June 14, 2017 | Sarah Danks
SEO Gets Results
Let’s talk about search engine optimization (SEO) tactics. We optimize all of our clients’ websites so people using search engines can find them, and once on those sites we want visitors to find helpful, relevant content.
So, let’s talk about this for the moving company business. Everyone moves to a new home at some point, so eventually you’ll look for this service. When choosing which moving company to hire it all boils down to the one you feel most comfortable with, and that all starts with a great online experience.
And that, of course, starts after you find them!
In this day and age of Wifi-for-everyone, it’s commonplace for people to head to the Internet to research — and they need to be able to find things a) easily, b) quickly and c) without having to put forth much effort.
I’m going to outline the main SEO tactics we employ in our websites to do just that:
- UX (usability)
- Goal tracking
So, let’s delve into more detail on each of these…
1) Optimized Content
Good content doesn’t just happen — or write itself. Much planning and strategy goes into successful web copy for it to be effective — and it all starts with keywords.
Some SEO marketers still attempt to game the Google system by keyword stuffing — and sometimes other black hat techniques — to try to show up first in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Not only does that not work anymore, it’s also detrimental to your website.
Here at ThinkSEM we don’t employ shady tactics…
…although our founder DID happen to start out in the black hat world of online marketing! Don’t worry, he’s legit now, but it’s helpful to know how the “other side” works.
Instead of worrying about keywords we think will “rank” a website, we concentrate on the words and phrases the audience is using to search for your services.
If you’re that worried about showing up at the top of a SERP, we can talk about pay-per-click marketing.
But whether you’re dealing with PPC or SEO, before you can write content that speaks to your audience — and not AT them — you have to know how they’re talking about what you’re offering.
Writing for Your Audience
A wise person on the Internet once said, “write for humans first and search engines second.” Whoever that was, we agree 100%! And here’s the beauty of writing that way: when you cater to your audience, ipso facto you’re catering to the search engines, too. See, search engines like to put people first.
Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute says it pretty well:
“Actually talk to your customers. Use the language that they use. Talk about the things they talk about. Never feed salad to a lion.”
We want each website’s visitor to consume all the yummy content we’re feeding them, but the point is to do so while still telling our clients’ story. It’s a delicate balance of including relevant moving company keywords in the copy while also ensuring each web page is easy to scan, read, and helps visitors find the information they’re seeking.
It’s also important to use a formatting style that ensures your audience can quickly scan to find pertinent information.
Copy That’s Easy to Scan
In order to create easy-to-scan content, we employ the use of a few tactics, such as:
- header tags,
- bulleted lists,
- bolded words, and
- short paragraphs
to make a our content easily scannable.
The easier it is for web visitors to read — or scan — your content, the better. So, we ensure we’ve made it simple for them to quickly find what they’re looking for.
It’s extremely important to add calls-to-action (CTAs) throughout your content. After all, the entire point of the website’s content is to lead the visitor to take action — search engine optimization isn’t merely getting visitors to the website; it’s getting them to take the next step. To that end, we make it easy for them to do so.
If you can lead the proverbial horse to water AND make it drink, then your optimized content is doing what it should.
This isn’t really a “subset” of search engine optimization — it’s an entire aspect of its own — but we need to mention local SEO here.
People moving to a new home or business need a local moving service; you don’t want your website to be showing up in a Google search for someone hundreds of miles away. This is why we focus your content (and other important data) on your preferred geographic area.
By incorporating local search tactics like geography-specific keywords, NAP, relevant links, etc., we can ensure your visitors will find you because they’re looking for moving services in your area.
I don’t really like the term “metadata,” but it’s the easiest way to define, well, data about data. What’m I talking about?
- <title> tags,
- meta descriptions, and
- schema markup,
There are other coding aspects that occur “behind the scenes” in any website, but these are the three on which we focus for SEO purposes.
There’s arguably one aspect of data on a website that is the most important, and it’s the title tag. Why?
Well, it’s the first thing search engine users see on a search engine results page, and it’s also what they click on to visit the page. Not only that, the title tag is what tells search engines — and, of course, the people who use them — the topic of the page.
When writing your title tags, it’s important to adhere to the character limit to be sure the important things you want to say will display on the SERP (Google truncates title tags after ~55 characters). You certainly don’t get penalized if you write a longer tag, but why spend time writing something that won’t be seen?
Meta descriptions are an aspect of SEO that many debate “don’t matter.” Well, they do, but not directly. See, search engines don’t use meta descriptions as a ranking factor, but they DO influence users to click on your page — which, of course, is important to search engines. A good description should build off the information in the title tag.
Again, when writing your meta descriptions you want to stay within the character limit (currently that’s ~155 characters), because search engines will cut them off if they’re longer than that. If you’re using WordPress, go ahead and install Yoast as your SEO plugin. It’ll lay out exactly how your search snippet will look and tell you when you’re too long on characters:
If you have any interest in getting users to click through from the SERPs, then Schema markup is a very handy tool. For our moving company clients, the main goal is getting people to fill out a form. But, proximity to the searcher is key in this case, so we focus on NAP (name, address, phone number) for the knowledge graph.
Very similarly to meta descriptions, Schema markup entices users to click through to the website. Some even say it affects your rankings, though I have a feeling it’s more about the users clicking through because they found pertinent information affecting that, vs. solely gaining a ranking boost by using schema.
Either way, it helps beef up your SERP snippet, so use it!
Ha — gotcha!
C’mon, we don’t utilize the meta keywords tag.
Why, you ask? Because that tag is dead. Search engines don’t pay attention to it anymore — well, except when it’s chock full of spam. Then they look at it — and can even penalize the site for misuse.
Long story short: don’t waste your time on this prehistoric meta tag.
Even though it’s still an oft-debated topic amongst search marketers, we know linking is still a very important part of SEO.
But we’re not the only ones who think so.
Check out what Backlinko has to say about incoming links and how they relate to search engine rankings:
Backlinks remain an extremely important Google ranking factor. We found the number of domains linking to a page correlated with rankings more than any other factor…our data also shows that a site’s overall link authority (as measured by Ahrefs Domain Rating) strongly correlates with higher rankings.
Of course, acquiring topical, pertinent incoming links to your website isn’t as easy as pie. It takes a lot of strategy, effort, and most of all, time.
On the other hand, managing your website’s internal links is entirely under your control. Why do internal links matter? They’re a very important aspect of a website’s link profile. External links coming into your site carry much more weight than internal links, but internal links shouldn’t be overlooked.
Having a good internal linking strategy is by far the easiest “link building” you’ll ever do for a website. Making sure you do it well is key, though — we only link between related content when it makes sense; not solely for the sake of linking.
Always cater to your users first.
4) Good Usability
Many online marketers still don’t think user friendliness (UX) is a core element in search engine optimization, but it is. Google told us in early 2015 we needed to have mobile-friendly websites since they were making it a ranking signal. Why? Because,
“Users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results optimized for their devices.”
And, since Google’s all about catering to the user, webmasters did as they were told, to ensure their sites would render on any device and therefore would be user-friendly. Here at ThinkSEM we were already building all clientwebsites with responsive web design, so we were covered.
That was just the tip of the iceberg, however. Now, UX is creeping into Google’s algorithm so much that we can’t NOT say it’s a part of SEO!
Make Sure Your Website Design is Mobile-Friendly
You might be wondering, what does it mean for websites to be mobile-friendly? Technically speaking, it means a website is accessible on a phone, but it’s becoming more common to think of it as a website being easy-to-use via any mobile device (i.e., tablets et. al.).
Making sure your web design is one that works well across all kinds of devices isn’t just catering to Google because “they say so.” No, it’s another step towards catering to your users — regardless of which type of device they’re using.
Search engines love it when websites put the user first and offer great usability. So, if your website is mobile-friendly, Google et. al. take notice that you’re catering to users, and it’s likely to do well in the SERPs.
Quick Load Time
All websites should be fast-loading, but if you want visits from mobile users you really need to focus on cutting down on your site’s load time. Mobile users tend to have less patience than those using desktop computers.
So, even if a user on, say, an iPhone finds your website in the SERP, clicks on it, but then has to wait longer than 3 seconds for your website to fully load…
…said visitor is going to hit that dreaded back button and find a different website — namely, one that loads faster than yours.
And, of course, since any page on your website can show up in a SERP for a given query, it’s not so much about how your home page loads; it’s how quickly ANY page on your site loads. In fact, individual page loading time is one of many factors in Google’s algorithm.
But, again, it’s not all about Google — or any other search engine — is it? See, your USERS won’t like it if your site pages don’t load quickly enough — which in turn will ultimately affect your bottom line.
In a nutshell: make sure you’ve done all you can to cut down on load time for your visitors.
URL Structure for SEO
Website URLs are a part of a website’s architecture, i.e., how are pages related, how is the content organized, etc. Well-written URLs actually lay out a road map of the website.
They’re also important for UX:
- URLs display in your search snippet
- Easy-to-understand URLs tell users the topic of any web page
- Poorly written URLs can confuse users or even look spammy
- A URL written with descriptive text is valued by search engines
- A URL can be valuable anchor text when linking out (or in!)
We like to structure a website’s URLs so that they’re easy to understand, describe the content on that web page, and also follow other best practices for URL optimization.
URL structure is just one more essential factor to add to the list of things that affect how users and search engines view your website.
5) Tracking Website Goals
Once you’ve put all your SEO steps in place, then you need to make sure you set up goal tracking, because if you’re putting time and money into acquiring traffic, you need to monitor effectiveness. You can have the best website in the world, but if you’re not tracking how it’s performing, it’s all for naught.
There are two tracking tools we use exclusively here, not only on client sites but our own:
- Google Analytics (GA)
- Google Search Console (GSC)
In any type of marketing, it’s better to have too much information to wade through than not enough. If you track everything, you can pick and choose the key performance indicators (KPI) on which to focus.
We’ve been using Google Analytics for all of our tracking needs since 2007 for three main reasons:
- it’s free,
- there’s no need to be a techy person to use it, and
- it provides us with more information than we need.
Specifically, we can easily track overall user behavior of a website, analyze different types of traffic, and we love the ability to create funnels for conversion tracking.
Since the most important action anyone can take on ANY website is the fulfillment of a goal (whatever that might be; it varies from website to website), you can’t just install Google Analytics code and think that’s it. Make sure you set up goals correctly in order to track what’s most important.
If it’s your own website, obviously you know your own goals…
…but for client websites, we head straight to the horse’s mouth to see what their objectives are, long before the site’s even built. Then, from Launch Day we’re tracking goals and we can monitor, making adjustments along the way as necessary to continually work on getting that site to reach our clients’ expectations.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console — née Google Webmaster Tools — is a commonly under-appreciated tool, in our opinion. Most marketers think they should rely only on Google Analytics, but we include the pertinent information offered by Search Console, too, because there are things that even Analytics won’t tell you.
One example is the abhorred “not provided:” since late 2011 Google Analytics no longer shows query data in the keyword reporting:
Ugh. So annoying, especially since keywords are the backbone of content, and content pleases users, and without that knowledge, how do we make our content better for the users?
Well, luckily you can use Google Search Console for (some of) this data. GSC doesn’t include all of the keyword info, but it’s a helpful guide. Plus, you can see some other important intel that tell you which queries are generating clicks.
By using both Google Analytics and Search Console information in conjunction, we can determine keyword/query data to let our moving company clients know what’s working for them.
Whether the majority of your clients are those looking to hire you to move their personal homes, or you prefer business moves, search engine optimization should be in your mind as a method of capturing leads. When a website is optimized to attract your ideal visitors, its success is yours.
Again, when applying SEO techniques, we hone in some key elements:
- Optimized content to incorporate keywords (especially local ones), descriptions and verbiage the audience uses
- Well-written meta data — which is to say <title> tags, meta descriptions and Schema markup — that give users easily understandable search snippets
- Internal linking strategy, along with topical 3rd-party links to help enhance a website’s credibility
- Good UX like mobile-friendliness, fast load times and easy-to-read URLs
- Analytics data — Google Analytics and Google Search Console — to monitor the website’s goals
As we’ve been wont to say for more years than we care to admit, “SEO is a process; not an event.” What that means is we’re continually observing the data and adjusting things as needed to be sure each website is performing to its best in the search engines.
To all of our current — and future!!! — moving company clients: rest assured we use all the SEO tools at our disposal to ensure your website works (and looks) its best for your needs.