Written by Annie-Mai Hodge on 07.28.2020
How to use SEO to generate website traffic
In 2019 alone, Google was visited a staggering 62.19 billion times, making it by far the most visited website and giving them around a 93% market share of all searches conducted online.
This breaks down to an average of 3.5 billion searches conducted every day — a far cry from the roughly 10,000 searches a day they were processing in 1998.
Evidently, Google has become an integral part of how the internet works, with the Google search engine being one of the primary means by which individual users interact with the internet.
In fact, according to a 2019 industry report, 84% of respondents used Google to search more than three times per day. And even more important for businesses with an online presence, around 46% of product searches begin with a Google search.
From this brief snapshot, we begin to get a sense of the extent to which Google searches are at the heart of our online experiences. From looking up the weather, to shopping for a last-minute birthday present, there are an increasing number of processes in our daily life that begin with a Google search.
But beyond direct advertisements posted around the internet, how can businesses build their online presence? And if a single Google search can produce millions of results in an instant, how can individual businesses stand out?
This is where SEO comes. SEO, or ‘Search Engine Optimization’, is the practice of increasing how you rank in a given set of organic search results, with the view of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website. In reality, SEO isn’t just one ‘thing’, and actually describes a number of practices and methods of improving your rankings, such as link building, optimizing your use of keywords, and developing an off-page SEO strategy such as through guest-posting.
With all that said, there is clearly quite a lot of depth to what SEO strategy might actually entail. But what are the basic mechanics behind it, and how can we go about improving our SEO strategy?
The power of the written word: using blogs to build your brand authority
Although much of the focus in online advertising these days is on audio-visual and experiential marketing, there is no denying that the written word still manages to hold its own as a key marketing tool. The written blog format has a number of distinct advantages when compared to these other marketing tools, and for this reason, it is one of the primary forms of media used by content and marketing strategists. But what are some of these advantages?
Search Engine Optimization: As you might have guessed from the content of this article, blogs are uniquely well suited to search engine optimization (SEO). They are flexible, easy to use, and can easily support link building practices to get your choice of keyword ranked.
Cultivate customer relationships: A well-written blog is a good way to build trust with existing and potential customers. Not only do blogs allow you to convey your message directly to a customer, but individual blog posts also provide a platform for customer engagement.
Build authority and become an industry leader: Regardless of what niche area of business you are involved in, written blog posts give you a platform to demonstrate your expertise in this area. Blog posts, whether posted by you directly or through guest-posts, allow you to establish yourself as an expert in this area, which builds up trust with your customer in the long run.
Create shareable content: One of the best things about blog posts is that it creates a stable link that can be shared either by yourself over social media-channels or by members of your intended audience. Links to written blog posts can be anchored in content posted elsewhere, which creates a network of links driving traffic to your website.
The 3 Core Elements of SEO: Keywords, Content, and Off-Page Signals
Although it is complicated to implement in practice, the basic premise of SEO is quite simple: improving your search engine ranking to direct potential customers towards your website. The hope is that if you drive traffic towards your website, you will be able to create more leads, more conversions, and ultimately higher sales. But what are the core elements of an SEO strategy?
One of the main aspects of any SEO strategy are keywords. Keywords are important because your website will be listed as more or less relevant in the website index rankings based on a rating that looks at, amongst other things, the number of keywords on a page. Based on this ranking, users will get directed to your website via search engine results when they search for that specific keyword.
It isn’t enough to simply plaster your website with keywords to increase your ranking, however. Instead, keywords need to be seamlessly built into your website and any content you post on it — for this reason, it’s important to use bespoke content as part of your SEO strategy.
Generic keywords won’t drive traffic to your website, however. Instead, look to use long-tail keywords such as, for example, ‘cheap hotel rooms in Rome’ rather than simply ‘cheap rooms’.
By focusing on longer, more specific keywords instead of generic ones, you improve your ranking and increase website traffic. Being intentional with how you use keywords is one of the proven ways to drive traffic to your website.
The aim of SEO strategy shouldn’t just be to overwhelm Google with keywords in order to boost your ranking, as ultimately this will lead to clunky, incoherent text that doesn’t bring value to your customers.
Instead, the focus should be on producing high-quality content that will help potential customers to discover content that is useful and targeted to their needs.
Search engines these days are very adept at differentiating high-quality written content and recommending this work over work that is poorly written.
Firstly, search engines look at the length of the piece itself. Balance is the key here, as whilst search engines don’t rank short, blurb-like pieces of content highly, they will also be slow to recommend work that is overly long and bloated.
Secondly, search engines like content that is ‘fresh’, meaning regularly updated. It isn’t enough to just create hundreds of articles in advance and post them all at once, hoping that over time users will find their way to you. Instead, search engines like content that is relatively recently updated — the logic here being that newer content is more relevant to users.
As such, it’s important to make sure you keep your website or blog post updated, posting new material when the time is right.
And thirdly, search engines like websites with internally coherent material. By this, we mean that search engines will look favorably on posts that have links to other relevant content built into it, typically through anchor text with embedded links.
Although the previous two sections — ‘Keywords’ and ‘Content’ — looked primarily at the ‘on-page’ aspects of effective SEO techniques, the ‘off-page’ aspects are equally important.
Whilst on-page SEO focuses mainly on things like the placement of keywords, meta-descriptions, and crafting the perfect title, off-page SEO relates to how other unique domains link back to your website and how other website owners are using your content.
Search engines like Google take into account many different factors when deciding how a website should be ranked. Looking at how other websites link back to your website is one way of telling Google how this should be done.
If more websites link back to your content, search engines will consider this a sign that you are posting valuable content and, in accordance with the other factors set out, should be ranked accordingly.
With this in mind, as a way of boosting their SEO, content managers will do what is called ‘link-building’, which is essentially the process of getting other websites to link back to your website. In this way, you are building a network of links across the internet, which will help potential customers find your website.
One of the proven ways to drive traffic to your website and to increase your off-page SEO by link building is to write guest blog posts or, alternatively, to use a guest blog service.
By reaching out to websites in similar fields to yours who might be able to funnel traffic to your website, you can offer to produce content for them, which they post on your behalf.
This is done by placing embedded links within the article and by using a call to action where appropriate. Using a guest blogging outreach service is a way of building these relationships with other websites.
When increasing your off-page rankings in this way, however, it’s important to bear in mind the following. Firstly, when embedding links into the guest post, be sure to use a well thought out keyword as anchor text. This will have a significant impact on your SEO rankings.
Secondly, you need to consider the quality of the page you are linking from. Google’s SEO algorithms will give you a better ranking for links from high-quality, trusted websites.
And thirdly, you need to consider the relevance of the links you are embedding. Avoid using generic links to the homepage, making your linking practices as specific as possible. This could involve, for example, embedding links to specific products in content about that product.
With these considerations in mind, we can see that building your off-page SEO ranking involves considering not just the partner page you will be posting content to, but also a well-thought-out keyword and link-building strategy.
The House Rules of Guest Posting
Just like in the real world, there are a number of basic rules of etiquette you should follow if you want to be a good houseguest. This is equally true when it comes to guest posting for SEO purposes, which can often be a minefield for the uninitiated.
Even simply finding the right ‘host’ can be tricky to get right as it involves not only developing a close relationship with them, but also getting a good sense of what audience they serve and whether this aligns with the demographic you are trying to reach out to.
Although you might initially have thought guest-posting cuts down on the amount of work you need to do given that you are using a platform maintained by another business, the opposite is actually true. In fact, the need to keep an eye on the content you have posted off your platform can take quite a lot of effort to maintain.
For this reason, using a guest blogging outreach service can allow you to get all the benefits of a well-thought out off-site SEO content strategy, without the effort of having to figure out and navigate all the trick house-rules and etiquette of guest posting.
But what are some of the benefits of using a guest blog service and what value can it bring to your own website?
Identify and target potential hosts: One of the trickiest and most time-consuming aspects of developing a guest blogging strategy is finding hosts to partner with. The host website not only needs to make sense from a business perspective, but also needs to have a realistic prospect of driving traffic to your website. A guest blog service allows you to identify potential hosts by researching both your own target demographics as well as the actual audiences of potential hosts.
Pitching your idea: Using a guest blogging outreach service will help you to develop and pitch your post ideas to potential hosts. This will help to cut down on any added research time you might need to develop and tailor your posts to the specific audiences of the host website.
Tailoring your content: Although it might seem obvious that all blogs and websites have their own style, format, and authorial voice, this is often overlooked aspect of guest posting. Tailoring your content to match your would-be host’s style can often be a time-consuming process and is tricky to get right. Trusting this aspect to a third party allows them to do the back-end research, meaning your post will strike exactly the right cord with the target audience once published.
Post-publication monitoring: One of the most overlooked aspects of guest posting is the monitoring you need to do after you have published a guest post. This might involve, for example, updating content, fixing dead links, updating keywords, and engaging with the audience. Rather than fleeing the scene once you have posted, a guest post service will keep an eye on this post-publication work for you.
Playing by the Rules: White Hat vs Black Hat SEO
As you might have guessed by now, designing and implementing good SEO strategy is a very tricky process.
In one sense, it is like this by design, as Google have specifically designed their SEO guidelines and rules to encourage good SEO practices by default. And there is solid reasoning behind this; bad SEO only works in the interests of websites themselves, rather than delivering high quality content to customers.
A common misconception about SEO guidelines is that they are in place to ensure all websites using SEO have a level playing field. However, this isn’t fully correct.
Although prevent websites from abusing or taking advantage of SEO is certainly a major objective, the underlying aim is to ensure that SEO ensures that customers are having high-quality content delivered to them, and aren’t being spammed, scammed, or inappropriately targeted. In this sense, good SEO practices are all about the customer.
When it comes to designing SEO best practices, we can draw a distinction between white hat SEO and black hat SEO. The former, white hat is essentially any kind of SEO that plays by the rules and guidelines set out by Google.
Black hat SEO, as you might have guessed, is the opposite of this and involves the inappropriate use or abuse of SEO to gain an advantage to the detriment of the customer.
But what are some examples of these bad practices?
Keyword Stuffing: Overloading a piece of content with as many keywords as possible will negatively impact your rankings and from the perspective of a customer, leads to clunky, incoherent text.
Duplicate Content: Duplicated content not only looks bad for your brand—no one likes plagiarism—but will also impact your SEO rankings as it has already been indexed. Bespoke, unique content is the key here!
Cloaking/Invisible Text and Links: As website designers have the ability to hide certain information from users, a common trick was to embed SEO content within a page to improve your rankings. Google is well aware of this old technique, however, so hidden content will not impact your rankings.
Link Farms: The use of link farms to generate content—also known as spamdexing—will negatively impact your rankings. Link farms are clusters of websites that link to each other to build a website’s ranking.
Whilst some of these bad hat SEO practices seem quite obvious, others are easier to infringe on than you would initially appreciate if you weren’t familiar with the inner workings of Google’s SEO algorithms.
Particularly when it comes to using keywords and link building to boost your ranking, it can often be a fine balance between aiming for white hat SEO but inadvertently engaging in black hat practices.
For this reason, using a professional SEO service helps you to ensure that not only is your SEO strategy well designed, but that it operates well within white hat SEO practices.
Putting it all together
Although SEO strategies involve many moving parts, the basic mechanics are quite simple. The goal is to use your understanding of how search engines work to help your website stand out from the competition.
To do this, you need an SEO strategy that balances both on-page and off-page SEO practices.
Whilst on-page SEO is relatively easy to manage by creating engaging content tied together by keywords and internal link building, off-page SEO can be a little trickier to get right.
Guest posts on external websites are a great way of improving your SEO rankings. However, they are not without their own difficulties. Engaging the services of a guest blogging outreach service can be an effective way of ensuring you get the most value out of a guest post.
No matter how you choose to approach this, the focus should always be on producing original and engaging content that brings value to your potential customers. This is the foundation of a good SEO strategy.