Until 2014, the majority of my clients came through referrals. This provided a steady stream of work, but we were not at full capacity. Even though I spent time a lot of time networking and attending conferences, most of the people I met were not good prospects. I needed a better way to find qualified leads so I could grow.
So I took the time every week to write helpful articles and post them on my blog. After 12 months, my phone started to ring. Ready-to-buy prospects were finding my articles when they searched at Google.
If I can do this, you can too. Increasing traffic to your website requires great content and a fair bit of keyword strategy and in this article, I will share how I got more traffic so you can too.
Great content is the key for any professional service website
Here’s the most important thing to know: Seriously good website content matters more than anything else in SEO. There are no shortcuts or tricks that will drive organic (unpaid) traffic.
Paid advertising can drive traffic much faster, but it is expensive and temporary. If you’re on a tight marketing budget, and if you are looking for long-term results, writing great articles is the ticket to affordable leads.
This means that if you haven’t launched your blog, now is the time. Studies show that for professional services, thought leadership wins out. Your well-written articles will confirm to your prospects that you are an expert, and you will not only attract more website traffic, you will attract highly-qualified prospects who will see your value and want to hire you.
Why is this so? Think about most professional services vs. an e-commerce website. If you buy the wrong pair of shoes online, no one really cares (except you). You can probably return them and it’s not a huge expense and it doesn’t involve an opportunity cost. But if you hire the wrong service provider, it could cost you a lot of money, cost you an opportunity, or could get you fired if you are an employee. Professional services are often delivered over months and years, and the results might not be instantaneous. These types of services are a promise to move you closer to the desired outcome. This is why thought leadership matters: it reassures your prospects that you know what you are doing.
Keywords are the foundation of SEO
Before you begin to write articles, research the questions your ideal prospects typically ask. Ask your sales team, and look at Quora and LinkedIn to see what people are discussing about your types of services. Come up with a list of questions and start to develop a list of potential keyword phrases from this list.
Focus on the words that align with your business development goals.
Once you have a solid list of keywords (50-100), research them using tools like SEMRush, Google’s Keyword Planner, answerthepublic.com and ahrefs.com. Don’t discard a keyword just because it has low search volume. It may be an emerging keyword. For example “cloud computing” was optimized 10 years ago by a forward-thinking firm and now this firm ranks very highly for this important keyword. Whittle your list down to about 8–12 keywords.
Keep in mind that searches will become incrementally more specific as a buyer moves move down your sales funnel.
- How do I create a will? (initial research)
- Wills and Trusts attorney
- Wills and Trusts attorney in Rockville MD (much more ready to buy)
Keyword optimization is an ongoing process. Revisit your keyword research often. 15% of Google searches are brand new words that have never been searched on. Look to see how visitors are finding your pages using Google Search Console, and tweak your page content to match existing searches, to optimize that page.
It’s a best practice to use a spreadsheet to organize your pages/articles keywords, title tags, and meta description tags so you can wordsmith, and ensure that you are not duplicating title tags. Write each meta description to be an informative call to action that will compel the ideal prospect to click through and visit your website. Include the following in your spreadsheet:
- Title Tag
- Meta Description Tag
- Head 2
Write original content for your website
Now that you have your spreadsheet filled with well-researched keywords, you can begin to write. Your blog articles will need to have both breadth and depth to rank well. Your goal is to write educational and informative articles related to your services and keywords that are at least 800 words long and preferably closer to 2000 words long. These articles need to be of great interest to your ideal prospect, and easy to understand and derive value from. Articles should be original content. Yes, this takes a lot of time, and it will pay off.
Make sure Google knows about your new articles
Now that you have content on your website that someone will be searching for, getting indexed is the next step. Google can not show your new articles to searchers if these articles have not been indexed. To determine if your site has been indexed: use the “site” operator in the Google search bar.
Here is how mine looks: site:mightylittlewebshop.com
Note that there is no space after the colon.
So when you publish a new blog article use the exact URL for that blog article after the “site:” to see if Google has indexed it yet. If not, update and resubmit your sitemap to Google Search Console. (more on that below)
How can you get indexed faster?
Eventually, Google will crawl your web page (unless you tell it not to in your code by accident). You can speed up the process by adding your website to the Google Search Console. Believe me, this is worth the effort.
Further, Google can crawl your site more easily if you have a robots.txt file in your root directory. SEO plugins like Yoast help you to create a robots.txt file. It helps Google to understand the content on your website. I prefer to use the robots.txt file over the robots meta tag. It’s easier to manage everything in one file than it is to manage separate tags on every page of your website.
Add links from page to page on your website
Indexing is faster for Google if you create internal links on your web pages. This allows Google to crawl from page to page on your website more easily.
Now that your pages have been indexed, your pages can get ranked. No one knows exactly how Google ranks a webpage, but we do know that there are 200 ranking factors that make up the ranking algorithm, including:
- How fast does your website load?
- How many words are on your page, and how well-written is the page?
- Does your website have https in its URL?
- How recently has your page been published/updated?
- Where is your business located?
- Is your website mobile-friendly?
- How long has your domain been active?
Google does not give us their master plan. They give us only partial data in Google Analytics and Google Search Console. So we need to make correlations. And even though datasets are similar, they may not be related. For example, there is a very strong correlation between the consumption of margarine and divorce rates in Maine. But I’m confident that these are not related. This is why SEO is both an art and a science.
Keywords in your domain name are no longer a ranking factor. Meta description and keyword tags are not a ranking factor. And the use of social media is NOT a ranking factor, even though this appears to be correlated. This is because a lot of social activity is what is called “dark social”. Much of Facebook includes private groups for example, which are not indexed.
Unfortunately, social media can be used to “game” the system, and Google knows this too. It’s easy to build a bot that creates links to your web page. While social media marketing, done well, can boost brand awareness and help your business to grow — links from social media have no effect on your ranking. But they can increase your traffic in other ways.
How long does it take to rank?
The best-rankingpages have been around for 3 years or more. Only 4% of pages that are less than a year old will rank in top 10 results. If you start writing and optimizing content now (blog articles, pages with informative text) it will probably take 4-12 months to see measurable results in your page rank.
Other suggestions and considerations:
Set a goal to own the top 10 search results for your company name (these are your “brand” keywords). Top 10 results might include your website URL, Linked In Page, Google My Business page, social channels, your local chamber page, websites where you have guest posted, events where you have spoken etc.
In 2018, Google introduced mobile-first indexing into its algorithm. If your website is not responsive yet, now is the time to invest. Fast loading sites definitely rank higher.
Don’t create a bunch of local landing pages just to create inbound links to your website. This no longer works. Optimize the pages already on your website, or new blog articles that you write.
If you haven’t setup Google My Biz yet, this is worth the effort. Done well, this will display your business in the “local pack” that appears under the map. Like this:
I can’t stress enough the importance of site speed. Fast loading sites rank significantly higher. You can test your site speed at the link below. If your score is below a B, and if your site is over 3 years old, it may be time for a site refresh. In any case, if your score is low it’s time to hire a dev team to help you speed it up.
Check your speed here: https://gtmetrix.com/
Yes quality inbound site links still really matter in your rankings. Inbound links are links from other sites to your website. If you can guest post at a quality website, this is a great way to build inbound links.
Note: do not allow random people who ask to post to your blog. And disavow links from low-quality directories using Google Search Console. These can hurt your rankings.
Conversions matter most
In the end, traffic needs to lead to conversions. A conversion might be a newsletter opt-in, filling out a contact form, or calling for more information. If you are strategic about the kind of traffic you are attracting, this traffic will turn into new clients.
Keep in mind that 65% of businesses who upgrade their website see an increase in leads within 12 months. If you are ready for a website rebuild, more traffic, or a brand refresh, contact our team at the Mighty Little Web Shop.