SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is often discussed in broad, nebulous terms. With our current discourse on the topic, it can feel like only large businesses with enterprise marketing teams are even able to get their foot in the door with SEO.
After all, who else has access to the tools, developers, and SEO-specialists to make sense of all of it?
Well... you do! Let's bust some SEO myths, get clear on what it actually looks like to implement an SEO strategy, and take a look at why it needs to be a part of every wellness business' marketing toolkit.
What is SEO?
One of the reasons SEO gets a bad rap among small businesses is that it's an incredibly broad field. There's technical SEO, content strategy-based SEO, local SEO, and so on. At the same time, there's also what I call "vanity SEO," which is when you have a tool that gives you a superficial SEO "score" without taking your audience and their needs into consideration.
Given the full spectrum of what all falls into the territory of SEO, it's difficult to make sense of what it actually entails and what you need to do to make sure potential clients can find you online. If you turn to Google looking for clues, it often feels like walking into a gym for the first time– you know that there are tools, equipment, and resources all over the place for you, but it's hard to know where to start or what's going to help you meet your goals.
It may even be hard to know what your goals are in the first place!
To demystify things a bit, let's start by establishing a working definition for what Search Engine Optimization actually is. Here is how I define it:
SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic that reaches your digital properties through a search engine; it's a tool for long-term brand awareness, converting new customers, and expanding your reach.
Let's break that down a bit.
Quantity of Traffic
The quantity of traffic reaching your site is the most straight forward part. It's simply the amount of people who end up on your website.
In general, the more people who visit your site, the more opportunities you have to delight and engage them. More visitors means more opportunities to get contacts into your marketing funnel so that you can nurture them into becoming customers.
That said, one of the biggest mistakes you can make when getting started with SEO– and the reason I specifically wanted to highlight this part of the definition– is to treat the volume of traffic to your site as the most important aspect of SEO.
All too often, businesses will prioritize raw traffic to their site. If they see that number of visitors to their site going up, they feel like their efforts have been a success. However, session and visit quantity alone are not good indicators of your marketing success. If I can be frank, the overemphasis of raw traffic can put businesses in a vulnerable position of potential being scammed by less scrupulous consultants and agencies. By leveraging bots, junk links, and black hat tactics, it's fairly easy to dupe raw traffic numbers.
If you put too much weight on raw traffic numbers and an agency or consultant exploits that, you may find yourself out a few thousand dollars with no significant ROI to show for it.
You want your traffic to increase over time, but don't make it your sole priority.
That's where traffic quality comes into play.
As you can rightly assume, traffic quality refers to the specific person coming to your site from a search engine.
Let's say that you have a proprietary nutritional supplement for folks wanting to build lean muscle, and in this supplement you use several animal products.
Given that your key product is not compatible with a vegan diet, it wouldn't benefit you to have a large portion of your traffic coming in from folks who are vegan. They're the wrong audience for your product. If you see 10,000 visits to your website in a month, but your products are only relevant to about 750 of them, you have a strong quantity of traffic but a low quality of traffic.
Let's flip those numbers a bit. Let's say you only have 5,000 visitors to your site, but 2,000 of those visitors are a good fit– they're the right age, right demographic in terms of activity level, they don't have a moral opposition to consuming animal products, and they're wanting to build lean muscle.
For your product, the second scenario may have less overall traffic, but it is more likely to result in conversions and create more customers for you.
With digital marketing, not everything is going to be quite as clear cut as the distinction between vegans and omnivores when it comes to an animal-based product. But, the concept still stands: when you're building an audience, you want to prioritize the right audience. Otherwise, you'll end up wasting a lot of time and energy on things that likely won't pay off.
So let's shift gears and talk a bit about what it looks like to increase both the quantity and quality of traffic to your site.
Getting the Right Person to Your Site at the Right Time
As I mentioned above, there's a lot that you can do for your site that falls into the territory of SEO. Before we get into the weeds of all that you can do, let's get the foundation down and cover what you must do to get started.
Understand Your Audience
Regardless of your marketing efforts, the first thing you need to do understand is who your audience actually is. You cannot market to everyone; you need to market to a single, specific persona at a time. Even if your business serves multiple populations, every marketing effort should be targeted to one specific subset.
Start by defining who your target audience is. You can get really in the weeds with developing your persona, and in many ways it's beneficial to do so. If you're wanting to move quickly, though, you can start by framing your audience persona in terms of the following:
- What are their goals? Motivations? Aspirations?
- How can you help?
- What distinguishes your products or services as uniquely equipped to fulfill your audience's needs?
To put it in oversimplified terms, figure out what your audience wants and then give it to them. You can do this in a few different ways.
Make Your Site (Super) Easy to Use
The ease of use of a website and the convenience of navigating it are super important when it comes to SEO, and these elements are often neglected in favor of content strategy (which is still really important, and which I'll talk about more in a moment).
Consider the following as a sort of checklist to make sure you've got a solid foundation.
- Is it easy to navigate from your home page to your other important pieces of content? Try to make sure that users can reach all important content and pages within one or two clicks.
- Make sure your website has a comprehensive About Page, Contact Page, and an overview page of your products and services. Following the previous rule, make sure they're easy to reach from your home page.
- Test your website on a mobile device, and make sure it's as easy (and fast) to use on a phone as it is on your computer. Pay special attention to anything like image galleries and sliders, forms, and interactive elements. If they don't work as well on mobile and you don't have a designated developer to give them some love, consider replacing them with simpler elements.
- If you use forms to collect information about your audience, keep them simple. Don't overwhelm potential contacts with large forms that collect a lot of their personal data. Keep form fields to a bare minimum, and always ensure that the amount of information you're requesting is appropriate for whatever you're offering.
Once you have a website that covers your bases, you can look to implementing some content strategy.
Create Content Your Audience Wants
We can write books about content strategy (okay, actually, there already are several books about content strategy), but for the purpose of this conversation, let's focus exclusively on web content for the purpose of finding and connecting with your ideal audience.
When Google and other search engines crawl your site, one of the things that they're doing is making sense of the content on your website to understand the areas in which you are an authority or in which you have something valuable to contribute to someone who is looking for information.
Then, when a user gets on Google, types in a query, and sees the results page, if Google's algorithms know of your content and has determined that it is likely to be useful... ta-da! Your audience can find you and visit your site through the search results page.
In order to help this magic happen, you have to have content on your site that search engines can see and index (AKA isn't blocked by your robots.txt file or hidden from indexing), and which is valuable to your target audience.
Remember how I said everything starts with knowing your target audience? This rule is especially true for content strategy.
I like to think about content strategy and planning content in terms of topic-based verticals.
Let's go back to our example of a business which sells a nutritional supplement designed to help folks build lean muscle. Now, let's get a bit more specific about who is actually using your product. For the sake of this example, let's assume that your audience is men, 24-35, who exercise three to five times per week, and who already have a well-rounded diet in place.
If you're trying to create content that establishes you as an authority and as someone who should show up in the search results pages, you want to (a) demonstrate that you understand what your audience wants and needs, and (b) not just sell your product constantly.
People don't want to be sold to when they're not yet at the decision making phase. That's not why they look up information on Google (obviously there are exceptions if they're looking for a specific product for a specific need, and there are product pages that solve this problem, but I'll be talking about them in a different post). In general, people go to Google and build a sense of brand awareness and trust when they're looking for insightful information, motivation, or guidance.
So, here's how I might approach this topic and think about content to create around it:
- The end goal of the product is "building lean muscle," so let's start there. I'd write a blog post about the science of muscle growth and what it means to build "lean" muscle (lean as opposed to what? What other methods of nurturing muscle growth are common? What purposes do they serve?).
- Since one blog post can't cover everything in a topic, I'd ask what other questions may remain. Each of these questions can likely be a blog post of their own.
- What types of diets support lean muscle growth?
- How often should you work out if your goal is lean muscle growth?
- Are there common misconceptions about lean muscle growth?
- What do people often get wrong when trying to develop lean muscle?
- Do you have someone in-house who is an expert or who trains people? What do they do in an average training session?
- Are there already success stories of folks using your products and services? If so, what was that journey like for them? What did they expect and how did the product or service meet and exceed their expectations?
- To make it easy for readers and search engines alike to find and understand this content, see how you can most logically link it all together. Is everything going to have a hyperlink to a specific tag on the posts? Do the posts link to each other? Does everything link back to the first, longest post you wrote on the topic? There are a few ways you can approach this, but what is important is that it's easy to get from one piece of content to another.
Along the way, you can integrate CTAs (calls to action) and gentle nudges that encourage folks to stick around and move through the conversion funnel. Remember not to spam your customer with messages that scream "buy our product or we don't care."
Instead, a decent starting point is to include a link to a relevant conversion point early on in your post. For example, you might slip a sentence in between two of your paragraphs that reads "Curious to see what more magnesium in your diet could do for you? Check out our nighttime recovery supplement" and links to a page to purchase, but leave it at that and get back to the topic at hand. Don't make the CTA the purpose of the blog post; make it something that enhances an already fantastic blog post. Or, as an example, see if you can spot the linked CTA I included earlier on in this blog post!
Then, towards the end of the content, maybe you'll want to include a more elaborate CTA. Perhaps an image or button that invites readers to subscribe to your business' blog, request a free trial, or book a consultation– whatever makes the most sense for that specific piece of content and the stage in the buying journey that the reader is most likely to be at.
Over time, a few things will happen when you take this approach. First and foremost, you create a web of content that demonstrates your expertise, authority, and trustworthiness in your field. This helps Google know when it's best to show your website in search results.
As a byproduct, you'll start to see more traffic coming to your site. If the right audience is reaching your traffic based upon your products or services and the topics you're writing about, then you'll get conversions. Strangers on the internet will become known email addresses and names who you can continue to reach out to and nurture into becoming customers.
If you practice at these components and spend some time getting them right, it will put you leaps and bounds ahead of your competition when it comes to building your brand's presence online. Combined, this will create a solid SEO foundation that you can build upon and grow over time.