7 tips for decision makers to succeed in SEO
If having a successful SEO campaign implies modifying your website to match Google’s ranking criteria, setting it up requires some understanding from the different teams and the decision makers that could be involved. Professionals are debating about SEO for more than 10 years, but sometimes, it still underestimated or not properly understood.
If you are effectively working on your SEO, or if you have access to different accounts in Google Analytics, you’ve released how effective SEO can be, both in terms of traffic and revenues. If you take into account that you do not have to pay for each visit Google sends you, unlike other channels, the return on investment can be interesting.
Explaining how SEO works is more than important, both internally if you’re working in-house or with your clients, if you’re a service provider, especially because it has some grey areas. The fact that search engines do not communicate exactly about the ranking criteria, that there are some delays between the optimizations you pass and the results you get, and the lack of visibility regarding the potential growth a campaign can lead to, are the main causes of what could be seen as a lack of consideration by professionals.
And yet, it remains the most interesting channels for most of the websites. Interesting, isn’t it?
A successful campaign requires some time
Rome was not built in a day: Same for SEO.
If you are launching a new website and need to get organic visits quickly, then it’s better to invest in Google Adwords and to implement your SEO strategy at the same time because it can take time to generate visits. We usually talk about three to six months for pages to rank well, once the main recommandations are implemented.
The question is: why does SEO require time?
- First, it is mandatory to analyse the website and to propose a strategy regarding the three main areas of SEO (technical, semantic and popularity), which can take between two weeks and a month.
- Once the recommendations are issued and prioritised, internal teams must implement the strategy which can take several weeks or even months, especially in large companies where IT departments are quite busy with other projects too.
- Then, Google will have to scan your pages to score them and to improve their rankings in search results. Note that Google can sometimes apply some delays to reflect the changes on your rankings, mainly to avoid SEOs to understand exactly how it works.
If you are a decision maker on a project that involves SEO, the idea is to take this into consideration in your business plan. For example, you can invest on Adwords at the beginning and then lower your budget once you start getting organic traffic. Google must trust your website, before improving your visibility in search results.
SEO is not a free channel
Even if you do not have to pay for each visit you get from Google, unlike Adwords campaigns, increasing your organic traffic is not free. If you’ve just released your website, a limited budget and high ranking objectives on competitive keywords, the project is not starting the right way.
SEO is a form of advertising and requires investments in order to:
- Be able to get advices during the definition of your strategy, by your in-house SEO consultant or your external provider.
- Make the necessary changes so that Google can better scan your important pages, understand their structure and the keywords you target.
- Set up an effective content strategy to engage your visitors, develop your internal links and create new landing pages.
- Get more external links to increase your popularity and improve your brand awareness.
Some SEOs introduce this channel as a “free” one while the efforts to reach the top of Google is quite important. In reality, SEO requires a certain budget to work and offers such as “free SEO”, “free audits”, “free quotations” (!?) often lead to misunderstandings.
Give a priority to each optimisation
It’s important to prioritise your actions to set-up a successful SEO campaign:
- At the keyword level, you have to be realistic. Depending on the maturity of your platform, your competitors on a given keyword, your budget and the potential conversion rate for each term, the idea is to prioritise them thanks to a keyword research. Positioning is a mean and not the end goal. Being first on a query that does not generate traffic or that does not convert is useless.
- In terms of optimisations, the objective is to focus on the most important ones in terms of impacts on your rankings. As explained before, Google does not really communicate on the ranking of its own criteria and working on content creation, on the Title Tags, on the developing internal and external links, on the structure of your pages and their accessibility should be the priorities.
Google will better rank pages that meet the needs of your users (which also implies UX improvements). If they stay on your pages after having performed a search, Google will most likely better rank them.
Involve your teams in your SEO campaign
SEO is global and must involve the technical, marketing and communication teams, as mentioned in a previous article about “SEO project management”, because they will all have an impact in the different areas we were discussing earlier.
In reality, SEO is, sometimes, an isolated activity within a company while its recommendations will involve both your developers, editors, product merchandisers, communication officers, or even the company’s leaders.
Avoid classic mistakes
If search engines have evolved over time and that some techniques are definitely outdated, the basics remain pretty much the same.
However, when we audit certain websites, we often observe errors that could be easily fixed:
- Unique content is a mandatory rule. Indexing staging and/or testing environments, not redirecting URLs with WWW to those without WWW (or vice versa), having both HTTP and HTTPS versions accessible, providing content to a third party, putting it on your own website or having a website on two different domains are errors that will confuse Google while they could be easily avoided.
- Over-optimisation (Keyword Stuffing) was a technique used 15 years ago. Repeating 200 times the same keywords in your page, having an extended footer, writing multiple pages for different variations of a keyword can be seen as spam by search engines. Google needs to understand the content of a page, yes, but it’s better to work on the semantic field in the different tags (e.g. titles, headings, alt…) as well as through the internal and external links.
- Working on link-building is not an outdated technique. Since Google Penguin, some webmasters are scarred about creating new links. Doing spam-comment, SEO directories, “article directories”, links from forum profiles, are not links you would create to build your brand and they can be harmful to your visibility on Google. Creating links is absolutely not an outdated trick and is even a must-do activity to get more visibility on competitive keywords but the goal is to develop your brand rather than getting links that will harm your website on the long-run.
SEO is not a one-time requirement
A website lives, grows, evolves, changes, and needs some adjustments. Sometimes, the number of stakeholders that can modify it, is quite important which influences the risk of errors that can impact the rankings and as a consequence, it requires more follow-up from your SEO manager.
If doing a site audit, a keyword study or content optimisation can be considered as a one-time requirement, in the case the platform does not evolve on regular basis, other actions such as the link-building or the publishing of new landing pages are ultimately endless to create new sources of traffic and to increase the popularity of your platform.
Think about the users first
Your visitors should be your focus and creating organic traffic that is not going to convert is not interesting. If targeting the relevant keywords is important, providing a user-friendly and conversion-oriented environment is must-do. Actually, a document from Google has “leaked” and reports some optimisations about the user-experience and some could be SEO-related. Here is a sum-up.
If you want to read the whole survey (more than 100 slides), please visit this link to download it.
Google sends users to your pages, and while it is true that some recommendations from an audit may be more SEO-oriented than “UX”, the goal is to be able to implement solutions that will meet both requirements:
- Adding texts in the categories of a website can be a solution to increase the relevance of this type of page but how to add content that be useful for the user, the bots and well integrated within the layout?
- Implementing cross-link boxes to link similar products or products that are frequently bought together is an interesting solution to increase the number of pages viewed and the chances of conversions while it also improve the internal links.
- Improving response times will allow Google to crawl more pages, to better score them, and to provide a better browsing experience for the users.
How to measure the success of a campaign?
To measure the ROI (return on Investment), there are various KPI (key performance indicator) that you can use :
- The rankings in search results.
- The SEO CTR (click through rate).
- The organic traffic.
- The organic leads and conversions.
- The quality of your SEO sessions (time spent, bounce rate, pages/session…)
When to start an SEO campaign?
As soon as your website is online. The earlier SEO is integrated in your project, the better it is. A successful SEO campaign takes time and the more the team is involved, the easier it will be to set-up and maintain a proper strategy.
What are the main SEO criteria?
Google uses more than 200 criteria to rank pages, and it’s growing.
To guarantee that your SEO campaign will be efficient, keep it simple. Make sure you have a page for each key topic that you target, write rich pages to show Google that you have the best answer, improve the main SEO tags (ie. titles, headings, images, links, structured data…) and get backlinks.
Succeeding in SEO is based on simple rules actually.The earlier to think about your SEO strategy, the better it is. If you involve your teams and the decision makers are active in the project you will start your campaign the right way. A consultant can provide dozens of interesting recommendations but without implementing them, the rankings and the organic traffic will remain steady. Maybe your competitors will take advantage of it too…