As a continuation of our Web Optimization Articles Saga, in this article, we want to write about the role marketing, and particularly SEO plays in the web optimization world.
We already wrote about this in our article A Practical Guide to Managing SEO on Your Website or E-commerce. Still, as the name indicates, this is not about managing your SEO; however, more about the academic aspects of marketing and SEO so that you can understand its concepts a little bit better.
Marketing has been around for centuries as a way to influence the decisions of people, businesses, and even governments. It comprises all the efforts, actions, and strategies to create brand awareness, promote sales, and increase revenue through communication and ads. Also, in general, it is the business of promoting and selling products or services. Modern marketing strategies have evolved a lot since their creation, and now the concept has mutated into digital marketing.
Digital Marketing and SEO
Digital marketing includes using the internet as the primary way to relay your messages, ads, and sales, where your website or e-commerce is your virtual vendor. With the creation of the internet, the strategies soon changed to include using search engine optimization (SEO) tactics to help drive traffic to a website through targeted keywords by organic search. SEO is based on the idea that when someone searches for a specific keyword or phrase, they express their intent to take action by looking for content that is relevant to that goal. The goal of SEO is to get your content found by potential customers and clients so they can take action with your organization. With SEO, you can create content that will attract more customers by optimizing it around specific keywords directly related to your business.
SEO matches people looking for what you’re offering with you and your product/service in the same place and time; the SERP
People looking for something they’re interested in will input search terms (keywords) in a Search Engine that helps them find what they’re looking for. A search engine like Google will output a search engine result page (SERP) based on the user’s search terms, location, previous searches, and many other variables determined by the algorithm. The sites and businesses that rank in the SERP are selected by more variables like authority, relevancy, content, user experience, products/services, licenses, and security. Keywords influence almost all of the previous aspects and are essential for your content to be discovered by new clients over time.
When you write content for your website, make sure you include important keywords and phrases throughout the text that you know, by research, that potential customers are using in their searches right now. This will make it easier for search engines to find your pages and rank them higher in results. The most effective way to optimize your website with keywords is by using long-tail keywords or phrases that are extremely specific but still relevant to what people might be searching for. For example, if someone searches “web optimization”, they may be interested in discovering more about web optimization companies or services.
Digital Marketing and SEO Basic Concepts
We’ve addressed many concepts; Search Engines, SERP, rank, relevancy, authority, keyword, etc. Let’s take a closer look at each one, so we all know what we’re talking about.
A search engine is a tool that can help you find information on the internet. The most popular type of search engine is called a “Web” or “natural” search engine because it uses natural language processing (NLP) to understand what users are searching for. Web search engines use algorithms to crawl the internet and create an index of all available web pages. When a user submits a query, these algorithms determine which pages are most relevant and then present them to the user. Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Ask are some of the most popular search engines.
A Web search engine has two main components:
A crawler: A program that crawls through the internet, following links from page to page. When it finds new pages, it adds them to its index; when it finds dead links or outdated content, it removes those pages from its index.
An index: A database containing all the websites crawled by the crawler and metadata of those sites.
Search Engine Result page
A list of links that appear in response to a query entered into the search field of a search engine. After entering these queries, the search engine uses an algorithm to determine which are the most relevant results. The result page consists of those links in order of relevance (with the most relevant link appearing first). It also includes other information, such as ads, often related to the keywords.
Search engines use crawlers to index websites. After that, the indexed information is used to create snippets, which are links to sites with a description. These are shown on a SERP or search engine result page. In the following image, you can see what Google’s SERP looks like on desktop. Google’s SERP
The SERP consists of many elements, including:
Upperside: Search bar, Settings, tools option, The number of results, and the time it took Google.
Organic rankings: These are links that appear in the top section of the page based on relevance to the search terms.
Paid Ads: The paid results appear in these first positions, either above or below organic results, depending on the advertiser’s bid and quality score.
Snippets: These are short descriptions that appear below some organic results. They can include information like star ratings, distance from a location, price range, and more.
Here’re some examples of snippets:
- Regular snippets
- Featured Snippets
- One Box Results
- Regular Snippets
- Rich Snippets
- Knowledge Graph
- Box Snippets
- One Box Results
A singular paid or organic result contains the following information
Title tag: This short title appears above the link listing on SERPs, primarily used to describe the page or website in question.
Description meta-tag: This is similar to title tags, but it appears below the link listing instead of above it. The description meta-tag summarizes what a page/website is about.
URL: The URL refers to where a particular website lives on the internet — e.g., Google. URLs are sometimes called “links” or “hyperlinks”.
H1 tag: H1 tags are headlines that appear at the top of web pages with one or two words (e.g., How To Write An SEO Friendly Blog Post). Used for branding purposes and help define your site at a glance without any other information.
Organic Search to SEO
Organic results are the natural search results that appear in the SERP. These are not paid advertisements. Also, organic search is the process of using keywords to find websites in a search engine. When people use Google or Bing to look for specific information, they search for organic results.
You need good content that answers people’s questions about your services/ products if you want to rank high. Your content should be easy to digest, so users don’t spend their time understanding your message before deciding to click. This organic ranking is one of the most precious ways of marketing. It is cheaper than paid results, and its benefits last longer.
Search engines are constantly looking for ways to improve their results. The improvements aren’t just about including pages in their index but about providing the best content for each user query. Search engines developed a ranking algorithm that determines where the site will appear on the SERP to address this need. In other words, search engines have a way of deciding which results are better than others. How often your keyword appears in the content, how many other websites link to yours, and even how often you update your content are some of the things they take into account. The ranking is based on hundreds of factors, which all play a part in determining how relevant your page is concerning the original search query.
The rank of the page in the SERP is determined by many factors, including:
- How relevant is the content concerning the query imputed.
- The web page’s popularity (how many other websites link to it).
- The freshness of the content.
- The user’s search history and location can identify what type of content a user is looking for and provide more relevant and local results.
Relevancy is the engine that drives a good search engine experience. It’s the reason why users can find what they’re looking for. Because if the search engines didn’t deliver relevant results, then no one would use them. We’re hard-wired to think that there must be something better somewhere else if we’re not getting what we want. The web is big enough, after all. But sometimes, it’s not about the bigger and better; it’s about the most relevant.
And then there are those times when a search engine might deliver relevant content, but it’s on an irrelevant site. That’s where relevancy comes in again—relevancy matters for both sites and pages. A site’s relevance is user expectations and popularity (link-building). The relevancy of a page has more to do with content and its relationship to other content on the same site (navigation). Relevance means having content related to your niche matching with search queries. For example, if you’re trying to sell books online, and someone searches for “best sci-fi book” on Google, your site should rank higher than others selling different types of products. You can increase relevancy by adding content that matches up with queries on your web pages and blogs—the more relevant content you have, the better chance you’ll have of ranking higher in search results.
The search engine algorithm is designed to reflect the authority of the anchor text links on the page. In other words, if you want your website to rank higher in search results, you need to link to other pages that are well-written and informative (and likely authoritative) about the subject you want people to find on your site. Your site’s authority must be higher than the average site in your industry. It’s not enough to have great content or a thoughtfully-built website—your site needs to be able to stop people from clicking on other sites.
To understand how keywords affect the SERP, you need to start with a basic understanding of how Google ranks its results. The goal of every search engine is to serve up the most relevant results for a keyword or phrase. Google has a ranking algorithm that crawls through websites, assessing hundreds of different factors to determine the most relevant results.
One of those ranking factors is keywords. A keyword is a word or phrase that accurately describes the content of your page and will help search engines understand what your page is about when it’s crawling and indexing it. For example, if you were designing a page about cats, you’d want to use “cat” as a keyword. If you were creating a page about cats who love to play fetch and have their own Instagram pages (yes, these things exist), you’d want to use “fetch-loving-cat-Instagram” as a keyword because it accurately describes the content on the page.
“Keywords express a person’s intent when searching in a search engine. You can know what a person is looking for and find them at the right time and place with these words”.
If you’re new to search engine optimization, “long-tail keywords” are easily misunderstood. How can a keyword have a tail if it is just one word? The answer lies in the way people use language when they search online. Google says that 15% of queries they see every day are completely new—that means there are lots of searches that aren’t common phrases but unique strings of words and letters. These unique searches are the long-tail keywords because they have longer terms than short-tail keywords (just one or two words). Long-tail keywords are beneficial because they are more specific than short-tail keywords and, therefore, easier to rank higher in the SERP.
Let’s say you own a music store in Portland, Oregon. You may want to rank for the keywords “music stores” or “instrument shops, and you’ll be correct; you always have to compete for the most relevant searches possible. However, those high-competition and high-budget generic keywords are exceptionally hard to rank. It would be much more reasonable to rank for more specific aspects of your business like “music store portland”, where you’ll find much less competition. You can even rank for the keyword “music store 11ave portland”, where you might find a considerably more localized kind of competition.
It’s essential to understand that generic keywords have more traffic than long-tail keywords, so your digital strategies should consider both attracting traffic from broad and generic and specific and long keywords.
Now that we know more about how search engines react to search queries let’s see how customers behave in search engines.
A customer journey map is a tool used to document, analyze and optimize the flow of customers through all points of contact with your brand. It allows you to see what parts of the buying process are going smoothly and where there are areas for improvement. When identifying pain points, ask yourself: How can we improve our brand’s user experience?
One such way is with SEO. SEO helps make your website visible in search results so that people can find you online. This would be especially important if you have an e-commerce website or if you want to increase your online sales.
For example, a customer looking for “trench coats” on Google will see results optimized for SEO at the top of the page (and even on every page). These results will include websites with solid SEO strategies and relevant content, like “Burberry’s trench coats have been worn by everyone from Audrey Hepburn to Kate Middleton”. Or “The trench coat appeared during World War I when British officers wanted waterproof but still lightweight coats to wear”.
Imagine the following situation: you have a loved one’s birthday coming up, and you need to find the perfect gift. You know they’re a fan of something in particular—let’s say, vintage video games. So, you type your search term into Google—”vintage video games”—and press Enter. That is the awareness.
The first step in the customer journey is awareness. At this point, your potential clients are looking for answers to a question or a solution to a problem. They don’t know yet that you exist, but they’re looking for someone like you who can help them figure it out.
The goal is to get your product/service in front of as many of these people as possible by finding out what they’re searching for and making sure your website shows up when they do their search.
So if you’re a plumber in New York City offering emergency services around the clock, SEO would help ensure that when someone types “plumber NYC 24/7” into Google, your website comes up at the top of the search results. So they’ll be more likely to find you and need your services in the awareness step of the customer journey.
In our scenario, this would be the moment when you realize it’s your loved one’s birthday and you need to get them a gift.
This is when customers start researching their options to narrow down their choices. You may be looking at different products or services to determine which ones best fit your needs and budget. Or, in our example, which stores offer the most popular vintage video games that are also within your price range. If a company has done good SEO work on its site, it will appear as one of the top results on the SERP.
In this stage, you’ll use different keywords than in awareness. Before, you wanted to know about a product or service in broad. Now you want to know about specific vendors and their versions of the product you had in mind when you started looking for a solution.
You would look for “vintage video games” in the first stage. But in the consideration stage, you know that the more popular video games are almost impossible to find, so you’ll start looking more locally. Using keywords like “vintage video games stores new york city”, you have a better chance to find something closer to your initial preference. At this point, there is always a time component as most of the searches are impulsive and either fulfilled very fast or evaporated into inaction, so a couple of good locally-ranked keywords can attract a lot of traffic and sales. Always remember to rank locally if you have a physical store!
“Generally, long-tail keywords work better in the consideration stage than in awareness”.
When customers finally choose which option is right for them based on all of the research and comparison they’ve done during the consideration phase.
The decision to buy something isn’t made on Google; it’s made at other customer journey stages. If you want to succeed, you need to understand those stages and how search engines fit them. Here’s a simplified example:
Let’s say you want to buy a new pair of shoes. You might start by searching for “best running shoes” to compare different brands and models. But you won’t purchase anything right away — instead, you’ll probably do some research and comparison shopping before making a final decision. This is where social media comes into play — if you have friends who like running, their recommendations will be crucial in helping you select the right pair of shoes.
Now let’s say you found one pair of running shoes that really seems like they would fit well with your lifestyle, but they’re much more expensive than other options that seem just as good (or even better!). So now what? You might look for similar pairs on Amazon or another online retailer where prices are lower — but if it turns out that those shoes don’t fit as well as the first ones did, then maybe it was worth paying more after all!
The decision is one of the most critical moments in the customer journey. It can represent up to 20% of a website’s traffic, and it’s when people decide to buy your product or service.
Telling your customer a story is a great way to communicate the value of your product and brand to customers. But first, you need to know what that story is. Your customer’s journey from discovery to purchase, from awareness to advocacy, is the story you need to tell.
A customer journey is a person’s route to decide they have a problem or need, search for a solution, find your product, purchase it and become a customer. This is how your potential customers see their path to finding you:
- They notice that they have a problem. For example, let’s say you sell furniture online, and one of your products is sofa beds. When someone notices that their living room doesn’t have enough seating or that their guest bedroom has no bed, this will motivate them to seek out some solutions.
- They research that problem and look at different solutions. Your potential customer will ask their friends and family for recommendations, search online for relevant terms like “sofa beds” or “sleeper sofas,” read reviews on different websites, and compare prices between similar items.
- They consider their options and decide based on their needs, budget, and other essential factors.
- They become a customer after purchasing your product.
The SEO(SAD) end
From previous articles, we’ve learned that SEO is the way you reach awareness, conversions, and sales on your web or e-commerce through a series of optimizations on your backend, frontend, and content. In this piece, we learned that SEO is about catching your target exactly when they’re looking for your product (but not for you). You now understand that keywords are the terms people use with the intent of finding something they need or want. If you catch their attention in that crucial moment, you have a lead. Based on authority, relevancy, keywords, and content, you can guide the customer journey right to your web, converting that search intent(keyword) into actions from downloading an ebook to purchasing your product/services.
If you don’t know some concepts used in this article, you can consult our SEO Glossary, where we have 300+ SEO concepts for you to learn or revisit.
This is another of our Web Optimization’s saga pieces, and as such, it’s an attempt to educate and spread the knowledge we’re accumulating through our work here at Scalater. As we’ve said before, that’s our main goal and the reason for almost all of our content. It is always a joy that you read us and learn something from it or just enjoy it. If you did, we’d ask you to share it with your co-workers or your friend so they can also have a good moment reading or even learning.
Thank you for being here, and we’ll see you in the next piece.