April 18, 2020
The average person searches on Google 3-4 times per day.
Honestly, I have days where that number is closer to 10. I'm always on Google! I use it to do research for my job, to answer questions that pop into my head throughout the day, and end debates with my friends.
What began as a simple way to sift through and rank academic papers has transformed the way that we live our lives, and how businesses operate. At its core Google exists to answer questions, and through that it connects people all over the world to websites that have all the answers.
This has turned entire industries upside down; it's made it possible for startups and local businesses to get noticed, and it's caused companies that couldn't adapt to crumble. It's transformed the way we buy: from pet food to a home I can find anything I want on Google. What's more, I rely on it to make decisions, learn something new, or win an argument.
It's changed businesses as well.
Google's job is to serve up the best content possible, it doesn't care about how much money you have (except for ads) or how many years you've been in business. Google just cares about whether you've got quality content that it can use in its search results.
This is getting theoretical so let's look at some practical examples.
Let's say you want to open up a bakery. Normally you would normally be constrained by physical things like the radius that you can market to, but not even a local business can advertise on Google or rank for free.
How about financial services? If you work in financial services as a wealth manager you're likely constrained by how many people you can meet and network with, but thanks to Google you can be seen by hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people you never would have had access to before.
SEO is the difference between you appearing on the first page of Google to potential buyers or the 100th page of Google and never seeing the light of day. SEO means potentially reaching hundreds, thousands, or millions of people you never would have had a chance at reaching. Simply put, SEO means growing your business at scale, even when you're not at work.
Those 3-4 searches a day per person? There are millions of people behind those searches meaning that your reach could grow exponentially just by creating really good content. With a bit of time and know-how that means that sun up to sun down you could be getting traffic to your site and leads in your CRM.
SEO is an acronym that stands for Search Engine Optimization.
SEO gets a reputation for being technical. It can be but it doesn't have to be.
You can get deep into the mud of robots.txt files and meta tags but we want to keep things simple. At its core SEO is about creating great content and following best practices outlined by Google. Of course things get more advanced than that, but whether you're talking about keyword research, site speed, or AMP it all goes back to this: does the content answer the question better than anyone else, and do visitors have a good experience with this content?
If your site can answer those questions with a 'yes' then you've got a recipe for ranking.
Wait I thought we were talking about SEO?
We are, but first you need to make sure you know who you are selling to. Remember: SEO is about creating great content that answers questions, in order to do that you need to know the questions being asked, and who is asking them. Knowing the questions being asked is the easy part, what's harder is having a strong understanding of who it is you are trying to reach with your content.
If you can do that, then finding the right voice for your content comes naturally.
One of my favorite sayings comes from Meredith Hill: marketing to everyone is marketing to no one. You might think that your business has broad appeal, but chances are it doesn't: that's ok. What's not ok is ignoring that fact and trying to create content for everyone.
Let's say you own a dog food company, who are you selling to? Not the dogs! The owners. Who has dogs/would be researching dog food brands? Probably newer pet owners/prospective pet owners. There is a sliding scale of people who have their first pet though: they could be people in their mid twenties who have jobs that allow them to work from home often, or they could be parents in their mid-30s-early 40s who's children really wanted a puppy for Christmas.
Everyone loves dogs, but not everyone is researching and buying dog food. Knowing who is behind the search allows you to create the right content at the right time and draw them into your funnel. If you're new to buyer personas, check out our full guide on using them to enhance your growth.
Now we get to the good stuff. Once you've got a clear understanding of your buyer personas it's time to dive into those questions they're asking and that's where keyword research begins.
First, start with 3-5 topics that are core to your business. For us it's SEO, Blogging, and Content Marketing. That's what we do, we try to not deviate far from it. Once you've chosen your core topics, start digging deeper into the types of questions people are asking around them. Sites like Reddit and Quora serve as a great resource for understanding what your personas are asking.
To dig a bit deeper, try typing the topic into Google and seeing what suggested keywords come up - Google is pretty smart and sees these searches as related so they're worth going after. We've written a full guide on keyword research so be sure to check it out for more advanced tips.
This is where the rubber meets the road. You've got your keywords chosen, now it's a matter of creating content around them to build out your site as a resource.
Companies that blog get 55% more visitors to their site than those that don't. That's a pretty good rate of return, especially if your content is high quality and converting site visitors into leads via subscription forms, downloads, and more. Blogging doesn't have to be intimidating though, something as simple as blogging once per month can be an excellent start to get you moving.
From there as you get acclimated, try blogging more frequently: twice a month or even once per week is a great way to add valuable content to your site at a regular cadence.
None of this is worth anything if you are not measuring your growth along the way. As much as I love SEO, SEO is not the goal in of itself. It's a tool used to grow traffic, and to make sure it's working you need to be measuring your site traffic to see what's working. Your site probably has some basic analytics like page views and top performing pages, but I recommend Google Analytics as well. Google Analytics is free and gives you a pretty deep understanding of who is visiting your website, where they are coming from, how long they are spending on your site, and more.
Google Analytics can be intimidating though, if you've never set it up here's our how-to guide to getting started, and don't forget to check out our list of the 4 best Google Analytics dashboards you should set up.
After reading through all this I think it's pretty clear that SEO is not only important to the growth of your business: it's critical.