Using digital marketing to grow your business can be a web of confusion if you’re new to it, or even if you’re used to focusing on one particular area. In this article, we’ll look at an overview of the main aspects of digital marketing, so that you can get a birdseye view and start to visualise how an integrated, strategic digital marketing program might help you and your business to flourish.
By Ellie Keft
January 16, 2022
What is SEO?
Search engine optimisation, or ‘SEO’, is a set of practices you can take on and off your website to increase the quantity and quality of the organic traffic to your website through organic search engine results.
As we’ve discussed in previous episodes, organic traffic is free traffic – that is, traffic you don’t have to pay for.
So in order to rank in the results of search engines like Google and Bing, you can follow a set of “rules” or processes allowing their algorithms to choose to deliver your pages to a user, based on their search query (the keywords they type into the search engine).
Basically, SEO is about making your website as easy to find as possible, for a particular person with a particular problem they need help solving.
There are some fairly “techy” parts of SEO that in most cases, need to be addressed by a web developer.
But overall, it doesn’t need to be complicated, and there’s a bunch of stuff that you, a humble small business owner, can do.
And as with everything I talk about, it’s not about doing EVERYTHING, it’s about optimising, iterating, making small improvements incrementally.
Doing SEO properly is really just about clarity, consistency and commitment; that is, having a strategic and calculated plan and committing to taking small, regular actions.
All of that is laid out clearly in my free SEO guide that you can download.
Basically, SEO is about making your website as easy to find as possible, for a particular person with a particular problem they need help solving.
How does it fit into the bigger picture?
SEO gets divided up into four buckets; on-page, technical, content and off-page.
But before I go into those, I wanted to illustrate how SEO fits into the bigger picture of your marketing program.
So as mentioned in previous episodes, content drives your marketing; it’s what keeps everything kicking along, it’s what attracts your people.
But using content in marketing can have a range of objectives. ONE of these objectives is to grow your visibility in search engines organically, AKA SEO.
I think that’s important to mention, because a lot of people get stressed that they’re not ‘doing SEO’ (in quotes) because somehow they think they’re missing out in some major way.
And that’s true, it’s important.
But you need to remember that it’s all down to your overall strategy, which will be informed by your industry standards, your audience, your product or service, and your capacity and budget.
So, if your strategy focuses on social media, more of your traffic and revenue might come from there, or perhaps you decide to focus on paid traffic like social media ads, or search engine ads, for example.
With SEO, you’re focusing on increasing your visibility on search engines by using organic means, which include the four buckets of SEO we’ll talk about: on-page, technical, content and off-page.
Now just quickly, an important thing to understand here is that usually, it’s not one or the other; you don’t just pick one thing, like SEO, and just focus on that. But you do strategically figure out the best combination of channels to achieve your goals, and decide what percentage of your time and resources will go to which activities.
And secondly, the stuff you do on one platform will often be complementary to the performance of other platforms. So for example, the paid ads you do on Instagram, say, might increase traffic to your website, depending on the ad, which should then improve your website authority, which should then help you show up in search engine results, and so on. Obviously I’ve just simplified it, there’s a lot of caveats in all of this, but hopefully you get the picture.
So now you’ve got a little bit of an idea about how SEO might fit into this whole big spiderweb, let’s chat about the four buckets of SEO.
The main buckets of SEO
The first bucket is known as ‘on-page SEO’ and this is all about what you can control on your website.
When people say you can ‘DIY your SEO’, ‘on-page SEO’ is probably what they are predominantly referring to, because this is the stuff that you can totally do yourself.
In fact, you’re most likely the best person to be doing some of this as you know your business best, and you probably know the individual pages of your website much better than anyone else.
It’s a great place to begin when you’re just starting with SEO because there is nothing ‘techy’ or fancy about this, it is simply following a set of guidelines.
The guidelines can be found with an old fashioned date with Google; that is, by Googling things like ‘how to update my website title tags using wordpress or squarespace or whatever your website is built on’ along with something like ‘best practice SEO for updating website title tags’.
Some things you would be looking at working on when you’re doing your on-page SEO include:
- Placing a focus keyword in a very defined list of places (again, Google it)
- Updating website title tags and meta descriptions
- Compressing the size of your images
- Adding alt text to your images to help with both SEO and accessibility (that is, making sure people with certain disabilities are still able to engage with the images on your website)
- Organising headings into a hierarchical structure
- Checking basic UX (or, ‘user experience’), as well as readability and accessibility
- And, optimising your website’s top pages, or the pages that get the most traffic and say the most about your business, like the homepage, and key services and products pages, for example
Now, as I’ve said a fair few times, I will be diving into all this in great detail in future episodes, so don’t stress if it’s a bit too top-level for you.
Bucket number two is ‘Technical SEO’, which is all about making sure Google (and other search engines) are able to crawl and index your website.
Or in other words, making sure that your website can be both examined and categorised.
And by extension, technical SEO is also about ensuring that your website has great UX (user experience), as Google’s algorithm loves user-friendly, seamless and ‘sexy’ online experiences.
Generally, much of technical SEO will need to be completed by either a web developer, or a technical SEO professional.
Now here’s a HUGE piece of advice I’ll give you for free because I like you.
Not all SEO professionals are technical, as much as they would like to tell you that they are.
A good SEO pro will be able to diagnose technical issues and optimisations, but only a literal unicorn will be able to fix every single one of the issues that arise themselves. Obviously unless your website doesn’t have issues, or only have simple issues.
Many will either refer you on to a web developer that they know that specialises in your CMS (that is, your website platform, so WordPress or Squarespace, etc.), or they will ask you to find your own web dev, and you most likely already have one.
One of the big things that I would refer clients on to a web developer for would be improvement site speed, or page load speed. I can’t code, I don’t understand all the web developer jargon and I don’t want to learn. So I’ll hand that off to an experienced web developer who specialises in that particular web CMS (that is, the platform your website is built on).
Some things you would be looking at working on when you’re doing your technical SEO might include:
- Making sure your website has an SSL certificate and that the entire site loads on HTTPS
- That you have a sitemap that’s been submitted to Google
- That search engines can crawl or index the pages from your website that you want them to, and that access is blocked to the pages you don’t want in search engines
- That your pages are loading quickly and rendering properly
- That your website has a great mobile viewing experience
- That broken links are redirected to the correct place or a 404 error is warranted
Aaaaand some other stuff.
Content for SEO, one of the key components of any SEO program.
So as mentioned, content makes the marketing world go ‘round.
And that’s very true with SEO too.
So content in SEO is useful for a few key reasons:
- It allows you to drive traffic to your website
- Not only does it drive traffic to your website, but the traffic it does send to your website generally has a higher CTR than other platforms, and great quality engagement while on the website
- It provides a canvas for using keywords strategically, which is one of the key ways that Google will rank your web pages in their search results
- It allows you to do a bunch of things once someone is ON your webby, like retarget them with ads, collect their email list (with permission obviously), and also to sell them your product or service
- It provides people with valuable and relevant information that gives them a great user experience
- It generates backlinks when you seed or syndicate that content on other websites
So some of those points won’t make absolute sense to some of you yet, if you haven’t had much experience with SEO. That’s cool, just take what you can and don’t worry about the bits that don’t.
But here’s a fun analogy for you: I like to think of content as the kale of the online world.
High quality content is the fuel that keeps your website healthy, relevant, dynamic and engaging.
It makes you look sexy too… It gives you that healthy radiance that happens when you nourish your body properly and, if you’ll allow me, really brings the boys to the yard!
In marketing speak, it brings in highly qualified leads. That is, people that are much more likely to want what you got, so to speak.
If you want to learn more about why content is important, head back to last episode, episode 4, where we looked at 7 reasons why content marketing is so important for your biz.
Here are some of the things we mean when we’re talking about the ‘content’ bucket of SEO:
- Writing keyword-researched blog posts
- Guest posting on relevant, relatively high-authority websites
- Crafting strategic, keyword-filled key website landing pages, as well as your ‘areas of expertise’ landing pages
- Creating downloadable ‘freebies’, aka lead magnets
- Repurposing content for different channels and platforms
- Building and optimising your ‘local’ pages, so that search engines rank you for geographical searches like ‘cafes near me’ or accommodation in bowral’
- Producing podcasts or YouTube videos and encouraging people to visiting your website
Ok, onto the final bucket.
Alright, the final bucket of SEO is called ‘off-page SEO’ and some refer to it as ‘digital PR’ and personally I think that term is better but it is less commonly used.
Off-page SEO is about the signals that are happening off of your website, that is, the behaviour other people and websites are taking that shows Google (and other search engines) that your biz and your website are relevant, talked about, and linked to.
It could be things like people linking to your website (known as backlinks) or social media shares.
There are also these other signals that are super important, known as signals of expertise, authority and trustworthiness, which has a delicious acronym…EAT, or E-A-T.
The idea here is that Google wants to ensure that it is serving people pages that are legit; that is they are well-researched and presented by authoritative sources, rather than just opinions, uneducated tidbits or even fraudulent misinformation.
E-A-T can be built through things like:
- By seeking out local media opportunities and other ‘brand building’ activities like events, podcast interviews and so on
- By listing your biz in relevant directories (also called ‘building citations’) by scattering your name, address and phone number (your ‘NAP’) throughout the world wide web
- By guest posting on relevant websites
- By creating and maintaining a Google My Business profile
- By creating shareable social media content that sends people back to your website (like a blog)
Generally I see small businesses doing their digi PR in one of three ways:
ONE—they’re proactively going out and ‘building links’ by creating listings, optimising their Google My Business profile, and pitching guest posts.
TWO—they’re creating great content that naturally gets shared throughout social media.
Or THREE—they’re big into PR and are seeking out features in print mags and local media publications.
All three of those options are effective. Doing all of them is obviously best, but if your strategy is really focused on those PR opportunities, for example, and it fits really well with your brand and you have an amazing story to tell, then by all means go all in on this.
My point is, providing pitching to print media results in a link or referral to your website, that is contributing to your off-page SEO or digital PR. So if they run a print story but then duplicate that online, or perhaps do a wrap-up of the edition and they link to you, then that’s benefiting your SEO.
And if it’s that you’re creating shareable content that refers followers to you website, that’s great for SEO too.
But the other stuff, the typical off-page SEO tasks like link building, guest posting, and building citations—these can be super important too. So if you have the capacity, get ohn it!
Extra aspects of SEO
Before I head off, there are a few other parts of SEO that I haven’t mentioned because they technically fit into all of the buckets.
So I thought I would touch on them quickly.
Before embarking on an SEO program, you’ll usually want to do some level of keyword research and competitor analysis. This helps you to identify opportunities for content production and link building, and also will help you to structure your website correctly and to know what keywords to place where.
Another important part of SEO is audience research, eventually defining your ideal customer avatar or persona, which will allow you to plan content that speaks to their needs, interests and that will perform well when shared.
Similarly, solidifying your brand messages is super important for SEO content production too, including outlining your why, mission and vision, as well as your unique value proposition and unique service offerings.
I’ve said this a lot, but developing a content strategy is a big part of SEO too, and will inform what activities you pursue in your SEO program, especially when it comes to content and digital PR. Along with this, regular performance evaluations are really useful, so that you can see what’s working and what’s not, and make decisions about what activities to prioritise.
To have those evaluations though, you’ll also need some monitoring and reporting systems and processes, including using Google Analytics to analyse the behavioural data on your website. That is, so that you can understand how people are using your website.
Now I know that list probably sounded like a lot to many of you. Don’t panic, I have something for you.
I have just developed a new express service to help you start to become familiar with some of these issues, so that you can identify what you’d like to fix yourself, and what you might like to outsource.
It’s low-cost, low-contact, and it’s intended to allow those of you who want to ensure your website is in tip-top shape when it comes to SEO, but aren’t quite ready for the $500 plus investment to work one-to-one with an SEO professional or agency.
This service is a mini website SEO health check, and I’ve called the ‘Quick Sticks Website SEO Health Check.’ Quick Sticks as in, it’s quick, easy and cheap.
It’ll give you a benchmark score of your website SEO, from the SEO tool I use, as well as benchmark scores on site speed and mobile usability. Then, I will crawl your website, and let you know all the technical and on-page SEO errors that arise, which is what I talked about earlier. I’ll also include a quick knowledge bank with the health check, with links to my favourite resources on the topics so that you can start learning more about it all.
It’s $120, so if you’re keen to be kept in the loop so you don’t miss out, make sure that you head to hiatusstudios.co/quickseo to jump on the waiting list and to read more about it.
SEO is juicy! There’s a lot to it but it’s worth wrapping your head around so you know the possibilities for your marketing program, and also so you’re well-informed should you decide to outsource aspects of your SEO program in the future.
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We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land we predominantly work on, the Ngunnawal people. We recognise that ‘Australia’ was founded on the dispossession of First Nations people, that sovereignty was never ceded, and that this country always was and always will be, their land. Hiatus Studios pays our rent by making monthly donations to Healing Foundation, which supports Stolen Generations survivors, their families and communities.
© Copyright Ellie Keft 2021