Have you ever gone berry picking? You know that feeling when you lift up some leaves, suddenly discovering a huge thatch of juicy berries bursting with goodness? That’s what it feels like to nail your SEO.
In the digital marketing world, SEO is the biggest orchard filled with the juiciest fruit. It’s all right there, just waiting to be picked.
Simply put – if your work has anything to do with the internet and you’re not across SEO, you’re losing out.
Why? Because it’s an endless source of new blood. It allows people to find you, to click onto your website, and to convert from a prospect to a customer.
…and it’s not half as complicated as most professional SEO people want you to believe.
SEO = Free Marketing
In over a decade as a “full stack marketer”, through the wild ride of social media watching the incursion of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple into every aspect of our lives, I’ve been dismayed to see how many businesses (small and large) splash around in the digital ocean, treading water and going nowhere.
Why is this?
First and foremost, lack of strategy. This lack of strategy means that they dilute their efforts across multiple channels rather than selecting a handful which represent the most direct route to their goals.
At the heart of good SEO is a wider content strategy; this isn’t as scary as it sounds – it rests on good brand strategy. Again, scarier than it sounds – brand strategy, and by extension content strategy, is simply: “this is who we are and this is what we do”. More on that below.
Good SEO = constant organic growth. There is honestly no other route to “free” ongoing marketing which continues to return on your initial investment.
How SEO Works
SEO is simple. It means “search engine optimisation”. A search engine is Google, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo – a website that allows you to search the internet for information on any given topic.
Optimisation is the process of shaping the information on your website so that it’s in optimal form to be read and recognised by Google (or other search engines). If your site is not optimised for search engines, you won’t get any organic traffic. No traffic = no customers.
A search engine is like the friendly door greeters at Bunnings or the reception desk at a hotel – you tell them what you need, and they tell you where to find it.
IRL (“in real life”), all you need to do is tell the receptionist what you’re looking for and they’ll tell you (or consult a colleague to help).
Search engines are essentially the same, except instead of asking you follow-up questions or consulting a colleague, they use thousands of little indicators to immediately determine where is the best place to send you.
If you DON’T optimise for search engines, it’s the equivalent of building a physical shop in the middle of a field, with no roads going to it, no signpost, and no door.
Nobody will ever find you, no matter how great your product. It’s tragic, but we see people do this ALL the time.
How To Rank On Search Engines
The thousands of little indicators which say “this is the best place to go” are all over the internet, and Google (plus other search engines) guard the secrets of their algorithms very closely (an algorithm is just a set of automated directions for how to do something).
These indicators are multiple – they include everything from the size & name of images on your website, to the length of the text, to the way the pages are linked within the website (and to pages outside the website). The more of those indicators which can be ticked off on your website, the higher Google will rank you.
The algorithm is all about identifying which website is the best source of information for every topic on the internet, and ranking them in order of quality. This is why Google is King of the ‘Net – their PageRank Algorithm is still the biggest and the best. It measures all possible indicators in order to tell you, the user, where you’ll find the info you’re looking for. Google’s whole advertising revenue is built on this, so you better believe they do everything they can to remain market leader.
Here’s a little overview of the most important parts – backlinks & keywords.
Keywords for SEO
Even if you don’t know heaps about SEO, you probably know that keywords are important.
Keywords are how search engines organise information. They can be short tail keywords (a single word such as “keyword”) or long tail keywords (a string of words which make sense together, such as “very valuable keywords”).
The internet is a big dictionary. Every keyword you search for represents a springboard. That springboard allows you to dive into the info from websites listed on Google when you do a search for a keyword.
However, not all keywords are created equal. If you search for “model airplanes” you’re not going to have as much competition as if you search for “property prices”. Why?
Well, it all comes down to commerce and value – if you’re searching for “model airplanes”, there’s a good chance you want to buy one or learn about them. So Google will show you hobby shops, websites to buy them from, guides to painting and modelling them etc. However, the average purchase price for model airplanes probably won’t breach $100. So it’s worth something, but not tons.
“Property prices” on the other hand? That’s a very different story – what’s the average purchase price for someone who ends up converting from a searcher into a customer in that industry? It will certainly be worth more than $100 – in fact, you could multiply that x 5000.
This is why some keywords are more valuable than others, and therefore harder to rank for.
So how does Google decide who gets listed first?
Backlinks for SEO
A backlink is simply a link on a website page that allows you to go to another page – like this link which goes back to the Purpose Comms blog page. That’s an example of an internal backlink – it links to other parts of the same website, which indicates to Google that the plumbing on your site is decent – a tick of approval that helps them go “this is a good site”.
An external backlink is when there’s a link to another site, like this link to Google’s Developer page (which is a great place to broaden your knowledge about all this SEO nonsense). That link is another indicator to Google that this is a good website – it’s linking out elsewhere, building bridges across the ‘net.
But why are backlinks so important? Simple – they’re a stamp of approval.
Similar to a reference on a CV, they allow for a level of transparency that tells the person making the decision that the information is trustworthy (in this case, the search engine algorithm), and that the mark of approval can be tested and verified (by measuring the quality of the site where the backlink appears).
The easy part is linking your own content externally and internally – but the hard part is getting other websites to link back to you. That’s where the real SEO value is – getting a good website to link to your website. The more links there out in the digital jungle which are pointing back to your site, the higher you’re going to rank.
Now, not all links are equal – just like with your CV, a link from a prestigious university or government department is worth a LOT more than a link from your Uncle Harry’s model airplane shop.
This is where we get into white hat SEO versus black hat SEO, where we start to consider link building strategies, where we think about content swaps, about guest posting, about PR and other avenues towards organic link-building. That’s a whole other article, or one you might want to consider engaging a contractor to help with (pop quiz – what kind of link is the “engaging a contractor” one you just read? Internal or external?).
Paid Search vs Organic Search
This is where Google Ads (previously known as AdWords) comes in, which is “paid search” – that means paying Google so that they’ll show your results first when people search.
A keyword such as “model airplanes” is going to be worth a lot less than a keyword like “property prices”.
This means that the “short cut” to quick wins in digital marketing and ecommerce involves using paid keyword advertising from Google (or other vendors). However, it’s a numbers game, and it quickly stacks up.
Here’s how it works.
If I want to sell you a model airplane, I might have to pay $1 per click. This doesn’t mean a sale – it just means that when you search for “model airplane”, Google will show you my ad at the top of the page.
Somebody’s paid them to do that, because they’re hoping that you will click their ad, and you’ll end up buying it.
This can work really well, but it takes a lot of doing – my personal best on Google Ads is an 8:1 ROAS (return on advertising spend) with a 14.5% conversion rate (14.5 people out of 100 who clicked on the ad went on to purchase). Results like that are by no means guaranteed. I had an awesome product, full creative control, and no limits on time to optimise. It’s generally a slog – an uphill battle. But it works, and that’s why people do it.
If you have a hot product and deep pockets, by all means jump in with a Google Ads campaign right away.
That’s not most of us though – most of us have limited budgets and a product which isn’t trending. That’s why we recommend starting out with a focus on Organic Search. Get the website optimised, get it ranking, increase our conversion rate – and then focus on Paid Search, after the low hanging fruit has been harvested.
Organic search means that Google designates your site as being THE place to go due to the quality of information on offer, as opposed to paid search, which is simply “gimme money and I’ll tell people to go there”.
Long-term, the ROI on organic SEO is many many MANY many times more valuable than that on paid SEO. Like, a billion times more valuable. Seriously.
Why SEO Is Strategy
For some reason, the word “strategy” freaks people out. I don’t understand why, but that might be because I adore strategy.
Perhaps it’s my love for history, perhaps my love of winning, perhaps my experience as a professional athlete and coach.
SEO strategy is merely one element of your wider content strategy and brand strategy. Hang on! Don’t run away, I can tell you’re getting scared. It’s simple – let’s help out Uncle Harry with his model airplane side-hustle:
SEO strategy – what you’re specifically doing to rank on Google (and other search engines) so that the right people can find you. E.g., we’re going after these “model airplane” related keywords through blogs and guest content.
Content strategy – what general type of thing you do on the internet to get people interested (and start ranking for SEO). E.g., we’re focusing on useful guides, videos and newsletters about our expertise in model airplanes.
Brand strategy – what you do in general and what that says about you (so as to gain trust and interest from prospective customers). E.g., we focus on middling quality but very affordable model airplane kits, with exquisite personalised customer service.
This is obviously a simplified treatment, as this stuff gets complex when a brand gets complex – but really, it IS simple.
It is absolute insanity to approach any serious task without a strategy. It either gets you to your goal, or allows you figure out what to do different next time round. You win or you learn; failure is a lesson.
All you need to know is: 1) who you are, 2) what you do, 3) why anybody should care.
If this is hard to figure out, hit us up – we’re really good at this.
Let’s finish up with a quick glance at another scary word – technical!
Technical SEO is crucial; it can be the difference in those couple of indicators that push you up onto page 1 of Google. Ignored, it can leave you languishing three or four pages deep and scavenging for leftover clicks.
That’s why SEO means ticking lots of little boxes, which is easy but time-consuming.
There are a simple set of guidelines – download our ‘SEO Cheat Sheet‘ here.
This will allow you to DIY your own content so that you’re in a better state than 90% of your competitors.
Go forth and optimise!
If you want to learn more, the easiest way is to use software to help diagnose what’s needed – check out AHREFs and SEMrush. They give lots of free tutorials and trial offers; it’s a steep learning curve but if you want to become an expert in your own right, it’s not a bad starting point.
Otherwise, get in touch – whether your site just needs a cheap & cheerful initial SEO audit and set-up, or whether you need a comprehensive ongoing growth plan, we’ll chat with you and figure out how to smash your goals, in a short time, at an affordable price.