How do you know which SEO Strategies are right for your business? SEO is a very convoluted subject and it’s easy to get lost in all the nuances, ranking factors, and expert advice.
Google has 200 ranking factors. Each SEO guy you talk to tells you something a little different than the last guy. And look, an email just came in explaining how this firm can get your website ranking #1 in Google within a few months!
The purpose of this article is to offer a common sense perspective on the ongoing philosophy of SEO — to give you a sense of foundational strategies that will stand the test of time.
These are the key SEO Strategies:
- Determine What Your Customers Actually Want
- Link Earning is Crucial
- Data-Driven Decisions will Give you Comfort
I’ll break it down:
I’ve been taking my diet and exercise routines seriously recently, and wanted to get back into doing martial arts. I went online to purchase a new punching bag to hang in my garage for daily use.
The problem is, I haven’t done martial arts in 15 years and I have no idea what bag, brand, or experience level I want. I’m not ready to buy — I’m not even sure what to buy.
When I go to Google, I’m not going to type in “buy a punching bag.” Instead, I’m going to type in “the best punching bags” to kick off my research.
The first results are usually product ads through Google Shopping. In Google, anything with “Sponsored” next to it is paid content. Advertising on Google is set up through Google’s AdWords system. These are not SEO results, but results people pay for in an auction system.
I don’t click on any of the product ads. I’m not there yet. I’m not ready to buy a bag or even to read product reviews. Not to mention, all of them have 5-star reviews! Just the pictures and reviews don’t tell me if I’m comparing apples-to-apples or not.
Scrolling down, the first two results of “Top 5 Punching Bags of 2018” & “Top 10 Punching Bags” are more along the lines of what I’m looking for.
The first website (bestreviews.com) gives some comparisons. The landing page (screenshot below) gives me a grid layout of pictures and prices to review:
I like the side-by-comparisons and the easy to use interface. I’m not just looking at one product; I have a few different ones to review and consider. I move on to the next website.
The second website isn’t as appealing. I can only see pictures of different bags and a lot of items attract my attention. “Overwhelmed” is the feeling I get on this website. I exit right away, not wanting to have to review each “ad” for a bag.
The landing page of the second website I visited wasn’t set up to demonstrate why these were the “best punching bags,” it just gave me an aggregate list of punching bags.
After reviewing these two websites, I still haven’t quite found what I’m looking for. I’m going to scroll down to a couple of the organic results.
Organic results are the primary results in a query page from Google. These are the results that are influenced solely by SEO, not by paid advertising. You can’t manipulate the rankings of these results by paying for them.
I open the top website, the #1 organically ranked website, and the landing page layout and content is exactly what I’ve been looking for:
As you scroll through the article, they give you the “best” in several different categories. Not only that, but the explanations are geared towards individual users. It’s written in a scroll-based article format. Allowing users to scroll (instead of having to click around) doesn’t force the user to do anything unnatural. If I were viewing this website on a mobile phone, I would be able to get all the content I needed without having to click on different pages.
Notice how everything is broken down by a category? Best Overall, Best Budget, Best Free Standing, and so on. Breaking the bags down down by different buying personas I may have helps compare sensible options (“…well I don’t just want to go cheap, but I also don’t want one that looks like a human… I’d like a beginner one, but the other one has more stuff included”).
Not only that, the website also links to specific products on Amazon — a trusted website with a good reputation. They aren’t linking me to a bad looking website, or worse, a scam-y looking website. Each product links to Amazon for further review and analysis. This is my next step in the buyer process. Once I’ve compared the different types of bags and recommendations, I want to see 3rd party reviews, the reviews I find on Amazon. After reading the reviews, I make my selection.
Everyone uses search engines to shop a bit differently, but there are a few core takeaways here:
- People do click on the paid ads because they are first. Ignoring this and saying “no one clicks on paid ads” is simply untrue.
- Different keywords attract different parts of the “buying” stage. While I knew that I wanted to buy a bag, I didn’t know what brand or type I wanted yet.
- Most users look for multiple results, especially when comparing services.
- The organic (non-paid) #1 result gave me the perfect answer to my query. The goal of Google is to give searchers the perfect result for their query.
3 Timeless SEO Strategies: Explanation
It may be a bit confusing why this page ranked #1.
Sure, the website was easy to use, and they probably have good SEO going, but why is that article #1 out of all the other results? Why did I make my purchase from this website, and how did Google know this was the best answer to my question?
The answer is, this website hit all three of the core philosophies:
- Determine What Your Customers Actually Want
- Link Earning is Crucial
- Data-Driven Decisions Will Give You Comfort
Determine What Your Customers Actually Want
Look at the keyword I used:
“the best punching bags”
All of the results show aggregate articles with multiple products. It does not show a specific company selling “the best punching bag.”
“Top 5 Punching Bags of 2018”
“Top 10 Punching Bags”
“The 7 Best Punching Bags to Buy in 2018”
“Top 10 Best Heavy Punching Bags”
Outside of paid search, there were no results for specific products. Google is doing this on purpose. I wasn’t looking for a particular product, I was looking for comparisons.
I cannot overemphasize how unforgivable it is to try and rank specific products in searches like “the best punching bags.” Trying to rank individual products for aggregate search terms is a waste of time. This is huge mistake companies make when doing SEO.
A typical response from companies is something along the lines of:
“But I did make the best punching bag ever!”
It doesn’t matter. Your opinion on your product doesn’t matter. What matters is if your website’s content will give the user the answer to the query they used. I was looking for a comparison of different bags, not just one bag. I was not looking for one company that hired someone to “game” the system into ranking their bag whenever I typed in “the best punching bags.”
When trying to rank keywords, you always want to query that keyword in Google and see what the results are. If you find that all of the competing pages are aggregate articles like “Top 5 Punching Bags of 2018,” you’ll know that this is what searchers are looking for when using that query.
Now that you realize the type of content needed to rank, notice how easy to use the landing page of the #1 ranked website was. There were a fair amount of “The Top 5 punching bags of 2018” articles. However, only one reached #1.
The landing page and content was simple to navigate and learn more about what I wanted to buy. The author of this article organized the different suggestions into seven categories:
- Best Overall
- Best Budget
- Best Free Standing
- Best Beginner
- Best Length
- Best Durable
- Best Man Shaped
I was able to say (in my head) “No, I don’t necessarily want the cheapest. I don’t want one that looks like a man, I don’t care about length…” and compare the ones I wanted until I ultimately purchased one.
The author got into the head of different paths the buyer could be on and addressed it accordingly. The company realized that searchers are looking for easy to navigate articles comparing the best punching bags.
The landing page experience is a crucial element of ranking in Google. Merely having the right keywords, and the right type of content isn’t enough. You need to make confident that your landing page answers the customer’s questions better than any of the other landing pages out there.
Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Enter, the next two philosophies.
Link Earning is a Crucial Aspect of Your Campaign
To understand how crucial link earning is, you need to understand Domain Authority.
Domain Authority is a measurement from 0 – 100 on how likely your website is to rank for a given article. Websites with higher domain authority (50 out of 100) will out rank a website with a lower domain authority (30 out of 100) most of the time. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but decision-making this article, this is the definition to remember.
A large part of your Domain Authority is the number of high-quality links pointing to your website. The #1 ranking website in a given search result will have more quality links going back to their website than the competitors.
The more quality links your website has, the higher the domain authority. Low-quality links (spam websites, link wheels, unrelated websites, and more) don’t help your domain authority.
I’ll review the top two organic results with a piece of software we use. This software (Moz) helps gauage Domain Authority:
The top two results:
The first result (VeryWellFit.com):
The second result (MightyFighter.com):
The first result has a higher Domain Authority, but the second result has a higher page authority.
It’s very rare to see a page with higher domain authority being out-ranked by a page with lower domain authority. Domain Authority is built up by having more quality links pointing to your website. The more quality links you have, the higher your Domain Authority.
Page Authority (the same concept as Domain Authority, except applied to an individual page level) is a significant ranking factor. It’s not uncommon to see websites with a slightly lower overall Domain Authority lose rankings to sites with a higher Page Authority for particular keywords.
This concept allows smaller businesses to beat out larger chains in specific keywords. If you have a website page with a higher Page Authority, you will likely beat out Domain Authority within 10 points of you.
Overall, the way to build up both Domain Authority and Page Authority is to have more high-quality links pointing to your website page. The top result above has more earned links. These are links that bloggers, newspapers and other high-quality websites have pointing to the VeryWellFit.com domain, increasing its Domain Authority.
Software tools can help identify how many quality links are required for a particular page or domain to outrank the competition. It widely varies by industry and website type, and there are no set “rules” for a good Page Authority or Domain Authority.
Overall, working on having more companies linking to your website and specific landing pages will increase both of these metrics. The more high-quality links you have pointing to your website will, in turn, improve the rankings of your website in Google searches.
Reporting and Decision Making Will Change Your Flow
At its core, the “trick” to ranking a website or page on Google is this: more quality backlinks pointed to easy to use content and answering a searcher’s query.
Software, data, and analysis help you discover, measure, and implement that information. This flow helps companies that are trying to rank for “the best punching bags” realize they should either contact the first or second result to get their bag listed, or look for other keywords.
It’s possible that the verywellfit.com article I’ve discussed in this piece was just thrown together and the author got “lucky” that the content ranked higher than the other results.
However, t’s more likely that there was a measurable campaign in place to not only find the proper content for the keyword, but also to find the appropriate format of this article. In short, to “do better” than the competitors did.
Just going off of “knowledge of the industry” won’t necessarily help with SEO. You have to see what searchers are looking for and shape your content accordingly. You have to measure what searchers are doing when they land on your article or content, and always try and improve the experience they have in getting their questions answered.
The reporting and decision making process is crucial in SEO. SEO is not a “build it, and leave it” type of campaign. It requires taking a keyword, determining what kind of content the user is expecting when they search for that keyword, and creating better content than all of the other competitors have created.
Without measuring how long people stay on your page, where they go next, how many of those people click to buy, and a host of other metrics, you’ll be in the dark on missed opportunities with your website and content. Imagine all of the companies who are spinning their wheels trying to rank their start-up punching bag for “the best punching bags!”
It would be more beneficial for these companies to look at paid advertising, or trying to be featured in an article that exists on the first page, rather than trying to compete with the existing articles.
Think about it.
Instead of trying to rank your website above the pages that are reviewing and featuring different brands of punching bags, a punching bag manufacturer would be better suited to get their bag listed on this article.
Not only will this give you a first-page result (by being featured on an article ranking #1) you also have a big boost in your domain authority. The domain authority of verywellfit.com is strong, meaning the link back to your website is a quality link.
The data analysis step helps you think outside the box to achieve the same result: a #1 ranking for your product. Instead of trying to do it the “SEO” way, you are instead using SEO to find a new relationship opportunity. A blogger or writer like this that actively writes about products like yours is a much better result than a #1 ranking.
Oh, and you get the #1 ranking at the same time!
Applying the Three SEO Strategies
The purpose of this article as a whole is not to advise that SEO is dead. It’s not to advise that you cannot even hope to compete for more keywords, because there are already #1 rankings.
The purpose here is to show you a real-world example to demonstrate how much more complicated the process of SEO is, and how to look at the big picture for your business.
If your campaign was to rank the product page for your punching bag for the key phrase “the best punching bags,” you know that this isn’t going to happen unless you pay for it.
Doing the research, focusing on answering user’s queries with the easiest to use experience, and measuring the results (making adjustments as necessary) is the key to developing long-lasting SEO strategies.
How does this apply to your business? Search for the top 5 keywords you want to rank for. Do websites like yours come up? Do aggregate lists or other types of content come up?
If websites like yours come up, what can you do to earn more links and increase your domain authority? What can you do to make your content more accessible to digest?
If websites that compare products or services like yours come up, what can you do to be featured on those articles? Should you even try and rank for this keyword, or would you be better served investing in other keywords?
There are, of course, many other different things you can find with your keywords and content when applying the three SEO strategies listed above. That is why I developed these strategies. They are meant to help you ask the right questions, and begin building a campaign from there.