Episode 797: SEO and what every business owner needs to know about it, with Stephen Woessner
Good Morning Onward Nation…I’m Stephen Woessner, CEO of Predictive ROI and your host for Onward Nation. And today’s episode is going to be a solocast…where it’s just you and me exploring a topic at some real depth — something helpful — so you can build and scale your business. So let’s dive in.
Much has changed since I wrote The Small Business Owner’s Handbook to Search Engine Optimization in 2009.
Google now has a longer and more complicated recipe of factors it uses to rank you and your competitors as you attempt to earn the attention of your prospects and customers.
And many of the factors within Google’s list are not properly setup within the typical small business website.
That means fewer leads and perhaps less opportunity to generate higher sales.
All of which makes it important — for you as the business owner — to know some of the fundamentals to SEO. Not so you can do the work — but so you can establish expectations for your team — and then audit their results.
So for today’s solocast — I am going to share with you what is, in my opinion, one of the biggest, most expensive money draining mistakes business owners make. And that mistake is being too passive regarding the amount of traffic the website for their core business is attracting. And that number should be 60 percent of your total traffic — so 60 percent, Onward Nation, of your website’s traffic should be coming from organic search — a combination of Google, Bing, and other search related sources.
But oftentimes, the mistake I see business owners and their teams make is that they quit too soon — give up on the strategy if they didn’t see immediate results. Onward Nation, search engine optimization is a long term strategy. Yes, you can create some immediate impact at times — it is not unrealistic to double site traffic in 60 to 90-days. This definitely happens — but it is not the norm. Instead, you will need to create and share high quality cornerstone content — whether that it a podcast episode, a video series on YouTube or Facebook, a rock awesome blog post, or other forms of content. Whatever form of cornerstone content you create is up to you — and — they all represent outstanding opportunities for optimization and driving traffic into your website so you have more at bats for generating leads and revenue.
So don’t quit. You need to push for answers…your team will need to do a depth of research so you know they are making solid decisions based on data…and you as the owners need to make sure you don’t assume someone on your team is taking care of it already…or catch yourself if you ever hear this excuse pop into your mind, “Ugh, Stephen, I don’t need to know how to do SEO…I have people on my team who can do that.”
Yes, it is true — you don’t need to understand all of the nuances and complexities of the “how you do it” — but — you definitely need to understand the “why” behind it.
Why? Well, to answer that…I will share the words of wisdom that were shared with me by my friend, mentor, and guest of Episode 40 of Onward Nation, Avinash Kaushik, digital marketing evangelist for Google, he said to me, “Stephen, it’s because if you understand it — then you will be rich. But if you don’t understand it — then you will be poor. That should be incentive enough.”
Avinash is right.
We as business owners need to understand the strategy behind search — to understand the why — and then to delegate the how to the smart and super capable people on your team so you can focus on your vital functions and not optimizing meta descriptions or worrying about Google’s algorithm.
Rest assured…in this solocast, we are not going to review all the levers that need to be pulled, or the buttons that your team needs to push. Instead….we are going to focus on the strategic — the why and the result outcomes — behind that mysterious curtain that is SEO and Google.
Forbes asked me the question, “What does every business leader need to know about SEO” and my answer was not about tech…but instead…I urged readers to focus on conversions or return on investment.
What business owners tend not realize is that one can — and should — measure SEO’s return on investment, and you should — predict it before you implement any optimization strategies.
In the end, rankings don’t matter. Traffic doesn’t matter. Only conversions and ROI matter because they can be measured in dollars and cents.
You should absolutely, unequivocally insist that either your in-house team or your vendors provide ROI predictions based on conversions, and they should be held accountable for those results. That is what I shared with Forbes and that is my message to you, too, this morning.
And the best way to be able to predict ROI is by selecting what I call Predictive Keywords. I am going to teach you the exact steps my team and I use at Predictive ROI to select the very best — high performing keywords for clients. The keywords that drive ROI for our campaigns.
To make today’s lesson even more impactful — we created a free Quick Start Guide that will help you and your team predict your website traffic, leads, and sales using several simple formulas — all of which are included in the guide — step-by-step.
I included a link in today’s Show Notes so you can use to download our SEO Guide and Checklist.
So, let’s get started with the selection of Predictive Keywords.
The keywords you select must meet two criteria to maximize your return on investment.
First…the keywords must have a track record of already being used every single day. So what does this mean? It means that when you use tools like the Keyword Explorer from Moz.com — and you enter a keyword you want to test — that the tool returns a result showing you the number of times each month that a particular keyword is search for within Google or Bing. Awesome.
We like Moz a lot — but we are tool agnostic. You and your team may love SEM Rush, Google’s Keyword Planner, or something else.
And that’s fine — just as long as you are using a tool to collect data so you can make good decisions.
Okay, but if the keywords you are testing get zero results — then you know you just tested a keyword that may sound good to you and your team but your customers and prospects don’t think of it when they think to search for your product or service.
And Onward Nation, there is often a disconnect between how your customers and prospects think of you versus your own internal think.
So let’s just loop back to the never ever quitting piece — you and your team will undoubtedly brainstorm a list of what you think will be winner keywords — and then when you test them — you will get nothing but zeros.
I’m here to tell you — it’s not the fault of the tool…it is likely the result of you and your team not thinking deep enough like your customer.
If you want a refresher on how to do this…go back to Episode 208, because during that solocast, I mapped out a specific recipe for how you can get a crystal clear view of who your customer avatar is — and that view — will serve you well when doing your keyword research.
Second, the keywords must not be too competitive. It must be realistic for you to rank well if you decide to pursue them.
So, how do you decide if a keyword is too competitive — or — wide open for the taking? Let’s walk through that.
Go ahead and open up a web browser like Chrome, Safari, whatever happens to be your preference…and in the search window…type the keyword you want to investigate. But, before you click the search button…you need to surround the keyword in quotes…so place one set of quotation marks at the beginning of the keyword and the second set of quotes at the end of the keyword.
Now click “Search”.
And the reason you do that — which is called an Exact Match Search — is because then Google will give you a list of all the pages they have in their database that it views are direct or exact competitors for the keyword you just search.
So let’s say the keyword you did an exact match search for was, “Disney World Hotels”. Then in the upper left corner of Google’s search results, you will see a small number that reads something close to 220,000 results. That means that Google has 220,000 content pages in its database that directly relate to my keyword, Disney World Hotels, which of course makes sense because Disney is the happiest place on earth.
Now, 220,000 competing pages is definitely a lot of pages. But, from a keyword competitiveness perspective — it actually isn’t. As long as that number — the 220,000 number — or the number of competing pages in the search results is less than 1 million, then you are in good shape. The keyword is not very competitive.
Hey — someone has to be ranked number 1 — why not you, right?
It is not until the time you find keywords that meet both of these criteria that you will begin investing time toward optimizing your site content. Having a disciplined, focused approach toward keyword selection will generate significant increases in website traffic.
So here are some sub-steps within the Keyword Selection Process — again — you can go to our Predictive ROI Resources section and download our free SEO Guide and Checklist.
- Step 1: Create your initial keyword list: Develop a list of about ten keywords for each content page in your website that you plan to optimize.
- Step 2: Copy and paste your initial list of keywords to the free Small Business Owner Keyword Tracker Worksheet — also part of the Quick Start Guide
- Step 3: Collect data: use a free keyword suggestion tool and then do exact match searches in Google to validate the competitiveness of each keyword on your list.
From there…you will have a list of proven keywords that are ready to be run through our Predictive Keyword formula. The formula will help you actually predict increases in site traffic, leads, and sales based on the keywords on your list.
This next pieces gets a bit technical — but — it is fully mapped out in our Quick Start Guide I mentioned earlier. And you can get your free copy in our Resources section at PredictiveROI.com/Resources.
The last page of the guide includes a specific checklist for selecting Predictive Keywords. My guess is that you and your team will find it really helpful.
And please…don’t short change the process…don’t quit if you get zero results the first several times…keep digging for the Predictive Keywords.
Keep pushing to think like your customer.
Don’t stop at the surface if you don’t get the immediate right answer. The right keywords are there — you sometimes just need to sift through a bunch of data to find them.
Okay, I also wanted to share some insights with respect to voice search because I am getting a lot of questions around this topic and recently finished speaking at four events — all on the topic of voice — and more specifically — the role that voice search will play in the future.
For a deeper dive into voice and the impact it is having on biz dev…please go back to Episode 705 of Onward Nation because I walked through 4 of what I think are — and will become even more so — the most significant impacts of voice-centric strategy.
In my opinion, you and your team need to get up to speed with the changes voice is having on SEO. comScore predicts that nearly 50 percent of all searches by the year 2020 will be voice activated – so in just 2 years from now, you and your team need to actively creating different content – and serve it up to Google differently if we want to continue driving organic traffic to our websites.
And with voice search…there seems to be one vital priority at the moment and that is to create and optimize content so that it is worthy of becoming the “Featured Snippet” in the search results.
The featured snippet is the content that is ranked so high in the search results that Google tends to put it inside a box and it is typically the answer to a question you may have asked when searching.
So why is the featured snippet so important to voice? Because Google tends to highlight featured snippets in the voice search results and read them to you audibly.
So, if you score a featured snippet ranking for your content – you will not only be served up to searches who are using Google the traditional way – but you will also be served up first to voice searches and your content will be shared with them audibly.
Come on…how cool is that, Onward Nation?
So…how do you score a featured snippet ranking? Well, I will likely dedicated a future solocast just to this topic because as you might imagine – it is a deep one all by itself. But for now…I will share several brief overview of some of the steps that my Predictive ROI team is testing right now so you can test them, too.
Step One: you need to create content for your website that is focused on answering “what,” “how,” or “why” questions from searchers. “What” your product or service does, “how” your team solves problems, and “why” you and your team believe so strongly in supporting the industry through your annual research report on trends, etc.
So you need to think creatively about matching your content with the intent of voice search so that they sync up.
Step Two: Google has shared data about how searchers who are using voice are also using long keyword strings – or what is often referred to as long-tail keywords. Gone are the days of someone going to Google and searching for a single keyword but instead of searching for a solution to a problem.
For example…the deep dive solocast that I record that will focus on voice search might be entitled: “Okay Google, how do I optimize my website for voice search?”
Because I will want anyone who is struggling with that topic to find my solocast.
So you need to think of your keywords from a long-tail perspective but also from a question and answer or solution perspective.
Step Three: I would highly recommend you and your team doing some research and testing using Schema.org – often referred to as Structured Data. With Structured Data, you will have more opportunities to tell Google, Bing, etc. what your content page contains – to label it – identify it and to make it easier for them to index and rank.
Recent studies have shown that of all the content pages in the same that were ranked by Google with a featured snippet, over 40 percent of the pages were using Structured Data as part of their optimization recipe.
Again, I will record a separate solocast on voice search engine optimization to share all of our steps in full transparency – but for now – if you and your team begin reviewing your content to determine if it measures up with the steps I just reviewed, you will likely be ahead of 95 percent of your competition.
Okay…whew…so with that said…I want to say thank you, Onward Nation – thank you for taking time to be here – thank you for sharing your feedback, opinions, and insights — and helping us get better every day.
Please know – I appreciate your time and attention so very much.
And I am thrilled that we are about to cross another milestone next week with 800 episodes – and that feels wonderful – but I think we are just scratching the surface in how we look to serve you the best as we step into the 4th quarter of 2018 and prepare for a rock solid awesome 2019.
I wish you a wonderful rest of your week and look forward to having you back tomorrow for another great interview with one of today’s top business owners.
Until then — onward with gusto!