 – Knowledge of the customer’s needs
“You need to understand their search behaviour, their expectations, and their intent. This will guide you in creating the best content possible for your potential customers.
Google is also increasing its focus on UX when ranking websites, i.e., site speed and mobile optimisation. Getting this right is a centrally important part of strong SEO performance.”
According to research by WebFX, 75% of website creditability comes from the overall design of a site and 74% of audiences are likely to return to a site when it is optimised for mobile.
#3 - An adaptable website
“It's really important that you can implement recommended changes, whether they be technical, or content led. Developer buy-in can make a big difference to the effectiveness of an SEO strategy.”
#4 – Having as much authority as possible
Introduced in 2013 and updated within Google’s core algorithm in August 2019, Google provides insight on how to produce the best content for a site, known as “E-A-T” that stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
These three considerations should be always at the forefront of any content marketing strategy to ensure that Google understands that your business should rank based on E-A-T. This ranges from describing a business as a whole and a service or product it sells, to the people involved in the business and how they are an authority on the subject.”
#5 – Take stock of internal resources
Amanda Walls, Director of Cedarwood Digital tells us that before embarking on improving an SEO strategy, “it helps for marketers to have a clear understanding of their goals and keywords/focus areas which are driving converting users.
While blogs and blog traffic are great for brand awareness, we need to be realist about where the sales and leads are coming from. This means understanding where the high intent and high value users are, which keywords they’re searching for, and which pages they are utilising, so we can nurture them within the conversion funnel.”
Remember what you need to have in place before improving your SEO strategy:
- Internal buy-in
- Knowledge of the customer’s needs
- An adaptable website
- Having as much authority as possible
- Take stock of resources
What are some of the most common misconceptions you have come across about improving a business’s SEO?
Over time, many misconceptions about SEO have appeared. Things like ‘everyone can do SEO,’ and ‘if you’re not seeing immediate results, there’s something wrong,’ resurface again and again, and if you fall victim to them, they can do damage to your current marketing strategy.
To clear things up, we asked our experts to disprove some of the most common misconceptions they’ve seen about SEO.
Hannah Thorpe – Verkeer
“That SEO is simply for robots; that we’re all sat there frantically coding some secret SEO magic into the back of a website.”
“SEO is more about users than most marketing channels. SEO is about having the right foundations for Google to crawl to support exceptional content written for the right audience.
It’s about predicting what the audience is going to want before they know it themselves.
There’s no SEO magic that enables you to pick a single keyword and appear top for it without putting the work into your customer research and content production.”
Andrew Doyle – Crafted
“SEO is a one-time activity.”
“SEO is an ongoing strategy that needs continual effort, refocusing, and investment to be successful.”
Dave Gayson - M3 Agency
“SEO is about appearing at the top of Google for a single, high-volume keyword.”
“While that's important and will have an impact, traffic and revenue is often driven from thousands of keywords and variations.
So rather than focusing too much on a single keyword, we tend to find a more scalable approach works better.”
Alex Moss – Firecask
“It’s only good to rank for certain terms.”
“You should consider quicker wins through more specific search terms - known as “long tail” keywords.
Being able to rank for a wider range of less competitive, but more specific keywords allows you to attract a higher quality of visitor who will likely convert at a better and more successful rate.”
Amanda Walls - Cedarwood Digital
“The more content you have, the better your SEO will be.”
“This is wholly untrue and in fact, if that content is deemed to be thin or of little relevance to the user, it could in fact be harming your website’s SEO performance.
Adding new content everyday won’t necessarily make your website perform better, nor will making pages a certain length - the focus should be on answering the users questions, intent and purpose and depending on the industry that could be a long or short process.”
10 Practical Pieces of Advice for Improving your SEO Strategy
Now that you know what to avoid in terms of misconceptions, here are ten things you can easily action to help in improving your current SEO efforts.
#1 – Be proactive about site health
“Once you’ve got the site into good technical health, people often stop looking. You’d be surprised how much small changes can have a big impact so set up a monitoring process for site changes and run a health check once a month.” – Hannah Thorpe
#2 – Optimise your images for speed
According to research by WebFX, 39% of audiences will leave a site if images won’t load or take too long to appear.
“Slow loading images are bad for SEO as well as UX, so ensure you websites images a fully optimised.
Crop the image to an appropriate display size, choose the best image file format and compress the image before uploading it to the website. Also, use true responsive image serving so mobile users only download the images appropriate to their screen size to keep performance optimum.” – Andrew Doyle
#3 – Optimise metadata
“Use your keyword research to optimise your metadata across existing pages. This will help target these terms without the front end being impacted.” – Dave Gayson
#4 – Utilise web caching for your website where possible
“Web caching is the activity of storing data for reuse, such as a copy of a web page served by a web server. It is cached or stored the first time a user visits the page and the next time a user requests the same page, a cache will serve the copy, which helps keep the origin server from getting overloaded.
Joining Cloudflare (free) and connecting your site to it is the easiest method to get started here.” – Alex Moss
#5 – Implement Google Search Console
“Google Search Console can give you invaluable insight into your website’s SEO performance.
It can highlight which keywords are driving traffic to your website, allow you to understand how your website is being crawled and highlight any potential errors that Google is encountering on your website - this is invaluable information for improving performance.” – Amanda Walls
#6 – Make the most of your content
“Refresh old content that’s still in demand regularly, redirect out of date content and improve on articles with potential which aren’t working for you.
Introducing things like Q & A formats to optimise for People Also Ask in the search results or adding a section of internal links to related content can help a piece start to perform quickly.” – Hannah Thorpe
#7 – Create a ‘Google My Business’ Page
“Local intent is often a key part of a user's search query, so ensure you have created and fully optimised your Google My Business page. This will allow for optimal SEO performance across local intent searches and Google map results.” – Andrew Doyle
#8 – Carry out keyword research
66% of consumers do research online before making a purchase – online or instore.
“Find out what your audience is searching before optimising. This knowledge can prove useful in multiple scenarios.” – Dave Gayson
#9 – Ensure your external profiles are claimed and active
“This includes social media profiles that should be consistent where possible (use knowem.com for social handle checks) and that you are in control of your business listings such as Google Business Profile, Yelp and so on.” – Alex Moss
#10 – Check your site speed
“Use free tools such as Google’s Page Speed Insights to understand areas where your website might be slow.
By identifying this, you may identify legacy products which have been implemented that are slowing your website down, or potentially quick wins that you can update to improve speed - this will help your performance in Google’s Core Web Vitals algorithm.” – Amanda Walls
Remember the 10 pieces of practical advice for boosting your SEO strategy:
- Be proactive about site health
- Optimise your images for speed
- Optimise metadata
- Utilise web caching for your website where possible
- Implement Google Search Console
- Make the most of your content
- Create a ‘Google My Business’ page
- Carry out keyword research
- Ensure your external profiles are claimed and active
- Check your site speed
Exploring the benefits of using a marketing agency to help improve a brand’s SEO strategy
To implement the above takes time, and we know that internal resource (especially in Marketing) can often be limited. Luckily, as you can see from our experts here, there are plenty of external resources available that can help boost your SEO strategy to its full potential.
Here are some of the benefits an external partner can bring:
Marketing agencies stay up to date with the latest changes
Due to SEO being a broad channel to work within, Hannah believes it is difficult to find someone who has the technical expertise alongside creative thinking to execute multiple campaigns at once.
“Even if they do have the skills, having the time to do it all is even less likely!
Agencies help you to get all those skills to support your business, as they’ll allow you to move resources from a technical manager to a creative one and your support flexes to your needs.
They’re also in the midst of SEO, day in, day out which means they often have a better feel for what’s going on across multiple industries. It’s their job to stay up to date with the latest changes so they can bring forward thinking to your digital strategy.”
Marketing agencies have a wider skillset
According to Andrew, a marketing agency is likely to have a wider skillset that can be utilised to improve SEO performance, such as copywriting, outreach, CRO, UX, data analysis, development, design and much more.
“Having this mix of specialists at your fingertips means they can work for you on an integrated strategy that drives maximum results.”
Marketing agencies can prioritise your SEO strategy
For Dave, it’s all about prioritisation.
“It's easy to get lost in the number of tools, information, and data out there. Running a website through an SEO tool will provide hundreds of actions. An agency will know which actions are likely to drive results and which are more likely to be 'vanity metrics.’”
Think of a marketing agency as part of your own marketing team
“SEO has evolved in the past 10 years and has widened to require a number of varied skills in online marketing,” explains Alex.
“From technical SEO to social media management, digital PR to conversion rate optimisation - online marketing requires a very wide and varied skill set to improve a brand’s SEO strategy on a wider scale.
As such, agencies really work well as they will have team members all with their own strengths to bring to the table. Think of an agency as part of your marketing team that will help you raise visibility for the brand to help increase sales.”
Marketing agencies have connections and resources to get your campaigns running
Finally, Amanda advises that agencies have the resource and connections to help you get your campaigns off the ground.
“In Digital PR, specifically having the right structure and contacts is very important and agencies will be able to get your press releases in front of the right journalists to get the coverage that you need after building up years’ worth of relationship experience with them.”
Start 2023 with confidence! If you’re starting to assess your marketing needs for the new year, let us know your requirements and one of our senior team will be in touch to offer free, impartial advice.