Did you know there are close to 400 million active websites around the world?1 That’s why — even though Google processes more than 5.5 billion searches in a single day (that’s 63,000 search queries per second!)2 — it still isn’t easy to grow traffic.
But if you’re a manufacturer trying to attract prospects to your website, you only care about the traffic representing potentially great business development leads or future employees for your business.
That’s the context I’m addressing today: owning search results that are valuable to your business by:
Treating search engine optimization (SEO) as the complex, never-ending Rubik’s cube of strategy, technology, and discipline that it has become.
Accepting that vanity metrics don’t matter nearly as much as the new business and talent metrics you can take to the bank!
The Right Way to Think About SEO
Some still think of SEO as a mystical, intimidating outsourced service that only powerhouse web marketers can harness. In fact, improving your site’s performance and user experience doesn’t have to be that complicated — but it does need to be strategic.
Having data is one thing; knowing how to leverage it to form strategies and tactics is another. It all starts with understanding how the buyer’s journey guides content creation and the symbiotic relationship with your website content that results:
Essentially, knowing the keywords prospects are likely to use and building topic clusters around those keywords is the gateway to your site’s blogs, downloads, optimized web pages and pillar pages. The further along a buyer is on the journey, the deeper into your website they dive.
Also, think about your competitive landscape: what’s realistic from an SEO perspective? Identify the topic clusters that have the most potential and use them to guide your website and editorial content like your blog articles and landing pages. If you’re in a really competitive industry, you may need to narrow your scope and focus on the keyword clusters and specialization you want to rank for. (Here are a few of our favorite SEO tools to guide your content strategy).
“That all sounds great,” you say. “But how do I know what to improve, and how do I know if my visitors are engaging with all that information?”
Good question. If you want to stand out from the competition, you’ll need to first consider how you can provide a better user experience (UX) than they do.
The best way to improve your website’s UX is to gather and analyze data from real users on:
Where they’re getting confused
When they’re bouncing from your website
Where they’re spending a lot of time
What they’re clicking on
Where they’re getting stuck by forms or broken links
That’s not to suggest that UX is an afterthought or a “check the box” outsourced solution. Like SEO, we look at UX as touching every part of an inbound marketing strategy, from your website to your content and even social media. But, it really boils down to a growth-driven design (GDD) approach to continuously improving your site and pillar content organized around topic clusters for users to consume.
Leverage a Growth-Driven Design Website
If you follow our blog at all, you know we’re big advocates of a growth-driven design (GDD) methodology for building a website. In a nutshell, GDD focuses on a continuous improvement approach to web development that treats UX and relevant content as the guiding lights.
It used to be that companies would spend 6-9 months — sometimes even more than a year — developing website redesigns. Once launched, they’d sit back, watch, and wait.
New sites would usually demonstrate improved performance over what they replaced, but it wouldn’t be long before the upward-trending metrics would start to sag. Sure, simple updates and copy changes could be made, but eventually, things started to look a little dated, the product pages were missing all the new, good stuff, and next-generation technologies were absent altogether.
Typically, 3-5 years later the redesign process would need to start all over again. (It’s just a guess, but I think 3-5 years must be about how long it takes people to forget just how painful the last redesign process was!)
Contrast that approach to the GDD methodology:
Select a content management system (CMS), such as HubSpot or Wordpress, that makes it far easier for marketing teams to make updates on their own.
Forego the traditional “wish list” of all imaginable website content and features, and implement a launchpad website that prioritizes the most valuable content you have to offer — generally the 20% of your content that produces 80% of the value for visitors.
Remain focused on providing valuable and relevant content, eliminating the low-value junk, and improving your UX.
Your new, typically smaller GDD site will immediately outperform your old clunker, and you’re ready to begin the monthly visitor data-driven continuous improvement cycles that are the hallmark of GDD sites.
Create Pillar Content
When you launch a GDD website, there’s no better way to gain SEO traction than by organizing your best content around content pillars. Content pillar pages cover a topic more in-depth than a typical article or advanced content piece and provide as much information as possible on the subject in one, convenient place. It’s the ultimate in long-form posting.
At first, you might think that such exhaustive information could be overwhelming for visitors. It can be, which emphasizes the critical importance of properly organizing and designing the page to make it as user-friendly as possible. When done right, your pillar pages can be a one-stop shop for visitors to find everything they ever wanted to know about a topic without having to navigate away from your site.
Creating pillar pages may sound a little overwhelming, too. Good news! One great — and easy — way to create pillar content is to:
Gather all your blogs and content offers on an important topic.
Compile them as parts of an integrated story.
Include internal hyperlinks back to the original content to increase your authority.
Search engines will prioritize and showcase content that is most helpful to their users. The more extensive your pillar page content is, the more likely it is that Google will rank it higher in web searches for relevant keywords. If your company serves niche markets or manufactures highly specialized products, this approach can really help you stand out.
Even if you don’t have a large archive of existing content to work from, you can get started by creating at least one pillar page on the most important subject you want visitors to know about, and then use your ongoing editorial plan to build it out. Remember, because you’ve taken a GDD approach, you can make continuous improvements as more information and internal resources are developed. You can really ratchet up results when you use the practical advice found in our SEO Survival Guide.
We’d love to say there’s one tool or a quick fix to get your manufacturing website ranked on the first page of Google or another favorite search engine. Truth is, those who deserve to rank will rank — which underscores the importance of continually evaluating your website and improving it based on what you find. That’s why implementing a growth-driven design (GDD) methodology along with a pillar content strategy is so effective. It helps focus your SEO efforts through analyzing user behaviors and making strategic decisions based on what you learn. If you don't have the time or talent to create great content, you may want to find a way to outsource this important part of your inbound strategy.
Click on the link below to discover more about how a GDD approach — hint, hint, it’s a pillar page — can help build your website authority. Need help developing your website to begin with? We can do that too. Get in touch.
Posted by Greg Linnemanstons With 18+ years in senior management roles at Fortune 500® and medium-sized companies, Greg has deep marketing and sales experience with CPGs and manufacturing. He leads strategic initiatives with clients and is involved in developing client inbound marketing plans. Greg holds an M.B.A. from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management and a B.A. in Economics from Lawrence University.