Tag Archives: SEO

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Written by Brandi Harvey on Nov 8 , 2022

These nonprofit SEO tactics can help your philanthropic organization get in front of the right people at the right time.

Here you’ll learn:

  • Why nonprofits should prioritize search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Which tools to use for new content ideas
  • How to adjust on-page SEO for nonprofits
  • Website elements these organizations should prioritize

If you were watching TV regularly in 2008, you may remember that one commercial for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) — you know the one, starring Sarah McLachlan. The ads feature the singer’s haunting “Angel” ballad amid a backdrop of sad-looking cats and dogs.

This ad was so effective it not only garnered national media coverage, but a record number of donations to the nonprofit (roughly $30 million) as well.

The lesson: Strong marketing tactics have always been a key part of any nonprofit organization’s success.

And now, with online and mobile giving becoming the preferred method for potential donors and making fundraising much more seamless, nonprofit organizations are digging deeper into digital marketing.

With more modest team sizes and budgets that can’t exactly afford a celebrity singer-songwriter, nonprofits often have to get creative and remain agile to stay afloat. Luckily, a solid SEO strategy can help bring awareness and organic traffic to these org websites without breaking the bank. 

A nonprofit SEO strategy isn’t drastically different from a for-profit organization’s. The goal is to attract website visitors with high conversion potential. The only difference is that the nature of conversion involves donating, event attendance, volunteering, and other types of involvement, rather than buying.

Why is SEO for nonprofits important?

SEO involves following a set of strategies to rank higher in organic spots on search engine result pages (SERPs). SEO for nonprofits comes with a variety of benefits:

  • Competitive edge – SEO can be a low-budget marketing strategy that helps you compete against bigger organizations.
  • Visibility – These efforts help donors and volunteers find your organization on the internet.
  • Local attention Local SEO tactics allow you to reach local audiences that show interest and engagement through search behavior.

Besides attracting donors, high visibility can raise awareness about an issue, thus serving one of your nonprofit’s core goals: promoting social causes or advocating a certain standpoint.

The three pillars of SEO

OK, so the jury’s still out on exactly how many pillars of SEO there are and what they mean. Some say there are three elements: authority, relevance, and experience. Others say the pillars are technical, content, on-site, and off-site.

We like to keep it simple, so let’s go with these tree: on-page, off-page, and technical.

On-page SEO

No surprise here: On-page SEO mainly deals with the elements of your website. It’s all about doing what you can to ensure each page of your website is primed to be easily crawled by search engine bots so they can find out what your site is about and serve your content to the right searchers.

On-page SEO means elements like:

  • Optimized content focused on keywords, value for the reader, and E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness) standards
  • Meta descriptions
  • Headers and title tags
  • Images with alt text
  • Keyword optimization
  • Working internal links

Off-page SEO

While you have a little less control over SEO not on your website, there are plenty of things you can do to ensure third-party sites represent your nonprofit accurately. The main action item here is to ensure all of your organization’s info is accurate across all of your external profiles on other websites.

Off-page SEO can include:

  • Backlinks
  • Social media profiles
  • Guest posts
  • Review site profiles
  • Local SEO (like directory listings)

Technical SEO

This is arguably the most important SEO type. It’s a bit more complex than on-page and off-page, which means lots of businesses tend to ignore it. But the truth is, having healthy technical SEO is essential to hitting your organic search goals. Plus, some of your on-page efforts will also fall under the technical SEO umbrella.

Technical SEO refers to factors like:

  • Schema markup/structured data
  • Complete meta data
  • Site security (having “https” in your URLs)
  • Mobile-friendly web pages
  • Proper site architecture, sitemaps, and navigation
  • Swift page speeds
  • Thoughtful URL structures

Keeping all of these objectives in mind, let’s go over key nonprofit SEO tips.

nonprofit team

The content you create can be repurposed and made into different types of media, thus keeping your marketing costs low. (Image: Rawpixel)

1. Make sure your website is user-friendly

The Google search engine (and alternatives like Bing and DuckDuckGo) pay special attention to the user experience (UX) on your website. Besides creating an intuitive user interface (UI) and using a thoughtful, easy-to-navigate design, don’t neglect these technical SEO issues:

  • Page speed – Pages should load in under 2 seconds. Any longer, and users will likely hit the “back” button, which isn’t great for your bounce rate.
  • Text readability – A top-notch content structure (smaller paragraphs, headings, sub-headers) can help you win the fight for competitive keywords.
  • Interactivity – Your website should respond to the user’s input in less than 100 milliseconds (according to Google’s Core Web Vitals ranking factors).
  • Mobile optimization – With 25% of donors using smartphones to make donations, mobile optimization is key. And since more than half of all searches are done on mobile devices these days, Google has adopted a mobile-first indexing strategy.

Pro tip: If your website is user-friendly, visitors tend to stay on it longer. This increases the “session duration,” which, according to some evidence, is a Google ranking factor.

2. Focus on your content

Content reigns supreme when it comes to SEO for nonprofits. But sharing valuable information doesn’t just bring donors to your website — it also raises awareness for your cause.

Here are a few things to consider when writing content for your nonprofit’s website:

  • Keywords are crucial: The foundation of good SEO rests in keyword research. Discover what keywords, phrases, and questions are being searched relating to your area of service. Tools like Ahrefs Keyword Generator and Moz’s Keyword Explorer offer free insights into search volume (i.e. the number of searchers typing in a word or phrase in a month).
  • Write quality content: Using those keywords, put your passion on paper, so to speak and create content that will educate, inspire, and engage.
  • Update the old: Check your previously written articles (if you have any) and make sure they include enough organic mentions of your keyword. (By the same token, don’t overdo the keyword inclusion — this is a black hat SEO technique called keyword stuffing.)
  • Make it pop with pictures: Keep readers engaged by pairing your text with visual content, such as graphics, images, or videos. (In 2020, video was the #1 form of media used in content strategies.)
  • Diversify your content: Common types include blogs, white papers, lists, and case studies. Don’t forget images and infographics for easier sharing on social.
  • Solicit help for ideas: Source content ideas from volunteers, donors, and competitors.
  • Aim to educate: Provide value and educate your audience with guides, how-tos, and downloadable templates if applicable.

Pro tip: The content you create can be repurposed and made into different types of media, thus keeping your marketing costs low.

3. Take advantage of free tools

An important advantage of nonprofit SEO is its reasonable budget. It’s possible to achieve many initial SEO content-related goals by using free or low-cost tools that are readily available online.

AnswerThePublic and Google Trends can help you learn what your target audience is interested in, with the aim to create high-quality blogs. You can also use BuzzSumo to discover what type of content is currently popular to find potential outreach opportunities. Platforms like Semrush and Moz can assist with targeted keyword search as well.

Even if you have excellent content ideas for your website, SEO tools can help you figure out what will resonate most with your target audience.

4. Boost your backlinks

If content is king when it comes to SEO for nonprofits, link building is the queen.

That’s because search engines pay special attention to websites that link back to your site. If credible, high-authority websites link to your site, you are more likely to rank highly.

Unfortunately, there’s no “secret trick” to getting quality backlinks — it’s often simply an investment of time and effort. But when you work in nonprofits, you understand what investment means and why it’s worth it.

The good news is that this investment is much the same as promoting your cause: Use the right words, be passionate, paint a picture, and grow your reach.

  • Write guest blog posts for trustworthy, high-authority websites that allow adding a link to the writer’s bio or your website.
  • Share hard data, annual reports, and statistics collected by your organization. Then, reach out to reporters and bloggers through sites like Help a Reporter Out (HARO), Quotd, and SourceBottle to put that information (and a source link) to use in their articles.
  • Create highly shareable content like infographics. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then a picture with words is worth a million.
  • Add social sharing buttons to each content piece. More over, make sure your posts have attractive images that will engage a social media scroller when they come across them in their feed.
  • Ask your community: Corporate sponsors, donors, volunteers, and new sources are all great options for links to your site. Can’t make a contribution but want to help? An in-kind sponsorship of a backlink with details could be worth a line or two in an event program!

High-quality backlinks can be hard to acquire. But through consistency, they often yield excellent SEO results.

nonprofit volunteering

Besides helping volunteers find you, staying on top of local SEO can lead to additional partnerships and opportunities. (Image: Unsplash)

5. Make the most of local SEO

Whether you’re hosting a drive, hoping to recruit volunteers, holding an event, or attracting donors, people need to be able to find you.

Your community is your greatest resource for engaged individuals to support your mission. Local SEO is the fast track to being visible to those in the community you’re trying to reach.

Ways to increase your local search visibility include:

  • Create a Google Business Profile listing so your nonprofit website shows up in response to “near me” searches.
  • Register your nonprofit on Google Maps to make it easier for volunteers to discover your local offices.
  • List your organization in local directories to help your target audience find you.
  • Take advantage of local target keywords when creating website content.
  • Create location-specific pages for each office, if applicable.
  • Try to get backlinks from local businesses, charities, and other nonprofits.

Besides helping volunteers find you, staying on top of local SEO can help you generate awareness in your community, which can lead to additional partnerships and opportunities.

Pro tip: Keyword research and SaaS platform Semrush has its own list of recommendations in the realm of SEO for nonprofits. These include (obviously) using keyword research to drive content strategy, growing brand awareness through linkbuilding, prioritizing site UX, keeping local SEO top of mind, and staying on top of your social media presence.

6. Optimize your on-page elements

As explained above, the three types of SEO are on-page, off-page, and technical. To make your site more appealing and optimized for search engines and users, make sure to keep these on-page elements in order:

  • Create a unique and relevant page title tag for each page on your site (ideally, it should be around 60 characters).
  • Create well-written meta descriptions for each page. These should be around 160 characters. (While it’s not a search engine ranking signal, this description can impact click-through rates).
  • Include relevant keywords in titles and meta descriptions. Make sure you’re targeting different keywords with each web page.
  • Add alt text to images to meet ADA compliance recommendations and make images more searchable.
  • Make sure anchor text is accurate and descriptive, rather than vague “click here” phrases.

Pro tip: Duplicate content is another on-page SEO aspect worth keeping in mind. While not technically a penalty in the eyes of Google, having multiple pages targeting the same keyword can confuse readers and muddle your message. If you come across two similar pieces of content, consider combining them together under one URL (ideally the one that’s built up the most link authority).

The takeaway

Search engine optimization is one of the most efficient (and cost-effective) ways to generate website traffic. For this reason, SEO for nonprofits is an especially attractive digital marketing method.

By adding nonprofit SEO tactics to your overall marketing plan, it’s possible to attract donors, find volunteers, share events, and increase awareness.

Focus on high-quality content, backlinking strategies, and technical page excellence to start seeing the results you want and make an even greater impact for your cause.

And if you’re ready to put your efforts in the hands of an SEO expert who can help you do all this and more, we’d love to make that happen.

Brandi Harvey

Brandi Harvey

    Brandi Harvey has been a writer and digital marketer for nearly a decade creating optimized content for non-profits, agencies, local businesses, and enterprise clients. When she’s not helping clients succeed online, she is performing on stage as a singer/songwriter and actress.

    Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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    Written by Patience Hurlburt-Lawton on Oct 17 , 2022

    Schema markup (or structured data) is a search engine’s love language. An audit keeps the flame burning bright. 

    Here you’ll learn:

    • Why schema markup audits are important
    • What tools you’ll need
    • Elements of a thorough audit
    • How often to conduct a structured data audit

    Communication is the key to every healthy relationship; even between a search engine and your website. 

    And schema markup does just that. 

    Also called structured data, schema markup is a special language shared between websites and search engines. Conducting a schema markup audit helps identify how your website could communicate more clearly — and maximize all your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

    What is “schema markup”?

    Schema markup is a type of coding language (specifically RDFa, Microdata, or JSON-LD) with only one thing in mind: Content categorization

    This is why I like to think of schema markup as little labels. 

    These “labels” (i.e. code or schema.org vocabulary) are pasted to the backend of certain web pages. These labels help search engines better understand what kind of content they’re about to crawl — think “recipe page,” “FAQs,” “blog or article,” and “local business information.”

    That way, crawlers like Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo can more easily understand the content and  recognize how it should be displayed on the search engine results page (SERP). 

    Recipe Schema Markup

    While a standard search result shows the title tag, meta description, and URL, schema markup can help you get rich results (or featured snippets), those attractive results with extra visuals, interactive features, and flair. 

    Schema markup can also help when it comes to:

    • Your web pages communicating to search engines
    • Ranking higher in the SERP
    • Taking up more real estate on SERPs with rich snippets
    • Having more control over your brand appearance 
    • Optimizing for voice assistants, which are gaining popularity fast
    • Improving your content structure and strategy
    • Appearing on Google’s Knowledge Graph

    What schema markup is not

    Structured data is not a requirement. (Nope, you won’t be penalized by Google for not using it.)

    Nor is it a SEO “hack.” It is, however, a missed opportunity for more visibility if you don’t implement it.

    See, structured data helps your SEO the same way quality content assists your SEO. You can’t “work the system,” only use it to your advantage.  

    There’s a long list of structured data types you can use for markup (check ‘em out on schema.org). Identifying what schema types make sense for your website is one the primary goals of a structured data audit.

    Can schema markup hurt SEO?

    While the benefits of schema markup for SEO is hardly a secret (as discussed above), it’s only fair to give the full picture here: 

    There could (maybe?) be some potential drawbacks to using schema markup when it comes to technical SEO. There is a slight chance that the more snippets you have, the lower your click-through rate (CTR)

    Why? Because, in theory, all the information a user needs is (often) featured in that single snippet on the SERP. 

    But that also means enhanced snippets are more likely to increase your brand awareness. And while Google refuses to call it a ranking factor, digital marketers agree it’s integral to optimizing your SEO efforts.

    Which is why conducting regular markup audits ensure the integrity and effectiveness of structured data by validating the quality of your code and making sure it’s live on all relevant pages.  

    What is a schema markup audit?

    Schema Markup

    This is the process of scanning through every page on the backend of your website to find:

    • What structured data is already on the site
    • If there are any errors or issues that exist with the data found
    • What opportunities exist (i.e. structured data that might be missing)

    And, of course, no audit is complete without a plan for implementation. The goal of an audit is to make sure you have the best schema types available for your website. 

    What you’ll need for your schema audit

    An audit generally requires two software applications: 

    • Google Search Console
    • A paid tool like SiteBulb, Screaming Frog, or SEMRush 

    Auditing your schema markup with Google Search Console  

    Google Search Console

    Google Search Console (GSC) doesn’t report on all schema types, but it does show you any errors that might exist. 

    Here’s how:

    Log in to your Google Search Console and choose “Enhancements” from the left sidebar.

    You’ll see a list of errors and warnings. From there, you’ll be pointed to pages that are currently affected by the issues. Invalid errors appear in red text.

    For more information about structured data on your pages, you can use Google’s URL Inspection Tool and Structured Data Testing Tool. This part of the audit process is free.

    Auditing your schema markup with a paid tool

    Screaming Frog

    While Screaming Frog isn’t free, this crawling tool has lots of benefits — including a comprehensive schema markup audit. 

    This tool will provide all the data you need for schema markup analysis, including missing structured data, validation errors, validation warnings, and parse errors as well as Microdata, JSON-LD, and RDFa URLs.

    Whew.

    If you decide to invest in Screaming Frog, you can audit your schema markup by taking these easy steps:

    • Click Configuration > Spider
    • Choose the “extraction” tab
    • Scroll down to “structured data”
    • Check all the boxes

    Then, run the crawling feature. 

    Semrush is another tool we recommend that has a site audit tool that will help you discover errors within your site. 

    Auditing your schema markup with SiteBulb

    Schema Markup Audit - Sitebulb

    Another paid tool (with a free trial) that can help with a schema markup audit is SiteBulb. It can provide valuable information about your structured data and offer insights into dealing with existing problems.

    In the “Audit Data” section, select the “structured data” slider. When the tool finishes crawling your website, choose “structured data” under “all hints.”

    If the tool finds structured data that doesn’t comply with Schema.org, it will return validation errors. Along with the error message, you will get error details, links to relevant resources, and advice to help you deal with the problem.

    Lastly, check for errors through these testing tools on a per page basis.

    Gap analysis and competitor analysis

    Using these auditing tools, you’ll get a good idea of any errors that exist on your site. But there are some manual steps you should take as well.

    Check out schema.org’s list of available schema types. While you read through the list, think back to your own site. Do any of the schema types listed resonate with your content? Are you missing opportunities to add schema markup? 

    Or maybe you’re missing content altogether that should be added to your site (with a little schema markup love added once it’s live).

    Think of this part of your schema audit as a content creation opportunity. 

    While you’re at it, check out what your competitors rank for in snippets and make it a priority to beat ‘em. 

    Here’s an easy place to start:

    • E-commerce can generally implement product and review schema 
    • Lead generation can generally implement review schema
    • Both should implement a business-type schema
    • If FAQs or how-tos exist, mark those up as well

    After you use your auditing tool to assess your current structured data markup, you can get to the implementation process.

    After the audit: Schema implementation

    Depending on your content management system (CMS), there are plugins you can use to implement your schema markup easily and quickly, even if you don’t have webmasters to help you — but you can also write scripts manually and implement via HTML. 

    No matter how you implement them, be sure to check them with your testing tools.

    Depending on the types of schema you implement, it should pop up inside GSC once crawled by Google. 

    Remember, GSC doesn’t tell you if you are ranking for a snippet — just that the markup was found and processed. You’ll need to monitor with tools like Semrush for actual results.

    How often to conduct a schema markup audit

    A schema markup audit should be part of your regular SEO audit

    Depending on the type of website you have, you need to consider running these audits at least twice a year. That said, e-commerce websites may need to do it more often (about every three months).

    Here are a few reasons to arrange an audit ahead of schedule:

    1. Poor SEO results

    If your SEO efforts aren’t yielding the desired results, you may want to run a schema markup before it’s scheduled.

    2. Google algorithm update

    It’s also a good idea to run an audit after a core Google algorithm update. While Google doesn’t confirm that schema markup is a direct ranking factor, it could change its mind at any time. 

    3. Rich snippets

    Keep in mind that schema markup improves the appearance of rich snippets. If you aren’t happy with what they look like on the SERPs, you may need to review the structured data.  

    The takeaway

    Schema markup audits are necessary to ensure the success of your SEO efforts and push it to the limit. They can help you identify errors that prevent search engines from indexing your website correctly. 

    Even if you’re satisfied with your marketing results, you still need to audit structured data at least once a year.

    Both free and paid tools exist to help simplify schema markup audits. But if conducting your own audit feels daunting, we can help — just reach out.

    Patience Hurlburt-Lawton

    Patience Hurlburt-Lawton

      Patience is a writer, editor, and educator. As a content marketing manager at HawkSEM, Patience leans into the power of empathy and understanding to create content that connects the dots. When she’s not a writer, she’s a singer/songwriter, trail romper, and adventure seeker with her wolfie dog, Jackson.

      Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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      [DISPLAY_ULTIMATE_SOCIAL_ICONS]
      Written by Sam Yadegar on Sep 27 , 2022

      SEM and SEO are inextricably linked, but the differences are crucial. Learning about each — and which you need — can accelerate your marketing success.

      Here, you’ll find:

      • How SEM and SEO are related (and how they relate to PPC)
      • Similarities between SEO, SEM, and PPC
      • The most important differences between these marketing types
      • The best place to focus your marketing efforts

      Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are two of the most common terms under that big ol’ “online marketing” umbrella.

      With only a single letter of difference, how different can they be?

      Turns out, quite a bit.

      Search engine marketing

      Search engine marketing can be a combination of PPC and SEO (Image: Unsplash)

      What is SEM?

      SEM stands for search engine marketing. And as the name suggests, SEM aims to improve your performance and visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs) through various marketing strategies.

      These strategies can include a combination of pay-per-click advertising (i.e. PPC) and organic strategies (SEO).  

      What is SEO?

      SEO stands for search engine optimization. It broadly encompasses all “non-paid” strategies that help you appear higher on search engine results pages (i.e. not ads). 

      This can include content marketing, linking strategies, and technical improvements to your website — like increasing speed and simplifying navigation.

      Obviously these strategies aren’t free. This just means we don’t pay the search engine to appear at the top of the results page — those are for paid ads (PPC) only. Ranking #1 (or as a snippet) is all about high-quality content on a high-quality website. 

      It can help to understand how Google’s algorithm works and tweak your website according to the 200+ search ranking factors to better comply with rules, optimize content, and be more appealing to searchers.

      SEO strategies can be broken down into a few major categories. These are:

      • On-page SEO: All of the content creation, optimization, and interlinking you do to create a website that people want to visit and that Google views as a valuable and worthwhile website to show in their rankings for various search queries
      • Off-page SEO: The promotion, outreach, link building, and other efforts you take to promote your content on other sites, build a reputation, establish authority, and optimize factors like high-quality backlinks
      • Technical SEO: All of the invisible or technical factors that go into making a site that complies with Google policies and guidelines, including metadata, Schema, and server optimizations like site speed and mobile compatibility
      • Local SEO: The optimization you do to improve your rankings for location-based and locally-relevant searches (local SEO isn’t just for physical businesses, either, and almost half of all web searches are local)

      Together, these elements are the bulk of what we consider SEO, which is a significant component of SEM.

      SEO Vs SEM marketing

      SEO is often part of an SEM strategy (Image: Unsplash)

      The similarities between SEO and SEM

      SEO is often part of an SEM strategy. Therefore, SEO is a subcategory of SEM, alongside PPC. And with so many acronyms, there’s bound to be confusion. 

      Some consider PPC and SEM to be synonymous. They believe SEM to be just the paid half of online marketing, while SEO is the organic half. 

      But we’re here to clear things up.

      SEM vs. SEO vs. PPC

      SEM is a Venn diagram: SEO is one circle, PPC is on the other, and SEM is where the two overlap. 

      Here are some notable differences between SEO and PPC:

      The first difference is money. While you can do SEO for “free,” PPC is pay-to-play. PPC involves paying Google (or Bing, Yahoo, Amazon, or any other form of search engine) for a spot in the search results. 

      SEO, on the other hand, only requires paying for the people, agencies, and tools that assist in your efforts to rank higher — rather than giving money to Google directly.

      How much do SEO and PPC cost? The answer is as much or as little as you want. SEO can be performed for free or cheap, though the results you get may not be effective. 

      And while you can run PPC ads cheaply, the results are just as small as the investment. Large brands have large budgets, befitting the number of digits on all the numbers they use.

      The second difference is time. Time applies in two ways: how long it takes to start working and how long the impact lasts.

      • SEO typically does not start working right away. SEO requires the search engine to index your content and rank it appropriately, which can take anywhere from a week to a year. It generally only takes a short time for Google search to index content and give it a rank, but it takes much longer for content to grow to a high enough rank to be visible in the top organic search results.
      • PPC results, meanwhile, are nearly instant in comparison. You create an ad, the ad network (usually Google Ads) approves it, and it starts running immediately. As long as your budget and cost per click (CPC) are sufficient to win the ad auctions, your quality score and user experience are high enough to keep your ads in the running, and the traffic volume is sufficient, your ads will start to display immediately.

      In terms of longevity, the same dichotomy holds:

      • SEO can last nearly indefinitely. Some of the best content on the internet is many years old. While organic content can “age out” and fall out of favor, it can also be refurbished and kept relevant. With the proper maintenance, SEO basically lasts forever.
      • PPC, meanwhile, lasts precisely as long as you have the money to pay for it and keep your ad campaigns active. If your budget runs out, the PPC campaigns stop until you put more money into the system. And, of course, if you decide you don’t like the ad’s performance, you can pause them at any time.

      This phenomenon is primarily why both SEO and PPC advertising complement each other well. SEO starts slow and takes a long time to build up, while PPC begins almost immediately. 

      Further, you’re less likely to have PPC success without strong SEO. If your ad directs a prospect to a poorly written landing page, you’re probably going to miss out on a conversion.

      High-quality web pages = conversion rate

      The third difference is in keywords. Keyword research is at the core of both SEO and PPC. However, the types of keywords that work best and the metrics that you’re looking at will vary.

      organic keywords trend report

      Keyword research is at the core of both SEO and PPC (Image: Unsplash)

      When performing keyword research, you’ll find specific keywords have different intents behind them. These intents are:

      • Navigational: the user knows where they want to go and wants a link
      • Informational: the user has a question and wants an answer
      • Tutorial: the user has a problem to solve and wants to know how to solve it themselves
      • Commercial: the user has a problem to solve and wants to research solutions they can buy
      • Transactional: the user wants to make a purchase and is looking for where to do it

      Informational and tutorial keywords tend to perform best for SEO and are less effective for PPC. 

      If your goal is to get your target audience to download a checklist, for example, PPC ads can probably get some downloads and provide value. However, you may want to let SEO handle these early-stage inquiries and focus on more purchase-ready keywords for your PPC campaigns. 

      Commercial and transactional keywords tend to perform best with PPC, though properly-formulated quality content can also work well for SEO. PPC tends to be most relevant when it has a tangible offer for the user and a concrete, easy-to-calculate return on investment.

      A massive part of effective SEM is understanding the intent behind a search term and sculpting the marketing campaign you use to reach that intent most effectively.

      The takeaway

      “SEM” covers the bulk of your online advertising, while “SEO” is just one of the tools at your disposal, alongside PPC. 

      Your digital marketing strategy will depend on your goals, targeted keywords, budget, the quality of your site, your competition, and more. 

      Finding the right balance between SEO and PPC is essential in SEM. That’s why powerful tools like ConversionIQ exist. We created this platform to help you easily monitor and optimize your campaigns, resulting in better performance and higher ROI. 

      The question is, where do you put your budget? Can you write more content for organic traffic and SEO results, pay for high-quality tools to improve your overall marketing, or give Google money directly to give you more exposure and website traffic? 

      The choice is yours.

      Sam Yadegar

      Sam Yadegar

      Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

      Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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      [DISPLAY_ULTIMATE_SOCIAL_ICONS]
      Written by Caroline Cox on Sep 15 , 2022

      From keyword research to content promotion, here’s the 411 on creating a content strategy designed with SEO in mind.

      Here, you’ll find:

      • The three pillars of a successful SEO content strategy
      • A breakdown of steps to follow
      • Pro tips to help you optimize your website content
      • How to create a plan for regular content revitalization
      SEO Content Strategy: A Step-by-Step Guide

      (Image: Unsplash)

      Creating a content strategy is a much more in-depth process than sitting down, typing out a bunch of words, and posting it on your website.

      This is especially true if you want to maximize your search engine optimization (SEO).

      But why does having an effective, SEO-informed content strategy even matter? 

      For starters, a great content strategy can increase your organic traffic from search engines, grow your email subscribers, and help expand your social reach. 

      HubSpot data shows 70% of marketers actively invest in content marketing. Publishing content that engages users and addresses their pain points can boost your overall brand authority and help lift you over your competitors.

      Below, we’ve broken it down into three pillars highlighting what to do before, during, and after creating your content for SEO success.

      Pillar 1: Content planning and preparation

      There’s a bit of legwork to be done before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). This stage is extremely important, so we advise not skipping it to rush right into the content creation.

      Understand your target audience

      The first questions to ask before you write any piece of content or start developing your content strategy are: Who is my target audience? Who do I want to read and digest this content?  

      If you already built your ideal buyer personas, that’s great! You’re one step ahead. If not, you can begin building them by considering your target audience’s demographics, such as:

      • Age range
      • Locations
      • Interests
      • Job titles 

      If you use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool like HubSpot to gather your metrics, you likely have access to a lot of this data already. You can also find demographic and interest data in Google Analytics and within the analytics section of your social media profiles. 

      If the data doesn’t align with what you’d expect somehow — if it looks radically different in your Google Analytics profile compared to your existing CRM, for example — you could be missing out on opportunities or speaking to the wrong audience. 

      All of these pieces can help you understand which content topics guide users along the buyer’s journey.

      Pro tip: In Google Analytics, “Affinity Audiences” allows you to see information on people who are actively researching a product or service. You might be surprised at what you find in these audience interest categories, so they’re worth looking into.

      SEO content strategy - HawkSEM

      A look at topic and questions research in SEMrush.

      Conduct keyword and topic research

      While keywords are important for Google Search, they don’t mean as much in the world of SEO as they used to. After all, Google updates its algorithm hundreds of times a year. 

      Some are bigger than others, but the updates in the last few years — such as the MUM update and the Helpful Content update — have focused on better understanding human language and how specific search terms relate to topics. (Perhaps unsurprising, due to voice search and smart speakers.)

      Thinking beyond keywords will be increasingly important as Google’s algorithm continues down the path of machine learning and artificial intelligence to power search engine results pages. Luckily, tools like Semrush can help you delve more into the topics and questions people type into the search bar.

      When conducting keyword research, check what keywords you’re already ranking for first so you can focus your energy on new ones. 

      You can identify any keyword gaps where you might be missing opportunities with tools like Moz and Ahrefs. These platforms allow you to find related keywords, analyze search volume, and the difficulty of terms you discovered but aren’t ranking for (yet). 

      In most cases, the higher volume a term is, the more difficult it will be to rank for due to competition.

      HawkSEM SEO content strategy - content calendar infographic

      Build a content calendar

      Many marketers think of blogs when they hear the word “content.” But there are loads of content types that can increase user engagement and earn more backlinks. 

      These include:

      • E-books
      • Case studies
      • Videos 
      • Infographics
      • Podcasts

      Of course, some pieces of content are going to take longer to build out than others. Planning it out ahead of time and having a schedule or deadlines in place will keep you organized and on the right track. This can be as simple or as detailed as you want — even a shared Google spreadsheet can get the job done.

      Details you may want to include in your editorial calendar are:

      • The type of content
      • The due date for the author to submit the content
      • The date the content is slated to go live
      • The associated keyword or terms
      • The author’s name

      Pillar 2: Writing and editing your content

      Once you’ve done all the research and prepped your content calendar, it’s time for the actual writing! 

      Write for people, not search engines

      When it comes to your SEO content strategy, it’s important to remember that you should be writing for people, not search engines. 

      Consider Google’s main goal: to provide users with the best, most engaging content that answers the query they typed into the search box. If you can satisfy those requirements, that’s going to help you rank.

      For proof, look no further than Google’s Helpful Content update we mentioned above. Early reports show this update targets (and downgrades) websites that churn out unhelpful content created for search engines instead of humans. 

      So, if you find yourself obsessing over things like content length or the number of times that you use the keyword within a piece, take a step back and put yourself in the user’s shoes instead. 

      If a user stumbled across your content, would they find the information valuable? 

      Would they want to:

      • Read more because your content really wowed them?
      • Be inclined to trust you since your content helped them or answered their question?
      • Take an action like signing up for a newsletter or downloading another piece of content?
      • Request a demo or consultation?

      Consider E-A-T

      E-A-T is a relatively new concept in the SEO world. It stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. This acronym is meant to help content developers and SEO pros understand how Google rates high-quality content. 

      E-A-T really comes into play for sites Google considers “your money, your life,” or YMYL (though it applies to other topics as well). These include topics like legal and financial advice, medical issues, and other things that impact your quality of life.

      Google understands that, for these search queries, finding the best and most accurate answers is particularly paramount, so they want to make sure the info they provide is sourced from qualified professionals.

      Ask these questions to determine E-A-T standards

      There are questions you can ask yourself to see if you’re meeting E-A-T standards. For expertise, you can ask: 

      • Is this content written by an expert or an enthusiast who is reliable and knows the topic well? 
      • Would Google be able to recognize this person as an expert?
      • Is the piece referencing credible sources and actual statistics?
      • Should people feel comfortable trusting this content with YMYL decisions?

      For authority, you can ask:

      • If someone researched the site producing this content, would they come away with the impression that it was trustworthy and recognized as an authority?
      • Does the site have verified client testimonials?
      • Is there an “About” page on the website?
      • Is there any additional content on the site showing this brand has authority on this topic?

      For trustworthiness, you can ask:

      • Does the content present itself in a way that makes you want to trust it?
      • Is there trustworthiness in the expertise of the person writing the piece? 
      • Are there trustworthy backlinks pointing to this site? 
      • Does the overall site look trustworthy? 

      E-A-T is a complex topic, but it ties back to that concept of writing for people and not search engines. 

      Pro tip: When it comes to writing, there’s no one-size-fits-all number for how many times you should use a specific keyword in your copy. If you think you might be on the verge of keyword stuffing, read it out loud and see if it sounds natural to the human ear.

      hawksem featured snippet

      Optimizing your content for the featured snippet allows you to potentially take up significant real estate on the first SERP.

      Repurpose your content

      According to Semrush, businesses are regularly increasing their content marketing budgets. Repurposing content allows you to stay within the marketing budget while achieving your SEO goals.

      Besides updating your old pieces of content to keep them fresh, here are a few other ways to repurpose them.

      • Change the format: Turn blogs into podcasts, videos into blogs, client content into videos, and the like. With a strategic plan, you can create a brand-new piece of content that doesn’t just improve your rankings, but also becomes more digestible for other segments of your target audience. 
      • Write e-books and guides: E-books and guides don’t just make excellent lead magnets. With a little work, they become fully crawlable by the search engines. You may have enough content on your website to create an e-book today. 
      • Design social media posts: Instead of simply reposting your content on social media, you can enlist a graphic designer or use a free service like Canva to turn quotes or other digestible pieces of information into eye-catching social media posts.

      Look at each piece of high-ranking content as an opportunity to create at least one more viable, complementary piece.

      Aim for the featured snippet

      Optimizing content for the featured snippet allows you to potentially take up significant real estate on the first search engine results page (SERP).

      According to HubSpot, high-traffic keywords that ranked as the featured snippet saw an average increase in CTR of over 114%, even if they ranked #1. 

      When writing new content, it’s wise to keep the featured snippet in mind. You can also refresh your old content with featured snippet optimization tricks. These include providing a direct, concise answer to the question your audience may be asking, and optimizing for long-tail keywords.

      A Search Engine Watch study showed that more than 55% of featured snippets are triggered by 10-word keywords, while single-word keywords appear less than 5% of the time.

       

      Pillar 3: Publishing and promoting your content

      Once the copy is written and optimized, it’s time to publish and promote. After all, what good is high-quality content if no one sees it?

      Remember on-site SEO best practices

      On-site SEO refers to general best practices to keep in mind with any piece you write. This includes things like having a page title and meta description. Ideally, both of these elements will have keywords in them, since Google uses them to help understand the content of your page. 

      Headings also help Google understand the different sections of your content. If you have a long-form article with more than 1,000 words, those headings help search engines understand what each section is about. They also make it easier for users to scan and quickly find the content they’re looking for.

      For SEO purposes, don’t forget about link Building! It’s a good idea to leverage internal links with keyword-rich anchor text. 

      You’ve probably seen plenty of links with “click here” or “learn more” as their anchor text. But Google uses anchor text to understand what the page’s content is about, so if you’re using generic phrases, Google may have a harder time understanding your link.

      You can also use high-authority external links as needed. If you’re referencing a study from the CDC or the FDA, for example, those are good high-authority external links. 

      Have a content revitalization strategy

      Writing new, exciting content is key to a successful SEO strategy. But if you publish a piece of content and never touch it again, you’re doing your business a major disservice. 

      If you have blogs that are a few (or even several) years old, it’s likely that some of the information isn’t accurate or relevant anymore. Regularly updating those pieces with the latest links and stats when they become available can have a huge impact on your site traffic and rankings. 

      That’s where conducting a content audit comes in. The seven steps to conduct a content audit are:

      1. Create a spreadsheet list of all content URLs
      2. Determine how many sessions each page had over the past six months (or longer depending on how much traffic comes to your site) and how many backlinks point to each page
      3. Identify web pages with “thin content” that may not satisfy a user’s search intent
      4. Look for posts with duplicate or similar topics and consider removing or combining them into one long-form piece
      5. Identify posts with outdated content or older statistics and update with more recent information
      6. Don’t forget to redirect posts removed from the site to avoid 404 errors
      7. Repeat this process regularly (once or twice a year) to keep your content fresh and relevant

      This can be a time-intensive exercise, depending on how much content you post, but the results are worth it.

      linkedin hawksem post

      Amplifying your content on social channels and through email also keeps your brand top-of-mind for your audience.

      Amplify your content 

      A piece of content you don’t share via social media or email channels is unlikely to get much traction. Although social shares and likes aren’t direct organic ranking factors, if Google sees a lot of engagement on a page or post, it’s a signal of high-quality content.

      Amplifying your content on social channels and through email also keeps your brand top-of-mind for your audience. 

      The takeaway

      High-quality content can be a game-changer when it comes to your site’s SEO. Not only that, but it helps illustrate to searchers that you’re a trustworthy thought leader. 

      By following the above steps and having a solid, doable plan in place, you’ll have a robust, thorough content library worth bragging about. 

      If tackling your own content marketing strategy feels a little out of reach, we gotchu. Contact HawkSEM to learn more about how an expert SEO strategy can boost your organic traffic, increase conversions, and contribute to your overall digital marketing efforts. 

      Or to learn more on this topic, check out our webinar, 10 Steps to Creating a Content Strategy for SEO.

      Caroline Cox

      Caroline Cox

      Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

      Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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      [DISPLAY_ULTIMATE_SOCIAL_ICONS]
      Written by Sam Yadegar on Sep 6 , 2022

      Here’s why both paid and organic efforts deserve a place in your digital marketing plan.

      Here, you’ll find:

      • Reasons to have paid search and SEO in your marketing plan
      • Ways search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search complement each other
      • Tips for leveraging both to increase ROI
      • How these strategies can be integral to overall campaign success

      Some things just go together. Peanut butter and jelly. Rhythm and blues. Paid search and SEO

      Paid search targets those searching for keywords related to your business through ads on the search engine results page (SERP). 

      SEO, on the other hand, ensures your website, content, and social profiles are poised to rank well in organic search results.

      While each strategy can be effective on its own, pairing them together is one of the most effective ways to build a strong digital marketing foundation. 

      So, how can paid search (AKA pay-per-click or PPC) and SEO work together? Read on to find out.

      How to make SEO & paid search work together

      For starters, each initiative should be deployed consistently and with cohesive messaging. 

      After all, creating ads that look and sound nothing like your website may confuse visitors and cause them to bounce. It’s up to you to make sure they fit together smoothly instead of working in silos.  

      The good news? By proactively making sure the paid and organic components of your search engine marketing work together, you can speed up your campaign optimization and boost ROI as a result.

      Here are 8 ways to pair PPC and SEO together successfully. 

      paid search and seo together

      Paid search marketing can give an SEO campaign the push it needs since the latter can take several months to show significant results. (Image: Unsplash)

      1. Test new keywords

      Keywords are pillars of both SEO and PPC strategies — they both fall under the search engine marketing (SEM) umbrella. 

      You can use the same keywords for both. However, when the time comes to add new search terms to your campaign, testing them with SEO efforts can be time-consuming and labor-intensive (like writing new content and regularly updating existing posts).

      On the flip side, testing new keywords with PPC ads is quicker and, often, easier. 

      Creating an ad with a new keyword and monitoring results can take less than a week. With SEO, it could take months to have enough data to glean real results.

      As soon as you see how well a keyword is doing with paid search, you can decide whether it could work for your SEO campaigns and projects.

      Pro tip: When selecting keywords for SEO and PPC efforts, be sure to keep intent in mind. As HubSpot explains, you want to avoid keyword traps, or “words and phrases that sound good, but have dual meanings or a mismatched intent.”

      2. Retarget visitors

      After a decent amount of time and effort put into your SEO strategy, you could see this work paying off by attracting more visitors to your website. 

      However, data shows that only about 2% of them will convert after the first visit. 

      The last thing you want is to provide valuable content only to have potential clients use this knowledge for buying products elsewhere. To avoid this problem, you can take advantage of retargeting

      When a user leaves the website, you can inconspicuously attach a piece of code to anonymously track them. As these visitors go to other websites, your ads appear to guide them back to your landing pages. This increases your chances of converting the lead. 

      Pro tip: Retargeting is evolving with the eventual demise of third-party cookies (more on that below), making things like zero-party data and first-party data even more important.

      3. Cross-analyze data

      SEO and PPC tactics give you a variety of data to work with. This data is crucial because it can reveal what’s working and what’s not. From there, you can iterate and make updates accordingly. 

      You can analyze the same metrics from both campaign types, including but not limited to:

      • Time spent on site
      • Conversion rate
      • Click-through rate (CTR)
      • Local conversions

      By using this information and conducting A/B tests, you can figure out which keywords work best and how effectively you’re targeting your buyer persona. And, while it’s possible to analyze metrics for each campaign separately, doing it together can give you more valuable and detailed insights.

      Due to new privacy laws — the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) being chief among them — third-party data will be heavily restricted. This leaves advertisers to rely more on consensual first-party data.

      They’ll have to adapt to the resulting changes such as ensuring they’re in compliance with all relevant applicable laws, collecting less data overall as users decline tracking, and making do with some less accurate behavioral modeling data that estimates conversions to compensate.

      The good news: Coordinated SEO and PPC campaigns help ensure compliance across your entire website. Plus, sharing data can help fill in some of the gaps caused by collecting less data, the loss of third-party data, and the possible inaccuracies of the modeled conversions.

      Pro tip: Universal Analytics will end July 1, 2023. The Google Analytics 4 (GA4) rollout to comply with Consent Mode requirements has already begun. That’s why it’s a good idea to go ahead and get familiar with the ins and outs of GA4.

      4. Dominate the SERP

      Some companies are tempted to stop their paid search marketing campaigns once they achieve impressive organic rankings. But even if your website is proudly sitting on page 1 of the SERP, paid ads will always be higher up on the page, increasing your chances of visibility.

      Let’s say your SEO and PPC efforts drive equal traffic individually, 100 visitors each, and both use the same keywords. What would happen if you run them both simultaneously?

      Many assume that when running in tandem, they’d still only produce 100 total visitors because they’re appearing for the same searches. However, studies on the subject don’t bear that out.  

      Search Engine Land looked at these studies and various cases. They found that, despite nothing about the SEO changing, when the PPC ads stopped, the SEO also underperformed. 

      This is a phenomenon they call “search incrementality,” which proves that the dual strategy of SEO and PPC working together is worth more than the sum of its parts.       

      When consumers see the same website on top of the SERP and in the ad, they tend to consider it credible. In this case, SEO and PPC complement each other perfectly, with SEO picking up where paid search left off.  

      Already overwhelmed? Don’t be! Our agency has meshed SEO and paid search efforts for businesses of all sizes — let’s talk about how we can make it happen for yours, too.

      rowing teamwork

      Paid search and SEO complement one another, improve your bottom line, and help your overall program succeed. (Image: Unsplash)

      5. See faster results

      Paid search marketing can give an SEO campaign the push it needs since the latter can take several months to show significant results. 

      You may already have a high-quality, well-structured website filled with valuable content. But things like domain authority, increased organic traffic, and strong social followings usually take a while to gain momentum. 

      Alternatively, search ads can bring more visitors to your website in less time than with SEO alone. This information allows you to tweak your SEO campaigns while improving the bounce rate and dwelling time to rank higher on Google.  

      6. Enhance SEO content through PPC ad copy

      The tactics that work for your paid search marketing campaign can often work for SEO as well. The best part about PPC ads is that you can get the first results (even if it’s just analysis) quickly.

      Once you see which PPC ads bring the most conversions, you can get valuable information about what type of organic content, title tags, and meta descriptions to use for your website.

      And with PPC ads, it’s easy to split-test your work. By testing several types of ad copy, you can determine what works for both the ad and what could work on your website.  

      7. Learn more about your target audience

      Paid social media ads are another effective way to gain insight into the way your target audience feels, thinks, and acts. One great thing about social media advertising is the targeting options available on various platforms.

      You can get hyper-specific about who you want seeing your ads (like middle-aged luxury car owners who live in Chicago and love fishing, for example). 

      When you analyze data from these campaigns, you can discover new information about the target audience and use it for both your future PPC and SEO programs.

      8. Optimize your budget

      Using PPC and SEO together doesn’t just enhance your overall marketing efforts. It can also help you cut costs, generate additional revenue, and save time. 

      Leverage these in tandem by:

      • Cutting content creation costs by testing keywords with PPC ads
      • Generating revenue with PPC conversions while an SEO campaign gains momentum
      • Saving time on keyword research by using the same keywords for both campaigns
      • Speeding up your SEO campaign with PPC retargeting and lead generation efforts
      • Optimizing your landing pages with both SEO and PPC in mind

      The takeaway

      SEO and PPC don’t only coexist well, but they can enhance one another with results greater than the sum of their parts. 

      In this way, they complement one another, improve your bottom line, and help your overall program succeed. 

      By learning how to make these two marketing strategies work together, you are giving your campaigns a powerful boost. 

      This article has been updated and was originally published in September 2020.

      Sam Yadegar

      Sam Yadegar

      Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

      Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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      [DISPLAY_ULTIMATE_SOCIAL_ICONS]
      Written by Sam Yadegar on Jul 20 , 2022

      Digital marketing gets you in front of potential customers. The right strategy leads them to convert.

      Here, you’ll find:

      • How search results affect customer acquisition
      • Organic ways to acquire new leads
      • Effective paid marketing strategies
      • How to set your website up for optimal acquisition

      Experienced marketing pros know all about the customer journey. 

      It comprises the stages we base our content, campaigns, and plans on: awareness, consideration, and decision. (With delight as the bonus step.) The customer journey is crucial when it comes to acquisition.

      Customer acquisition is the process of converting a generated lead into a customer. It’s basically the whole funnel (or journey) combined. 

      Marketing is about attracting new customers, and keeping customer acquisition top of mind is how marketers can make that happen.

      While there’s no one way to pinpoint and acquire qualified leads that are sure to become customers, there are digitally minded marketing strategies you can implement with customer acquisition in mind. Here, we’ve mapped out six of our favorites.

      line of people outside from aerial view

      Companies that use paid search for successful customer acquisition know it’s not only about the ad. (Image: Unsplash)

      1. Paid search marketing

      Also known as pay per click or PPC, paid search is one of the most effective digital marketing strategies when it comes to customer acquisition. That’s because it allows companies to target their specific audience with the right keywords at the right time.

      Paid search ads appear at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) on sites like Google and Bing. If someone’s searching for “women’s black cycling shoes,” for example, and you’re an e-commerce brand selling cycling products (including women’s black cycling shoes), you want your targeted ad to be the one they see. 

      The same goes for brands selling other products and services.

      The companies that use paid search for successful customer acquisition know it’s not only about the ad. Rather, it’s crucial to pair eye-catching, appealing ad copy with an optimized landing page that boasts consistent verbiage, clean design, and a clear call to action (CTA).

      2. Search engine optimization (SEO)

      Along with a strategic paid search plan, having a solid SEO strategy helps search engines more easily recognize your website. This helps improve your rankings and, ideally, grow your reach for better customer acquisition.

      Proper website SEO means having elements such as:

      • Unique title tags on your pages
      • High-quality content 
      • Internal links and external links (to authoritative sites)
      • A thorough sitemap
      • Thoughtful meta descriptions
      • Images with alt tags

      As a reminder, optimizing your site for search engines won’t guarantee that you’ll get in the first position (or even on the first page) of the SERPs. 

      After all, the search engine algorithm that determines the best content for each search query is constantly changing, and the details about how each search engine determines the best content to show searchers aren’t always clear.

      However, by keeping your site up to date, easy to navigate, and educational for prospects and clients, you can position your brand as a thought leader and your site as a trustworthy information source.

      3. Social media

      When it comes to social media, you’ve got the option to leverage both organic and paid avenues. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that each path can be leveraged in the same way or achieve the same results.

      Let’s start with organic social media. The practice of regularly creating social media posts can help spread the word about new business offerings or updates, increase your exposure, and even help you go viral (in a good way, ideally).

      While organic social posts likely won’t directly result in customer acquisition, they can aid in brand awareness, content sharing, and allow you to highlight the fun side of your brand.

      Paid social, on the other hand, can be a powerful tool if wielded properly. When choosing which platforms to advertise on, you should first consider your target audience and the platforms they use most.

      From there, you can take advantage of the audience targeting tools most of these platforms have in place to get your content delivered straight to those who need to see it most. 

      group of millennials on their laptops laughing

      While blogging is a great medium for businesses when it comes to customer acquisition, effective content marketing can encompass much more. (Image: Unsplash)

      4. Remarketing

      As we’ve touched on before, remarketing can benefit your business in numerous ways. 

      Not only does it keep you top of mind when someone takes an action like visiting your site, or requesting a consultation or demo, but it allows you to hyper-focus your ads and ups your chances of turning a lead into a conversion.

      Remarketing (also called retargeting) works by leveraging display ads to connect your business with people who have already visited your site or mobile app. When done right, it’s one of the best and most cost-effective ways to get past visitors back to your site. 

      Of course, the most successful retargeting campaigns aren’t one size fits all. A brand-new site visitor shouldn’t be remarketed the same way as a returning visitor. 

      Along with data and online privacy changes, the eventual demise of third-party cookies is going to force some changes in digital marketing, particularly for remarketing ads. But there’s no need to panic.

      While more solutions will become apparent as the process unfolds (such as replacement tools like FLEDGE and Topics), focusing on attracting new prospects is one way to keep your lead pipeline flowing. 

      Looking for more ways to increase your customer acquisition? Let’s talk.

      5. Content marketing

      Blogging is a great medium for businesses when it comes to customer acquisition, but effective content marketing can encompass much more.

      Examples of valuable content include:

      • Blog articles
      • Videos
      • Webinars
      • Guides
      • E-books
      • Infographics
      • Checklists
      • Downloadable templates
      • Product descriptions
      • Case studies

      No matter the content you create, you want to make sure it’s accurate, helpful, and keyword targeted. The more deliverables you publish and promote, the more industry topics you can cover. This makes your site more likely to surface in organic search results for people seeking what you have to offer.

      Pro tip: You can take things a step further by partnering with another brand (with a similar audience but not a competitor) on something like an infographic, webinar, or guest blog. This expands your reach, helps build your professional network, and boosts your brand’s credibility.

      two people working on laptops at a coffeeshop

      You’re six times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than from a tweet. (Image: Unsplash)

      6. Email newsletters

      Email newsletters can be a powerful acquisition channel if you follow a few best practices. 

      As Campaign Monitor reports, you’re six times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than from a tweet. 

      Experience tells us the most successful newsletters:

      • Include one main CTA
      • Offer a tactical takeaway (like a pro tip, discount, or statistic)
      • Feature an attention-grabbing subject line
      • Have an easy-to-read template
      • Are optimized for mobile

      When you’re looking to build your non-client subscriber list, get creative! You can add exit-intent pop-ups to your site or include a subscription box in your site’s footer navigation. 

      Pro tip: Let your readers help you spread the word! Encourage forwarding in your email newsletter to make sharing a breeze. Due to the psychology of social proof, peer-recommended content is more likely to be trusted.

      The takeaway

      Customers are the bread and butter of any business. And digital marketing is one of the most direct ways to connect with your desired prospects.

      By knowing your audience, meeting them where they are, and analyzing the data behind your campaigns, you’ll have the tools you need to not only attract more customers, but keep them loyal and happy as well.

      This post has been updated and was originally published in December 2019.

      Sam Yadegar

      Sam Yadegar

      Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

      Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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      [DISPLAY_ULTIMATE_SOCIAL_ICONS]
      Written by Caroline Cox on Jun 23 , 2022

      These expert insights can boost your podcast’s SEO rankings, one ep at a time.

      Here, you’ll find:

      • Why more digital marketers are exploring podcast creation
      • The latest podcast facts and stats
      • What podcast SEO is all about
      • Tips for optimizing your podcast

      I know there was a time when I could do tasks like washing dishes, folding laundry, and walking the dog without a podcast in my ear, but it seems like a lifetime ago. 

      Recently, a coworker recently mentioned she has trouble falling asleep without a podcast playing in her ear. I’m sure she’s not alone. 

      Podcasts are quickly becoming a pillar of content marketing for many brands, businesses, and creators. It makes sense: this form of audio content can help support brand awareness, conversion, and retention strategies.

      Whether you’ve already started a podcast or are currently in the planning stages, keeping search engine optimization (SEO) in mind will ensure your strategy is well-rounded. What’s more: it’s easier than you might think.

      Let’s take a closer look at the importance of podcasts and how they can fit into your SEO strategy.

      women discussing podcast seo

      Around 155 million Americans over age 12 listen to podcasts. (Image: Unsplash)

      The growing trend of podcasts

      While the term “podcast” was reportedly created back in 2004, this medium has exploded in popularity over the last 5-10 years. 

      One of the main reasons is that more and more of us find ourselves multitasking and pressed for time. Podcasts are a way to be educated, informed, or just entertained while we drive and complete menial to-dos. 

      A big part of SEO is keeping your target audience’s wants and needs in mind. So, as a podcast creator, keeping these factors in mind can help inform how you structure or build your podcast.

      The latest podcast facts & figures

      Here’s a look at a handful of recent podcast statistics:

      • More than 82% of podcast listeners spend 7+ hours a week listening to podcasts.
      • Around 155 million Americans over age 12 listen to podcasts.
      • 48% of monthly podcast listeners in the United States are between 12 and 34 years of age, while 32% are between 35 and 55.
      • In 2021, there were over 2 million active podcasts.
      • 62% of American consumers listen to podcasts.
      • Over the past decade, the percentage of consumers who listen to podcasts nearly doubled.

      Podcasts don’t just create an extra touchpoint for your audience. They can help you build brand awareness, credibility, and trustworthiness.

      person recording a podcast with a microphone and laptop

      The easiest way to improve your podcast SEO is to create a landing page for your podcast. (Image: Unsplash)

      What is podcast SEO?

      Podcasts fall under the category of audio SEO. Since a podcast is a piece of content, it can contribute to your website’s rankings in the same way a blog can.

      Podcasts can help your SEO efforts by:

      • Building relationships 
      • Establishing authority
      • Contributing to keyword implementation
      • Increasing brand awareness

      Podcasts can help your ranking more so than something like a webinar because Google now features a podcasts section on the search engine results page (SERP).

      Now, let’s dig into a few simple ways to enhance your podcast SEO.

      1. Leverage the Google Podcast Manager

      Besides allowing you to analyze your podcast’s success through a variety of metrics, Google Podcast Manager can help with your ‘cast SEO. 

      Your series may already be on Google Podcasts. Make sure to claim it to gain access to Google Podcast Manager. If it isn’t on Google Podcasts, your podcasts can’t be crawled and indexed.

      With this handy tool in your arsenal, you can learn:

      • Which keywords your podcast ranks for
      • When listeners drop off from an episode
      • Which devices your audience listens on
      • What your target audience searches for
      • The relevance of your episodes to your audience’s queries

      By using Google Podcast Manager, you’re also submitting your podcast to Google’s directory. This can help it appear across all the available Google platforms, including Search, Assistant, and Home.

      2. Create a dedicated podcast landing page

      Creating a podcast landing page is one of the most effective ways to improve your podcast SEO. This will make it easier for searchers to find you online, and it gives them a place to land to find out more info.

      Having a dedicated podcast webpage (or an entire site, if applicable) also helps crawlers identify this type of content. Meanwhile, you can use the landing page for internal and external linking to boost SEO as well. 

      Just make sure the page includes all the necessary info about your podcast, such as the show title, description, available listening/streaming platforms, and ways to share. 

      3. Include written content with each ep

      To maximize the effect of your podcast SEO, you can create a write-up or blog post that summarizes or dives deeper into each episode. It can revolve around the same subject and contain a link to the audio.

      Since podcast episodes are long-form content, adding a synopsis or helpful links (also called “show notes”) to go with each of them can also be helpful to both listeners and searchers.

      This is likely to be more beneficial than merely publishing a transcript of each episode. While transcripts are a great accessibility tool, our experience tells us they don’t generally rank super high.

      Also, most searchers are unlikely to take the time to read the whole thing vs. searching for a few key takeaways or interesting tidbits.

      Pro tip: To further optimize your podcast, include podcast series and episode Schema markup to your landing pages.

      two men at a table recording a podcast

      Treat your podcast like any piece of valuable content on your website. (Image: Unsplash)

      4. Weave in keywords where you can

      Ideally, each podcast episode you create should revolve around its own keyword. Your favorite keyword research tools can help you plan for what terms or phrases to focus on in your episodes.

      You can implement this keyword in few areas, such as the:

      Because of Google’s sophisticated algorithm, when you mention a keyword during your podcast, the episode is more likely to rank for that keyword or phrase. But, as always with content, avoid keyword stuffing.

      5. Prioritize promotion

      No surprise here: The more effort you put into podcast promotion through different marketing channels, the more likely it is to gain visibility and help your SEO strategy. 

      With that in mind, treat your podcast like any piece of valuable content on your website. Some ways to promote it include:

      • Social media
      • Including links in your relevant blog posts
      • In your newsletters or other email marketing
      • Paid ads

      As far as where to distribute your podcast, you have a handful of third-party options. Some of the most popular platforms are:

      • YouTube’s video player
      • iTunes
      • Stitcher
      • Soundcloud
      • Spotify
      • Google Play
      • BrightCove
      • Overcast

      Pro tip: Request that podcast guests share links to your podcast’s landing page. It never hurts to ask, and they’ll likely want to promote their episode to their friends and followers.

      6. Encourage listeners to subscribe and leave reviews

      If you’re an avid podcast player, you’ve likely heard hosts ask listeners to rate, review, and subscribe to shows. There’s a good reason for this.

      This feedback doesn’t just boost your ‘casts reach, but it can boost your SEO too. Plus, you can leverage these reviews elsewhere, including the homepage, blogs, and social media posts.

      The takeaway

      The podcast boom doesn’t appear to be turning the volume down anytime soon.

      That’s why now’s as good a time as any to throw your hat in the ring by creating your own podcast. They can be an effective method to reach your target audience, improve customer relationships, boost brand awareness, educate, build credibility, and much more.

      By implementing the simple tactics above, you can turn each podcast episode into a powerful SEO tool.

      Caroline Cox

      Caroline Cox

      Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

      Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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      [DISPLAY_ULTIMATE_SOCIAL_ICONS]
      Written by Caroline Cox on May 31 , 2022

      Here’s what you need to know about this popular search engine optimization (SEO) practice.

      Here, you’ll find:

      • How backlinking is defined
      • Why it’s an important part of SEO
      • The latest backlinking best practices
      • Key mistakes to avoid

      When it comes to a solid SEO strategy, most digital marketing pros consider high-quality backlinks a key component.

      Besides helping to bring your website to the top of the search engine results page (SERP), backlinks can defend your rankings against Google algorithm updates.

      It’s possible to create a robust backlinking portfolio by putting an effective backlinking strategy into place. But what does that look like, exactly? Let’s explore.

      chain links

      With the right backlinking strategy, it’s possible to obtain significant links from trustworthy websites, and rise through the ranks as a result. (Image: Unsplash)

      What is backlinking?

      Backlinking is the practice of earning links to your site from other high-quality websites. The more backlinks you have from authoritative, legit websites, the better your site looks to search engines as a result.

      Not all backlinks are created equal. Links from popular, high-ranking, and trustworthy websites are valuable. On the other hand, links from low-quality or spammy websites can negatively impact your rankings.

      When a high-authority website links back to one of your pages, the authority of your own website goes up. By adding a link to one of your pages, a website essentially vouches for your site. 

      The more high-quality backlinks you can obtain, the better your website is likely to rank.

      Pro tip: Highly effective backlinks can be tough to earn. However, with the right backlinking strategy, you can score impressive links from trustworthy websites, which will help you rise through the ranks.

      Backlinking best practices

      While building a backlink strategy can be intimidating, it can pay off in a big way once you put your plan into action. The earlier you start working on it, the faster you can potentially see results. 

      Focus on high-quality content

      Besides being the foundation of your SEO efforts, top-notch content is also a great backlink generator. By coming up with valuable, accurate, and unique content for your website, you encourage other companies to link to it. 

      Search Engine Journal puts it this way: “Without content, there is no reason for a website to be sourcing you (i.e., giving you a backlink).”

      Content that attracts links often include things like:

      • Data-driven studies
      • Visual content (infographics, how-to videos)
      • Long-form guides
      • Trend pieces
      • Market research studies

      It’s like Kevin Costner’s character says in the ‘80s movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, he will come.” Basically, if you create good content, you’ll likely get more traffic organically. 

      After all, as Marketing Inside Group explains, “Quality content gives other websites a reason to link to yours and gives visitors a reason to click the links.”

      Key elements high-quality link baits often have in common include:

      • An appeal to a wide audience
      • Citation potential (meaning others can link back to your studies, quotes, and stats)
      • The ability to create a strong emotional response
      • Problem-solving and question-answering ability

      High-quality articles, blogs, and other content pieces designed for your audience can generate links as well. As long as the content brings value, it has backlinking potential.

      Pro tip: Guest posting on high-authority websites allows you to bring your own valuable insight to that site’s target audience. When you establish a relationship with the site’s managers, ensure audiences are aligned, and have something truly beneficial to share, it can be a successful tactic.

      two trusting people holding hands outside

      Not all backlinks are created equal. Quality wins over quantity. (Image: Unsplash)

      Make sure you’re getting the right backlinks

      As mentioned above, not all backlinks are created equal. Quality wins over quantity. Backlinks that work the best often:

      • Come from a trustworthy website with high domain authority
      • Contain your target keyword in the anchor text
      • Come from a website that’s at least somehow related to your products, services, or industry
      • Don’t have a “nofollow” tag (when ranking websites, search engines ignore nofollow links)

      Pro tip: Keep tabs on your backlink portfolio. Not-so-good links don’t generate the desired results, and their presence can create a false appearance of a good strategy.

      Run a backlink analysis

      While you may think you have plenty of backlinks, some of them could be hurting your reputation instead of improving it. That’s why it’s wise to take the time to run a backlink analysis of your website. 

      Poor links usually come from low-authority sites and link networks. A backlinking analysis can help you identify bad links. 

      Once you find them, you can contact the website’s webmaster and ask them to remove the link. If they don’t respond, you can disavow the link.

      Want to learn more about backlinking strategies? Let’s chat.

      Find “link roundup” opportunities

      Link roundups are lists that bloggers compile to give their readers links to the best content related to a certain subject. 

      These roundups can be published daily, weekly, or monthly. Up your chances of appearing in one of these roundups by:

      • Creating high-quality content
      • Finding a website in your niche that creates roundups
      • Sourcing exclusive industry data, research, or other findings
      • Pitching your inclusion to the blogger

      Often, roundups are the easiest backlink types to acquire.

      Pro tip: Looking for more backlink-attracting inspiration? Search Engine Journal recommends creating “statistics content.” These post types can position your brand as a thought leader, encourage sharing, and even perform well on the SERP.

      Backlinking mistakes to avoid

      Just like all backlinks aren’t created equal, neither are backlink-generating tactics. 

      Consider keeping these practices out of your backlinking strategy:

      • Don’t try to generate backlinks by using “black hat” SEO tactics (such as creating numerous profiles specifically to add links to forum signatures or blog comments). 
      • Never try to buy or sell a link. Authority websites don’t sell links, though some websites may charge you for guest posting.
      • Avoid nofollow links.
      • Don’t spend time trying to acquire backlinks from websites that aren’t relevant to your niche.
      • Don’t forget to keep an eye on your existing backlinks. If you suddenly earn dozens of links, for example, it could look suspicious.

      Pro tip: Auditing your backlinks is a process that should be part of your regular SEO routine,” according to Search Engine Land.

      The takeaway  

      If you want to create a comprehensive and effective SEO strategy, backlinking deserves your full attention. 

      However, the first step is excellent content, along with off-site optimization opportunities like YouTube, social channels, and local citations

      By attracting links from trustworthy websites, you are working towards building your website’s authority and getting closer to the top of the SERPs. 

      This article has been updated and was originally published in April 2021.

      Caroline Cox

      Caroline Cox

      Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

      Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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      [DISPLAY_ULTIMATE_SOCIAL_ICONS]
      Written by Caroline Cox on Apr 26 , 2022

      Want to make sure your site is accessible to all? Keep reading.

      Here, you’ll find:

      • What ADA compliance is
      • How ADA compliance relates to SEO
      • Ways to make your site as accessible as possible
      • Which disabilities to consider when looking at your site

      Everyone deserves to move freely in the world, both physically and online. 

      But the reality is, many spaces in both of these realms simply aren’t accessible to everyone.

      Business owners and digital marketers should want every customer and target audience member to feel seen and included. One way to do that is by making your website compliant with guidelines and  accessible by everyone, regardless of ability.

      Want to make sure your site meets those standards? We’ll tell you how, with help from HawkSEM SEO Manager Julie Kalita.

      woman using wheelchair on a sidewalk

      Websites are considered places of public accommodation, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. (Image: Unsplash)

      What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

      The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law that was passed in 1990. Essentially, it prohibits discrimination based on a person’s disability.

      There are five sections related to different areas of public life. But “Title III: Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities” states that businesses must make “reasonable modifications” in order to better serve people with disabilities.

      Places of public accommodation, as defined by the ADA national network, include:

      • Retail stores
      • Restaurants
      • Hotels
      • medical facilities
      • Libraries
      • Public parks
      • Any other place outside of home, school, or work intended for public use

      How does the ADA affect websites?

      You might be wondering how websites factor in here. After all, each of places above is a physical location. 

      Websites are considered places of public accommodation, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

      This has been the interpretation of the ADA for more than two decades. And it’s become a topic of interest as of late. That’s because ADA lawsuits against websites have gained notoriety in recent years.

      For example, the 2019 case of Robles v. Domino’s Pizza Inc. called out the failure of the Domino’s website to be fully accessible to blind and visually-impaired people.

      That same year, Connor v. Parkwood Entertainment brought to light beyonce.com’s noncompliance with certain ADA guidelines. These included lack of image alt text, inaccessible menus and navigation, and denial of keyboard access.

      The Web Accessibility Initiative organization has laid out a standard for making web content accessible. They’ve dubbed this the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG.

      What disabilities should I consider when it comes to my website?

      Creative director for Havas Germany’s creative director Michael Schoepf created the app called Staybl. It adjusts browsers for people with tremors due to conditions like Parkinson’s. (Shortly after, his mother was diagnosed with the disease.)

      And in late 2021, Mastercard debuted a new design “meant to make life easier for visually impaired users,” according to NPR.

      Of course, there are myriad disabilities that affect people in different ways. This includes how they navigate online spaces.

      Some of the main disabilities to keep in mind when you’re ensuring your site is ADA compliant are:

      • Visual impairment – including total blindness, tunnel vision, central loss vision, low vision, and color blindness
      • Hearing impairment – including deafness and hard of hearing
      • Physical impairments – differently-abled people may need to use different devices to type
      • Cognitive impairments – people who have seizures and other forms of cognitive disabilities 
      woman wearing glasses and using laptop

      Google’s algorithm update history shows the search engine is prioritizing access and the user experience more and more. (Image: Unsplash)

      Why do ADA-compliant websites matter for SEO?

      The answer here should be obvious. Brands should want their websites to be fully accessible to all users.

      Not only that, but ensuring your site is accessible helps you avoid legal issues related to lack of compliance, such as the cases mentioned above. Fortunately, following the latest SEO best practices will help you cover most bases in terms of compliance. This includes:

      • Title tags
      • Image alt text and captions
      • headings
      • Linked anchor text
      • Schema markup
      • Responsive design
      • Video captions and transcriptions
      • Intuitive navigation
      • Easy readability 

      Lastly, Google’s algorithm update history shows the search engine is prioritizing access and the user experience more and more. This implies that these two factors will continue to grow in importance as new updates continue to be released.

      Pro tip: Making sites available on all devices, more stable and accessible, and faster loading is the way to win with Google. While ADA compliance isn’t technically a current ranking factor, it stands to reason that Google will continue favoring compliant websites. 

      ADA-compliant website best practices

      It’s always a good time to ensure your website is as accessible as possible. But it’s natural for the prospect to feel overwhelming. It can also be hard to know where to begin.

      Luckily, the WCAG principles are organized into four main guidelines. These are: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust, or POUR. 

      • Perceivable – all information on a website should be presented in a way that all users can perceive by at least one of their senses 
      • Operable – all users must be able to interact with and navigate each component of a site successfully
      • Understandable – all of the information and interfaces on a website should be understandable for any user
      • Robust – websites should able to be accessed and interpreted by a variety of technologies and platforms

      While the full guidelines are extensive, they can basically be broken out into two groups. One is adding a website accessibility interface. Two is tagging images and elements for assistive devices, such as screen readers and keyword navigation compatibility.

      Features that will make a site more accessible include:

      • ADHD-friendly functions that reduce distractions and allow individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders to ingest website content more easily
      • Visually impaired functions that allow for larger text, contrast, and careful use of colors
      • Cognitive disability functions that help users with cognitive disabilities like autism and dyslexia focus and understand important website elements

      You can use a free tool like Accessibility Checker to see where your site currently stands.

      Prop tip: There are three different levels of compliance: Level A (some users can access), Level AA (almost all users can access), and Level AAA (all users can access). It’s recommended that most organizations meet at least Level AA for compliance.

      The takeaway

      Having company values around diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility is one thing. Acting on them is another.

      By taking the time to prioritize ADA compliance and accessibility when it comes to your website, you’re ensuring your company is inclusive, while also making those with various abilities feel seen and heard. 

      Caroline Cox

      Caroline Cox

      Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

      Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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      [DISPLAY_ULTIMATE_SOCIAL_ICONS]
      Written by Caroline Cox on Mar 23 , 2022

      An SEO audit can help you rank high on search engine results pages, which could mean increased traffic, brand awareness, conversions & more.

      Here, you’ll find:

      • The steps to conducting an SEO audit
      • Why an SEO audit is important for your site
      • The tools that’ll help you audit your site
      • Common SEO missteps to avoid

      Google and other search engines are a huge source of opportunity for businesses.

      By understanding SEO best practices, how search engines work, and the ways your customers use them, you can use search engine optimization to attract, engage, and convert your audience. 

      Having a site with strong SEO is key, since 75% of people never scroll past the first page of search engines. The core of an effective SEO strategy is about improving your rankings and trying to appear on page one.

      Conducting an SEO audit helps you pinpoint missing parts or areas of improvement in your current strategy. It also gives you a helpful framework you can refer to down the line to ensure you’re doing everything you can to rank as highly as possible in organic search results.

      The three pillars of an effective SEO audit strategy are on-site structure, content, and your link profile. What do all of those terms mean? Keep reading to find out.

      two people discussing an SEO audit

      Semrush gives users a high-level overview of errors (which are more serious issues), warnings (which should be addressed but aren’t as pressing), and notices (which are mostly for awareness). (Image: Rawpixel)

      On-site structure

      Because Google crawls millions of web pages per day, a clean on-site structure is crucial to any SEO strategy. On-site structure refers to:

      • Technical issues
      • Mobile performance
      • Page speed
      • User behavior

      Not having the proper structure in place can seriously hinder your ability to rank on page one. For example, users will get frustrated and leave your site without taking action if it doesn’t load fast enough. Let’s dig into the elements of on-site structure.

      Perform a technical audit

      There are a handful of different tools out there to help audit your site and uncover any technical issues that might be going on during your SEO audit. 

      For example, Semrush gives users a high-level overview of errors (which are more serious issues), warnings (which should be addressed but aren’t as pressing), and notices (which are mostly for awareness).

      When you run a site crawl, there are dozens of technical issues these tools are looking for, such as:

      SEO audit - technical errors

      But don’t be alarmed! If the technical jargon overwhelms or confuses you, working with an SEO expert and a web development team can do wonders to ease your mind. After all, they use this type of language every day and know how to address and correct these issues.

      Pro tip: Crawling your site for technical issues isn’t a one-and-done exercise. This is something that you should do regularly (ideally once a month or more depending on the size of your site). After all, new issues can pop up anytime.

      Check indexed pages

      Once you run a technical crawl, a good next step is to check and see what pages are indexed in search engines. As Google explains, a page is “indexed” if it has been visited by the search engine’s crawler, analyzed for content and meaning, and stored in the search engine’s index. 

      To check indexed pages, head to the search engine, then type “site:” and your domain into the query box. The below example shows this for our site, hawksem.com

      hawksem on google serp

      This allows you to see if there are pages that shouldn’t be indexed because you don’t want users visiting them. For example, development or staging pages from a site redesign should be removed immediately.

      You also most likely don’t want landing pages solely used for paid efforts to be indexed. (To “deindex” a page quickly, you can leverage a tool like Google’s Remove URLs Tool.) 

      You should also ensure these pages contain a “noindex” tag, so Google crawlers know not to index that page in the future.

      On the other hand, you could have pages that are missing from the index and miss out on a huge portion of traffic. If for some reason the crawlers aren’t getting to your blog content, you want to look into why it’s not crawling and indexing as it should be.

      Review mobile-friendliness

      Mobile accounts for more than 60% of all Google searches. This means more than half of us search on our phones. 

      Not only are people using mobile more frequently but, as of 2018, Google crawls the mobile version of a site first. 

      You’ll have a hard time ranking well if your mobile site isn’t fast and easy to navigate. Even if most of your website traffic is currently coming from desktop users, it’s still extremely important to pay attention to your mobile site and mobile experience.

      To know if your site is mobile-friendly, you can use a tool like the Google Mobile Friendly Test. If results show your site has issues, the tool will give you suggestions for how to fix them and improve the mobile experience.

      Pro tip: It used to be a best practice to have your regular site and your mobile site be separate, perhaps with a different or modified URL. That’s not the case anymore. Ideally, you want a website that’s responsive to all devices and sizes (since device sizes can vary).

      Test page speed

      Some people think mobile-friendliness and page speed are tied together. But though they’re closely related, page speed is a separate (but equally important) ranking factor. 

      And if a site seems sluggish, visitors are more likely to bounce and seek out another site that will give them the information they’re looking for in a flash. A 2020 study found that even a small fraction of a second has an impact on users.

      Resources like Google’s PageSpeed Insights and HubSpot’s Website Grader will tell you your average load speed. They also offer recommendations and more information to help improve this metric.

      Analyze on-site user behavior

      Google Analytics is one of the most important tools to measure your organic traffic and engagement during an SEO audit. It can reveal huge amounts of data to measure things like user behavior, site flow, and more. 

      analyze user behavior in google analytics

      In the Audience Overview section of Google Analytics, you can segment traffic by organic only. Then, you can see how many users and sessions organic traffic drove over a certain time period. It’s also possible to segment all organic traffic, which includes other search engines like Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, and more, vs. just Google traffic. 

      You can also view engagement metrics like bounce rate, pages per session, and average session duration. This can help determine how engaging your content and website design are for users.

      Don’t panic if the bounce rate looks high or your average session duration looks low! It’s all about looking at this in context. If users are bouncing but spending two minutes on your page, it means they’re likely reading the content but not taking further action like clicking to another page. 

      The homepage is usually the top driver of traffic. It typically has the most backlinks and ranks for branded terms, so this is to be expected. 

      Your goal should be to get more traffic to some of these internal pages instead. This way, users get to the content they’re searching for as quickly as possible and don’t have to land on your homepage and navigate to it.

      Focus your content strategy

      Once you’ve identified crawling or technical issues and reviewed how users are behaving on your site, you can move on to content strategy

      Your site’s content has a huge impact on your ability to rank well in search engines. It also affects how your users navigate your site.

      Determine your personas & audience

      When defining your content strategy, the first step is to understand who your audiences are through personas. Ideal client personas help you understand your audience in-depth: their goals, pain points, and what they’re looking for. 

      Once you understand your audience, you can appropriately write content that meets their needs.

      The No. 1 rule of content writing for the web is to write for the user, not search engines. Google’s goal when ranking pages is to give the user the most informative results that will answer their question or query. Satisfying that requirement is what’s going to help you rank. 

      Pro tip: When developing a content strategy, don’t forget about video and images. These types of content are super engaging and can be shared on social media as well. 

      Conduct keyword research

      Keyword research is crucial to understanding what keywords your target audience is typing into search engines. Ideally, you want to use your content to answer these queries as thoroughly as possible. 

      organic keywords trend report

      The Semrush example graph above illustrates how a website has ranked over time. Semrush is a great tool to use for this part of your SEO audit because it also shows where Google algorithm updates happened, which may have affected performance. 

      You can also add notes in Google Analytics (called annotations) to be able to quickly reference historical changes, like a site redesign, and identify patterns. 

      Next, you want to dig into which keywords you’re currently ranking for and which pages are ranking for those queries. Perhaps the most important place to check your current keyword rankings is Google Search Console

      You can also view how many impressions you’re getting for certain keywords, the average position, and what your click-through rate (CTR) is for those keywords.

      After analyzing your list of keywords you’re ranking for, tools like Moz, Semrush, and Ahrefs can show you the search volume, competition, and related keywords for the terms that are worth targeting. 

      One of the best ways to find keywords and related questions is by doing your own search engine query and seeing what comes up. You can review SERP features like “People also ask,” Featured Snippets, and the related searches at the bottom of the results page as well.

      Pro tip: Don’t forget long-tail keywords. There can be significant volume on keywords with four or more words. Plus, competition is generally lower for these terms vs. more broad terms.

      Audit your content strategy

      Once you’ve done the keyword research and determined what pages are ranking and which are not, the next step is to conduct a content marketing SEO audit. 

      A content audit can help uncover pages that could be hindering your performance and opportunities to revitalize and improve existing content.

      • Pull a list of all blog URLs on your website into a spreadsheet (Hint: you can use the site search method discussed earlier, or your sitemap)
      • Use Google Analytics to see how many site visits each page has had over the past six months, and use a tool like Ahrefs or Semrush to see how many backlinks it has (this process will take quite a bit of time, depending on the number of pages on your site)
      • Identify pages with “thin content” that don’t satisfy user intent — the exception to this would be press releases or event pages, which are naturally going to be shorter pages
      • Look for any posts that have duplicate content or topics and decide if they should be combined into one long-form pillar post or removed from your site
      • Identify posts with outdated content and make a plan to update that content as needed — it helps to keep a running list if posts need to be updated on a regular basis
      • Repeat! (Ideally, on an annual or bi-annual basis)

      For more on this topic, check out our webinar recording, SEO Audit 101: Take Your SEO from So-So to Stellar

      Analyze your link profile

      When you’re reviewing your link profile during an SEO audit, you want to focus on backlink analysis, disavowing spam links, and internal linking. 

      Many digital marketers have a love-hate relationship with backlinks, because getting quality backlinks (which are links to your site that originate on another credible website) can be a difficult and tedious process. But it’s an important part of your SEO.

      The first step in a backlink audit is to use a tool like Ahrefs or Semrush to download a list of your existing backlinks. From there, you should review and assess each individual link to determine its quality. Depending on how many links you have, this could be a long process, but we promise it’s worthwhile. 

      While each tool has a different way to assess link equity, like Domain Authority vs. Domain Rating, it’s worth noting that Google has its own proprietary way to measure link equity.

      Remember, these metrics don’t mean anything in a bubble. They’re mostly helpful when comparing your site to competitors and others ranking for your keywords. Pick whichever tool you feel comfortable with and use those metrics to measure the quality of a specific link or website.

      Consider if you need to disavow any backlinks

      Don’t immediately disavow a link just because one of these tools says it has lower Domain Authority or Domain Rating than yours. Relevancy is more important than these metrics.

      To assess link quality during your SEO audit, ask yourself these questions:

      • Does the site seem completely irrelevant to your industry? 
      • Are there a significant amount of ads? 
      • Does the website feature “unsavory” content? 
      • Is the anchor text clearly spamming to get keywords into the link? 

      If there’s a link you don’t actually want associated with your site, you can disavow it, which tells Google to ignore that link. This tool should only be used if you’re highly confident the links could be hurting your ability to rank, otherwise you can drastically harm your SEO efforts.

      Pro tip: Don’t pay to have your site listed somewhere for the purposes of increasing backlinks. You’ll almost definitely get caught and penalized. It’s not worth the short-term gains it might bring, so focus on links gained naturally by creating valuable content.

      Review your internal linking strategy

      Internal links (links on your site that link to other pages on your site) are often overlooked but are just as important as your backlinks. It’s difficult to control which sites are linking to you and what anchor text they use, but you have full control over internal links.

      Make sure the internal links you add to your content are relevant. Links higher up on the page are crawled first and are therefore considered most important to Google.

      You should also use external links to relevant, authoritative sources to help Google understand your website is legitimate. However, you want to use an internal link over an external link as much as possible.

      There are some common mistakes you want to avoid when it comes to internal linking, such as:

      • Using generic phrases in anchor text like “click here” or “learn more”
      • Excessive linking via images instead of text (though it’s OK to link via images occasionally, text links are preferred)
      • Linking to your homepage — this is almost certainly your highest authority page already and doesn’t provide any use for the user, who could just click on your logo to go back to the homepage

      The takeaway

      A deep-dive SEO audit like the one described above takes time, effort, and dedication, but the knowledge and insight you’ll get in return are immeasurable. 

      By getting familiar with these tools, following these best practices, and committing to regular SEO audits, you’ll start to see your organic rankings climb — and what’s a better feeling than that?

      This post has been updated and was originally published in February 2020.

      Caroline Cox

      Caroline Cox

      Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

      Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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