Who Should Own SEO for Your Website, and How Do You Measure its Success?
Everybody wants to be fit. Few people are willing to do the work necessary to achieve optimal fitness. We opt for chips and salsa over carrot sticks, Netflix over gym time, and the elevator over stairs. Then, we look in the mirror and notice some extra inches (or chins) or discover our cholesterol is too high, and suddenly we regret all those choices… for a while… until we fall back into our old habits of forgetfulness.
Similarly, SEO (search engine optimization) is a healthy best practice for a brand’s website. Do you know why so many people roll their eyes when somebody mentions SEO? It’s not because it’s a myth or urban legend. People either refuse to acknowledge its value to an overall marketing strategy, or they choose to prioritize other, more immediate initiatives. It’s the “shiny object syndrome”, an instant gratification culture, a reactionary mindset more so than a proactive strategy.
Savvy marketers know what it takes to have a broader organic reach, but few are taking advantage of the opportunity to truly optimize and maintain a healthy website. The technical aspects presuppose the capacity for a learning curve, algorithm and results page updates must constantly be monitored, and there’s a steady flow of quality content to create. It’s easy to see why SEO gets put on the back burner.
However, as with fitness, there are no shortcuts to great SEO. It’s the unsung hero working behind the scenes to bring qualified prospects to your digital front door. Whether you want to reach the finish line or an ideal prospect, you have to do the work to see the results. There is no instant gratification, but SEO provides ample opportunities for those willing to do the work.
- Relevant Leads
- Foot Traffic
- Brand Awareness
- Automated Conversions
- Thought Leadership and Reputation
- Free Brand Exposure (in contrast to PPC)
- Visitor Retention (because of the improved user experience)
Let’s look at what’s required to make the most of those opportunities. But first…
What SEO Is and What It Is Not
SEO is not a guarantee that you’ll achieve or maintain a certain rank. Because search algorithms and competition constantly change, SEO will never be static. It’s not a “one and done” situation.
The goal of SEO is to strategically position a site by making it as user-friendly as possible and communicating effectively through navigation and content. It is the dynamic collaboration of a diverse set of disciplines working together toward an optimal goal.
SEO is a best-practice series of tasks and techniques designed to set your website up for the best possible success. The goal is to show up on the first page of search results when a user searches for something related to the product or service you provide. Measuring those results can be tricky if you don’t understand the ins and outs of all the variables. To best determine who should own SEO for your company and, inevitably, how to measure its success, you need to know what all is involved. SEO can be broken down into four categories of tasks:
- Measure, evaluate, and make adjustments
How to Setup Your Website for SEO
Aside from creating quality content, the majority of SEO setup is done in the backend of a website. How it’s done depends on the type of website you have. As a result, the responsibility for this portion of SEO often lands in the laps of developers or systems administrators.
Developers do everything from creating the URL structure to making sure pages load quickly. Google announced in March 2018 that they were beginning to roll out mobile first results. In other words, websites that are mobile friendly rank better than those that aren’t, on all platforms. Other tasks that need to be done in the backend of the website include page titles, alt text, installing Google Analytics and Search Console, and indexing the sitemap.
The navigation of any website consists of graphic design, UX, as well as development. H-tags impact design and the appearance of webpages, so there should be a team effort between copywriters and graphic designers.
Keyword research should involve a study of user intent. What questions do people ask Google, Siri, or Alexa that might lead people to your website? What do they type into the search bar that might be tangential to the more obvious search terms? How does latent semantic indexing impact search terms? What adjustments should be made to content to account for voice search? This research provides the keywords and phrases copywriters need to incorporate into the text of a website, both on individual pages and in meta descriptions.
You may have noticed that the results page continues to evolve. There are ads, featured snippets, maps, products, interesting finds, business profiles, related questions and answers, additional search options, as well as the traditional 10 blue links. Each result poses an opportunity for prospects to find and engage with your brand. Each requires a different element of SEO.
SEO Maintenance Your Website Needs
As with any marketing endeavor, you can’t just set up SEO and forget it. It needs to be monitored, evaluated, and adjusted as necessary. This is where Google Analytics, Search Console, and the social platform analytics prove helpful.
Google Analytics tells you how long visitors spend on any given page and what the bounce rate is. It will also tell you where most of the traffic lands initially and where visitors exit at the end of their visit. Low bounce rates and lengthy (more than one minute) time on page numbers bode well for search rankings. High bounce rates and minimal time on page mean visitors didn’t find what they expected, so they clicked out of the page. Those pages would benefit from adjustments to copy, flow, load time, or calls to action. Perform A/B tests to determine which elements to keep and which to change.
Search Console helps you identify broken links and other errors so you can fix them. But you have to check Search Console routinely to know that you need to perform these tasks.
Social platform analytics help you see which posts perform best and which inspire followers to click through to the website. Monitoring these things will improve overall traffic, and if the overall traffic results in a low bounce rate, it bodes well for the site’s authority.
In addition to monitoring the performance of a website, it’s vital to publish fresh content routinely. When websites are not updated for an extended amount of time, they seem less relevant to search engines striving to deliver the most relevant results. Fresh content may be as simple as publishing a blog post regularly. Without fresh content, you’re missing opportunities to appear in multiple search results categories: interesting finds, people also ask, featured snippets, voice results, as well as the traditional blue link. These additional search results categories have often been referenced as page rank zero, a hat tip to the previous “top 10 blue links” results page.
What Makes Local SEO So Important?
Local SEO is a beast of its own. So many of the searches people perform are related to where they are at any given moment. “What’s the nearest car wash?” “What restaurants are nearby?” “Where is the closest ATM.” Each of these searches provide different results depending on where the searcher is, at that point in time. Localized SEO requires steps that go beyond including your location in the keywords.
For starters, any time your brand’s location appears online, the contact information should be consistent, all the way down to the punctuation and abbreviations. In industry speak, this is called NAP (name, address, phone). The information should read the same on your website, your social media profiles, your Google My Business page, as well as other online directories like Yelp, Yellow Pages, Angie’s List, and the Better Business Bureau. By ensuring the NAP is the same wherever it appears, you make it easy for search engines to identify the company and pinpoint it on a map. Otherwise, the still young AI could misinterpret St. versus Street and think it’s an entirely different entity. The worst thing you can do to a search engine is to confuse it.
The best way to guarantee all the NAP information is consistent across all platforms is to claim ownership of your business profile anywhere it may appear, starting with Google My Business. It can be a tedious process, but it’s well worth it when you see foot traffic increase along with web traffic.
It’s feasible that a brand could own their local SEO efforts, as long as they know where to look and are willing to put in the work.
How to Measure SEO Success
Now that you know what is involved, what you can and can’t do in-house, and the value of localization; how do you measure success?
Unlike sales numbers, SEO forecasts need to lean on increased percentages rather than something like how many pages a site moved up in the ranking or how many company pages rank in the top three search results. Tangible signs of success could be measured by looking at any (or all) of the following:
- An increase in qualified organic traffic. Relevant inbound traffic comes as a result of someone typing or speaking something into a search engine and then clicking through to your site from the results page. By contrast, direct traffic comes from people who know your URL and type it in without going through a search engine. It makes sense that an increase in organic traffic means more people are finding you in search results. For the best measure of success, measure traffic year over year to eliminate any changes that might be tied to seasonality. Google Analytics provides this data from the time it is installed on a website, but not before. The sooner you install it, the sooner you have data to measure.
- Increased time on page/on site. The longer people spend on your site, the more interested they are in what you have to offer. Time on page indicates how valuable visitors consider the information on that page to be. Increased engagement increases your chances of beginning a relationship. Average time on site and time on page data can also be found in Google Analytics.
- Whether your search efforts are focused on sales or on lead generation, an increased number of conversions (Ex. click to call, contact form submissions, offer redemptions, purchases, downloads, etc.) indicates your SEO efforts are paying off. This data may need the support of Google Tag Manager for the most accurate numbers.
- Number of customers who say they found you online. A simple survey in your brick and mortar location that asks where customers found you will give you an idea about whether or not SEO is working for you.
SEO Help Available
If, after reading this article, you realize you need to outsource the SEO efforts for your business, contact us. Warren Douglas Advertising would love to help your business THRIVE.