Yesterday, I wrote that inbound marketing and search engine optimization have to be deployed in an orchestrated way. Today, I thought I’d share a practical example of how we managed to go from being on page 10 of Google for a search term with a 98 difficulty score to being on page one – without using any traditional SEO tactics.
The science behind how we moved up 10 pages on Google is steeped with inbound marketing methodology. I want to be clear: This move took more than days or weeks. We made a commitment to tracking, adjusting and implementing subtle changes for months, which eventually resulted in a major milestone for us.
Here’s how we got on page one of Google for a highly searched, highly difficult, strategic keyword.
The Long Haul
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but there is no “easy button.” The mythical marketing tactic that costs nothing but drives thousands of sales-ready leads to your business does not exist. Instead, you have to be ready to train for and run a marathon. Marketing is not a sprint. It’s a long and drawn-out process that delivers results over time – if executed well. Again, we're talking months, not days or even weeks.
This is especially relevant when you’re talking about search and trying to get found by deploying search engine optimization strategies. Over the months it took us to move up 100 slots, we applied hundreds of keyword-centric blog articles. We reworked a number of dedicated pages on our website. We restructured our site architecture. We upgraded our social media efforts to get more keyword-centric content shared more frequently.
We aggressively looked for referral links and backlinks to boost our credibility in Google’s eyes. We submitted and resubmitted site maps. We worked on our own site to remove even the most remote broken links, in the hopes that it would improve our quality score. Over time, our rankings improved, and we saw firsthand which ranking factors had the biggest impact on our desired outcome. This knowledge and experience can’t be learned in any webinar, workshop or training session. This is real tradecraft.
One of the lessons we learned early was that even the best-laid plans don’t always work out as expected. In fact, we now spend a lot less time planning and a lot more time reacting to actual program performance. Improving your rankings on the search engines falls right in line with this thinking.
The landscape for search is changing almost every day. Yes, the search engines change their algorithms, and that makes the task of getting ranked challenging. But, the companies you’re competing with for these keywords change their tactics as well. What worked last month might not be working this month, and you need to be agile enough to respond quickly with a new approach.
Here’s an example. We released a new website, which included a new navigation architecture, and saw our rankings for this keyword tank dramatically. We weren’t expecting the change to have that kind of impact on organic search, but we quickly identified the issue, restructured the site and saw a return to upward rankings in just a few weeks. Had we let that go for months instead of days, we would have had a much bigger hole to dig ourselves out of.
Analyze, Review, Respond And Act
It’s one thing to say you want to act in an agile way, but it’s another to actually do it. We found that this approach gives our teams the setup to think strategically and act tactically – in a way that’s not limited by any engagement structure or timing.
You want your team to be looking at the data on a weekly basis at a minimum. Preferably, you want certain data points to be reviewed daily. Once someone identifies a potential challenge or opportunity, they need to know what to do next. In our case, we want the team to review the data and confirm the situation. Then, we want them to respond with a plan to either fix the issue or take advantage of the opportunity.
In essence, I want the team to create an Action Plan with specifics and then execute it. This simple methodology gives your people the power to react quickly and impact results fast.
Don’t Be Afraid To Fail
As I mentioned, not everything you do is going to create a positive outcome. Some of our most important lessons were learned when we failed. Don’t look at those failures as downers. Capture those lessons and make sure you don’t do them again. Almost anything you do is recoverable, so don’t be afraid to try new tactics or take a different approach. There are very few people in the world who know enough about inbound marketing to tell you for sure what to do and what not to do.
Your company’s program is going to perform differently than any other company’s program. I can tell you to blog more if you want more visitors to your website, but I can’t tell you exactly how many more visitors you’re going to get by going from three articles a week to four articles a week. After testing this for a week, you’ll know exactly how it impacted visitors.
Your attitude toward suggestions should be: “Let’s test it.” Never before have we, as marketers, had so much access to data. For me, opinions are almost irrelevant. I want to see the data. If you think the landing page copy isn’t good, test new copy. If you think the PPC ad copy isn’t compelling enough to drive results, test it. If you think a keyword is too difficult to rank for, test it.
Experimentation is a staple for companies practicing inbound. You have to do it, you have to get good at it and you have to know how to respond to the tests so that you continuously improve your overall inbound performance.
The more tests you run, the smarter you get with inbound and the more effective you become in helping your company get found, get leads and drive revenue.
Start Today Tip – If moving up the rankings for a specific keyword (or a number of them) is on your list of top marketing priorities, inbound marketing is something you’ll want to consider. Make sure you have the right keywords. That is important, as is setting the right expectations. Then, start your testing. Set a baseline. You have to know where you are today before you can figure out where you want to go.
A great place to start is with your blog. For at least a month (maybe longer), focus your blog articles on only the keyword(s) that you’ve picked out. Next, look at your website. Do you have at least one page dedicated to this keyword? If not, you need one. Make sure it’s not tucked in as a subdomain, but rather indicated as a primary domain extension. Once you start down this path, you should see improvements in both keyword ranking and organic visits to your website.
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