Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has changed dramatically over the past few years with technology advancements, new marketing trends and Google implementing frequent algorithm updates. Coupled with this, consumers are now avid researchers, often turning to ‘Google it’ at numerous times of the sales cycle before they make a decision.
For this very reason, gaining prime real estate on page 1 Google is worth doing the ‘hard-yards’ for. Investing in organic SEO is perhaps one of the most powerful ways to turn your website into a traffic magnet and make it stay that way longterm. And unlike Search Engine Marketing (paid ads on google), SEO can bring traffic to your site without the big spend.
There is no denying that there’s a science behind getting SEO right. At times it can seem almost impossible due to increasing competition for the front page, especially if you are new to the digital marketing space. This is why I’ve done some of the hard work for you and interviewed one of the experts in the field for well over a decade – Thomas Green, Director of Mindful Growth Hacker, to help you get a grasp on SEO and better understand how you can use it to increase the quantity and quality of your business leads.
What is SEO
Search Engine Optimisation or SEO refers to activity that aims to increase traffic to your website from organic search results and improve your search engine rankings – not from paid traffic like Adwords. SEO is a digital marketing tactic that can (if done effectively!) increase the visibility of your website and subsequently the number of visits and conversions on your site.
By implementing SEO tactics, you make it easier for Google to understand the content on your website and if it is of quality, present it higher in the search results for users wanting to find answers.
“SEO really is about making sure that you are better presented for the search engines so that your customers have a better experience and can find you. It ultimately delivers you more customers and more inquiries.” – Thomas Green, Director of Mindful Growth Hacker.
Why SEO is a worthy investment
Organic traffic accounts for a greater market share
Organic search on average equates to 95% of your total online traffic. Paid search (Adwords, PPC) however, equates to around 5% of your traffic. So longterm your traffic will increase more proportionally if you spend time attracting visitors using SEO (95% of your total traffic) as opposed to solely focusing on paid activities to boost traffic results.
SEO produces greater results long term
While SEM (Search Engine Marketing) can be great for targeting specific words and positioning your ad above your competitors in the short term – the reality is that this is a pay per play platform. Your website will only appear above other search results for as long as you are investing money in this space. Once you turn off your Adwords campaign, you no longer hold this position.
On the contrary, results obtained from implementing effective SEO tactics can be prolonged. By continuously optimising your site and putting effort into creating a positive user experience Google will reward you. The more visible your website becomes, the more times people looking for your content will find you. Your website will naturally keep rising up the search results page as it becomes more and more popular.
The higher you are on the page, the higher your Click Through Rate
Google wants to present the most relevant websites to help resolve searchers queries – this is why Google ranks websites in accordance to relevance and quality of content. The greatest benefit of SEO is that if you do all you can to provide a high quality, informative website, you will naturally appear above and rank higher than your competitors. It’s important to aim for page 1 as this is where you are likely to have a higher Click Through Rate (CTR). An ever so slight move to page 2 slims your chances of a click through dramatically because most people give up after scanning all the options on page 1.
It’s a cost saver
With SEO you can improve your websites search ranking for free. It makes sense that this is the perfect way to not only improve your digital performance by increasing the traffic to your website but also improve your users experience with your brand online.
You’re losing out to the competition if you’re not doing it
There’s no doubt other companies within your industry are taking advantage of the wonderful unicorn that is SEO. This is why continuous monitoring and improving your SEO strategy is essential. If you are not implementing at least some SEO tactics, you are likely falling behind the competition and most likely falling beyond page 2 (and let’s face it, nobody wants to be on page 2).
Keeping up with Google
Google is committed to improving user experience and is constantly updating it’s algorithm to deliver higher quality search results. Since 2014 alone there have been 15 major new updates. When it comes to SEO, keeping up to date with these changes is a great way to stay ahead of the game. Remember SEO should never be a set and forget process. You should be reviewing, evaluating and optimising your SEO performance regularly to ensure your website is performing well and not being penalised by Google in any way.
Perhaps one of the most important updates is Google’s latest. It was released this year and is referred to as Fred. If your ranking has dropped since March 2017, Fred could be the reason.
Google Fred is primarily a content update that focuses on the quality and relevance of content. As the popularity of content marketing has increased – so has the amount of poor quality content out there on the internet, providing searchers with little to no value.
This update targets the bad tactics being used by organisations as part of aggressive monetisation attempts. In addition to poor content – sites overloaded with ads, dodgy links or that have little user benefit are being penalised by Fred.
Optimising for Google Fred
First of all, keep a focus on SEO as a method to improve your customers experience not just to rank well with Google. This is why Google has implemented tougher updates. They push website owners to improve their users experience online. Fred is mainly about authentic and valuable content.
Here are a few ways you can optimise your site for Google Fred:
- Ensure your website is quick to load. (AMP can help)
- Build the reputation of your site – this includes user reviews, expert testimonials, and authority backlinks.
- Maintain a user-first focus: keep user experience in mind for every page of your website (from structuring, to the type of content you display – keep it high quality and optimised – think what’s important to me as a customer)
- Produce quality content: it may take time and effort but it is a critical factor Google is now watching.
Advice from SEO expert – Thomas Green, Director of Mindful Growth Hacker
Working within the world of SEO for over a decade, Thomas Green has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the digital marketing space, helping clients to optimise their online presence, increase their websites traffic and conversion rates. Recently I had the pleasure of catching up with Thomas for a one on one interview to discuss all things SEO. The entire interview can be found below. It may seem long, but it is packed with value and well worth the read!
How did you get into the SEO space?
I got into the SEO space really by accident back in 2004 when I was in London and I was just selling to HSBC Enterprise Software and somehow we were in a meeting and one of their heads of IT just asked me, “What do you know about this SEO thing? Can you help me? I don’t really know what it is.” And as it happened, one of my friends was just setting up a new agency in London, a digital agency which then ultimately went on to be world domineering in the SEO space. So that was the first time that I pitched in and developed an SEO contract with HSBC. So, I’ve been in this space for well over 10 years now which is long time in SEO.
How do you keep up-to-date with SEO and further develop your SEO skills?
There are a few people I tend to follow and there are a few websites which are very good at SEO too. There are two that really stand out to me – SEO Moz has a beginners guide to SEO and Search Engine Land There are quite a few of these which are really well known for SEO content. I have also developed a lot of my SEO skills purely through testing with trial and error. This involves not just the live website work that we do with our clients but also work that we do where we create a website and then test it to see how it ranks, sometimes trialling a range of things just to find out what the penalty will be. Actually testing and measuring what words are going to work on our project infrastructure is a really important part of what we do.
Would you say SEO is a tailored approach for every single client? Do some SEO tactics work for some clients but not for others?
Absolutely! Yes, it tends to be industry related. Depending on what you sell and/or what industry you’re in, the SEO tactics that you use will be different. For example if you’re selling clothes online then you would be using different SEO tactics to market your site versus if you are somebody who is in industrial business to business. So, really different tactics and approaches work depending on whether your in the B2C business or B2B business.
“Depending on what you sell and/or what industry you’re in, the SEO tactics that you use will be different.”
What’s the biggest mistake you see people make when it comes to SEO?
You mean apart from employing the services of people and companies that never deliver? This is actually a huge problem that a lot of people really struggle with – paying for SEO and getting nothing for their money.
They spend all this money and don’t actually know what they’re getting for it. Most of the time they don’t know whether the person, company or individual are charging too much, not enough or whether they’re actually doing any work at all. It’s a really hard space. To actually get value for your money is hard for people who may not know much about this space. (Unless of course, you have an expert like myself establish the mechanism to measure effectiveness and ROI.)
Often the biggest mistake is that because there are so many people offering assistance at such cheap prices, when somebody comes along and knows what they’re doing and they offer it at a price which is seemingly a lot more money than what all the others charge, they go, “Oh God. That’s expensive!” when in actual fact — that’s the right price for the job but everybody else is charging them for not doing anything.
The decision then lies in whether people want to invest in something really cheap that doesn’t actually give you anything in return versus something that you invest a lot more in but get a hefty return from. That’s probably the number 1 mistake that people make but I guess that’s not really SEO. It’s more of a pitfall that people fall into when looking for cheap help and not being informed enough to make a quality decision).
The number 1 mistake within SEO itself is actually just trying to trick the search engines, as opposed to actually doing what is in the best interest of your customer and having a medium to long-term business strategy to develop the value you deliver in the long-term. A lot of clients go, “What’s the quick fix? What can I do now to generate lots of traffic that’s going to be a hack that’s going to get people to my website, that’s going to grow my business tenfold in the next 5 minutes?” As opposed to, “What are my customers looking for and how do I best serve them with the content they are after?”
What SEO tactic would you say is most powerful in terms of getting results?
It really depends on where you’re already at. If you are versed in AdWords, you understand your keywords and you know which keywords are converting for you in terms of inquiries and/or sales or whatever your commercial objective is, then using those keywords in your title tags, header tags, your body copy and writing content is super important. Getting those content pieces syndicated out by your most respected publications in whatever industry you’re in is a good practice.
If you don’t know your keywords, the top hack really is using AdWords to test your keywords out – unless, of course, you’re an expert where you’ve had years of experience in going, “You know what? These are keywords that work. These are keywords that won’t work. This is what has commercial intent. This is what has more discovery intent. But, if you don’t have that knowledge, then really, the cheapest and easiest, most efficient way is (in real time) putting budget into testing this keyword and that keyword, and evaluating whether they get you any hits to your website? And whether that traffic then converts?
You need to ask yourself – is it because of the keyword that visitors are not converting? Or is it the website that’s not converting, you know? And, a lot of people say, “Well, it’s sending me traffic to the website but I’m not getting inquiries.” Well, that’s because when the people went on your website, your website looks like a dog’s breakfast, so people go, “Well, why should I trust you being able to tile my floor, wash my windows or develop a corporate strategy for my business when your website looks like it was done by a 3-year-old?”
That’s probably a bit harsh, but you know, often that’s very true. The biggest mistake we see is when people go, “Well, actually I’m a really premium luxury service. I may be 3 times more the cost than anybody else, but that’s because our sun lounges last 10 times longer. They’re much more comfy to sit on” or whatever the product maybe or the service maybe, and then, in their next breath they go, “But what’s the cheapest website?” And there’s a disconnect between the value being perceived and the quality of the product and/or the service that they’re actually delivering. There needs to be an appropriate investment in the communication medium of choice to reflect the company’s perceived or desired position in the marketplace.
“You need to ask yourself – is it because of the keyword that visitors are not converting? Or is it the website that’s not converting?”
How do you know when you’re using the right number of keywords on your website? (e.g. Is there a minimum amount?)
We used to normally go with 10 to 15 keywords to target. And that’s not single keywords. That could be a couple of keywords in a string. So, back to cash loans, 24-hour loans, pay day loans, immediate loans, loans for cash, there might be words structured in a different way, or… there might be, word 1 and then word 2, and they’re all in another keyword string word 2, and then word 1, so you might flip them and they would form different keyword strings.
You don’t really need to get too deep. I know clients that have thousands of keyword variations on their keyword lists and their major keywords list is probably 20-50 keywords. When you’re talking about a lot of keywords, they are all variations of long-tail versions all of the master keyword list. I’ll monitor them all but when you’re starting out, you really need to ask, “What are the top 15-20 search terms people use to find me” and it’s not about, you know, we have to make sure you have 20 keywords on the front page or 15 keywords on the front page, all… you need to keep in mind is what is in the best interest of the end user? What is that client wanting? If I was a client, what would I want when I’m looking for it and what search terms do I use to find whatever it is I am looking for? And how does those keywords add value when in the content in the copy?
Because it’s also around the conversation. When people tend to Google, they’re not necessarily typing the exact keywords instead they are typing an entire question For example: How can I best save money on a cash loan?
Well, absolutely, one of the things that’s most important to bear in mind is 16% of all searches done on Google on a daily basis are unique. Unique from the day before, never been searched before, and, most of those are because they’re colloquial conversational search phrases, and everybody searches differently, and as we progress to more artificial intelligence, more voice search, more voice activation, we’re going to see that become more and more the case.
Do you recommend every business has a blog? I know that content marketing is sort of something that’s really become popular over the last few years. Is this something every business should have?
So I’d say yes, and there’s a caveat. So, the caveat always is don’t do things for the sake of doing them.
Absolutely have a blog yet really the only purpose of having a blog is, again, serving your customers. What does your customer wants to know? They want to know more about your product, more about your service, more about what they’re doing, how can they leverage your product, or just, things that you know, fit in with your product.
If you’re selling luxury swimming pools, you might talk about how to polish tile floors. Not that you sell polished or tile floors, but the people are interested in luxury swimming pools have tile floors generally, and so, just anything that adds value.
A great example of this would be Bunnings and their DIY section. All their content adds value, and at end of that user journey is, “Well, I’ve learnt how to DIY this, and now I need all the ingredients to bake that pie so to speak, and how do I do that? Well, I go and buy them from this shop.”
The worst thing that can happen is you say “We’re gonna arrange a blog and that blog has 2 articles on from 5 years ago. They are completely irrelevant”, Or, you have only sales articles, “The reason why you should buy a luxury swimming pool is because we’re the best in the business.” You know? Just not coming from the customer-centric point of view.
You need to have a content strategy to get the blog focused, as opposed to just having one sitting there for the sake of having one?
Yeah and there’s a lot of people that do it very well, where they’ll hinge their blog post around hot topics in the industry, around content that customers are searching for or need. They might map out the buying cycle of you know, what the people want to know at the beginning of the journey versus what they want to know when they’re deciding which option to take, and they’ll write a blog post as though they are talking to somebody in the retail environment or the business-to-business environment where the sales person’s actually saying, “Well, you’ve got these 3 options of tractor and this why you might choose this engine over that engine or this type of fitment over that type of fitment.” So, the individuals reading these blogs can really gain insight and learning. There has to be a purpose. It’s not just content for content’s sake ’cause again, there’s enough already to be fair.
“There has to be a purpose. It’s not just content for content’s sake ’cause again, there’s enough already to be fair.”
How do you evaluate the effectiveness of your SEO campaign?
This question needs 2 answers.
The first answer will be how do I evaluate the effectiveness of my SEO campaigns and the second question will be, if you’re looking to do a content strategy or an SEO strategy, how might you look at the effectiveness of your SEO campaigns when you might not be doing the same fundamental link-building process as what an outsource specialist would do.
From my point of view, I’ll look at the total number of links. Link loses: How many links are you losing? Link addition: how many links are you gaining? What’s the net link score? I’d look at the quality of the links, you know, where are the links coming from? I’d look at the domains they’re being referred to.
So I’d look at link health, domain and link health, and then the reason why I look at that really is because that gives me a view as to what’s going to happen to your organic traffic levels in the future because you know, if you’re losing links and not rebuilding links and that is not part of a link clear out (detox), the chances are that means it’s gonna affect your organic traffic in the long-term.
However, total new monthly organic traffic, that’s the number 1 score to measure effectiveness. Are more people finding me organically through the search engines? Yes. Then, obviously something’s working well. No. Then, less people are finding me now than last month, so, my visibility is being reduced.
And there’s a secondary set of criteria which is to go, “Okay. What articles are people viewing? Of my content, what are people actually coming to look at? How long they’re staying on that page?” And “how many pages are they going deep?” So, they land on one article, they like the article, which means, they read it for a long time which means they’re dwell on the page a long time, and then they click through to 4 or 5 of the pages, again staying on the page for a long time which gives you an increase length of time on site, gives you a page depth indication like number of pages they look at per session.
All of these details allow you to understand how effective you’re being but they all actually come back at the end of the day to what is the total volume of organic traffic and what’s the trend of your organic traffic.
The caveat to this is though, beware there are individuals and whole villages that you can pay if you’re less scrupulous to literally sit there and click on your website links and go through your website. Just having an increase in organic traffic – “Oh! We doubled organic traffic last month!”- doesn’t necessarily mean that whatever your using works because what you might find is that actually your conversion rate, for sales or inquiries has gone down. What happens is, the traffic that’s getting sent to your website is of absolutely no relevance and as such is actually hurting your site rather than helping. Even though if you were to simply track number of organic visits, it would appear that you’re doing very well.
“Oh! We doubled organic traffic last month!”- doesn’t necessarily mean that whatever your using works because what you might find is that actually your conversion rate, for sales or inquiries has gone down.”
That’s right because that traffic doesn’t necessarily lead to conversions.
Yes and if Google measures the metrics that says, “Well, you’ve doubled your organic traffic to your website but they’re staying less time, they’re bouncing off your site quicker, they’re not interacting your site as much” Google will go, “Well, actually, is this organic traffic less relevant?” They’ll go, “Actually, are you now less relevant to your traffic?” And so, therefore because you’re giving a poor user experience to your traffic or be it because some of your traffic’s irrelevant, they will then start negatively ranking you because of that. So, it’s really important to keep on looking at engagements as well as traffic.
How do you think SEO will evolve over the next 5 years?
Let’s look back at the last 5 years. In the last 5 years, we’ve seen… Uber arise to the forefront. We’ve seen AirBnB. We’ve seen iPhones really, the rise of the smartphone. The technology advancements we’ve seen in the last 5 years have been pretty great, and in actual fact, the truth of the matter is, that it’s on an exponential growth curve. The last 5 years has been very slow in technology adaptation and implementation compared what will most likely be the next 5 years.
So, with that in mind, what we’re gonna start seeing is the use of more verbal search questioning like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, all of these devices. “Google, can you tell me where to find local curry house?” “I need a decent new pizza. Where do I find one?” “My car’s broken down Alexa. Can you help? – “I’m 3 feet deep in water. What do you do?” All of these search questions will start happening and through verbal. You won’t get a list of 10 results on a homepage. You’ll get maybe 1 or 2 or maybe maximum 3 options, and so, it’s going to be far more competitive because it’s gonna be less space available, and, it’s really about making sure that the content strategy you put out there is relevant because content is what these AI mechanisms are going to use to understand whether you are relevant or not and so they’re gonna do some very clever passing of your information. They’re going to be using Google’s algorithm to work out- are you relevant? Then they’re going to cross-match that against the natural search questioning of your customers. So, they’re gonna ask questions. Search will be more verbal and you’re gonna have to write your content that matches this trend.
“It’s really about making sure that the content strategy you put out there is relevant because content is what these AI mechanisms are going to use to understand whether you are relevant or not”
So, whereas now you might have a blog post saying the top 10 reasons why you should buy an iPhone in 2018, whereas in, maybe in 2020, you might have what are reasons I should buy an iPhone in 2022? Because it’s more conversational.
Also, I think that we’re going to see like we saw mobilegeddon which is basically any website that wasn’t mobile-friendly got sent to the bottom of Google. We’re going to start seeing more and more of Google ranking companies on what is the user experience of the company. How does the customers actually experience that company? If you put all the users in a room, gave them the top 10 websites, how would they rate them based on the experience of dealing with that company, digital and non-digital? As opposed to just what keywords on the front page and does that mean they should be ranked. Google’s gonna become a far deeper critic of what a company does and how it does it and therefore, it’s going to be judgmental on a whole deeper stack of deliverables.
Should I hire someone to do my SEO?
So, I think that SEO certainly needs to have two components. One that’s done in-house. I think that all companies need to start generating useful, concise, valuable content for their users which help them to understand their product, their services, and, how to do business with said company.
On the flip side, there also needs to be an expert either internally or generally better externally who can produce the links, the infrastructure, and advice on the user experience of the website who knows how to interpret the data, that knows how to understand the analytics, knows a lot of the broader picture as just a general advisor that can also do link-building or advice on how to do link-building because there’s an art to it. It’s trial and error and really companies don’t have that time to spend testing and measuring, see if it’ll work or won’t work, because some of that could as easily make a problem as make a solution.
Achieve more with your website
Getting your SEO strategy right can mean big returns for your website. It’s a worthy investment that can generate more visitors, more leads and more sales. SEO should be a considered component of your marketing mix. It compliments your social media, branding and other strategies used to grow your business rapidly.
At Thirst we collaborate with trusted partners in speciality areas that ensure our clients can enjoy more growth. Thomas Green – Mindful Growth Hacker – can be reached through Thirst to investigate the state of your SEO and discuss how you can up your SEO game.
Our team of Strategist, Designers and Developers can help you create a positive user experience by expertly designing the structure and presentation of your site to do so. Our resident Copywriters can write content that not only follows the best SEO practice but also clearly communicates and encourages your audience to convert.
If you’d like to find out more about what you can do to optimise your website’s performance. Get in touch.