Today, companies cannot ignore the impact of SEO (search engine optimization) on their overall brand identity as a company, product, or service. As more customers are making decisions after doing research on the Web, SEO has become a vital part of a company’s continuing marketing and branding efforts in the digital space.
To kick start 2012, we have partnered with Pear Analytics, a company that specializes in search engine marketing services and software applications, analytics and testing to maximize conversions, to help you with your continuing marketing efforts.
In this eTip, we interviewed Ryan Kelly, founder and CEO of Pear Analytics, on solving the puzzle on SEO.
BMC: What is your experience in SEO and how did you get started?
Kelly: I got started in SEO back around 2003 or so while I was actually working at a different company. Google was really only five years old and search was becoming an integral part of marketing campaigns, and was also starting to be sold with web design and development. Back then, Flash sites were hot, so we used to sell a Flash site which was, of course “flashy,” and then a separate HTML site that was meant for search engines. Remember when you would go to a site and it would have the “Flash” and “HTML” option on the landing page? Also back then, keyword stuffing actually worked. Since then, we’ve helped over 200 customers with their organic search strategy, including Career Builder, PEER 1 Hosting, Pendaflex, and many small businesses too.
BMC: What are some myths about SEO and the reality of it?
Kelly: One big myth is that by creating lots of pages (even automating the creation of pages), we will have more pages in Google’s index, and therefore, I will have a higher probability of being found. This is false. We’ve seen certain websites engage in this tactic, whereby they create thousands of pages that they “think” are great for search engines, but in reality are not really useful to the visitor. This could lead to duplicate content, “thin” content pages, or even spider traps which make it difficult for Googlebot to access all of your pages. This is not a strategy I would recommend, even for large sites. Focus on creating really good, useful content and make sure your site architecture is clean, and flat. In other words, it shouldn’t take more than two, three clicks max to get to any content page on your website.
Another huge myth we encounter is that somehow, your spending with Google Adwords is going to someway improve your organic rankings. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Popular Google search engineer, Matt Cutts, confirms this in his quick video here. I’ve seen other SEO companies out there use this in their pitch to new customers, saying things like “we spend X with Google every month, so we have a relationship that allows us to improve your rankings faster than anyone else.”
BMC: What five steps can a company take to get started on the right track regarding SEO?
Kelly: Step 1: Identify the keywords you want to target. Many companies end up “guessing” only to find out the keywords they chose have too low search volume, or convert horribly. If this sounds like your scenario, you could try running an experimental Adwords campaign to see which keywords tend to convert better than others. Use these in your SEO campaign. Also, it’s important that you identify the kind of keyword you are targeting and which part of the marketing or sales funnel it is in. The three stages in the funnel are Awareness, Consideration and Purchase. An example of each might be “what is cloud hosting” (awareness), “cloud hosting vs. managed hosting” (consideration), “cloud hosting prices” (purchase) – each will have a different conversion rate, right?
Step 2: Reverse engineer your competitors. Analyzing what your competition is doing to beat you in the search results can provide insights as to what you need to do in order to move up. Ninety percent of the time, or more, it has to do with the link profile of the other competing sites. They may have more quality links from places of higher trust than you do. Or, maybe they have more social influence than you do, which is now a big factor in rankings.
Step 3: Ensure your site structure (or architecture) is organized per the keywords you’d like to target. Poor site structure is what ends up hurting the majority of the sites we work on, so we take care in creating a site map structure that is beneficial for search. Another tip is that if you have a blog, you will get more SEO benefit by having it in a root folder (i.e. website.com/blog) versus a sub domain (i.e. blog.website.com). And NEVER host it on a platform outside of your domain, like Blogger, Typepad, etc. Here is great article on why.
Step 4: Create a content roadmap, or calendar. You need to be adding quality content to your site as often as possible. This not only ensures Google will come back and crawl for new content often, but will ensure visitors come back too. There is a lot to be said about creating content to position yourself or your company as a thought leader in your space. This will undoubtedly bring a steady stream of leads and prospects for you in the long run.
Step 5: Keep working it. SEO is not a “set it and forget it” mentality. Some site owners want to do a one-time fix and make their site more “SEO friendly,” but frankly, you’re just getting started. SEO is not a silver bullet, but a long-term lead generation strategy. If you want leads tonight – buy Adwords.
BMC: What are the three most common mistakes you have seen companies make when it comes to SEO?
Kelly: I guess the top mistake is actually not investing enough resources into SEO. Many companies are hooked on the Google Adowrds koolaid, and can’t get off of it in fear that they will collapse their lead flow. The Fortune 500 are spending $1.2 billion annually on Adwords because their SEO sucks (see this report by Conductor).
Another common mistake is creating junk content, or “spun” content. Always ask yourself if the content you are posting to your site is ultimately going to help someone, or answer someone’s questions. One of the most popular blogs on our site is the detailed instructional post of how to properly do a 301 redirect on different server setups.
BMC: Last words of wisdom regarding SEO
Kelly: Remember to think about the mobile implications of your SEO strategy. I spoke at a conference in Chicago last year and discussed “5 Things You Need to Consider for Mobile SEO”. You can download the presentation here.
Also, if you’re going through a site redesign, or overhaul, we compiled a list of 29 Badass SEO Tips just for you.
Ryan Kelly is the founder and CEO of Pear Analytics, a company based in San Antonio, Texas with offices in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that specializes in search engine marketing services, software applications, analytics, and testing to maximize conversions. Current and past customers include Rackspace, PEER 1 Hosting, Grasshopper, CareerBuilder.com and more.