In today’s world of modern Search Engine Optimization (SEO), content marketing, and sophisticated web design, you must consider the power of each to develop a website that delivers what you need.
1. SEO makes it easier for people to find you.
2. Content gets them to know, like, and trust you.
3. And the design language of a website, creating a look and feel, and good user experience, is what gets people to stay on your website.
But here’s the problem and trust me, this is repeated often – business owners shopping for website design are almost always focused on pretty websites.
Trust me. I work with a ton of small businesses and this mindset is usually what drives them.
Here’s why this viewpoint is a problem – modern website design is way more about creating a robust marketing system for your business than having a cool looking site that makes your competitors green with envy.
There’s a war being fought in the online realm. You’re competing with hundreds or thousands of other businesses in a vast space and you’re all after the same thing – attracting the eyeballs of great prospects.
To do this you must have a site with a laser focused brand message, built to not only attract the right people but also convert visitors to paying customers.
So before you start, you must adjust your mindset…
Striking a balance between web design and modern SEO
I’m a designer by training, so please understand that I love well designed websites.
But a fixation on design-only simply creates a website that looks pretty but brings nothing. (Read: it can really deliver a blow to your bottom line.)
(( “A fixation on design-only simply creates a website that looks pretty but brings nothing.” ))
What is your website’s primary job? To generate new sales. A single-track focus on design will not do this.
Good design and flow are extremely important but SEO and lead generation are actually more important if your primary goal is to drive sales. A pretty, functional site might wow someone, but how in the world will they find you without a modern SEO plan.
Modern SEO translates to a happy marriage between SEO and branding.
Great content is the core of an effective website
Meaning that modern SEO is about creating useful content relevant to your brand. Content that represents the goals and values of your brand, is written to appeal to your ideal customer, and gives the search engines the credibility signals they crave.
And this content focus means that any business owner shopping for a new website must think of his website as a long-term investment NOT a one-and-done deal.
Think about the vast online space you’re competing in. When your prospects are looking for a service like yours the internet is their first and last stop. It’s where they research, compare, and ultimately make that final decision to purchase.
So, as a business owner, you need to create content that appeals to your ideal customer and Google. Your site design and flow should be built to attract and convert. And your website should be viewed as your most important business investment. This is the formula for effective website design.
Your key to building a business website? Let modern SEO guide you.
As I mentioned above, engaging content that brings value to your audience and truly represents your brand is the heart of a modern SEO strategy.
But modern SEO is about taking a more comprehensive view of how people see your business online.
This is because as search engines evolve it’s not easy to game the system like it once was. In days of yore creating an SEO strategy centered on fine-tuning keywords, working to get quality backlinks to your site and yes, sometimes stuffing your content with a zillion keywords.
In the modern SEO landscape, the search engine deities are taking a more comprehensive view. Getting the lay of the land when it comes to how people search and buy online. They are looking for expertise, influence, and top-notch content created for the right people – your ideal customer.
How your potential customers search
To get people to find you, come to trust you, and hopefully buy from you, there is no longer a straight path to your doorway.
People have so many options and it’s super competitive out there. They want to find you quickly, treating search engines more like “answer engines.”
A happy marriage between your SEO strategies and your Brand makes this easier.
Jason Barnard does a great job of explaining this in the key to the future of SEO/AEO “In the new world of Answer Engines, understanding and credibility are what matter most. By Far.”
Everything about your brand, from online reviews to social media marketing to PR factor in. And things like value, honesty, and transparency are more important than ever.
This stuff all comes from your branding (how your business is perceived online).
People want quick answers.
They also want content that engages them.
And the search engines are getting better at spotting the dreck. Weeding out the chaff. Kicking crappy content to the curb.
As Jason explains here, “from Google’s point of view, it needs to understand who you are and what you offer in order to consider your offer as a potential candidate to be suggested as the best solution.” AND… “Once it has understood you and your offer, in order to present your offer as the best from several possibilities, Google will look at relative credibility.”
Your job is to convince both the search engines and your customers that your brand is the best solution.
Meaning that the following elements of traditional SEO are important:
- Keyword optimized content (written for your customers not just Google).
- Getting other, higher ranking sites to link back to your site.
- Generate positive customer reviews of your business.
- Optimizing your onsite and offsite SEO.
But, this branding stuff is super duper important too:
- Writing content that is valuable and engaging.
- Active social media communities.
- Public relations (outreach campaigns to popular bloggers and media).
- And building brand authority.
This plainly shows why SEO as a strategy must be fused into your branding and marketing plans.
So, how do you start with a modern SEO strategy to build the best website possible?
First, learn to think beyond your website and think strategically about creating a comprehensive marketing system that helps show the search engines and potential customers the credibility they want to see.
Focus on the keywords and keyword phrases your ideal customer will type in a Google search. These keywords become the foundation of your website content, blog posts, and more.
And during the process always go back to your brand.
So, let’s get started…
Create the best website for your business (by following a 7-step modern SEO strategy)
1. Find the keywords your customers search for
Think about your ideal customers’ wants and needs. If you’ve clearly defined your ideal customer this will be much easier.
When someone types a keyword into a search bar and your website shows up on page one this is called organic SEO. Organic SEO MUST be a key element of your marketing. And finding the types of keywords your ideal customers are searching for is step one.
Look at your ideal customer and take at least 30 minutes or an hour to write down the questions you think they would ask. Keep at it! Don’t stop until you have at least 20 questions. These questions and your answers become the foundation of your content.
When you’re doing this…
- Think about five or more core keywords that are most pertinent to your brand. This list might change as you dive deeper into this process. But just taking the time to write an initial keyword list is a constructive way to start.
- Consider the industries your main clients come from.
- Think through all of the interests and motivations of your ideal client, which leads to…
Interview your customers (and staff):
Setup interviews to discover more important client questions. Make a list of current and past customers. Ask if they would be available for a short discussion about the services you’ve provided them. If you have employees, get them involved in the process too. Follow this process on how to setup interviews with your clients.
Your list of top questions.
Your list of five or more root keywords.
Answers from your interviews.
…are the beautiful golden nuggets that will get you on your way to an effective keyword strategy.
Create a spreadsheet, add keywords to it and continue to build this out. These questions and answers might become…
- Blog posts.
- A detailed Q&A section on your website.
- Ideas for a video series.
- And more.
These keywords will also help you with the framework of your website.
2. Take a deeper dive into keyword research
Finding the right keywords for your business has tremendous power. In fact, conducting keyword research gives you the power to more deeply understand the keywords and phrases potential customers use to search for your products and/or services.
And ongoing keyword research helps you more clearly understand your ideal customers.
The more you understand their wants and motivations, the easier it will be for you to combine that understanding with clear brand messaging to speak directly to them. And it will help you build a content calendar that gets results.
Jump onto Google
Take some of the keyword phrases from above and type them into the search bar. Once you start keying in words you’ll see that Google suggests key terms based on your search.
The terms suggested are the popular terms related to your search, to use them to expand your list. Continue to play around with Google Suggest for ideas.
Start building a list
Combining the questions you’ve asked with your own brainstorming and Google Suggest, continue to build out your spreadsheet of keyword phrases.
Use keyword tools
Google keyword planner is free but there are also robust paid services like SEMRush.
If you’re just starting, I suggest using Keyword Planner. This is a free tool built into Google AdWords, Google’s own online advertising service. And this tool provides you with a great way to create, prune, and continue to refine your keyword list.
If you’ve done the work above, you have a primary keyword list to get you started with the Keyword Planner.
Here are the basic AdWords steps…
a. Sign-up for Adwords.
b. Find their Keyword Planner – Find the top wrench icon / Planning / Keyword planner.
c. On the next page, you’ll have several options. You can either enter your keywords, your site URL, or see search volume and forecasts for your keywords.
Let’s focus on the top bar, “Find new keywords”… Here you need to choose your words using the basic research you’ve already done. You can only enter three words at a time.
d. Once you enter in keywords, you’ll see “Locations” at the very top. Here you can select the geographic area you’ll be targeting if you have a local focus.
e. On the next page, you’ll see a big, kind of intimidating list of keywords. Don’t let the list scare you 😉 These are keywords that Google sees as pertinent to your own list of words.
There’s a ton you can do with Keyword Planner. For today, we’ll just focus on the main “Keyword Ideas” list you see.
Pay special attention to the following:
- Avg. monthly searches – The average number of times people have searched for the keyword.
- Competition – This shows the bidding competition for a keyword. Which is calculated by the number of advertisers bidding on a particular keyword. Competition is basically competition for people advertising in AdWords.
- Top of page bid (low) – displays the lower range of what advertisers have historically paid for a keyword’s top of page bid.
- Top of page bid (high) – shows the higher range of what advertisers have historically paid for a keyword’s top of page bid.
Now, scroll through the list of keywords. Look carefully at the averages below the headings I mentioned.
Basically what you want do to is look for keyword phrases that have a combination of high average monthly searches, high suggested starting bids, and fairly high competition worth.
These beautiful little words and phrases give you the juice you need to rank. If your competition is bidding high for keyword phrases, this means those are the terms that are attracting quality customers and converting into sales.
Here’s a great guide to keyword research.
Here’s a step by step guide to keyword research for business.
Note: We’ll get into more detailed keyword search strategies later in the series, but this is great foundational SEO built to get you started on building a brand that attracts the right type of customers.
So, don’t worry if you’re not ready to dive into the multitude of keyword tools available. They can be extremely overwhelming!
The most important thing for you to do at this point is to have a foundational keyword list to work from. Just keep rolling and you’ll get the hang of it.
3. Now, refine your keyword list
Pull the most valuable keywords from your list and start to test them.
Use Google Auto suggest to further refine your list. Run a search in Google’s search bar and pay extra special attention to the auto-fill results. These are the high-converting keywords.
Don’t skip over the AdWords ads in these searches Pay attention to the keyword phrases used in these ads. Are certain words repeated? How is the brand copy written? How do the headlines read?
Look at the organic search results. Same thing here. Look at the titles and descriptions your competition uses.
Click on your competitor links. Look at the core messaging on their home page. The keywords they use throughout their site. You’re looking for a combination of clear, focused brand copy and good use of keywords.
Pay close attention to both their Brand Messaging and SEO.
4. Now, go back to your brand
Go back to what you wrote down for your Unique Business Vision and your Positioning Statement and place them side by side, then add your keyword list from #1 above.
Now think about the pages on your website.
Let’s start with your home page…
If someone finds your home page, you have roughly five seconds to convince them you’re the one! You need to convey the following:
a. Exactly what you offer.
b. How it will help (fix pain).
c. What is the next step they should take?
a, b, c originate from your Positioning Statement. Copy that clarifies who you are, what you do, and why you’re the best choice. And it’s content written for your ideal customer.
Want an example? Here you go…
Say you’re a Life Coach in Fort Collins, Colorado. The primary “above the fold” copy on your website home page might say something like the following…
It’s time for your to thrive. Now is the time to break free, visualize the life your want and embrace transformation. Contact me today to get started.
When researching the competition, take note of who is doing this clear brand messaging really well.
This is where you begin to see how branding and SEO work together, but this is just the beginning…
5. Go back to your keyword list
Ask yourself: Which keywords will I target for my home page?
Going back to our Life Coach the “above the fold” home page copy reads…
It’s time for you to thrive. Now is the time to break free, visualize the life you want and embrace transformation. Contact me today to get started.
But as you scroll down the page other elements come into play…
A block on your page might have the title…
Life Coach in Fort Collins, CO
And include copy describing exactly what you do in more detail.
And as someone scrolls down your home page they see…
Clear, focused copy quickly describing your process.
Your key services on the home page.
With a description of each. (Remember your keyword lists? This is where you place keywords based on the keywords people are using to search for your services.)
For example, if your services are…
Career Coaching for Professionals
Transformational Life Coaching for Individuals
Executive Leadership Coaching
Coaching for Working Mothers
…you’ll want to list those services on your home page with a short copy blurb below each, using high-ranking, quality keywords.
In several places on the home page.
A review section
Where client reviews are posted.
Your blog section
Listing three or more of your most recent posts. (When it comes to ongoing blogging, this is where your ongoing keyword list will give you the most benefit and we’ll explore that later in the series.)
A detailed footer
Showing your location (with an embedded map, especially helpful if you’re trying to rank locally), address and contact info, social media links, hours, and navigation.
You see, the keyword list you create (and continue to build out), combined with your brand messaging, is how you structure your website and your marketing going forward.
6. Now, think about ALL the pages on your website
Think about both Your Brand and Your SEO and ask yourself the following…
- What keywords and brand copy should I use on my inner website pages?
- Are there new pages I can create?
- Should I restructure my site based on the Branding Work I’ve done and SEO work I’ve done?
- How exactly can I combine my Branding work with my SEO work and use both to create a blogging calendar and social media marketing?
7. But don’t let SEO guide everything
Content creation is extremely important. To create the best content geared towards your ideal customer, you should focus on both your brand and your “money” keywords.
But keywords alone can’t drive this process. The trick is weaving in targeted keywords in the most natural way possible, so it aligns with your brand and is written for your ideal customers and for Google.
Always think about your SEO goals and those core keywords, but don’t let this alone drive the process.
Your core brand message is the driver. A solid SEO strategy is a way for the right people to find you.
A few things to keep in mind with your website…
Your home page has the most ranking potential and is probably the best place to focus on your main keywords. If you go back to #4 and #5 above, you’ll get an idea of how you should structure this.
Your interior pages should focus on your other high-priority keywords. You need to create a website structure that is built around your brand message, makes it super easy for your ideal customers to know exactly what you do, how you’ll fix their pain, and what they need to do next. Keywords are a necessary component here.
Your content marketing pages are very important to growing your brand. Your keyword list will help create a structured blogging calendar using long-tail keywords that rank well.
And with all of your marketing going forward, always look for opportunities by going back to your growing keyword list.
THIS is how you let Modern SEO guide you. And in the process, create the best website for your business.
Going through the steps above is how you build your brand and improve your SEO.
In this post about worn out SEO terminology SEO marvel Eric Enge wrote the following…
“Too many people continue to focus solely on old-fashioned ranking signals, like content and links. These do remain important, but it’s also important to take a broader view of how your brand is perceived online.”
To me, that is modern SEO in a nutshell. You must take a broader view of how your brand is perceived online. To do that, remember…
Branding is your most important asset. To work, it must be unique, clear, and appeal to your ideal customer. It’s step one to a robust SEO strategy.
But to produce effective website content, and a never-ending flow of optimized content that attracts the right people, it needs to represent your brand, appeal to your ideal customer, and provide the type of ranking signals the search engines are looking for.
Want to build a great website?
First, view your site as your most important business investment.
Do the work to correctly position your brand.
Infuse your brand with the right keywords and let modern SEO guide you.
Create a site design and flow built to attract and convert and never stop marketing.
You’ll appeal to your ideal customers and project the signals Google loves.
The right people will find you and your business will grow.
Do you want to bring your brand to life? Taking a few minutes to complete our Marketing Checkup will help you think about your current marketing efforts and what might need to change. It will also help me suggest several ways to improve your branding and marketing now: Marketing Checkup.
After you complete the form, we’ll contact you to schedule a time to go over the results and see how we can help.
alex smoulders says
Nice guide on the latest and modern SEO strategy that is applicable now, including updates for spam control and helpful web crawling tips, thanks for sharing. You rock!
alex smoulders recently posted…LOCAL SEO MOST COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID
Craig McBreen says