Customer Journey: the path before them

Seomphony - Customer Journey - Photo by Augusto Navarro

Customer Journey is the path your site visitors proceed from obscurity to becoming your brand ambassador.

In between you’ll find different stages, and also different information needs per stage.

  1. A person just having realized he needs something goes online and looks for providers.
  2. Once found, he digs deeper and looks for product specifications so that he can compare the options.
  3. After having chosen and bought, he’ll look for further instructions.

What this all means is that you need to provide different kinds of content for those different phases because the customer needs to make different kind of decisions in different phases. One general type of blog post won’t serve everyone at every stage.

A customer journey usually consists of three stages

The stages in the customer journey are usually called Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.

Awareness

Here, the customer does not yet recognize he has a need or recognizes it and becomes aware of the fact that a product or a service might satisfy that need.

  • In this stage, people look for answers, general information, education, research data, opinions, and insights.
  • They do Google searches, quickly browse through providers and earmark those, whose titles, descriptions, URLs, and copy are the most understandable.
  • Keywords used at this stage are mostly navigational.
  • At this stage, the value of the visitors as leads is low, because there’s no guarantee that any action will lead to an actual buy.
  • However, those that find a good match between what they searched for and where they ended up may move on to the next stage.

To serve people at this stage,

  1. Perform keyword research on your industry, on your area of expertise as well as on the products and services that you provide.
  2. Select the keywords that match your specific offerings and create optimized blog posts that address each keyword in a high-value way. Share the posts in social media to make yourself known.
  3. Create advertising campaigns that target the specific segment.
  4. Other content that works well include checklists, how-to videos, ebooks, courses, whitepapers, and webinars.

From there, point the visitor to a landing page that includes a short description of what it is that you are offering and a Call To Action, that is, a button to subscribe to a newsletter or to download more detailed eBook, for example. This way, you can acquire the customer’s email address and can begin to address him/her personally. Live chat also works well, and we have the data to prove it.

Consideration

Here, the customer recognizes the solution to his problem i.e. his need might be satisfied by a product or service that you, too, provide. They are trying to figure out which of the providers are and aren’t suitable for him/her and clarify whether your product/service, in particular, is the best fit for them.

At this stage, you also need to determine which of the leads is and isn’t a good fit for you. An ideal customer is one that can provide great lifetime value to you and you to him/her. To do so, you need to be prepared to engage customers in social media and other channels to determine where your and his/her objectives might match.

Support this process by providing case studies, product webinars, samples, FAQ pages, data sheets and demo videos as well as testimonials, existing customer interviews, and articles. These need to help the leads compare your products and services with those of the other providers and display what purposes exactly are the product/services suitable for.

Finally, it is likely that the customer will also check discussion forums for user experiences of those having already bought and used your product/service. You may want to participate in the discussion, but the correct way is only to correct false information and provide links to the correct one, not to manipulate the free sharing of information.

Decision

The customer is considering just before the final buying decision

This is a great opportunity to provide a free gift for the ones still hesitating. It could be a free guide, a special offer, a trial period or a product/service presentation at your or the customer’s premises.

Also, in this stage, the customer may have to convince another person (a spouse, a superior, top management). To help him/her do so, provide clear numerical content that describes the benefit or the return on investment in a presentation, white paper, price list or flowchart format. User guides and manuals are often sought in this phase. You could also provide a free consultation, a live demo or allow the customer to observe the product/service in action.

Customer journey does not end with the latest purchase

What else can you offer for the one already bought? After sales content will help your customers extract even more value from your product/service. Also, content related to your other products and services might help him/her to embark on another journey.

As you see, it’s not at all insignificant what kind of content you provide in each phase of the Customer Journey. Producing all of this may look like a huge task, but remember that you do not have to create all at once. It all starts with you identifying your ideal customer in the form of the Buyer Persona.

Further reading

In this Hubspot article you can find examples of content in each stage.

A customer journey map must move you towards more conversions AND awesome retention rates. Don’t forget the latter one.

Keyword research identifies the terms you should associate your brand with

Seopmhony - Keyword Research - Photo by Jon Tyson

Keyword research is one of the most critical stages of your inbound marketing journey.

Fail this one and you’ll be creating content for keywords that do not match with what your actual and potential customers are looking for.

Do keyword research right and you’ll have an actual chance to meet the needs of your customers.

Now, this is not rocket science, but you have to be systematic.

That’s why we’ve created a three-step method of our own, which consists of

  • Brainstorming,
  • Valuation and
  • Selection.

We’ve come up with this keyword research method by having read tons of articles by the leading SEO experts and having tested the ideas in our client projects ourselves. In our method,

  • You first produce a long list of Keyword Ideas,
  • Then you evaluate the usefulness of each one
  • And select the ones that are the most useful for your purposes.

The first part is about creativity, not criticism. Just list down whatever you think may serve your purpose and move on. The weeding out part comes in evaluation phase and there you instead should be ruthless.

So let’s dive in.

Brainstorming

To start with, think about your Buyer Personas: who are they, what do they regularly look for and which words and phrases do they use to look for that information?

In short,

  • The Expert type of persona performs general types of searches,
  • While his Manager usually wants product details for comparison.
  • The Top Management, instead, is interested in the long-term investment-related content.

You may have your industry-specific variations of these personas, but whoever they are, the different personas will use different keywords to search for things. When you take a look at your Buyer Persona document, you should already see a few ideas there.

Types of search intent

Now, the first thing to focus on is the search intent. Traditionally (although that is changing), three main search intents have been recognized:

  • Navigational
  • Informational, and
  • Transactional.

Navigational intent is about the user wanting to end up on a website, but not necessarily to buy or know anything.

Informational intent is about the user wanting to know something specific about the keyword he’s using in the search (for example: “what is <keyword>”, or “how to <keyword>”).

Transactional is about the user wanting to interact with something related to the keyword, e.g. register, download or buy.

In this article, we mainly focus on the buying intent.

Keywords for the two other intents should also be researched, but our first focus here is about the buying intent.

Core terms and modifiers

To begin the actual research, take those first transactional ideas as core terms (or seed terms or head terms). 

The core terms are also keywords that look obvious: that you may want to rank at #1, but you know that too many sites already share the same desire so competing with them may not be feasible at all.

That’s why you should add modifiers.

These are associated with your core terms and they make up longer phrases that are usually easier to rank for (because not as many sites want to compete with you for those rankings).

For example, if a British client was interested in video production services,

  • The keyword research could begin with “video production” as a core term. Even ”video” only might be interesting to look at just to see what all the topics are that are associated just with the word “video”. At this stage the intent is only navigational: the user wants to end up on a specific site and get information.
  • Since the persona here is interested in specific services in a specific geographical area, it makes sense to set “video production” as the core term and persona-specific modifiers to create the initial list. For example
    • the Expert in that company might be looking for “video production company in London”,
    • his Manager might be interested in “video production rates in the UK” and
    • the Top Management probably wants to hear about “video marketing ROI (or return on investment)” as compiled by specific research and/or consulting organizations throughout the globe.

Finally: you can, of course, use your imagination to come up with the persona specific keyword ideas, but rather than assuming, just ask your customers directly to verify your own thoughts. What words did they use when they first landed on your site?

Now, open a spreadsheet and note these Buyer Persona specific core term plus modifier combos down as Keyword Ideas (KI:s). Do it by persona, so

  • in the first column, note the persona name
  • and in the second column the keyword idea.
  • Put different keywords in separate rows.
  • Third, create a “Status” column and earmark each keyword as an “idea”

Harri Alatalo - Keyword Idea List

Then, check your website analytics: which pages are the most popular? Are there any words that appear in the titles or addresses of the pages that look like keywords? Add them to the KI list with “Analytics” as the Source.

Put your KIs in thesaurus.com and check what synonyms are related to each. Pick the most relevant and note “Thesaurus” as the Source.

Put each of the KIs in Google, scroll down to the bottom of the page where it says “Searches related to <your keyword>”. This is a very important one because compared to just plain ideas and synonyms, related searches are ones that Google users have actually performed. Check what’s behind each related search by clicking on each link and pick the ones that display results among which you would like to rank.

Long Tail Keywords

(The reason that I’m seeing the monthly volume and the Pay Per Click rate here is that I’m using Chrome and a plugin called “Keywords Everywhere”)

Go to Wikipedia and search for articles with your keywords. The “Contents” section may already give you another set of ideas, but do check out the whole page and its sections.

Wikipedia IKIs

Think about what internet forums might be relevant for your purposes. Some of the global ones include Reddit and Quora. Also, you may find your industry-specific forums by searching for “<your keyword> discussion forum”. If you are operating locally, do a similar search with your native language.

In the forum, do a keyword research and consider how the topic is being addressed in the results. It’s important to understand what choice of words people are actually making when discussing your type of services and products.

Finally, browse through the categories and consider using some of the words and word pairs being used in the thread headlines.

Reddit IKIs

Next, go to keywordshitter.com and paste your (selected) words in the search box and hit the “Start job” button. This one’s really abundant so first try with one keyword only and see what it comes up with, and then give it a go with word pairs and groups.

Finally, you may want to try out some of the professional keyword research tools out there. Those include Semrush, Ahrefs and Keyword Explorer, which will all produce you very informative results. They basically behave in a similar fashion, i.e. they find you variations of your keyword ideas.

The second good thing is that they also immediately display a monthly keyword search volume, competition, difficulty, opportunity or another attribute, which you can all copy-paste or export-import to your list.

If you decide to use them, keep two things in mind:

  • Their data samples are different. This means that you may get different results for the same keywords from different tools. That’s why you should check out at least a few tools to see their results variation.
  • There may not be a free version available or if there is, the free version only allows you to perform a few research rounds per day. The paid plans, in turn, start from around 100 euros a month, though you might want to first test their free trials.

By the end of this phase you will have a long list of KI:s to choose from and it’s time to narrow them down.

Before proceeding, however, remove the duplicates by using the “Remove Duplicates” function in your spreadsheet.

Evaluation

Now is the time to evaluate, valuate, criticize, prune and debate. By the end of this phase, you should have a short list of a few dozen or so keywords to choose from your final list.

First, review the list and change the status to “Exclude” for the ones that you definitely know are not appropriate for your purposes. Filter them out and continue with the rest.

Next, add a column called “Volume“. To get the figures, create an account (unless you already have one) in Google Keyword Planner.

If this is your first time using GKP or you have no Google ad running, a red bar will appear on the top of the page. This can be ignored. It’s just Google’s way of encouraging you to spend money on it.

Click on “Get search volume data and trends“, paste the keyword idea list in the search field, hit the “Get search volume” and copy-paste the range figure from the “Avg. monthly searches” in your “Volume” column. There is also a Download button if you want to export the information.

Google Keyword Planner - Get search volume

Alternatively, you can outsource the whole phase to a virtual assistant, because admittedly this is very labor intensive.

 

I can recommend Virtuaaliassistentit in Finland. Submit your query through their contact form or chat or let me know and I’ll have their representative contact you.

 

Next, add a “Difficulty” column. This one shows you how difficult or easy it is to rank for each keyword. The closer the value is to zero, the easier it is to rank higher than your competitors.

To get the values, head to Moz’s Keyword Explorer and paste your keywords into the search fields.

Harri Alatalo - Moz Keyword Explorer

Here, there’s a catch: Keyword Explorer only allows you to perform a few searches per day for free. So, unless you do not want to pay, this phase will take some time. Alternatively, this is another reason to outsource the work to a virtual assistant.

Third, research the Click Through Rate. You can get this also from Keyword Explorer as it is indicated by their Opportunity value. Here, the higher the value is to 100, the easier it is to get traffic.

Finally, on your own, record your own “Importance“. Regardless of what the tools say, you know your industry and your customers the best, which is why you may also know those keywords that work or don’t.

It’s up to you what grading you want to use (1-2 or 1-3-9 or 25-50-75-100) as long as you give appropriate weight to each keyword.

By now, you list should begin to look like this:

Harri Alatalo - Keyword Selection

Selection

Now it’s time to choose. There are different methods here.

First, by using the spreadsheet filters, identify your HLSI keywords. They are those that are often looked for (High volume), where difficulty is Low, that have a Strong CTR opportunity, and that are Important for you.

Try to find at least one per persona, so you have an actual keyword to address them with.

Then, you should strive to identify at least a few per each of your Customer Journey phase.

First, pick those that associate your products, services or organization with what people look for early on in their Customer Journey.

Here, they are just starting to look around, finding information, but have no intention to buy yet. These keywords are more informational and navigational, i.e. they point the user to a direction, but will not result in a purchase.

In our example, an Expert might get online and look for “video production companies in <target area>”, “best video marketing campaigns of <previous year> or “how to buy video production services”.

Then, strive to identify whether any of the keywords are related to the consideration phase, where the customer wants to compare his options. These should be the same or similar to your competitors’ keywords so that the customer can compare apples to apples.

Third, consider which are the ones meant for conversions. These are the closest to making a sale or ones which people use to actually buy something up front.

In our “video production” example, they might be cameras, their accessories or research reports that people want to buy from research organizations to organize their buying process or to evaluate their ROI afterward. Pick the ones where your offerings actually meet a purchase intent.

Decision phase keywords are usually related to your specific product or service offerings. The monthly volume might be small, but these are strong candidates to consider because if a customer happens to use them, it means he/she is checking out whether you specifically have an offer, a trial, demo or similar available.

Thus, you could use them for example on a landing page. They might also be ones, where the core term is your or your organization’s name plus a modifier, for example, “feedback about <your company>” or “<your service> experiences”. People love social proof and these might lead the visitor to your testimonials (I hope you have one!) or Facebook page.

Fourth, you might also want to factor in a certain type of well-known industry individuals, who have a strong online presence and who you may want to influence. These are thought leaders, influencers and star performers in your global and/or local industry. They may recommend services and products out of free will or have an agreement with one of the suppliers or an affiliate program that brings them advertising income. They may use specific language and use a certain choice of words to express themselves.

The influencer section also includes the related competitions in your field where your colleagues, competitors and other experts participate. They have a “language” of their own, which may include some of your keywords. The competition organizers are an interesting reference, because their events generate a lot of traffic through their website and in social media. By using the same keywords you can “join” that traffic.

If you still have several options left, you can consider the Purpose.

Head keywords: these are the ones that work well in a headline. They are usually single-word keywords with huge search volume, like “videos” or “services”. Due to the volume, they rarely convert well, but you absolutely need to use them in your content headlines.

Body keywords: these are the 2-3 word combinations that are more specific and convert better, such as “video production” and “service processes”.

Long Tail Keywords: these are the ones you found through Google’s Related Searches, but they are also the longer phrases you may want to pick from your long list of ideas. An LTK might be “video production rates in London” and “service process maturity level definitions”.

While you work on your keyword research list, keep changing the “Status” value for which you set a column in the beginning. Leave ideas as “Idea”:s, and label serious candidates with e.g. “Consider” and the final selections as “Agreed”, or whatever values work for you.

Last: increase relevance

PHEW! So that’s our keyword research method.

Now all you really have left to do is to either

  1. Optimize your existing pages to match the newly selected keywords or
  2. Create new content that matches the keywords you do not yet rank for.

The optimization instructions are available in here.

All right. For more information about Keyword Research, you can read this How-to article, this Step-by-step video by Moz or this article by Brian Dean that gets you even deeper into the details.

Buyer Persona i.e. the one you want to sell to

Seomphony - Buyer Persona - Photo by Fahri Ramdani

The justification for creating Buyer Personas is that you do not want to market and sell to the whole world because that is a waste of your resources.

Instead, you want to know who exactly is your ideal customer  – the ones that are the most receptive to your products and services right now. Those people you can describe as Buyer Personas.

Persona-based marketing may seriously boost your metrics. For example, Marketing Sherpa reports that Persona-based websites have seen 210% increase in website traffic, 97% increase in website generated leads, 124% increase in website generated sales.

Here’s the homework:

Buyer Persona in practice

The Buyer Persona is a document, where you record the characteristics of your ideal customer. If you have several different ideal customer types, you need one for each persona.

The information should include things such as age, title, position objectives, his/her superior and subordinates, but also how he/she behaves when he/she buys and makes decisions, and especially where he/she goes to look for information.

Typical buyer personas include the Expert, The Superior, and The Top Management, but you may very well have your business specific variations of these.

The buyer persona is an imaginary character because it sums up the characteristics of a group of people into one, and as such it generalizes human behavior.

However, it definitely must be based on researched facts about the group (and not on beliefs, assumptions or opinions). Thus, the document describes your typical, real customer. Further, when you want to address new, potential customers, you need to create a separate buyer persona for each of them and plan your marketing activities with them in mind.

Create the buyer persona from actual customer data

Record the basics

A well-documented buyer persona is not just a list of characteristics but reveals the way of thinking of the persona, the way they want to develop their work and make decisions. At the minimum, include the following:

  • His/her title, his superior’s title and the titles of his subordinates
  • The industry he’s working in and the size of the organization
  • His responsibilities, objectives, measures of success and typical challenges at work
  • How and from where does he gather information to support decision making
  • How does he communicate to other when he’s promoting his ideas
  • Add an imaginary name and picture for the persona
  • Include actual customer testimonials, because they make the persona come alive through feedback that you know someone actually gave.
  • You can find additional questions to ask in here and here.

Base the buyer persona on actual customer data

You can do your first buyer persona exercise on the fly, but as soon as you can, you need to adjust it with facts. You will get these or example from

  • market research
  • researching your own customer database
  • by interviewing your customers
  • from customer feedback
  • by observing your customers’ behavior

How does he/she make decisions?

Take a step further and describe how he makes decisions. You’ll get valuable insight for the persona when you interview your real customers, such as

  • His priorities: is your product or service among the first to be acquired or is your turn after something else?
  • Success factors: what does the customer hope to achieve by buying your product or service?
  • Challenges: why does the customer not see your product or service as his best choice?
  • The customer journey: has he just started looking for information, is he comparing options or is he only missing one last piece of information so that he can decide?
  • What are the criteria based on which he’ll buy? Who’ll make the buying decision?
  • Describe the channel, the messages and the tone of voice needed to address each buyer persona. The Expert, The Superior and The Top Management all have distinct styles.

A complete buyer persona helps you deliver the right message to the right people

When you have perfected your buyer persona, you will be able to conclude

  • Who you still need to talk to
  • What information they are still looking or
  • When is the right time to deliver the information and in what format, and
  • What kind of arguments do you need to justify your message with?

Tools for creating buyer personas

You can first read this article by Contentools about buyer personas.

Here is also a very thorough introduction by Moosend to buyer personas and their creation.

You can then document your first buyer persona just with a simple text editor by brainstorming with your colleagues, no fancy tools are really needed.

However, makemypersona.com by HubSpot is available, which will guide you step by step and produce a simple persona based on the answers you give. Or, use my template to record details in whichever order you want.

You may want to incorporate online surveys into your processes to gather persona data regularly.

You can also read a more in-depth example buyer persona in here, view an infographic about the BP content requirements and download a buyer persona template, all by the Buyer Persona Institute.

SEO i.e. how to make your content serve your customer intent?

Seomphony - SEO - Photo by Jacob Morch

SEO, i.e. Search Engine Optimization, is about creating web pages that are favorable to search engine evaluations.

Technically, what the search engines want to know is what your site and pages are about.

This is needed so that the engines can display the most valuable pages to people when they search for information.

So ultimately, SEO serves the search intent of your actual and potential customers.

For example, if your page is about cast iron frying pans, you, of course, write about cast iron frying pans in the page copy.

But in SEO you don’t leave it at that.

You need to know what places exactly do the search engines check when analyzing your site, and make sure “cast iron frying pans” is mentioned in all of those places.

If you do this well, your site will have chances to rank high on their search results page (SERP).

I say “will”, because several other factors affect ranking, too. The rules also change several times a year so you need to make SEO a continuous activity.

Here’s a good summary of SEO basics:

 

How to start with SEO?

The actual optimization begins by identifying the keywords that the people you want to attract to your site actually use, and then adjusting your website to match those keywords.

You can increase this relevance by doing technical, on-page and off-page SEO improvements.

That is the basic level.

On a level that actually makes a difference nowadays, you need to deliver real value continuously to your customers. You also need to build digital relationships i.e. links between your site and other quality sites. They, in turn increase your Domain Authority.

Not convinced? Consider this:

If not for anything else, then do SEO to stand out just due to this sheer volume, because there is a lot of noise out there and you want your signal to be heard.

Search engine optimization is mostly optimizing for Google

Although both Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and the rest all have their internal search functionalities, optimizing a web page is in practice optimizing for Google, because it is the most popular search engine in the western world.

And when you optimize, you need to take into account Google’s algorithm, the set of rules they use to valuate a site.

Rather than taking it as an annoyance, do consider the algorithm as your friend, because it also makes sure that when you search for cast iron frying pans, your search results will include links to websites about cast iron frying pans and not cat videos.

For the same reason, the most popular results appear at the top of the list and the less relevant on the following pages. This usually means that the ones appearing at the top have done their SEO and the others have not.

The search result page (SERP) of Google consists of the advertisements at the top and the so-called organic results below them.

You can buy advertisement space at the top as a temporary means to increase your visibility, but you have no business among the top organic search results unless you keep doing your SEO. SEO affects especially these organic results.

Next: the rules affecting ranking keep changing. What you see at any given time is a snapshot of the current situation. Today, there are over two hundred major ranking signals and they keep changing.

Meanwhile, Google itself is getting increasingly sophisticated in understanding the overall context of a page. This has caused more pages to rank among the top search results without, for example, the target keyword mentioned in the content. This means that you no longer have to obsess about exact match keyword usage in every single SEO element if you can manage your context.

Still, until you yourself have proven facts (through your analytics) that an element has an impact on your ranking or it doesn’t, my suggestion is to follow the basic SEO rules and then start testing them one by one to see what makes a difference in your case. Each audience is different.

Finally, SEO does pay off, because reaching a position in the top ten results guarantees a 90% probability for the users to click on the link to your site while the top three get 61% of all the attention.

And now for the actual stuff.

On-page SEO

Content title

  • It may sound obvious, but create a page title that describes the page content. Take no artistic freedoms here. One day, Google’s artificial intelligence will be able to interpret sarcasm, poetry, and meaning in high context cultures. Until that, keep it simple.
  • Place your target keyword at the beginning of the title or as close to the beginning as possible. This is important due to the SEO rules, but also because humans skim internet content in a so-called F-pattern, where the top left area of the screen gets the most attention.
  • Keep the title length between six words or 150 characters. This is the amount that Google shows in its search results page.
  • Make sure the title is in between the H1 tags.

Content

  • Clear content structure: title, paragraph, level 2 headline, another paragraph, CTA, conclusion, another CTA is the rough pattern here.
  • Your target keyword among the first 100 words.
  • You may have heard about an optimal keyword density, but as long as you keep the text flowing naturally, you don’t need to do keyword stuffing or calculate the keyword frequencies.
  • Longer content tends to be better. For example, according to this research, the average length of the best articles out there is nowadays approaching 2000 words. If that sounds like a lot, you can very well start with 500 and keep increasing the length later. But it really depends on the keywords, industry and your audience.

Image

  • Pages with images in them tend to rank higher than those without.
  • However, more pictures does not automatically equal better ranking. Valuable content dictates success.
  • Make sure you have your target keyword in the image ALT text. This is because the search engines do not yet understand image contents well so the ALT text tells them what the image is about.

Brian explains on-page SEO well in his video:

Off-page SEO

Page address (URL)

  • Avoid these: sitename.com/p=123 and sitename.com/blog/2017-03-12/article-title-and-then-some. Content management system IDs and other fluff do not help here.
  • sitename.com/your-keyword is the best format.

Title tag

  • The title is the blue link and text that Google shows about your article or page in its search results. The title is also shown in the tab names when several browser tabs are open.
  • You can help the reader decide whether your page is what he/she is looking for by creating titles that are to the point.

Description

  • Google shows the Description of your page in the description section in its search results. Together with the title and address, the Description is the three elements that help the reader to decide whether your page is what he/she is looking for. That’s why keep all of them very informative. You can simulate all of them with portent.com/serp-preview-tool.
  • Keep the Description between 115 and 155 characters (due to mobile and other device limitations).
  • If you manage your website with a content management system (e.g. Squarespace or WordPress), you may not be able to edit the three elements directly. But, for example in WordPress there is a very handy plugin called Yoast SEO that guides you in creating optimal titles, addresses and Descriptions.

Links from other pages

  • Now, this is one of the factors really making a difference in today’s SEO. It means the number and quality of the links pointing to your site and to your pages from other internet pages.
  • You can strive to create a lot of links, but even one link from a high quality (=with a high domain authority) can bring you a lot of valuable traffic.
  • You can create links for example by guest blogging, but the best method for link creation is to simply create great content that people will want to link to. What is great really depends on your industry and your specific audience.

Loading speed

  • The page and site loading speeds are related to the general usability of your content. Other factors include typography, visual imagery, overall design, and navigation. The speed is one of the most important SEO factors because the human attention span has decreased to eight seconds due to the usage of the modern digital devices.
  • You can check your site speed for example with GTMetrix. They produce a very detailed and free report that you can use to improve your site’s performance.

Local SEO

  • If you are operating in a specific geographical area, it really pays off to complete Google’s local SEO process.

CTR (Click through rate)

  • CTR is a measure that tells you how many people that saw your content clicked the page link. By improving your CTR, you can significantly improve your site ranking.
  • You can improve your CTR by writing better and more informative page titles and Descriptions and by using certain expressions in them. Here’s a list of things that you can check out:

Bounce rate

  • Even if your CTR is high, it does not automatically mean a high ranking. The reason might be your high bounce rate. BR is the number of people that left your site or page immediately (=after less than thirty seconds) after landing on it (out of all people that visited your site per month).
  • There might be several reasons for a high bounce rate, but most often it is because your content did not match what the visitor was looking for (=their search intent). That might be, because your Title, URL, and Description were not really informative or did not match what your page was about.
  • You can decrease your bounce rate by creating longer content. Another great tool is video. Both of these keep users engaged longer than great design or short articles.

SEO in short

The following picture describes in a nutshell what SEO is about (thank you Moz for the idea!). In short

  1. Choose the keyword
  2. Include it in the Title
  3. Include it in the URL
  4. Begin the first chapter with the keyword, or, at least, include it within the first 100 words.
  5. Add the keyword in the image “ALT” tag

SEO principles

The best SEO articles

Ok, those are the very basics of SEO.

I’m not even attempting to beat the best articles out there and have instead listed them below.

SEO basics

A very thorough, 16-chapter package by Search Engine Land about all things SEO. Read it to get started.

A 205-point list of elements affecting Google ranking: blog.mytasker.com/google-ranking-factors.

On-page SEO

A thorough article by Ahrefs providing original research about keyword dependent SEO (including keyword in domain name, URL, Title, Meta Description, Headline, Subheading, Content, in the first 100 words and in image ALT tags), general on-page SEO (age of the page, HTTP vs HTTPS, page load time, content length, URL length, outbound links, broken links and social shares) as well as relevance & exact match keyword optimization.

Off-page SEO

A 21-point list of actions you can take elsewhere to optimize your page. These include posting stuff and engaging people on other sites, forums and social media.

Other proven techniques

A 16-point How-to type of article including most of what Ahrefs discussed plus a few more. The page begins with a nice infographic about on-page SEO factors that you can use as a checklist.

Another 200-point list of changes by Ahrefs that you can implement right now to start getting results.

A list of 22 technical, on-page and off-page techniques by Styla to optimize a page.

Two long, but very actionable lists by Brian Dean about advanced SEO techniques: one and two.

A long article by Matthew Barby about various SEO techniques.

Not convinced? There are opposing views to SEO, indeed

You need to deserve a high ranking, not perform tips and tricks to get poor content up there. I agree. Overpromising and underdelivering will only increase your bounce rate when they realize your content is in the wrong company.

Google is optimizing for users. That includes you, too. That’s why, SEO must be about optimizing your presence across the web for where the users are. So, understand first who your target audience is and where they spend their time, then optimize for those platforms and build organic presence.

How to measure SEO success

Planning to embark on an SEO journey? Great! Set a goal first. Here are some ideas:

Not the rank only

A simplistic way to measure SEO success used to be your page rank in search engine results page (SERP).

However, today it may not be relevant because no position is static. Quite the contrary, there are several factors making the rankings dynamic:

  1. First of all, Google keeps changing their algorithm several times a year. What works today may not work tomorrow.
  2. Also, Google is getting increasingly sophisticated in interpreting what you actually want and how to personalize the results just for you. Based on my recent projects I can confirm this myself: a customer of mine sees a different ranking for his website than I do. He’s using desktop and IE, I’m using Safari and iPhone. We are 40 kilometers apart. That matters today.
  3. Third, you probably have more than one Buyer Persona and they have different needs depending on whether they have just become aware of their need, whether they are comparing options or have decided to buy. Thus, their first search might be about “widgets”, their second about “green widgets” and the last about “best <location X> green widgets”. Finally, they might look for “experiences with <location X> green widgets by <your company>”. Thus, you must not strive for one keyword, but manage several of them as a long-term investment portfolio.

Instead: traffic, CRO & keyword portfolio

“But I want to measure my success!”

Sure! Do this:

  • Traffic: measure the increase in organic traffic compared e.g. to the year before and/or last month.
  • Conversion rates: how many visitors downloaded gated content and ended up buying?
  • Ranking: create a ranking index for the keywords and manage them like an investment portfolio.
  • CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost): calculate how much does the acquisition of a new customer cost you?

These should get you started.

In any case, absolutely search engine optimize.

But first, create great content.

You might also need to pay for ads in the beginning to gain visibility.

Every now and then you can do an SEO audit to check the health of your website.

And do consider your whole digital presence.

How long does it take for SEO to have an effect?

In our experience, it takes about ten weeks for your website to start improving its ranking.

However, there are several factors that are involved. SEO Plus has a good article that highlights these.