So you want to rank on page one of Google?
Just like any other industry, SEO doesn’t lack prophets of doom, proclaiming its death every other year.
But in spite of the constant negativity coming from those who see search engine optimization as a mere fad, SEO has not only survived for nearly 27 years, but it has also thrived.
According to a recent report, companies spent over $65 billion on SEO in 2016. That is three times more than what experts predicted in 2008 for this year, and that was before major algorithms like Penguin and Panda were released. Plus, it’s estimated that SEO will reach the $80 billion mark by 2020.
Sure, these predictions aren’t set in stone, but they do paint a pretty accurate picture: search engine optimization is here to stay.
The question isn’t whether you should invest in SEO, but more about which activities you should invest in to get the best results.
This article will take a closer look at what it takes to rank on page one of Google and where you should be investing your money.
Let’s get straight to it.
The Ultimate Guide to Organic Traffic for Small Business
Why investing in SEO is just good business sense
SEO has changed dramatically since its inception. And, although search engine algorithms have become more sophisticated than ever before, and you need to have deep knowledge to win at SEO, it’s still one of the most effective marketing strategies available.
One study found that SEO provides the best ROI of any inbound marketing channel. Most businesses invest on average 12% of their budget into search engine optimization, but it generates 15% of their leads. By comparison, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising has 8% of the budget and generates only 6% of leads.
The high ROI has to do with the fact that the intent of searchers is very specific. Unlike social media channels, for example, where prospects might stumble upon one of your posts and click on it if it grabs their attention, people go to Google to ask specific questions and get specific answers.
So, how much does it cost to rank on page one of Google?
When people ask this question, they usually expect a straightforward answer like, “$5,763 plus tax.”
It doesn’t work that way.
SEO can be very tricky. It’s a combination of various practices that take time and discipline to return results.
For example, here are just some of the key factors that will determine how expensive it is for your unique business to rank on page one:
- Your target audience
- Your geolocation
- Your targeted keywords
- Current industry trends
- How aggressively you want to approach it
It takes some upfront costs to get the ball rolling, and the initial expenses can be a bit intimidating to a small business.
But, instead of obsessing over the expenses, focus on the benefits you’ll get from SEO, such as organic traffic, increased brand visibility and authority, higher brand credibility, and better ROI as compared to other inbound marketing strategies.
The longer and more you invest in SEO, the higher the return you’ll see. And, I’m not talking only about returns in website traffic and brand reputation, but also actual customers and sales.
Here’s the twist: to leverage all these benefits, your execution has to be flawless.
If you aren’t confident in your ability and resources to execute flawlessly, then consider hiring an agency to do it for you. Trust that they know what they are doing and have done this all before…
But hold them accountable to the key areas of SEO importance that I am about to discuss.
If you want to win at SEO in 2017, invest in these 5 key areas:
5 key things your SEO strategy needs to focus on right now
1. Technical Optimization on Your Website
Don’t let the word “technical” scare you. Technical SEO refers to the practices that allow you to build a strong foundation for your content.
I’m talking about optimizing title and meta tags, minifying your code to increase site speed, using the right keywords to ensure your site shows up in relevant search results, or creating HTML sitemaps that help web crawlers understand your content better and index it.
Technical SEO might not be as time-consuming as other optimization strategies, such as link building or content creation. But get it wrong, and it can affect your ranking dramatically.
This infographic from Brian Dean gives a nice overview of the technical optimization of a web page.
2. Design and User Experience
No one talks about user experience until something goes wrong. However, it should be an integral part of your design process, from concept to launch.
As more and more of our daily lives move online, it has become critical for businesses to provide seamless digital experiences. Internet users today expect sites to perform flawlessly and deliver customized experiences. They don’t have the time or the patience to wait around for pages that load slowly, are hard to navigate or provide a poor experience.
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and try to understand why they’ve come to your site, what they’re looking for, and what they can expect. Creating a design with user intent in mind will work for everyone involved. Plus Google loves it.
Use the Google PageSpeed tool to see how fast your website loads:
Also, don’t forget that a large portion of your site visitors are viewing your pages on a mobile device. To learn how to optimize the design of your site for mobile devices, check out this infographic.
3. Quality Content
You’ve heard it over and over again: quality content is the backbone of an effective SEO strategy. But, what does that mean? How do you create content that ranks high in Google and appeals to your audience too?
It all starts with picking the right keywords. Go to social media and see what’s trending. Pay attention to the keywords your audience are using and monitor popular industry topics. Keep in mind that the most obvious keywords aren’t always the best ones. Try to dig deeper and get to the bottom of what really interests your audience.
A tool like Keywordtool.io can be great for taking this to the next level:
Don’t get frustrated if you can’t come up with original content ideas. Instead, focus on how you can approach an old topic from a fresh perspective. Most importantly, don’t overstuff your content with keywords, don’t duplicate content, and make sure you post frequently on your website.
4. Trust Signals
Would you do business with a person you don’t trust?
Trust signals play a crucial role in SEO since these subliminal cues have the power to improve the initial impression of your website.
Incorporating social sharing into your website is one of the most effective ways to boost the credibility of your site. Include social media buttons on every page of your site and promote them with every opportunity you’ve got. The more your content is shared, the higher your chances of ranking are.
They use Sumo here at JeffBullas.com:
5. White Hat Link Building
Google’s Matt Cutts created a lot of controversy when he proclaimed the death of guest blogging as a link building strategy. Eventually, he made it clear that he was referring to shady and excessive guest blogging.
So, don’t worry: this is still a legitimate and effective way of acquiring backlinks, as long as they come from reputable sites that are relevant to your industry and audience.
HARO inquiries, expert roundup posts, the Skyscraper technique, and scholarship link building are other methods that can help you increase your ranking.
For more inspiration and ideas for white hat link building strategies, check out this case study.
Wrapping it up
Search engine optimization isn’t a once-and-done type of deal. It requires constant work and tweaks to ensure that your site respects Google’s guidelines and adds value to your prospects.
Instead of trying to figure out how much you need to invest to get to the first page, think of SEO as a long-term game that, if played correctly, can provide consistent benefits to your business.
All in all, make sure you trust in Google. They are dedicated to delivering search results to their users that are accurate, resourceful, and provide a first-class experience. If you keep turning up and providing that experience, your journey to page one will come more quickly than you can imagine.
Guest Author: Nital Shah is the CEO and Founder of Octos Digital Marketing Agency. He is an expert in search strategies, planning and management with ten years under his belt and is serving top corporate brands in Australia. Nital can be connected on Email and LinkedIn.