Demystifying White Hat SEO
We all know the score – our clients or our employers get a new website and think that the enquiries and/or sales will just start pouring in. But they don’t. A Google or two later and there’s this realisation that just having a website isn’t enough – this website needs work and optimisation to actually generate traffic. But where do you start? Why does demystifying SEO seem so hard?
Where to start demystifying SEO?
There is SO MUCH of SEO that is about doing the basics correctly and consistently. The truth is that technical SEO actually isn’t that hard and with the right tools and a few hours of dedicated work, you can easily clean the technicalities of your website and see some improvements.
This is only half the story, however.
Google’s algorithm is essentially split into two parts – authority and user experience. Fixing all those technical errors sits firmly in the “user experience” side of things, but what are you actually getting found for?
In my 15 or so years experience of working with websites and worrying about performance, it has become clear that SEO needs a few ground rules in order to start actually demonstrating results. These are:
- A firm foundation
- A measure of success
- A clear audience
- Consistent application
Without these ground rules in place, the results and efforts of your labours can produce some really weird results, that probably won’t mean a lot to you.
For example, by technically cleaning your website, you may fix the Missing H1 tag errors by adding H1’s to all pages of your website – simple. But what do you actually put in the H1s? Do they resonate with what your target audience is actually looking for? Or are they going to rank you for terms that aren’t applicable to your buyer’s journey?
A Firm Foundation
The best advice isn’t always the easiest advice – and don’t I know this from personal experience! The purpose of good SEO is not only to gain you rankings, and therefore enquiries (traffic, in my opinion, is a vanity metric – I don’t care how much traffic you get overall, it’s about your enquiries and sales!), but also to grow your business. Therefore the RIGHT ADVICE is to make sure your business is ready to service and delight the new customers you will obtain BEFORE we start to scale your SEO.
The theory is simple – if we get you 100 new customers tomorrow, can you service them?
If you can – great, let’s crack on. If not, then we need to look at why not…
The reason for this is for your own protection. If we increase your sales/enquiries tomorrow and the nett result is 99% dissatisfied customers – your reputation will go down the pan EXTREMELY QUICKLY! If, however, we spend some time making sure your sales process and delivery mechanism is suitable and capable for the job, then your reputation can shoot through the roof and everyone is a winner.
This foundation means we do need to consider your internal processes, your delivery, your ideal customer, your nightmare customer, your marketing and your current position in the market. From here decisions can then be made about increases in sales, customer value, repeat order rates, etc…
Then, and only then, are we in a place to actually start delivering SEO.
A measure of success
Just as with everything, SEO works best if it has a finite target. This target can always be revisited, adjusted and even obliterated for something else, but without a measure to say “Yes – this SEO is working” anyone working on your SEO will essentially be doing so blindfolded.
In reality, there is so much search traffic and so many different ways things can be optimised, that if you are not careful, one can become data-blind very quickly. The answer is simply to have a measure for what success looks like over a particular timeframe. This could be annually, semi-annually or quarterly – any more frequent than this and you will struggle to collect enough data against your goals.
You measure could be anything – double your online enquiries in 12 months, for example. But it just needs to be there.
A clear audience
Just like the point above, understand your audience is essential for good SEO, and it makes decision making throughout your SEO delivery so much easier.
In my experience, it’s best to have audience profiles. Most companies will have more than one profile – anywhere between three and six is a good mix – but these need to be definitive and refined. Your profiles (or personas) also need to have a personal level to them too, not just a professional capacity.
In our agency, we give our personal names, ages, an address, a car, a family – you get the idea. Make them into a real person and then your content, keyword research, citations, etc all become processed through this mindset. “Where would Joe Bloggs search for this?”, “What would he search for?”, “What is the problem Joe is actually trying to solve?”. These are the question your personas need to answer.
With this wealth of data, it is easy to put a plan of content in place, and then even look at your retargeting, social media content, the types of content you create, and ask if they are suitable for your target audience.
As with any type of outreach online, consistency is key. And maybe for more reasons than you think…
Firstly, your website isn’t simply a group of individual pages that just happen to have the same domain name. Rather it is an ecosystem of content that, optimised correctly, sets you up to be THE authority in your niche or service area.
Building and optimising your website isn’t just about tags and errors. Instead, it’s about proving to the search engines and at the world that you are THE go-to person / company / authority on a particular subject and that those people who are paying for ads need to up their game because you have everything lined up to take them on.
The first part of this is getting your on-page SEO sorted and working correctly. This demonstrates to the search engines that by playing with their rules, you are serious about search traffic and giving the user a high-quality experience as well as high-quality content.
Then it is about growing your ecosystem. I’m sure you have the same thing with your website, or that of your clients or employer – your business, or their business, changes over time. In exactly the same way your website should change.
It should regularly have new content, new media associated with it, etc, etc, etc.
Many companies that struggle with this employ an agency or marketing consultant to help with this… Sound familiar?
Introducing Demystifying ‘White Hat’ SEO
Since launching the Marketing Development Podcast in 2018, it has become clear that there is a need for marketing consultants and people working in marketing departments to skill up on the SEO provision and demonstrate both results and their own value to their clients and employers.
To address this, I launched the Demystifying SEO Course that contains six modules covering:
- The Foundation – creating and preparing for an SEO strategy
- All About Keywords – taking keyword research to the next level and applying it to your website
- Starting with Content – what does a content marketing strategy really look like and how to get started
- Making your content work for you – taking the step above and putting it on steroids
- Maximising Exposure – surely that’s not all?! Here are some more tips and tricks to try!
- Measuring success – how to measure track and report on your results for client or employer
The purpose of the course is to give you all the skills, tools and methods needed to demonstrate a positive return on a time investment into SEO.
The course is designed for anyone who actually does hands-on work on any website – be it your own, a client site or the website of your employer – and the principles and methodology work for lead generation, brochure and ecommerce websites alike.