In most industries, the search engine results page (SERP) is an extremely competitive marketing landscape. Only the best and most relevant content rises to the top.
On the first SERPs the top five results receive a disproportionate amount of clicks totaling 67.6% of all clicks. This interaction is the first step in the organic search conversion funnel.
In order for your company to find customers, they have to be able to find you and a quick Google search for a solution is the best place to start. You want to be listed among those solutions.
“How do I get on the first page?”
Short answer: You create the best content.
Long answer: You optimize your website and content for search engines, specifically the bots that crawl your site–and the rest of the internet for that matter. There are a number of factors that these bots take into account based on Google’s (which I will use as a moniker to represent all search engines going forward) complex algorithm that is updated near constantly.
This is essentially what it means to do Search Engine Optimization (SEO). There are a number of different methodologies and tactics to reach the first page of the SERP, however, we’ll only explore the ethical side of SEO.
SEO is a coveted skill these days because a large majority of customers gather information and make purchasing decisions online before they ever make a purchase.
“Ok! Now how do I actually DO it?”
Do a quick Google search and you’ll find a wealth of thought leadership on this topic, which can frankly be a bit confusing and tedious to sift through. So, I’ll give you a big push in the right direction:
One of our favorite methods to reach the top of the SERPs at Hawke Media is to look toward our competitors. I use the term competitors loosely here because the entities you’re competing with on the SERPs may not be your direct competitors.
They’re anyone who makes content for your target audience. That could leave you competing for internet real estate against the likes of large publications, giant corporations, or even educational institutions.
Google’s algorithm has been honed over many iterations to not just look for which keywords you’re stuffing into your post but to actually match your content with search intent, so it can be as impartial and almost solely based on merit and effort.
That means your content needs to be tailored to the problem searchers are looking to solve whether that be informational or transactional.
The best way to gauge that is to do keyword research and look at what the top 5 sites are publishing. That means knowing what your target audience is looking for. Listen to sales calls, read surveys, reviews, and use keyword research tools to find them.
Once you’ve identified how people find competing products or services on Google, the real work begins.
This is the truly difficult part and why hiring a good SEO or content marketer can make or break your organic search strategy.
Once you’ve found the content, you have to analyze it. Find the common thread between the top posts on the SERP. These posts are there because Google identified them as containing the most relevant solution to the problem your potential customer is searching for.
Now, do that but better! The end…
If only. The content you create after all of your painstaking research needs to differentiate itself from the other top results as a better solution to that query.
“You’re Kidding! How do I do THAT?!”
As you can see in the graph below, most content in the top three search results comes in at about a whopping 2,500 words. That’s the equivalent of writing a 10-page double spaced essay, which most of us haven’t done since college or high school.
Keep in mind, just because the content is long-form doesn’t mean you can sacrifice quality. Every section needs to be cohesive and address a relevant issue.
The good news is that these long-form pieces of content almost always target more than one keyword in a tiered approach.
You’ll have your main target, usually a short-tail keyword with a high volume of search traffic or purchase intent. Accompanying those are your long-tail keywords, usually a longer string of terms that delves into more specific versions of the query you’re targeting.
Use those long-tail keywords to inform the flow of your content by simply answering the potential questions they present, if they aren’t already formatted as such. You can also look to your competitor content for ideas of what you should include.
Be robust. Be informative. And always write with a solution mindset.
**Sigh** “We’re done, right?”
Not quite. You won’t really ever be done.
Next, you have to build out a promotion strategy to target another ranking factor that tells Google your content is authoritative enough to rank; backlinks. Building backlinks involves creating shareable content and ideally, your content would spread naturally, but it takes some work.
Share the content on as many relevant channels as you can to get as much visibility as you can. This is crucial because people have to see it, to share it, to link to it.
Reach out to other websites that could benefit from your content to add more context. It might lead to a backlink.
There are plenty of strategies to accomplish this with as many ethical and unethical iterations. However, it’s important to note that Google will always reward the best content and plenty of sites using unsavory techniques have fallen to an algorithm update.
There you go! That’s actually it. Save for the part where you continually update and research to make sure your content continues to be the best solution for the ever-changing search landscape.
But that’s all! Really.
Guest post by Hawke Media.