Having spent the last three years as a marketer in technology (SaaS and consultancy), I have found that one of the toughest challenges is generating website traffic and getting in front of the target audience organically when you’re fighting the multi-billion-pound revenue competitors.
The marketing resources, PPC budgets, and team sizes of the big players make inclusion in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) feel akin to David vs Goliath. However, if you take anything from this analogy, it should be that although the odds are stacked against the start-ups and SMEs, deploying the right tactics can topple the giant… on the first page of Google rankings at least!
In this blog, I will give an overview of some best practices that people with varying experience in technical SEO and on-page SEO can implement. I’ll look at why organic content optimisation is important and provide practical tips to use specifically within the SEO battlefield of the tech market.
What search engines prioritise when ranking content How SEO can lead to increased revenue Practical tips to bolster your content rankings
What search engines prioritise when ranking content
In the early days of search engines in the 1990s, SEO was all about keywords, with sites ‘keyword stuffing’ their way to the top of the rankings.
Keyword stuffing was (as it no longer flies with Google) the ‘art’ of quite literally stuffing as many keywords as possible into copy, along with deceptive tactics such as sneaking in keywords in white text to cheat the archaic search engine algorithms.
As search engines have evolved (sorry, Ask Jeeves), so have their algorithms when marrying search queries with relevant content.
Now, search engines rank individual pages based on their authority and usefulness of the content to the end user – how you address the query + your trustworthiness as a source based on Domain Authority.
That’s not to say that keywords don’t impact SERPs. You should also have primary and secondary keyword lists related to your business/services too (more on those later).
Circled in the image above is a Featured Snippet from the search query, ‘Increase app downloads’. This is where the most valuable content as rated by Google will sit.
You’ll see that there is a clear list of strategies addressing the query (this list is condensed by Google based on the H2 tags within the blog) with a number of similar search queries listed below, accompanied by other articles attributed to them when the dropdown box is clicked.
In my experience, it is difficult to rank for Featured Snippets against those with a higher Domain Authority, which your more widely known competitors are likely to have. However, the related queries in ‘People also ask’ are attainable.
How to show the business value of SEO
If, like most marketers, you are ultimately evaluated by the leads you generate, you may wonder whether putting the time and effort into SEO is worth it, given that an SEO strategy takes time to bear fruit.
SEO-focused content is essential for all stages of the marketing funnel and purchase intent, from brand awareness to lead generation, and ultimately sales.
Whether a decision-influencer is reading an article on how to fix ‘x,y or z’ or a senior decision-maker is researching which products can do ‘x,y, or z’, if you can rank highly for these queries, then you’re getting in front of your potential buyers.
Not only this, your future buyers are more likely to voluntarily opt into your mailing lists to continue to see your helpful content – so you can then deliver a tailored approach to your communication going forward.
SEO is not just about ranking highly for search terms, link building, or improving website performance. It impacts every area of marketing.
Given that there are 8.9 billion searches daily, it is reasonable to argue that putting in the effort with SEO and improving your relationship with search engines casts a wide net of opportunity.
When demonstrating ROI to the relevant stakeholders, you can report on website traffic and specific keyword performance, and their correlation to opportunities influenced or revenue generated depending on the length of your sales cycle.
Practical tips to bolster your content rankings
Researching your content areas
The principal foundation of creating quality content is understanding your target audience. With the pain points and trends within technology constantly evolving, research is a continuous exercise in SEO.
You can exploit search engines as a research tool in themselves to see the common search terms in your areas, what the needs and wants of your target audiences are that you can address, and the top-ranking content they consume.
Speaking to colleagues across the business who are in touch with your target audiences daily will also help you establish personas for your audiences and better understand them.
This will also allow you to compartmentalise content, i.e. distinguishing between the type of content a CTO or hyper-targeted buyer is likely to consume when compared to another stakeholder with a different level of influence.
Establish content guidelines
If you don’t produce all of the copy across your website, ensuring that content is SEO-friendly can prove messy. Creating an accessible framework or a documented SEO brief is a great way to establish a thorough process within content creation.
Some things to include when creating your SEO brief:
- A list of primary and secondary keywords relating to the content and a guideline of how often to include them (primary keywords should make up 1-2% of the word count)
- Potential H-tags that could be used based on existing content or content gaps
- ‘Always-on guidelines’ for meta description length, URL slug, image sizes, reminder to include alt text for images, etc.
Below is a high-level SEO brief I have mocked up for a blog on ‘Cloud migration frameworks’.
Write for your users, not search engines
‘Keyword stuffing’ has not been the order of the day for a long time, but it’s a trap that many still fall into. Google and other search engines prioritise user interactions, so their end goal is to frontload valuable content.
User-centred content, written for humans and not search engines, will heighten the overall user experience and build your Domain Authority.
The longer your users stay on the page and are engaged enough to explore your site further, the lower your bounce rate will be, contributing positively to your search rankings. This is why linking to relevant areas of your site is also key.
If the user isn’t interested, neither is the search engine.
Are you beginning to see that the principles of SEO are all interwoven?
Optimise existing content
Creating a bank of new content is a job in itself, so utilise the existing content you have at your disposal.
Whilst you can repurpose different content types into a blog etc, evergreen content that will continuously resonate with your stakeholders needs nothing more than a lick of paint.
Keeping content up-to-date will help drive more organic traffic, with older content accumulating outdated information having an adverse effect.
Ways of updating existing content can include: * Inserting links to more recent research * Adding internal links to recent content * Refreshing copy that is no longer relevant * Looking at the related ‘people also ask’ queries and rewording or including them in the existing copy
A way to keep on track and regularly optimise existing content is to create optimisation briefs, similar to the framework for new content briefs.
This way you can identify existing content best served by optimisation and highlight what should be refreshed in order to maximise your rankability.
Fixing the existing technical issues on your site
The more technical errors that are on your site, the lower your health score and the higher the penalty from search engines.
Even what some might consider very innocuous issues can accumulate in a big way and seriously hinder how your site performs on SERPs.
These errors include:
- Broken internal and external links
- Unindexed pages
- Duplicate links/content
- 404 pages
- Broken images or missing ALT text
- Missing or too long/short meta descriptions
- No outgoing links
- Outdated titles – if you’ve included the year
These issues are generally easy to identify and fix alongside your health score when conducting an audit using a site crawler such as Ahrefs (which I would recommend). My tip here is to put some time in the diary weekly to work your way through the issues flagged by the site crawler.
Your aim should be relative to your current health score, as increasing this is a gradual process; but anything above 90 will stand you in good stead with search engines.
Build your keyword lists
If you’ve researched your content areas, you should have a rough idea at this point of some of the main search queries in your industry. Now it’s time to build up a list of keywords – both for BAU and for any campaigns you are running – based on your content research.
Google Keyword Planner and other keyword research tools (beware of the limits of the free version, which isn’t an issue with Keyword Planner) will help you generate a list of primary and secondary keywords based on your topics and provide search volume analysis.
Don’t reinvent the wheel with your keywords. Be very high-level, otherwise you run the risk of going down a rabbit hole and shoehorning secondary keywords into content to the extent that it appears robotic.
I would recommend a fluid list of around 100 keywords for your ‘BAU list’, including reworded variations, although you can have multiple target lists to cover your catalogue of services or specific marketing campaigns.
The free version of site crawlers like Ahrefs and Moz will allow you to build keyword lists and display their ranking position. You will need to monitor this regularly if you are using the free versions of these tools as they generally don’t allow a time comparison unless you upgrade.
Creating backlink opportunities
Backlinks, or inbound links, are when another website links to yours. Backlinks from a site with a high Domain Authority will in turn improve your own.
It’s not a case of trying to get as many backlinks as possible, but of targeting those that Google recognise as a trusted source. Backlinks from low-quality sources such as link farming sites or automated link-building tools will reduce your authority as a source.
Getting backlinks to your website is no mean feat and can be a painstaking activity, which is why many employ agencies to do this.
Nevertheless, you can create new backlink opportunities on your own. Some of these actions include:
- Reclaiming unlinked brand mentions and sending a quick note to the author – you can monitor mentions on Google Alerts
- Outreach to influencers/thought leaders to collaborate on content either on your site or to reference yours on their own website
- Creating research pieces such as reports with data points based on surveys or internal studies you conduct so that this becomes a reference point for others
- Spotting ‘PR’ opportunities where other sites or news outlets will publish a company news story etc.
Your website crawl (depending on your subscription level) will also show you the number of inbound links you currently have so you can consistently measure the success of your backlink strategy.
I hope you have taken away some useful practices that you can utilise to improve your website’s performance. Technology is a crowded market, so gaining a competitive advantage and leapfrogging some of your competitors in SERPs could prove invaluable to generating awareness and interest.
Hopefully in the same way my colleagues past and present have helped me to develop knowledge in this area, you also take some value away from this blog.
Deploying all of these as part of a comprehensive SEO strategy may seem daunting and in some cases not possible with the resources you have, but even a stripped-back version of these practices can help.
If you’d like to chat about the practices outlined or are interested in content optimisation or SEO, I would love to connect on LinkedIn.