Next to social media - search engine optimization (SEO) may be one of the most misunderstood online marketing tactics around.
If you find yourself struggling to rank in the search engines your best bet is to focus on doing the basics really well. Here are four general areas that distributors often overlook.
1. Long Tail Keyword Focus
It's extremely hard to rank for "general" terms. However, if you hunt around a bit you can find footholds. An example is to drill down deeper into your keyword terms and begin to focus on more distinct and exact terms.
For example, 6,600 people per month search for the term "makita drill'. But you're going to have a very hard ranking anywhere in the top 10 for that term.
However, going a bit deeper we begin to find footholds. An example is to go after model specific terms like the Makita LXPH01CW. While it only gets less than 100 searches per month, it would be a term that would be infinitely easier to rank for.
Another benefit of pursuing ‘long tail’ traffic is that after you begin to rank for more and more of these long tail terms you’ll find your rankings climbing for your more general, and competitive terms.
Take home: as the search engines have matured ranking for 'general' keywords has become more and more difficult. Focus your efforts on more distinct, and easier to rank for terms.
2. Create Content Worth Linking To
Here's one of the deep dark secrets of SEO - having outside sites link to your site is a way for Google to judge how good your content is. Unfortunately, there's been a long history of sites artificially building links to their sites to increase their rankings.
It still works in some cases but it is a very short-sighted strategy. If Google discovers it you will likely be penalized and lose your rankings.
So, how do you still build links and stay safe? Simple (notice I didn't say easy): create content that is worth linking to.
That could mean any number of things including:
- Pillar Articles (authoritative articles that are often long, detailed and serve as overall guides for a particular subject).
- Videos. YouTube videos tend to rank high. This makes sense, Google owns YouTube.
- White papers
- Podcasts. Especially if you load these onto iTunes.
- Controversial topics
Take home point: you want other websites linking to you. To accomplish that naturally requires excellent content. That can take many different formats and shapes. Experiment to find what you get the best results with.
3. Social Media
While the overall importance of social media has been overblown - my experience in ranking highly in the search engines shows that there is a clear "social" signal.
Follow these general guidelines to make the most efficient use of your time and resources:
- I find that Google+ tends to give the most bang for the buck when it comes to search engine rankings. Google’s social media platform also gives companies the opportunity to claim their content through "authorship". You can see this in some of the search engine rankings where there are pictures to the left of the listing.
- While Facebook is more popular it tends to be a bit more of a time dump. Twitter is a good opportunity to train yourself to be succinct and is a bit easier to control. While helpful overall, I find both of these platforms less effective for search engine purposes than Google+.
- Use all social media platforms to promote your great content. This is one of the good things about social media. If your content is good - it stands a higher likelihood of being shared.
Take home point: surveys have shown that savvy use of social media platforms can help search engine rankings - especially Google+. The trick for distributors is to not let social media become a time dump for your company.
4. Outside Websites
You already know how important great content is for your search engine rankings. But that doesn’t mean you need to limit that great content to just your website. You can provide that content for other websites.
While this sounds counterintuitive - after all, you’ll be helping another website improve their rankings - there are a number of benefits to you:
- Make sure you get to provide a link back to your website at the end of your article. If the website is a fairly popular one this link will be worth a lot. Remember, links are a form of ‘popularity’ votes online. The more popular the site the more it will help your rankings.
- If readers like your article a certain percentage of them will check out your website. This is where other marketing techniques like white papers and capturing contact information become extremely important.
- Share your article on your social media platforms. Again, if it’s good it will get passed around. It will help the website you submitted the article to as well as you.
Take home point: writing articles, being interviewed and contributing to outside, but non-competing, websites is an excellent way to not only increase search engine rankings but become an object of interest.
An added benefit is that because most websites in narrow niches are desperate for good content, this should be an easy one to accomplish.
Are there more things that you could be doing? Absolutely. But these four areas listed above will give you the most bang for your buck as far as improving your search engine rankings.
Curtis M. Alexander is a consultant, author, speaker and recognized expert in helping industrial and manufacturing companies strategically leverage the internet to transform their businesses. For more information go to www.curtismalexander.com