According to a recent study by Forrester Research, more than 90 percent of us turn to search engines like Google and Bing to find products and services. No wonder so many businesses are rushing to invest in SEO marketing.
Listen to learn how search engine optimisation (SEO) works:
In order to bring those who are searching for solutions to your website, you first need to attract the attention of search engines. And there are two distinct ways to do this:
Search engine optimisation (SEO)
SEO is the practice of making changes to your website so it ranks higher in search engine results. Unless you hire someone to do this for you, there is no charge for this. You can absolutely do it yourself!
Search engine marketing (SEM)
SEM refers primarily to pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. PPC is (obviously) a paid service. You post an ad leading to your website and pay a small fee whenever someone clicks on it.
Editor’s note: GoDaddy’s Website Builder includes an SEO wizard that guides you through the process of prepping your site for search engines. No tech skills needed!
Get started with SEO marketing in 3 steps
SEO or SEM — or both? Follow these steps to decide which is best suited to your business.
Analyse your competitors’ search strategy.
Identify alternative keywords.
Decide on SEM or SEO … or both.
Before we list the steps, let’s explain the basic differences between these two strategies.
What’s the right strategy for you?
There is not necessarily a right or wrong answer to this question. Ideally, you invest in both at the same time.
SEO can take time, so it helps to create PPC ads in the meantime to bring people to your site while you work to improve your organic reach. When you begin to get consistent traffic from your SEO efforts, then you can move your PPC dollars to buying keywords where you’re struggling to achieve organic visibility.
The decision can also come down to your competition. If you’re in a competitive marketplace and all your competitors are proactively investing in SEO, then it could be tougher to rank organically (through SEO). So you might need to focus on SEM (paid ads).
On the flip side, perhaps you’re in a marketplace where your competitors lean towards PPC (and therefore push the bid prices up for everyone) while ignoring the organic SEO opportunities. In this scenario, SEO might be the place to gain an advantage.
How to get started with SEO marketing
Whether you do it yourself or hire a pro to handle it for you, the process usually begins with these three steps.
1. Analyse your competitors’ keywords
The first step is to identify the primary batch of keywords your top competitors are targeting and refine those that are relevant to your service. Search these terms yourself or use software to do the grunt work. Are your competitors ranking organically? Or are they paying for advertising? Are they bidding on other competitor’s brand names? What pages on their website are showing up in rankings? What sort of content is on that page? Can you improve your content?
2. Identify alternative keywords
Next, you should look for keywords you want to target that your competitors don’t appear to be focusing on. You need to do some research first. Find out if there is enough search volume on those keywords to warrant using them. You don’t want to put all of your efforts into keywords that only have an average of 10 searches a month nationally.
A great free tool for keyword research is Ubersuggest.
Then analyse the search results for these keywords. Are your competitors visible? Are they advertising on those results pages or are they ranking organically? Have you identified a new competitor that you weren’t aware of?
3. Decide on SEM or SEO … or both
Do you need to get leads to your business ASAP? Then you should invest in paid ads (PPC), because SEO takes time.
But do some due diligence first. Use Google’s Keyword Planner to investigate the average costs-per-click (CPCs) for your keywords and benchmark that against your profit margin.
While the CPC might be only $5, not everyone who clicks on your ad will become a customer.
So, your actual cost-per-acquisition (CPA) might prove to be more like $30 in this scenario. Are you still making a profit if you’re spending that much on every sale?
If you’re willing to wait — or you’re in an industry that is simply too competitive when it comes to PPC — start with SEO.
First steps: SEO
Thanks to your earlier assessment of your competitors and keywords, you have already completed a vital step of your search engine optimisation effort.
Your next step should be to get some help to do a review or audit of your website. This will help identify any technical issues that could be preventing search engines from crawling your site, while also highlighting opportunities for you to improve your site’s optimisation for your identified keywords.
It is important to note that this is a very brief outline of how to get started. SEO is a much more involved practice and one that will also require you to demonstrate your authority and trustworthiness, both on your site and around the web.
If in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask for professional SEO help.
First steps: SEM
When it comes to paid search, your first step should be to understand the Google Ads account structure, as getting it right can be crucial for success.
You’ll need to understand the difference between Campaigns and Ad Groups in Google Ads.
Look at your target audiences and their intents related to the services or products you want to advertise. This is going to be important to get your account structure right.
For example, if you’re opening a Pilates studio, you might want to advertise specifically to women looking for pregnancy Pilates, while also advertising to men and women looking for clinical Pilates.
You might name your campaign ‘Launching 2018.’ Your ad groups might be named:
- ‘Clinical Pilates’
- ‘Pregnancy Pilates’
Within each of those two ad groups, you will likely need different ads that speak to each audience and allow you to target different keywords with unique messages. In the ‘Clinical’ ad group, you might have an ad that targets keywords related to workplace accidents, compensation and rehabilitation. This ad could communicate WorkCover claims.
Structuring your campaign like this provides you with the opportunity to be more specific with your targeting and PPC optimisations. This ensures you get the most out of your PPC campaign dollars.
This is even more important when you understand that the better optimised your ads are, the higher your Ad Score is (and the less you need to pay to match the ad placement of your competitors). Read more about SEM and how it’s done here.
Like SEO, there is much more to SEM, but this is a good start.
SEO marketing is worth your time — and money
With so many online purchases beginning with a search engine, it would be a mistake to ignore SEO marketing. Your audience is out there searching, and in Australia, the majority of them are doing so with Google. Start looking at your competition to understand how they rank and what search terms they are targeting. Benchmark those results against how your website is performing.
Armed with this info, go ahead and implement SEO, SEM or both so likely buyers can start finding your website instead of your competitors’ sites. A timely investment now will pay off in more visitors to your website — and more sales — for years to come.