There are a couple of ways in which writers and marketers try to phrase the “SEO is dead” statement. Normally, this is merely a tactic employed to talk about SEO’s recent best practices. Others have actually tried to suggest that SEO is dead.
As we confront these attempts, one thing is clear – it is both a mistake and a (bad) cliché.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. In short, SEO refers to the techniques/processes used to improve a website’s visibility in the search rankings. These organic search results (as opposed to paid search marketing) can drastically help a website get more traffic.
To suggest that SEO is dead is to suggest that these methods do not exist or work. We know that this is not true, barring a complete change in the way that search engines function.
Why would anyone say that SEO is dead? A few reasons emerge:
The above combination often forms a tandem that can easily fill 500 words of content. After asking the question, running through the Google Panda developments, and drawing on recent techniques like social media, content marketing, and more – the writer will focus on how SEO has changed.
For the majority of articles that discuss this topic, they don’t legitimately suggest that SEO is dead. It is merely a roundabout ploy to generate intrigue, or at best to answer this question for beginners that do not know the basics of SEO.
In a recent post, Tim Anderson did a rare thing: He suggested that SEO is actually dead.
His initial thrust is easily met: “A striking post by Dan Graziano reveals that a Google search may only display 13% organic results.” However, what this statistic reveals is that organic search results account for 13 percent of screen real estate above the fold on a 13-inch laptop.
There are a lot of ads in your average search. Yet, this is not relevant to the effectiveness of SEO. To quote a meaningful statistic, organic search results receive a click 94 percent of the time versus paid search results.
The next portion from Anderson focuses on how local searches are gaining in steam – along with social media. There is truth to both, as social media is becoming much more popular, especially for local searches.
Once again, though, we don’t get the full story – Google searches have grown year after year. Also, local SEO is still SEO. And social media optimization can help SEO, since a strong social media presence is known to greatly impact a website’s SEO value.
SEO is alive and kicking. It has certainly changed, notably from the recent and ongoing developments from Google.
It may rely heavily on quality content marketing, social media, and other elements that were not seen in past years. It may keep changing, changing to the point to where some businesses may be out of luck from relying on outdated strategies.
However, SEO is quite active and relevant. Take a hard look at any alleged evidence before you believe the contrary.
Around 60 percent of websites do not use any sort of analytics solution to track statistics. Sayf Sharif reports that the number is even higher for nonprofits.
An analytics solution like Google Analytics is not tantamount to numbers and statistics that lack overall relevance. It can guide your SEO and social media strategies, help you determine your engagement with your target audience, and much more. Analytics can help the blogger looking for some exposure or the big business needing some insight into all things digital – and anything in between.
Email marketing should be the central focus of your efforts. Social media has its place, but email campaigns can and should be the cornerstone. It is the most personal medium and the one that you control.
Contact and opt-in forms may form an unglamorous subset of online marketing, but they can’t be underestimated. As catalysts for your email subscriber list, these forms can lead to gains in hits, social media followers, and your overall business.
All they had to do was to reduce their contact form from 11 to four fields. As a result, Imagescape gained a 120 percent conversion increase.
Simplifying a contact form can do wonders for its conversion rate. Other information from the QuickSprout infographic makes it clear that it’s optimal to have fewer fields:
The key is to make things easier and simpler. For instance, drop down forms did not perform well, peaking at a conversion rate of 16 percent. Ordinary forms that required telephone numbers and contact information saw declines as well.
Another interesting finding was the word used on the form’s button. Instead of the default “Submit,” buttons that had less-intimidating terms saw the following increases in the conversion rate:
An entirely different ballgame awaits your website opt-in forms. While they certainly have the same goal as a contact form, implementing them well requires some finesse and an eye for design.
From the form’s placement and colors to the text and thank-you page, there is a lot going on here. You will have to grab the user’s attention, make a statement, and compel the reader to join.
The first two examples from Shane Melaugh’s “Opt-In Form Clinic” speak to the directness that your form must have. In the original opt-in forms, specificity is lacking. Instead of saying little other than “Sign up for free updates,” you want to ignite something in the reader that makes them want those updates or that free e-book.
It should sell itself. It should stand without any other content. As Melaugh says, it has to pop.
Make sure that your opt-in form stands out visually. Colors that immediately capture the reader’s eyes work well.
Worried about social media links? Keep them for your thank-you page. Once you have the opt-in, you can ask for follows and shares on that page and within your email campaigns.
Keep your contact and opt-in forms direct and to the point. If there are too many fields on the contact forms, you could scare a potential subscriber away from connecting with your business.
Test contact and opt-in forms to see what works best. Keep the contact form simple and play around with its placement. On the opt-in form, experiment with different copy and design elements to see what truly stands out and inspires the visitors.
And remember to do A/A tests before you do A/B tests. The tool or software you use might not display accurate information.
These tricks can open up your company to a wide body of email subscribers. That’s just the start – as your email campaigns can lead to social media, RSS, text messaging, and other opportunities in the world of marketing.
Once you have identified keyword for your website, you can set your sights on the driving force of SEO – content marketing strategy. Learn more about this with the final post in the series, extending from part one and part two of this series where we looked at the importance of SEO and keywords for your business.
Create blog posts that target specific keywords and phrases to build SEO value. Aim for high-quality, insightful content that is at least 250/300 words in length.
Some of the best blog posts are those that target those low competition keywords that are searched for often. In fact, one of the earliest articles I published in my career has been viewed nearly 55,000 times since September of 2009 – simply by targeting a lesser-used phrase that is still common.
Don’t let the term “content marketing” scare you. Take the opportunity to give your business a voice online. In keeping with our example of an online lighting fixture retailer, you could create posts that showcase interesting DIY lighting projects, beautiful photos of homes that are well-lit, and tips for keeping utility costs low. You could also do promotional and semi-promotional posts, such as those that characterize the benefits of a certain lighting fixture, and tips for cleaning fixtures.
Cover news in your industry. Point your audience to anything that entertains, informs, or is otherwise of interest in your industry. As you do this, keep these tips in mind:
Content marketing doesn’t stop at your website. Blog posts may be the most effective way to gain SEO, but there are other areas that do that as well – and they can bring impressive marketing value to the table.
Here are some various items that can help you gain a larger web presence. They can all do wonders for SEO:
It doesn’t take much to make ground in SEO. I believe that any business can begin creating effective blog posts in their industry, leverage them on social media, and begin considering other techniques (e.g., YouTube videos and guest posts for links) to build a web presence.
Make sure you have an analytics solution on your website. Google Analytics is the standard, and it can be installed easily on a site – simply check with your developer or theme. You can also opt for another free/paid option (Clicky is particularly noteworthy, with a very clean interface).
Having analytics will allow you to see where your visitors are coming from to get to your site. You can see what portion of your visitors have arrived via organic search, which means that SEO is working. You will be able to see what search terms resulted in a visit to your site.
Use this to learn about effective SEO techniques that you have used. Build on that success to improve your rankings in search results.
SEO doesn’t have to be difficult. While you can make an investment with a marketing agency, or an SEO specialist and a writer or two – you can also do it yourself. Perhaps you can gain some ground on your own, and then consider taking it to the professionals at the right time.
Perform keyword research, come up with a list of keywords for your audience, and then follow through with a content marketing plan that involves social media, links, and more. That’s all it takes.
Other Posts in the Series:
Any SEO progress that is made without keywords is incidental. Extending from the first blog post in this series, we learned the ultimate goal and purpose of SEO: to rank highly for keywords that relate to your business and your audience. Once that happens, your website will increase in views.
What are those keywords for your business, though? Keeping our imaginary business that sells lighting fixtures online, we dive into some examples and strategies for quick and effective keyword research.
Take the opportunity to bookmark Google’s keyword tool, which will come in handy.
Place relevant words and phrases in the tool, which will generate keywords along with the corresponding competition, global and monthly searches, and local monthly searches (for location-based businesses) for that term. These results will help you learn more about the SEO landscape in your country.
Put together a list of primary keywords that describe your business, products, and services. For instance, if your lighting fixtures include popular brands, you would want your website to register highly for “BRAND lighting fixtures” search terms.
Also, don’t be afraid to look for keywords that are related to your industry but not your products or services. For example, a great blog post on DIY lighting could generate website visits and establish your business as a thought leader in the industry. This strategy could do wonders for gaining a following, making it well worth the effort.
Compile the tens or hundreds of keywords in a safe place. You will target these with your website, blog posts, guest posts, social media posts, and much more!
While “lighting fixtures” is searched for on Google 673,000 times each month, ranking highly on that term could be a daunting task for a company with a new web presence. Why not set immediate sights on keywords that are a bit less competitive – while keeping an eye on your big goals?
This is one of the best strategies for newer companies and blogs. Over an extended period of time, you might be able to make ground on the highly-competitive, high-number searches. Even making it to the second or third page can be worthwhile. However, this can take time, as your main keywords are obvious and likely conquered by your competitors (and their large budgets).
Turn your attention to these related keywords:
These keywords all have low competition, according to Google. With a little bit of work, that imaginary business could rank well for these terms, gaining an impressive boost in traffic.
Here are a couple of additional points from Juan Pablo Castro that can help you generate effective keywords:
Place these keyword lists in a safe place, such as a spreadsheet. You can even consider organizing your keyword lists in terms of priority, competition, and category (location, promotional, product/service, entertaining, etc.).
These will help you create content that incorporates keywords in the title, content, and subheads that will get noticed by search engines.
Stay tuned for the final part in the series, which dives into content marketing approaches that will have SEO value. We will also look at viewing your progress in a simple-to-use analytics solution.
Other Posts in the Series:
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a household term that is used across the web. It basically works to improve a website’s position in the results of a search engine, such as Google. Since the websites that are higher in the results will get more visibility and subsequent “clicks” (website visitors), it pays to invest time and effort into SEO.
As opposed to other forms of online marketing, it doesn’t cost anything when you do it yourself. This means that you can learn how to implement SEO best practices on your site without a professional marketer/marketing company or advertising funds.
How does it all work, though? This three-part series will teach you the basics that you can implement immediately.
Why do you want to optimize your website for search engines? In 2011, there was an average of over 4.7 billion searches each day.
It doesn’t matter how narrow the market is for your business or blog. There are tens of thousands of searches each day in which your site can rank highly.
Let’s pretend that you have an online store that sells lighting fixtures. According to Google’s keyword tool, there are 673,000 global monthly searches for “lighting fixtures.”
Imagine if your business was the top result in Google for that search term. A study suggests that you would receive 18.2 percent of those visitors. Second place in this result would have a click-through rate of 10.05 percent – and so on down the line.
That means that your business would receive over 122,000 organic (natural, non-paid) visitors each month. Compare that price (free) to the average cost per click of a paid search campaign (over $47,000), which was $0.39 according to a recent report.
It’s not exactly a fair comparison – but it makes the point pretty clear.
Think about the difference that additional traffic could make for your business, blog, or other type of website. If your website increases its visitors, that could lead to conversions: sales, social media followers, email subscribers, and more.
The goal of SEO is to rank highly for keywords that relate to your business and your audience. Once that happens, your website will practically market itself.
Next to be covered is finding those keywords that can quickly improve your site in the rankings. If you are spending time with the wrong keywords – or without an eye towards keywords at all – you are missing out on a great opportunity. Finally, we will take a look at simple content marketing approaches that can easily make a dent in SEO.
Other Posts in the Series:
Why should your business pay attention to local SEO and social media optimization? Based on a recent search study’s glaring numbers, local establishments will need to up the ante to compete for local search results.
Mobile searches are on the rise, according to a recent local search study from comScore, Nuestar/Localeze, and 15 Miles. A few statistics tell the story:
Businesses should also know that mobile searchers are closer to making a purchase. Greg Sterling notes from the study that 78 percent of mobile phone searches and 77 percent of tablet searches resulted in a purchase. Only 59 percent of PC searches ended in a purchase.
While mobile searches increase in numbers, the same can’t be said for PCs and laptops, which saw a 17-percent decrease in local searches, with a five-percent decrease in non-local searches.
As local searches rise across the Internet, the study revealed impressive numbers regarding Facebook, the social media giant. With the following results in mind, it seems like businesses will need to take local searches on Facebook seriously:
These are significant figures. With Facebook beating out other apps in local searches, Nearby and Graph Search offer an interesting opportunity for businesses. While there is no comparable number in this year’s study, last year’s study found that 49 percent of mobile owners used apps to find local information.
Facebook is closely behind the leader, Google Maps (35 to 24 percent on mobile phones, 25 to 23 percent on tablets). It could be poised to take over the mobile app world for local searches in due time.
The takeaway point is clear: Local businesses need to optimize listings, especially on Facebook, to appeal to local searchers. Mobile users will use local search tools to find a nearby business – those lagging will be left behind.
Take to Facebook and make sure that you have a page for your business, as well as additional locations as needed. All information, such as the address, phone number, photos, and website links should be present. Branch out on Google+, Bing, and other sites to create a consistent presence that welcomes mobile users.
Taking these steps will improve your local SEO, SEO, and social media presence. It will, quite literally, put your business on the map.
The appropriate “Top 10” list is the mark of an amateur writer. There are plenty of practical problems with such a list in itself. Yet, with the right approach, this overdone piece of content can be rejuvenated.
While our result certainly won’t be a “Top 10” list any longer, it still abides as a list. Nevertheless, we proceed on to our list of criticisms of the traditional “Top 10” list, in no particular order:
The title “Top 10” is a red light for those of us who are looking for original and inspirational content. It’s simply overdone.
A fresh title is essential to grab the reader’s attention, as based on the 80/20 rule of headlines (Copyblogger), eight out of 10 will read the headline but only two out of 10 will read the content. You can easily fix the problem, though.
In this case, aim for putting the number before the text. Also, get right to your descriptive phrase. “10 Creative Uses for X” is better than “Top 10 Creative Uses for X,” which will also afford you more room in the title (which is limited for good SEO).
It doesn’t always have to be “10.” In fact, for this generation of online readers – who scan, rather than read – 10 is too much. It sounds funny, but there is a lot of truth to it.
Besides, other numbers deserve some love too. Apart from the number “7” being a quicker read, it is much more fresh than “10” in a list. Many believe that there is something to be said for using odd numbers more often, which is relevant as well.
We’re not done with the number “10.”
Since some are so antiquated to “Top 10” lists, there needs to be 10 items in every such list. What if there are only seven or eight logical choices? It doesn’t matter, our old friend demands, because the piece has to be a “Top 10” piece.
This, obviously, has problems. The writer would be forced to make tougher-than-needed calls on what to include. He or she shouldn’t have to reach for unwarranted items. Before long, the writer is forced to extend to second- and third-tier ideas to get the magic number.
Writers don’t like doing these lists. Especially the infamous “Top 10” lists.
For starters, 10 is a lot. When you factor in an adequate amount of research to present one item in a nice way, multiply it by 10. Then spend at least 10-15 minutes ordering them correctly.
A 500- or 750-word article/list is one thing, but a “Top 10” list is much more involved.
Do you remember our “Creative Uses” list? There is another advantage to our proposed title, where the word “Top” was nowhere to be found.
With this word, readers put the piece under a magnifying glass. Viewers might wonder why one entry isn’t higher than another. Debates could surface surrounding entries that should have made the list. It all starts because the “Top” implies that the entries are ranked.
For some sites that are only concerned with online traffic, such as sports blogs, they may enjoy some heated discussion. Others can have their expertise and credibility undermined.
Does the ride feel a little bumpy? Don’t blame me: This is par for the course with our beloved “Top 10” list.
Transitions are tough to accomplish with so many items on the list. Unless an entry has a natural relationship to the previous item, it’s likely not going to happen.
Since any “Top” list dictates a natural progression of entries, the writer in a “Top 10” list will have to compare and contrast on the fly. Further problems are created.
Why? It leads to stop-and-go traffic. It also takes time, leading us into the next issue.
Why is HootSuite a top 10 social media tool, or 2Do a top 10 task manager app?
Well, some background and pricing information would be nice. We should also include advantages/disadvantages, the best target audience, and maybe some other items – again, because they’re ranked, not because it’s a list. Everything is compared in a top 10 list (e.g., price).
That takes time. As we’re already well past 500 words – an average count for an article – keeping things to a reasonable word count is tough.
Things can also get lopsided if an entry has more information than another.
It looks really bad.
A normal list can be whatever it wants. You can have “7 Entertaining Uses for X,” “9 Strategies to Revolutionize Y,” and so forth. There is some freedom.
But with “Top 10 Z?” The creative freedom is lost. The list must have the “top” or “best” entries. There is no unique angle involved.
Lists are not bad. In fact, they are some of the best-performing types of content out there. However, “Top 10” lists are a bit out of date and frowned upon.
Consider: If you drop both the “Top” and the “10” from the equation, arguably all of the preceding reasons can be fixed or alleviated. It’s that simple.
Use lists – a lot, in fact. You just might want to leave our old friend, the “Top 10” list, alone.