Google-SMALLHow can marketers turn an unknown individual searching the Web into a real customer?

This is the goal of search engine optimization (SEO): getting your brand to the top of search rankings so consumers can find your products and services. Optimizing search engines (software systems designed to search for information on the Web) to drive traffic to your website has become a mainstream marketing activity because it can dramatically increase online-generated revenue.

Ranking high is all about the content you provide on your website. Search engine “spiders” are software programs used by Internet search engines (e.g., Google, Yahoo and Bing) to scour the Web for information on sites and pages to determine which pages should be displayed, and in what priority, in response to an individual’s search query.

The spider reads through all the text, hyperlinks, meta tags and code on a site to provide a profile to the search engine. For example, Google Search uses algorithms to measure website pages; its PageRank algorithm is best-known. Primarily, PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine its importance, with the underlying assumption being that more-important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.

Many marketers strive to figure out which factors correlate with first page search engine rankings so they can fill their online pages with content that meets this objective. After all, the typical website generates 47 percent to 64 percent or more of its traffic from search engines. While backlinks correlate with rankings more than any other factor, “topically relevant” content significantly outperforms content that doesn’t provide in-depth coverage of a topic.

In other words, comprehensive content outperforms shallow content by a long shot. So, how do you go about crafting content that Google considers comprehensive?

In its early days, Google used to rank pages according to keywords, but it has evolved to understand the meaning of the question; hence, the need for relevant content. Yet, keyword usage (in the domain, subdomain, description tag, title and document, etc.) still correlates with rankings—but not by as much as it used to since Google moved to Semantic Search (which seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding searcher intent and the contextual meaning of terms).

You start by developing goals and objectives for your SEO strategy. From there you’ll determine the keywords. You can cast your net wide and look for what your target audience wants, or do keyword research based on content that exists, or will exist, on your site. Find out what your potential customers are searching for on Google and then create content around these topics. For assistance, use Google Keyword Planner or another keyword research tool.

When you start writing, a good approach is to find a balance between content creation and marketing. For SEO, include the keyword in the title and strategically within the document—but without overstuffing or sounding unnatural. Incorporate an emotional hook whenever possible, since people don’t often engage for strictly logical reasons. Now, go ahead and compose content that interests readers and offers them relevant and valuable information. To do this, you first need to know your potential customer base intimately, so you’ve collected, organized and analyzed all the data about their preferences and behaviors you can get your hands on.

Next, brainstorm topics that will help you achieve the goals of your SEO strategy. Think about your customers’ pain points and needs. Do they require training to use your products?  Do they understand your products’ value proposition? Is your purchase process clear and easy to navigate?

Consider creating content that includes tips for getting the most use out of their investment with you. Maybe they could use a glossary of industry terms. Perhaps they’d find it enlightening to see instructions on usage, an overview of your processes, or a short list of what they can expect as they move through their purchase journey with your company.

Many of today’s successful brand marketers are being helped in their content creation and SEO strategies by marketing automation (MA). With marketing automation, you can leverage content to provide better output to your audience. The technology allows you to easily structure content using meta tags, which provide metadata about the HTML document, and intelligent content technologies.

Besides enabling you to structure and automate your content, MA offers a host of features—from email delivery to call tracking to analytics—to boost your marketing efforts. Whether you have already implemented an MA platform or are just beginning to think about it, tactical and operational support is available from independent marketing automation service providers who will help you derive the most value from the technology.

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