Phil Frost, the CEO of Main Street ROI (MSROI), talked SEO in 2017 during the first webinar of the Master Your Marketing Series late last week. Acquisio is participating in the Master Your Marketing Series created by MSROI, as one of four talented martech speakers like SpyFu, Convirza and Optmyzr. The series is a way for MSROI to partner with martech experts and share their most actionable advice with the industry on a consistent basis. There is one presenter per month in this free webinar series, the first being MSROI’s kickoff webinar that got to the core of what’s working in SEO now.
Below we’ve summarized this first edition in the Master Your Marketing Series for you, including trends, resources and more! Of course you can watch the recording yourself or refer back to anything discussed below in more detail in the recorded webinar presentation. There’s a lot to cover so let’s get going, starting with what’s hot in SEO and moving into the how-to stuff right after.
Trending SEO Topics
Phil opened the show with three SEO trends that everyone needs to understand. The first being that people search more on their phones than on their desktop computer. This isn’t news to anyone. Think With Google reports that 82% of smartphone users use their phone to find local businesses. In response to the mobile trend Google is switching the way their index works, meaning it will look at the mobile version of your website before the desktop version.
The “mobile-first” index isn’t live yet and will likely roll out next year. When it does Google will look at your mobile website, rather than your desktop, to make decisions about how your website will rank. So when this update does roll out you better be ready! Test, fix and optimize your mobile website version now. Factor in both usability and site speed in your quest to improve your mobile site. You can use Google’s mobile friendliness tool to help you.
The second SEO trend marketers need to be aware of is local. Again, people are using smartphones to get the information they need and a third of these users include location data in their search. We uncovered local marketing data in partnership with the Local Search Association and reported earlier this year that 75% of these searches become in store traffic within 24 hours. That means local marketing is hot! That also means that local businesses have to optimize their local business pages with Google and Bing. When Google determines that someone searching is looking for a local service, they make it very easy to find that service by including business information, maps, reviews, ratings and more in the SERP. To enhance your local marketing, Phil recommends getting into well-known directories, niche directories and especially national ones like Yelp. Services like Yext can help.
Finally and perhaps the most controversial area in SEO still today is backlinks – the SEO trend that never seems to die no matter how many times Google threatens it. Many ask if links are still important in 2017 and the answer is … absolutely!! Google’s entire search algorithm was originally built off of backlink signals. To give an over-simplified explanation, Google would give websites a “strong reputation by association,” using their backlinks. While the index is much more complex than this explanation, the short answer is that backlinks still matter as long as they’re from strong reputable websites.
To make sure you’re not actually hurting your SEO results with backlinks from spammy businesses look at your backlink profile in Search Console. To get more high quality backlinks from new sources you can also look at where your competitors backlinks are coming from. Quality is so much more important than quantity when it comes to backlinks. More on this below.
5 Steps to Getting on the First Page of Google
With an overview of what’s trending in the world of SEO right now, it’s time to take a closer look at what SEO techniques will work for you and are still relevant today. Below Phil goes through 5 epic SEO steps to get your website ranking on the first page of Google by the end of 2017. Ok I’m not gonna lie, these aren’t the quickest nor the easiest five steps you’ve ever read, but more importantly they are very effective.
Step 1: Onsite SEO
Phil introduced a multi-step diagnostic process to improve the onsite SEO of any website:
- Do a technical SEO audit that includes a lot of the list below
- Make sure to reduce website load speed as much as possible
- Make sure your website is mobile optimized
- Make sure your website is secure. Make sure your http site is properly redirecting to https version of your website
- Make sure your site’s domain is canonicalized with the “www.” version and without
- Fix any broken backlinks and 404 errors
- Remove or fix any duplicate content issues
- For local SEO, get a Google My Business page
Step 2: Do Keyword Research
Once your site is technically optimized the next best SEO technique is to optimize the content. Knowing which words to write that will attract an audience is the key in keyword research! Similarly understanding which of your pages you want to send traffic to will put all the pieces together.
If you want to sell handbags, you should get your handbag product page to rank, rather than your about page for example. That way you can get your products in front of searchers in as little clicks as possible. However attracting site visitors to that page is of course the challenge and the purpose of keyword research.
Type in some keywords into the Google Keyword Planner that you think people are using to search for your products or services and click submit. Then Google will show you the search volume for these terms and related terms that you can use. This becomes an iterative process where you uncover and discover relevant keywords. Keywords can have a buyer’s intent, like “where to buy blue nike running shoes?” for example. These would be more relevant for a shoe retailer selling products online than say “blue shoe.” Therefore make sure when you’re working through the results of the keyword planner, that you’re looking for about 2-5 keywords per page with the highest search volume that are the MOST relevant to the products or services on that page.
Step 3: Edit Website Content
Use the results of your keyword research to write unique headlines and content for your website pages. Pay specific attention to use these words on your page title (title tag), H1 headlines as well as H2s, meta descriptions and page content. For titles use descriptive language and make sure each title is unique.
Phil uses the analogy of the Table of Contents in a book – if all the chapter titles were the same you’d have no idea where to look for information. When Google is reading your site, if all your titles are the same, it has no idea where to find information and your website won’t rank.
Once you’re past the page titles and headlines and into the page content just write naturally. Otherwise you could risk keyword stuffing, while trying too hard to use your keywords.
Step 4: Get Coverage
By coverage we mean high quality backlinks. The importance of backlinks is included in the trending topics in SEO discussion above. Again it is of the utmost importance to get coverage from high-quality websites, although this isn’t always obvious. Use Moz’s open site explorer spam tool to determine if the site you want coverage from has a high spam score. A spam score above 2 or maximum 3 could harm your site and actually negatively affect your page rankings. Phil gives 5 safe ways to get backlinks in 2017:
- Create something awesome so people actually want to talk about it.
- Do something awesome so press wants to cover it, whether it’s charity or an event or both!
- Write a quality column and become a consistent source of advice in your industry
- Publish guest articles on relevant high quality websites
- Create business directory accounts. These are low quality backlinks but can help a lot with local SEO by creating many citations with your business information.
Step 5: Create More Pages
The last step in this epic SEO how-to tale is to create more website pages. Phil explains how the more pages you have, the more content you have to rank and therefore there are more opportunities for your business to be found in Google.
So you can create a page for each product or service and then add to these as your product or service offering grows. You can also create a page for every location you serve. Additionally a section about resources and research could be created, answering the more information based queries related to your business that came out of your keyword research. Finally you could keep an eye out for trends in your industry and write hot-off-the-press content for your site to address these types of topics (Note that it can be hard to compete with already established news and information sites with this strategy).
Regardless of the type of new pages you’re creating, make sure you’re applying all your technical onsite audit techniques as well. You don’t want to create orphaned pages or duplicate content.
Get in the Now
While many have been digesting SEO best practices as they evolved, what worked a few years ago isn’t going to work today. Marketers have to stay on top of SEO trends and make sure their techniques for improvement are relevant and up to date to bring clients results. The guide above can help new marketers start off on the right foot and not get lost in years of out-of-date SEO advice that’s floating around out there. Existing SEOs can compare their methods with those above and make sure they’re in the know. If there is a major technique that you use that was left out of the discussion leave us a comment about it below.
Go to Main Street ROI’s Master Your Marketing page f you’re interested in learning more about upcoming topics in the Master Your Marketing Series.