In this practical SEO guide, we'll walk through the basics of SEO so you can start boosting your site's SEO. Understand what is SEO is, the power of pull marketing, and start thinking about an SEO strategy to drive organic leads and sales.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of using techniques to increase the number of visitors to your website or content on the web by improving its position in search engines. In simple terms, it's about figuring out how to show up higher on the Google results for your desired search terms so you can drive more visitors and conversions.
If you sell athletic socks for runners through your website, then when someone searches something related to that, you'll want to show up in the Google results to show that searcher what you have to offer. If we don't rank highly in the search results, then we will have a hard time being found by users. With proper SEO practices, your content or site will appear higher in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) on Google or other search engines. To understand SEO, it's essential to review the different types of SEO and the various terms used in the industry.
Why is SEO important?
Think about the last time you wanted to buy a product or a service online. What's the first thing you did? You probably fired up Google and gave it a search. Thanks to Google, we can now easily find what we need with the search engine. On the flip side for marketers, we need to figure out how to stand out and show up on the search engines. Showing up in the search engine is so critical because the searchers are expressing interest in a product or service that you offer, and that is your chance to show up.
Push vs. Pull
When we think marketing, we can generally split things up into push and pull marketing. To simplify things, push marketing is like standing in the street trying to sell people ties while pull marketing is like being inside a tie store trying to sell your specific tie. In one situation, the customer is not actively searching for your product, while in another, they are actively immersed in a shopping experience for a tie.
With push marketing, you are sending your message or offer to people when they might not actually be looking for that product. You are trying to "push" a particular product onto your target audience. For example, think about the Instagram ads you probably see daily. These ads are often for products or brands you didn't even know existed. Push marketing can be great if you are looking to launch a new brand and gain visibility immediately. If we started selling designer aluminum water bottles on the internet, we might begin with some push marketing to get the word out there with some social media ads.
Pull marketing is about bringing customers that are already looking for something. These customers are already in the shopping process, and your goal is to bring them to your product. Imagine you are a lawyer, and someone is looking for legal services. Your goal is to "pull" that customer towards your service. Pull marketing can be especially useful when your product or service category exists, and people are already looking for that category.
Going back to our tie example, I'd probably have a lot more luck selling my tie in a tie store than standing on the street selling my tie. While selling my specific tie in the tie store requires me to beat out my competition, the customers in the store are a lot more likely to walk out with a tie than a random sample of people on the street. Someone that walks into a tie store is already expressing interest in buying a tie, and now it is your job to make yours stand out. Shifting this to the online model, when someone does a Google search for "ties," they are expressing interest in buying a tie online, and it is up to you to get in front of that customer and present your offering. All you have to do is show up.
The Power of Pull
Now, let's talk about the power of effective pull marketing to drive sustainable growth for your business. Say we are selling our fancy new ties online through our website. We need to figure out how to drive customers to the site and drive some sales. We could go out with a push marketing strategy where we run social media ads or do some email marketing and see how we do. In the beginning, it will be quite costly to drive conversions, but maybe over time, we can get our cost-to-acquire down a bit. Let's say we sell our ties for $49, and on average, we can drive a $49 order for about $20 in advertising. That would actually be pretty good.
Let's say we try to go the pull marketing route, and we can succeed at getting to the top of the search results for "ties." Now we'd be getting customers to our site for free, and our marketing cost per customer would actually be $0. Once we've solidified our position in the search results (and continue to do the SEO work necessary to stay on top), we have built ourselves a more sustainable acquisition funnel for long-term growth. Instead of having to "buy" every customer with a $20 acquisition cost, we are pulling in customers for free. Doesn't that sound a lot better? It's obviously fairly challenging to do this, but with the right SEO knowledge, we may be able to accomplish some of this.
Building Your SEO Strategy
Now that we understand the long-term value that SEO can provide us with let's dive into how to make this happen. In our tie example, I said that if we were able to rank highly for "ties," we'd be able to drive lots of free revenue. Unfortunately, I don't think we'll be able to rank in the top couple of results on Google for "ties" anytime soon. That doesn't mean we should give up, though. We need to be a little more strategic about approaching SEO and our keyword strategy.
Every good SEO strategy starts with a good keyword strategy. After all, you can't optimize to rank for keywords unless you know what keywords you are targeting. If we do a little research on volume and competitiveness for the "ties" keyword, we'll find that there are a ton of searches for that, but it is also highly competitive with some massive brands showing up in the results. While we hope one day that our tie business can be as big as those other brands, we'll need to start smaller and be smarter at the start. As we do some more research on keywords related to "ties" and think about our distinct value proposition, we might start to see some new opportunities that are a little more open. Maybe our ties are made from silk, perhaps our ties are sustainable, or maybe we sell fun or silly ties.
Depending on what our value proposition is, we might find some better keywords that we can actually compete on. In general, long-tail keywords, more detailed and lengthy keywords, will be easier to rank for. For example, it would be a lot easier to rank for "sustainable fun ties for parties" than "ties." This is where you'll need to find a balance between volume and competitiveness. We want to find keywords that have enough search volume (people actually search those terms) and competitiveness (there aren't already lots of large brands competing for that term). Learn more about conducting keyword research in our Keyword Research Guide.