In the early days of inbound marketing, if you consistently produced decent content and followed some basic inbound principles, you had a good chance of ranking on search engine results pages (SERP). Why? Simply put, search engine optimization (SEO) was routinely underutilized, and SEO best practices from expert sources like SEMrush were all but nonexistent.
Since then, millions of marketers have caught on to the power of SEO. This reality, combined with the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and ever-changing algorithms, now makes it far more difficult to be found online. As if that’s not enough to circumvent, there’s the fact that 75% of web users never go past the first page of search results.1 That means if you’re not ranking in Google’s top 10 organic results for targeted keywords, your site is basically invisible — and ineffective.
In answer to search queries, Google is using snippets and delivering content directly in SERPs with greater frequency. These efficiencies enhance the user experience, but they also drive fewer visitors to your website — a conundrum for companies relying on being discovered by Google and other search engines to fuel inbound marketing program success.
Despite the challenges, SEO best practices win the day for helping B2B companies like yours maximize online potential, provided you follow these SEO principles:
- Prioritize SEO Quick Wins
- Use Topic Clusters and Competitive Research in Keyword Discovery
- Regularly Audit and Optimize Your Content for SEO
Prioritize SEO Quick Wins
There are a number of SEO practices that hand you “quick wins” in terms of site visibility and performance:
- Analyze which keywords your website already ranks highest for, and focus on boosting those. Chances are you’ll see faster SEO improvements with keyword optimization compared to focusing all of your efforts strictly on ranking for new keywords.
- Analyze the search results for target keywords to understand the kinds of content Google tends to feature for those keywords. Keep in mind that it may not be possible to rank for a keyword if Google prioritizes content that’s dissimilar to yours. For example, you may want to rank for certain types of manufacturing job positions in your location, but Google is far more likely to rank recruiting sites that list those career opportunities.
- Encourage more site traffic by adding H2 and H3 tags to articles. This simple optimization tactic alone can increases traffic, sharing, and backlink performance by 36%.2
- Create long-form content from existing blogs. A series of articles on current manufacturing technologies, for example, could be repurposed into a single long-form pillar page (more on that below). Content revamps that follow SEO best practices can greatly influence SERP results — with page one presence being the goal.
- Organize your content into topic clusters to help boost your search “signal.” In other words, separate content pieces and blogs into categories and then assemble them together via a central pillar page and hyperlink structure to provide a library of sorts that contains more comprehensive information. Search engines often favor this type of comprehensive approach, and it will increase the overall visibility of all the content in the topic cluster.
- Analyze URLs. Rules around URL structure have changed to include keywords specifically for SEO purposes. Leverage this quick win by updating your URLs to include relevant keywords.
- Audit backlinks, errors, and overall site health. A quarterly or annual website audit has multiple benefits that may well be among the most valuable of SEO tips. First, an audit helps you identify and fix errors that might be costing your company precious SERP rankings. Also, it ensures that your user experience (UX) is on-point — key if you want to keep visitors from bouncing.
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Use Topic Clusters and Competitive Research in Keyword Discovery
There is no hard-and-fast rule for conducting keyword research, but there are some basic methods for discovering the phrases your ideal buyers are most likely to type into Google. Some companies put too much emphasis on a single, high-value keyword (“wire harness” for example), but pages can rank for multiple keywords and long-tail forms as well. Remember that simpler keywords with higher search volume may have very little value if that traffic is primarily visitors who would never be qualified as potential leads.
In fact, many users are typing or speaking their requests in the form of questions, such as “How can I protect electrical wire harnesses from road salt corrosion?” It’s a strong case for focusing on larger clusters of keywords in the form of pillar pages that can present many answers related to a central topic and keep visitors on your website longer. It’s a virtuous cycle because increased time on page will also boost your SERP ranking further.
Have you researched the keywords your competitors are using? Your SEO competitors are a goldmine for keyword discovery. Use tools like MOZ, SEMrush, or Ahrefs to discover what your competitors’ top pages are ranking for — but do so with the understanding that your market competitors may not be your SEO competitors. For instance, an industrial manufacturer may compete for SEO and keywords with a publication that caters to industrial engineers searching for something like “How to conduct design for manufacturability study for plastic parts.”
RELATED: Two Components Every Inbound Marketing Competitive Review Must Have
Search intent (also known as user intent) matters. It defines the purpose behind each search query. Consequently, SERP results determine your actual SEO competition because Google’s primary goal is understanding and satisfying search intent. Sites that garner first-page SERP ranking pass the Google litmus test for search intent.
Regularly Audit and Optimize Your Content for SEO
With inbound tactics constantly evolving, you can’t take a set-it-and-forget-it approach to your content. It’s critical to regularly and objectively audit your content to determine how it should be optimized. You can take one of four actions:
- Keep it. If your content is doing well and is generating traffic, don’t fix what isn’t broken. Content that’s still relevant to your target audience, has links coming to it from other high-authority domains, or does a relatively good job at converting traffic needs little tweaking other than the occasional checkup to make sure information is still up to date, links are still working, etc.
- Consolidate it. You may have content that has links pointing to it, but it still doesn’t have a lot of traffic or conversions. Maybe you inadvertently covered the topic in multiple content pieces within a short timeframe, or perhaps it just isn’t as relevant as it could be for your target audience. Consider combining similar content to create a single, longer SEO-friendly version that appropriately leverages keyword and keyword phrases. Research backs it up. Long-form articles (posts with 3000+ words) get 3x more traffic, 4x more shares, and 3.5x more backlinks than articles of average length (901-1200 words).2
- Improve it. There are two ways to look at content that needs improvement: content that’s relevant and has decent traffic yet isn’t converting well, and content that has a high conversion rate but doesn’t necessarily get a lot of traffic. In both scenarios, look for opportunities to improve both SERP ranking and CTA conversions by examining keywords, adding content and links, and rethinking titles and meta descriptions. Titles, in particular, are noteworthy since they provide the “hook” for the click, quickly answering why articles align with search intent and results.
- Remove it. If you have content that doesn’t perform on any level, is woefully outdated, or will simply need a complete rewrite, it may be best to remove it from your site. Old, irrelevant content could hold your website back by reducing its overall domain authority and eating up your crawl budget.
On our own website, we have thousands of blogs to manage. We continuously sift through the articles and retire some old posts that are no longer relevant or may actually compete with newer, more up-to-date resources on the topic. Just be sure to set up 301 redirects to newer articles to ensure that if someone stumbles across retired posts in SERP, they’ll still find what they need when they click through. This is key to not damaging your SEO by creating broken links.
Looking at these best practices underscores the fact that SEO is necessary in the 2020 marketing landscape, but great results take time, discipline, and a bit of manual effort. There are more SEO principles and practices than ever before — and it can be overwhelming. That’s why we developed the SEO Survival Guide.