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How to Execute an SEO Campaign That Works

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How to Execute an SEO Campaign That Works

  Steve Warren       Feb 08, 2017    

  Back to SEO

It’s the Fun Part


This is where the “fun” (if you’re that way inclined – and I am) starts. With the confidence of a strong foundation, you know where you need to aim. You just need to choose your weapons and how you’re going to use them.

Choose your weaponsThe Two Top Ranking Factors


Before I go any further, here’s the thing. Search engines will value your content according to how other people value it, and that is largely determined by the links that point to your site.

Yes, Google is supposed to have 200 ranking factors, but in reality, Google has said there are three. With the third, RankBrain, being a machine-learning artificial intelligence system which is way beyond our remit at this stage, and anyway, it’s number three, so let’s just look at the top two, which are content and links.

Remember, Google said it, not me.

Content

That’s what you have on your website (doh…) but your concern must be its quality. Once upon a time, a widely-held opinion was that the more pages you put on your website, the more “weight” your website would have. Cue database-driven boilerplate pages which served the same content (often not much of it) with just differences in the keywords used. Search results were full of, essentially, the same pages with slight modifications for location or product variation. Something had to be done, so in February 2011 Google rolled out the first of many iterations of the Panda Update.

This actually penalised websites for poor quality content, and the rules still apply. So you must avoid creating content that has the following characteristics:
  •  Thin – i.e. nothing of any substance
  • Duplicate – i.e. is very similar to content on other pages or (worse) other sites
  • Poor grammar, lots of spelling mistakes
  • Keyword stuffed – excessive use of keywords
  • Ad-heavy – too many adverts (even if they’re Google ads) on the page

Links

Generally known as backlinks, these are the links on other websites that point to your site.

The theory behind this originated from Google’s PageRank (named after Larry Page, one of the founders, and not because it looks at pages).  And in essence it combined the number of links with the quality of those links to give every website page a score between 0 and 10.

Your link network

So it didn’t take an extraordinary amount of time for people to work out that industrial quantities of low-quality links could rival the effect of more natural, better-quality links. Cue the creation of millions of directory sites whose only purpose was to charge website owners for adding links to their websites... and earning tons of money into the bargain. Again, search engine results suffered, so in April 2012, Google announced the first of many Penguin Updates.

As with Panda, it penalised websites, this time those that had too many links from low-quality sites (mainly directories). Many site owners have been to hell and back with Penguin, primarily because cleaning up a profile of backlinks is much harder than sorting out the quality of your content, and although in September 2016 Google said that "bad links" would now be ignored rather than used in penalties, the same rules still apply. So avoid getting backlinks from the following kinds of sites:
  • Directories with no meaningful content on linking pages
  • Members of linking networks
  • Require reciprocal links back to them
  • Prominently advertise paid links from the site
  • Blogs with “spammy” comments that contain links to other sites

As with Panda, it penalised websites, this time those that had too many links from low-quality sites (mainly directories). Many site owners have been to hell and back with Penguin, primarily because cleaning up a profile of backlinks is much harder than sorting out the quality of your content, and although in September 2016 Google said that "bad links" would now be ignored rather than used in penalties, the same rules still apply. So avoid getting backlinks from the following kinds of sites:
  • Directories with no meaningful content on linking pages
  • Members of linking networks
  • Require reciprocal links back to them
  • Prominently advertise paid links from the site
  • Blogs with "spammy" comments that contain links to other sites

Content Marketing, Part 1 – Content Creation


Do you think that basic SEO rules are changing? There is a long-standing article, written by Brett Tabke (the founder of the WebMasterWorld forum) in 2002.

In this article he outlined 26 steps to take to get great rankings in Google in 12 months, and (ignoring his mentions of the likes of Fast, Altavista, WiseNut, ODP, etc) the rules still pretty well apply.  Basically, his overriding message was to “Build one page of quality content per day”.

And, whatever you may think, that’s still the name of the game. It’s just the way it is evaluated that has changed. See that word “quality”? That means don’t take shortcuts. And if 12 months sounds a long time, well I can tell you, time flies...

Linkable Assets

The content you create is an asset of the website. The pieces of content that you create for the purposes of SEO can be thought of as linkable assets. You’ll see why in the next section, but for now just get your head around the fact that you are building something of value, and that value will be assessed by others, not you, in the frequency they share it with others, or (much more important) link to it from their own website, blog, etc.

Why would other people value it? Here are some reasons:
  • It’s interesting
  • It’s informative
  • It solves a problem
  • It’s funny

Who do you want to value it highly? There are two kinds of people:
  • Your target customers (obviously)
  • People who influence those target customers (often forgotten)

So don’t EVER think that you can somehow automate that process, or take shortcuts – because in the long term, you’ll fail.

Format of Your Content

The best formats to use are those which appeal to your targets. If you’re selling grain silos to farmers, you would be right in thinking that the best format would be different from that for selling computer games to football fans. What you must bear in mind is that you want people to link to this content.

Farmer and soccer fan

Some examples of linkable content include:
  • Blog articles
  • Videos
  • Questionnaires/tests/competitions
  • Sponsorships
  • Infographics
  • E-books and White Papers
  • Reviews/lists of "best", "favourite", etc items (with supporting copy!)

Finally on this subject, pick more than one format, so you spread your audience – and widen your appeal.

Look at Your Competitors

There is no better way to look for ideas than seeing what your competitors are doing. Most good SEO tools have the facility to look at links going to a website, so follow those links and see which pages they point to.  You may see things, like white papers, instructional videos, etc that show you how you can use the same ideas for your own content.

Evergreen Content

Your aim must be to create "evergreen" content that stays relevant. If you write a news-related article, it’s going to fall out of favour as the news cycle moves on, but if the article is a “how to” guide, it will keep its importance. Even if details change, the article can be updated, and remain an important linkable asset.

Content Marketing, Part 2 – Outreach


You may have easily kept up with what I’ve said so far, and your SEO campaign has been set up perfectly, your site works incredibly well, and your content is wonderful, interesting and useful. But all this will be pretty much in vain if your website isn’t noticed (and linked to) by other website owners. This is achieved through what’s known as Outreach, and your success here will be the main factor in determining how successful your SEO campaign is going to be.

Outreach

Outreach involves contacting other websites, and getting them to link to yours by showing them the value of doing so. It is the most difficult part of SEO, and where most value is added. If you do this yourself, this is where you will spend most of your time. If you employ an agency, this is where they will show their true worth: not in the number of backlinks (though that is important of course) but the quality of these links.

Although this is the most important part of your SEO, this section is not the longest, because the rules are straightforward. However, the time you spend in finding the right sites, building up rapport with them, and getting links placed (which often doesn’t happen) will be significant.

So here are a few pointers that I hope will help you save a lot of time.

A Point About Anchor Text

Anchor text is the “clickable” text that people click on to visit another page. It also send a message to search engines about the subject of the target page.

However, because of abuse of this feature (via widespread use of identical anchor text to amplify SEO signals) it is now very bad practice to put too much emphasis on what the anchor text is. A small amount of “optimised” anchor text may help a bit, but leave it up to the other party to use the anchor text they want.  If they ask for guidance, mix it up with your business name, the URL of the page, even words like “this article” or “click here”... and maybe the occasional SEO-type (often called “money”) text.

Quality not Quantity

Yes, it’s that point again! Don’t think that contacting a bunch of hobbyist bloggers who will gladly link to your site is going to do much good for your SEO. It isn’t, unless they are market or industry influencers. You must aim for people with a real online presence: your keyword research tools often provide a good guide. A MOZ Domain Authority (DA) of 25 or over is a measure that’s often used.

Look at Your Competitors

Always look at the competition! You should be able to use your SEO tool to view the links going to a competitor’s website, so take a look at see whether you can approach them for a link too (obviously subject to your own quality check). You may have a similar (or better) piece of content that may give an alternative view, or a fuller analysis, or even be presented in a different format. If the link has worked for them, it could work for you too.

Social Media

Social media is a medium that, for appropriate markets, is a great route to your target customers. But remember, we are talking about SEO here, so I’m limiting what I say to how this will help your link building. Although Google says that social media provides ranking signals (and I’m sure it does), the number of times someone “likes” your Facebook post, or “re-tweets” your Twitter message, or even shares your content with their “friends”, it will only start to have a meaningful effect on your SEO if people are then inspired to physically link to it from quality blogs and websites.

Young crowd

If you find this runs against what you’ve heard, I can say that we have developed significant social media profiles and promoted blog articles that receive thousands of visitors, with no significant effect on search engine rankings.  This may change over time, but for now, social media will only really help your SEO if you have a strategy for using it to motivate people to link to your content.

Email Approach

You should locate websites (especially blogs) that are of specific relevance to your market (and website). If you sell accountancy services, you don’t have to stick to accountancy blogs: you can think laterally and include those that feature general business subjects, or who target startups.  When you have a list, you should then approach each one with an individual email that recognises their contribution (often with a link to a specific article) and says why you like what they do. You could then say that you feel a piece of content you have created will be relevant to their readership, and ask for their opinion.

There are many ways to follow this process, but the general rule is to be low-key, and helpful, and “give” before you expect to “receive” (a tweet or post that points to their article is often a great way to make them notice you before sending the email). I’d say you rarely ask for a link immediately, and never offer to pay, but it’s your call. It’s pretty well a given that the longer you spend cultivating these contacts, the higher will be your success rate.

You will save a lot of time by creating a general template, which you manually edit for each email you send, than create a fresh email from scratch every time. The format you use is up to you – and this subject truly warrants an article all its own – but it should be along these lines:

Sample Outreach Email

Guest Blogging

Be very careful here. Ignoring (or being unaware of) the carnage inflicted by Panda and Penguin, plenty of people have moved to “spammy” blogs, where paying them $50 will secure a link to your website in one of their articles. This smacks of “old school” link building practices designed to manipulate rankings, and will be ignored by Google; maybe it will attract penalties if the practice gets out of hand.

So, avoid the following blogs:
  • No general theme: articles about anything
  • Prominent messages relating to paid links
  • You receive an email from them
  • Feature an excessive (your call…) amount of advertising
  • Heavily feature affiliate links
  • Low site or domain score (from your chosen SEO tool – see above)
  • Rarely updated
  • Recently created (domain age is available from WHOIS tools (e.g. https://who.is/)

However, there are lots of good bloggers out there, who genuinely serve their communities and who are on the lookout for worthwhile content that will interest their readership.  Many people say that you should “never pay for a link” but as long as you don’t make it a core part of your strategy, if a small fee is sometimes needed (after all, how do they earn a living?) then paying a bit here and there won’t harm you.  In my opinion, of course.

Time to blog

The added bonus here is that (high quality) bloggers will promote the article through their own channel, so you get another source of potential visitors to your website.

Journalists

This is a form of guest blogging, but at its highest level.

A link from an article on Forbes, Entrepreneur.com, or a host of very high-authority sites is going to bring you real benefit. But approaching the publishers directly is going to be a waste of your time, unless you have relevant contacts.

So concentrate on the journalists themselves: identify those who write about subjects in your niche: they are likely to be the influencers you need.  Approach them carefully, and remember that they get a large number of these all the time. Ask yourself whether what you have is going to be of use to them or of interest to their readers (and your new brochure won’t be, I promise you). It’s worth taking a look because you may find a way in, although the end result is likely to be just one article (and link).

Of course, if you’re really ambitious, you could try to become a journalist … but then, it’s a career in itself, and what would happen to your business?

Blog (or Forum) Commenting

If you have enough time (and budget) to identify quality blogs, establish a presence in the community and gently feed in comments that occasionally contain a well-crafted link to a page on your website, then go ahead.

My advice: don’t bother. It’s artificial, very ineffective and you’d be well advised to find other ways to spend your time.

Your Own Customer Base

People often neglect this option: but what better way to publicise some new content than via an email newsletter? (Don’t tell me you don’t have one.  Please.)

If it’s of interest, it is likely to get read, and shared, and – you never know – it could attract a link, maybe from a secondary source.

Public Relations (PR)

Some kind of PR is usually essential in building a brand. But for pure SEO purposes, it is about getting links.

This activity is usually expensive, and carried out by specialists, so you will probably need to hire someone. Make sure that you specify to them that the objective is to get high-authority links (NOT social shares, or even mentions) and the continuation of the campaign is dependent on this.

PR with a megaphone

However, it does take time, even to try things out, so don’t expect to be able to review and assess after two or three months. In most cases, we find that the uncertainty around results is only affordable by clients with big budgets and more general objectives.

Wrap Up


Well, that enough to be getting on with, don’t you think? You really should have enough here to cope with pretty well all your needs.

They key is to be selective: don’t try to do everything because you’ll dilute your efforts – pick what you think will fit with your own market and target customers, because this is most likely to work best.

And above all, have fun doing it because if you want to be successful with your SEO, the work never ends.

Today's post is the second part of our three-part “How to Run an SEO Campaign That Works” series of articles - if you enjoyed reading it and want to have a look at part one and three, make sure to do so here:


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