The 4 Steps to SEO Success

It is inevitable, when a new client comes to us to talk about web design and Internet marketing, that the conversation will eventually turn to search engine optimization. SEO isn’t just the most reliable, efficient, and profitable way to bring targeted visitors to your website. It is also the cornerstone of most lead generation campaigns.

If you are online, then you’re probably looking for ways to attract buyers from Google and the other engines.

While virtually all business owners and marketing executives are looking for ways of measuring SEO success however, not many of them have actually taken the time to consider what that success might look like. They know they want to be more visible on Google and other search portals, but that’s a very thin definition of victory. How many keywords will they need to rank well for? What steps were taken to ensure those search terms with the right ones to target in the first place? And just as importantly, what happens after searchers arrive at the website?

These are the kinds of questions that often go unasked and unanswered in web design consultations. In the rush to get to the front of the SEO pack, it’s easy to blow past the details and fine print that matter when measuring seo success. When you don’t know exactly what you’re trying to create, though, you leave yourself open to all kinds of unproductive processes and underwhelming results.

With that in mind, we’re going to shed a bit of light on what it takes to build, execute, and maintain a successful search engine optimization campaign. Let’s take a closer look at the four important steps to SEO success…

measuring seo success Infographic

#1 Identifying Your Target Market

With all the talk about things like keyword density and link strength floating around online these days, it’s easy to forget that search engine optimization is essentially just another form of marketing. And like any marketing strategy, measuring SEO success requires the right mix between message, medium, and audience.

So many companies focus on the technical aspects when measuring seo success buy they haven’t really thought about what kind of population they are bringing their message to, or what sort of offers they have to entice them to take action. In other words, they give all of their attention to numbers and percentages without thinking of the overall goal.

Before you do anything to enhance the search visibility of your website, you should know exactly what kinds of buyers you need to attract in the first place. You should know what they look like demographically, what their biggest needs or motivators are, and how you can solve their problems with your products and services. You should also have a sense of why they would decide to do business with you instead of one of your competitors.

Without that kind of perspective, no other piece of your search engine optimization campaign can work in a coherent way. You’ll just be stabbing at best practices and algorithms without knowing what it is you want to see happen, or why it should happen in the first place.

After you know your market – and your place in it – you can further zero in on the buyers you need to reach through extensive keyword research. This again is another part of the process new clients like to skip over. They are eager to “do” SEO, and feel sure that means lots of technical work. So, when we advise them to analyze different search terms and strategies, they get frustrated with a lack of pace and progress.

Given the long-term nature of an SEO campaign, though, simply barging ahead without an effective plan or strategy just isn’t a good idea. It’s going to lead to wasted time and money, which no organization can afford. It doesn’t matter whether you have a fortune 500 budget or working out of your garage; if you aren’t making the most of your resources, it won’t be long before competitors are catching you on Google. That’s why we make keyword and search term research a cornerstone of every campaign we begin.

It’s no use targeting a given phrase if your customers aren’t looking for it online. Additionally, it’s important to evaluate the level of competition that exists for a given set of keywords or phrases before targeting. There might be areas where you can make immediate inroads and see a positive ROI on your search visibility campaign within a few weeks. Overlook those opportunities and it might take you years to climb through the search rankings, particularly if you are in a highly competitive field.

In the same way, you can’t afford to confuse search volume with buying intent. Some phrases get lots of searches, but only because they are the first ones that come to mind for individuals conducting general research, or might be automatically suggested by Google. If they aren’t going to result in actual conversions, you could end up in a worst-case scenario: a high-competition search market that’s going to yield very low results.

Another way to say this is that companies should focus their fire in the places where it’s likely to have the most impact. That usually means finding search terms for moderate competition and a high probability of leading to completed sales or inquiries.

Identifying your market, both demographically and in terms of their search behavior, is a crucial first step towards building a successful search engine optimization campaign. This is an easy step to overlook, but it’s the one that sets the stage for more search visits and bottom-line results down the road.

#2 Creating a Content Marketing Plan

It’s amazing how many marketers will invest in search engine optimization training and consultation while at the same time ignoring one key element in measuring SEO success which is content creation. That’s like buying a race horse and hoping it will bring in prize money but being unwilling to actually feed it.

Topical, professional, and timely content is the fuel that runs your search engine optimization campaigns. The more pages and posts you have on your website, the more relevance and authority you earn within Google’s search algorithm. The ideas on your site tell search engines (and visitors) what your pages and business are all about. If that content is missing, or doesn’t stack up to what your competitors are posting, then you are essentially earning an incomplete grade from an SEO perspective. There’s no substance worth directing searchers toward.

There are essentially three ways you can improve your content profile within the pages of your website itself. The first is by simply adding more static content, or bulking up the text you have already. If you don’t already have a strong “about us” description, some insightful FAQs, or other pieces of standard content, now is the time to start writing. A second way is to update the content you already have. You don’t want to move things around for no reason, but keeping your pages fresh is a good way to signal to Google and the other engines that your website is current.

The third way to add new pages and ideas to your site is through ongoing blog posts or news items. Lots of businesses commit to blogging when they first began a new search engine optimization campaign, but give it up when they discover it isn’t easy to generate new articles every week, particularly if those articles need to be researched, proofread, and tied into the company’s industry.

A tried-and-true answer to this conundrum is to meet with your team on a regular basis to develop an editorial calendar going forward. Decide weeks or months in advance in which topics you’ll address on your blog, and assign the content creation to specific employees or outside vendors. That way, you’ll never be stuck at the last minute staring at a blank screen looking for something to post online.

We should also note that not everything you put on your blog has to be written. Video posts, photos, and even audio clips can all be used to promote new ideas. And, Google’s automated search software has gotten much better at transcribing sound and picking up words out of images. Unlike in the past, using non-text media can actually enhance your search positioning.

There could also be value in creating content that doesn’t live on your own website. While guest posting has fallen out of vogue in many SEO circles, creating a strong online reputation – and a few high-quality back links to your website – can only help your business to grow.

Regardless of how you are getting it done, new content needs to be added to your website on a continual basis. This is the engine that drives your search visibility campaign forward, and it’s a prerequisite for measuring seo success and all of the technical work you want to see your web design team get into. Things like internal links and H1 codes only matter if you have a continual stream of new thoughts coming through your blog and webpages. Otherwise, you’re just moving the same pieces of furniture around the room again and again.

Creating a content marketing plan means you know what you’re aiming for and have a defined set of steps in place that will lead you in the right direction. If you’re simply blogging occasionally, or taking a quick look at your existing pages once a year for a website audit, you can’t be surprised when Google sends the buyers you want to win towards competitors who are doing a better job of promoting themselves. If you’re serious about earning a top search position, you had better be just as serious about embracing content creation.

#3 Generating Inbound Conversions

As important as it is to have potential customers coming to your website through Google and the other search engines, that activity isn’t helpful to your company (or even the searchers themselves) unless it leads to some kind of measurable action. In other words, there’s no reason to worry about traffic if you aren’t generating conversions. Even if you have millions of “hits” on your website per day, that won’t add anything to your business bank account.

So, in order to make your search engine optimization campaigns pay off, you have to have a tool in place for generating inbound conversions. Here at MicroD, we emphasize the importance of building sales funnels with all of our clients. That’s because they turn website visits into valuable sales opportunities.

Sales funnels work off of an easy formula. First, you identify a target market, just as we’ve already suggested. Then, you create content – along with ads, social activity, etc. – to draw in those targeted buyers to your website. And finally, you generate some kind of offer that convinces the visitor to take the next step.

That offer could be an ebook, a free account review, a downloadable app, or something else altogether. What matters is that it’s relevant to the market you are trying to zero in on, and that it have value to potential buyers. In essence, they are trading information (usually an email address, phone number, or other contact details) in order to get access to the thing you’re offering.

When you consider the transaction that’s taking place at the moment a buyer responds to your offer, it’s important to see why what you’re giving has to have value to them, not just your marketing department. To put it another way, the more you give search engine visitors who arrive at your website, the easier it’s going to be to convince them to move forward.

Know that, depending on the specific sales environment you’re working in, your offer might not be a single item or download. In fact, it could be several different pieces or steps working in tandem to convince a prospect that you have the solutions they’re looking for. Conversely, it could even demonstrate that certain buyers aren’t a good fit for your products or services, keeping them from wasting time that could be spent following up or negotiating with others who are more likely to complete a purchase.

Either way,  when measuring seo success your campaigns should be built with a specific roadmap of activities in mind. You should have some idea of where customers went to find your website, which themes or messages they’ll be exposed to once they do, and the all-important next step you’ll want them to take afterward. Then, you could have a series of automated follow-ups or subsequent offers that draw them deeper into your sales funnel and qualify them as potential buyers.

It’s likely that you’ll have to design and refine the sales process on a few different occasions. The more you study your web analytics, the easier it will be to pick out trends and opportunities that have to be maximized. This is certainly true of any step in your search engine optimization campaign, but it’s particularly crucial when it comes to generating sales opportunities from inbound visits. The goal at this stage of the game is to turn the highest possible percentage of page views into chances that earn new revenue.

You’ll notice at this point that everything we are recommending draws back on the two earlier steps. You can’t create compelling offers for visitors if you don’t know enough about their demographics and motivation. Likewise, it’s crucial that you have a functional content marketing plan before your sales funnel will yield any results.

On the other side of the coin, the first two steps in measuring SEO success are meaningless if they don’t yield actionable conversions. Without a working sales funnel, you’re leaving conversions to random chance. That’s no way to get the most from SEO.

#4 Embracing Thought Leadership

You could argue that this report shows stopped after the last point. If you have a well-researched search engine optimization campaign, a process of producing content that results in weekly posts, and an established sales funnel that takes prospects from the first contact to the finished sale, you’re going to see improvements in your bottom line… and be miles ahead of most of your competitors.

And yet, we would argue that measuring SEO success should be geared towards making you the thought leader in your industry, or at least the segment of it that you are targeting. That’s because it’s the natural byproduct of ongoing content creation, and that it brings some bigger-picture benefits that can’t be gained in any other way.

When you are continually releasing relevant, high-quality content to your customers, you start to develop a reputation and a specific point of view. Each of those gives you a big advantage over competitors who might have more generic content and marketing plans. It puts you in a position where you aren’t just the company with the best search position, but also unmatched levels of trust and brand recognition within your field.

That kind of position becomes self-sustaining over time. While other competitors can work to push out more content or keep optimizing their own pages, it gets harder for them to catch you when you have intangibles on your side. It’s no longer simply about search terms and links anymore; now your business is a source of new ideas, practical answers, and unique viewpoints.

It’s usually at this stage in the game that a business goes from being successful strictly with search engine optimization to also making a heavy footprint in social media, email, and other Internet marketing channels. That’s because more people are aware of them, and are receptive to hearing from them. Success in one area starts to make progress easier in all the others. And once again, it all comes from a simple willingness to go above and beyond when it comes to producing content. You might start by generating posts or videos to draw traffic from Google, but you end up sharing information and advice that is invaluable.

If this all sounds a bit abstract, you should note that there are ongoing SEO benefits that come with being a thought leader, too. When your posts are well-written and reflect a unique point of view, for example, they generate comments, shares, and other activities. Google uses these as search signals, and continues to crawl all the new text that is being added to every page. Also, the feedback you receive from readers and prospects can point you towards new keywords, topics, and inspirations.

Perhaps most importantly, becoming a thought leader makes your website a destination for search traffic. In other words, customers will start looking for you and your products by name instead of searching for generic industry terms. They want your content, so they look for it specifically. That puts you in a position where you can cut out the competition altogether.

It can take months or years to become a thought leader in your business, and it requires not only a sense of who your audience is but what you can offer them that no one else can. If you make this kind of content marketing a priority, though, it can lead to a complete domination of the search results for your industry. And really, given the stakes, why should any marketer aim for anything less?

Are Your Search Engine Optimization Campaigns Working?

Now that you know the four key steps to measuring seo success, the question you should ask yourself is clear: how closely are you following them? Or more to the point, what kinds of results are you getting from your existing budgets and campaigns?

Your website doesn’t exist to simply sit online. If you want to profit from your online presence, you have to have a steady flow of targeted visitors coming your way. Unfortunately, that’s not something a lot of web design teams are going to help you with. They might institute the basics, but then you’re on your own for ongoing advice and cutting-edge ideas.

At MicroD, we have built our reputation on the success of others. We approach topics like search engine optimization with bottom-line improvement in mind. If your company isn’t doing better than it was before, we want to help you make the corrections and adjustments you need. Take this opportunity to reach out to our SEO fir right now and schedule a free consultation. In less than an hour, you might just find out exactly what you’ll need to take your business to a whole new level!