Thursday, 8 December 2016

Improving Search Rankings Is Incremental & Hard

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In a fast-moving world, it's understandable that businesses who put some energy into improving their organic search results want to see dramatic improvements, quickly. The problem is, improvements are usually incremental and require hard work and persistence. Impatience leads to taking shortcuts and often brings poor results. You simply have to accept it's a long game and here's why.

Securing Search Engine Traffic Is Hard

Despite the plethora of SEO experts who claim to be able to propel your website up the search rankings quickly, most of them can't, or at least they can't do it in a sustainable and safe way. I know it's an appealing notion that you could jump straight in at number 1 and it's easy to see why so many businesses are seduced by those who promise amazing search rankings. Do yourself a favour, don't be one of them.

We're not to suggesting for one moment all search experts are bad, far from it, but those claiming to have special relationships with Google™ or to have the secret sauce to make dramatic changes in rankings quickly rarely deliver on their promises. In fact, if you follow Google's guidelines on how to improve rankings, you can't make dramatic changes quickly, it's always incremental.

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It's Hard For A Reason

If you're not convinced, think about the prize on offer. Search rankings all but guarantee a steady flow of potential customers. What's that worth? If you rank in Google for what your potential customers are searching for, they will find you and potentially buy from you. It's like nothing else that's come before it.

It's not like TV advertising. That only worked while you kept paying the TV companies. It's not like magazine adverts, again that only worked while you kept paying and anyway, your messages were being shown to everyone, even those who would never buy from you.

Think about how different search marketing is. People who want what you're offering being shown what you have on offer, 24/7, for no money at all. Why would anyone think achieving that would be easy and cheap? It's a remarkable lead generation tool.

Start With A Strategy And Be Patient

To secure good search rankings you need a strategy. You need to understand what your customers are searching for, you need to be realistic about what you can rank for and you need to proactively chase the rankings you want.

Without a strategy, you'll flounder and almost certainly fail.

Strategy And Goals Are Not The Same

We're doing a lot of work on strategy just now because we're 18 months into a SaaS project creating a web-based tool for managing strategy. What's clear to me is many people confuse strategy and goals. They are different, very different.

For example, if you were to tell me that your strategy is to rank for a specific search phrase in order to generate search traffic and from that traffic gain enquiries or leads, I'd advise you that what you have isn't a strategy, it's a goal.

My next question would be, "What has to happen for you to achieve that Google ranking?". Your answer, if you gave me one, might be your strategy.

What Might A Strategy Look Like?

happy.pngSo, if stating 'we will rank for the keyword xyz' isn't a strategy, what is? Perhaps something like this.

We've identified that our potential customers search in Google using the search phrase xyz. Currently, we don't rank in Google's top 100 for this search phrase. We're going to do the following to address that:

  1. Create a highly optimised web page targeting the phrase xyz. Get the SEO right.
  2. Create 20 blog posts over the next three months on the subject of xyz with internal links to our new page. Here's how to blog effectively.
  3. Socially share links to our new blog posts.
  4. Create an e-book about xyz for people to download.
  5. Create a series of help videos for people considering purchasing xyz
  6. etc..

You now have a strategy to secure a Google ranking for the search phrase xyz. Of course, this is somewhat simplified and ignores who currently ranks for the phrase, and other external factors, but you get the idea. The point is, rankings don't just magically happen, or at least they rarely do. They happen as a result of effort. They happen as a result of patience and they happen as a result of incremental improvements.

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