This week, I interviewed digital marketing expert Gareth Morgan on the topic of search engine optimisation (SEO).
Gareth is uniquely qualified to talk on this subject.
He is a speaker on the topic of SEO, and deeply understands the intricacies and eccentricities of getting websites to the top of Google's search results.
He also founded Liberty Marketing 12 years ago, a digital marketing agency that has grown to be the biggest in Wales.
Wanting to learn about SEO? Then he is the person to learn from.
But, when you're finished, make your way over to our interview with an expert in demand generation marketing. The interviewee focusses in on using SEO optimised-content to drive high quality leads on budget.
Here is a breakdown of what I learned from Gareth, with a sprinkling of my own knowledge and research:
An expert guide to improving your SEO
What is SEO?
A simple place to start. SEO is the process of getting a web page to appear higher in a search engine (Google, Bing, Ecosia) search results so that your website appears before your competitors. It is both an art and a science. Since Google doesn't let us know which 'ranking factors' (actions that impact your website ranking) matters most, it is still somewhat difficult to do everything right.
Luckily, while there have been a number of changes over the years, there are some basic tenants that have remained the same.
What are the core influences of SEO?
We can break SEO into two chunks:
- Onsite SEO (happens on your own website)
- Offsite SEO (happens on others websites)
What's important for onsite SEO?
Keywords (otherwise known as search terms):
- Keywords are what people type into Google when they are looking for something. You want to write blog posts (or web copy) that addresses the problem that your prospective customers are searching for. It makes sense, right? If you write a detailed explanation to their problem, and you are the first search result, then you have made your first customer touchpoint.
- Make sure that every page of your website is optimised for a keyword, and make sure each page is optimised for a different keyword . If you don't do this, cannibalisation can occur, where two of your web pages appear in Google for the same search term – which Google penalises by bringing them both down.
- Don't try to trick Google, they know. If you write a blog post that is the words 'Cheap furniture' repeated 500 times, you will not rank highly for those keywords. Read up on blackhat SEO to find out what to avoid.
What's important for offsite SEO?
Offsite SEO is all about getting other people to link to your website. There are a number of tactics for link building but ultimately, the name of the game is RELEVANCY and AUTHORITY.
To appear highly in Google rankings, Google tries to understand whether your site is trustable and credible. One way that it does that is by looking at who is referring their audience to your website.
If a highly relevant website links to your website, it shows Google that you are also relevant and are likely to be a useful resource for searchers. For example, How the Fxck is a website dedicated teaching marketing. If Hubspot, a highly regarded marketing resource, sites www.thefxck.com as a GREAT place to learn marketing (Hubspot, if you're watching, please do), then Google learns that it should send more people towards my website.
In that example, we tick two boxes: relevant and authoritative.
Getting good at PR is important for offsite SEO. If you want other people to link to your blog post, then your blog post better be really juicy, really interesting, really unique, or really educational. That way journalists, influecers, and other content creators will be keen to send their followers your way.
Start by identifying who in your industry is relevant, authoritative, and has a wide reach, and write something juicy for them.
Good onsite SEO is about keywords, how do I do proper keyword research?
When Gareth and his team start working with anew customer, they need to do keyword research to strategise what keywords the customer's website should be optimised for. Here's their approach:
For existing websites and content
Use a keyword research tool: Google has one that's free to use if you pay for Google Ads, SEMrush also has an excellent one that Gareth recommends.
Analyse the website for existing keyword rankings
Run your website throughout SEMrush and understand:
- Keywords already ranking for. What position and what is the current average monthly volume of searches. Here is an example, when I ran Liberty Marketing through SEMrush:
- We can then look to identify quick wins. If they are on page one for the keyword X, we can focus on pushing the website to the TOP of page one before we worry about brand new keywords
Identify keyword cannibalisation
This is a problem that is rarely talked about.
If two pages rank for the same keyword, Google pulls them both down. Figure out which page you want to rank in Google for that keyword, and optimise the other one for a different word. This will push both pages highe because it helps Google to identify which is the REAL relevant page for that keyword.
How to 'SEO optimise' your content
When you're approaching a new content strategy, here are some options to get you started.
Create GREAT CONTENT
There is no substitute for excellent, innovative, and exciting content.
Your website will naturally accrue backlinks if you take the time to get creative and make incredible content that targets the ideal keywords.
Gareth says you can target the same keywords as your competitors, but dont regurgitate the same type of articles. Make it better and you'll win.
Create a content hub
A content hub is a load of articles that address the various ‘long tail’ keywords that people are searching for, all in one area of your blog. Animalz, the content experts, talk about content hubs in full in their article "Library vs Publication." A must read for article in the content world.
Here's the difference between short and long-tail keywords:
Gareth notes that he has seen a lot of success with this approach versus the next one, because in a collection of blog posts you can address many valuable concepts.
Create pillar content
I've often seen the suggestion to create a very long and detailed piece of content. For example, “A beginner’s guide to B2B strategy” which cover ‘everything’ you need to know on the subject.
This strategy can work well, because it concentrates backlinks. Links from offsite sources will focus on this piece of content, making it really powerful, rather than spreading attention amongst a number of articles.
But there is a balance to be had because, according to Gareth, 20 pieces of content each optimised for a long-tail keyword is likely to rank your website higher than one piece of content optimised for 20 keywords – it makes sense, because one piece of content can’t be an authoritative source for EVERY keyword used.
How do I choose which keywords to use?
- Analyse what you're already ranking for, then look to reoptimise.
- Identify your priorities from a brand building perspective. What do you want your business to be known for? If it's 'inbound marketing' then try to optimise for all the long tail keywords around that phrase.
- Gareth notes that this is a never ending piece of work that encompasses a blog strategy: You could identify 50 long tail keywords and that is your 1x per week strategy for the next year.
How to optimise a piece of content for a keyword
This is not easy. Not least because there are 200+ ranking factors that Google considers. Here's 10 Google ranking factors.
Gareth notes that you should not overlook:
- Page title
- Meta description
- Page URL
These are what shows up on the actual search results – keywords and USPs must be in there. Keywords are important so that Google knows it is relevant, and USPs because you MUST think about the person reading: what will encourage them to click through to your website? Why is your title exciting and relevant to them?
Gareth has seen clients receive 2x the visitors thanks to updating these three with powerful sales copy.