Q. My PPC keywords are too expensive to bid on. What should I do?
A. Optimise your website for organic traffic.
Q. But I need the traffic to land on specific pages, not just on my blog.
A. You can optimise specific pages, so traffic lands there.
SOUNDS EASY, SO WHY ISN’T EVERYONE DOING IT?
7 Steps: How to Direct Your Organic Traffic to Specific Website Pages
From our studies of countless websites in all kinds of industries, we have seen that people just are not optimising their individual pages for the search terms that people are using.
Instead, their SEO agencies are busy trying to get them backlinks (still very important - see later) but this is not enough. It just doesn’t produce enough page-specific organic traffic which enables people to reduce their PPC spend.
You can be very specific with PPC and whilst it’s not completely predictable in a scientific way, people feel more in control of their traffic.
There are a lot of myths and secrecy about SEO, making people feel like it’s too difficult to get to grips with. However, although Google doesn’t share its algorithms, it does comment on ranking factors. And more importantly, Google absolutely shares its values and intent which is behind the algorithms.
Google says that above all else, it wants to show websites which are relevant to its users’ search queries and that give a high quality user experience.
So it would be reasonable to assume that if you could somehow find out what your users’ search queries were and that you made sure you had a page which satisfied that query, then Google will show your page.
“Google’s algorithm is constantly being improved; rather than trying to guess the algorithm and design your page for that, work on creating good, fresh content that users want, and following our guidelines.”
Google ranking factors - a quick word
You can’t get traffic directly to a page unless you rank for that page.
In order to direct organic traffic to a specific page, we first need to understand the parameters in play - ie Google ranking factors.
Many SEO infuencers try very hard to guess Google’s ranking factors and publish great long lists of them. This then leads to people trying to manipulate the ranking process, which forces Google to respond by changing the algorithm - aaaagh, back to square one!
So instead, why not take a holistic approach (as Google suggests) and focus on the things that matter:
- Relevance - satisfying user intent
- Quality - looks good, works well
But how do we as digital marketers, measure relevance and quality?
After typing in the search term and viewing the results page (SERP), how does the potential visitor choose a relevant page to click on?
Well, all they have to go on is the snippet, which includes URL, title and meta description.
In this example I typed into Google ‘healthy dog treats’ and I saw this snippet on the results page:
You can see from the Amazon snippet, that my search term has been repeated back to me in the URL, the title and in the meta description, making me feel that this page would satify my need for healthy dog treats. It also has a photo of healthy dog treat - even better!
However, I also saw this one (on page 1):
Although the search term is shown in the title, it’s not in the URL or the description. In fact, the term ‘gallery’ in the URL is making me feel like it’s just going to show me pictures of dog treats, which is not what I want.
Interestingly, when I did click on the second snippet, it showed me a range of healthy foods that are suitable for treating dogs. So actually, it did satisfy my intent, but I wouldn’t have clicked through if I wasn’t researching for this article.
Just shows how important the title, url and meta description are for RELEVANCE.
You can check these things for every page in an SEO audit.
“It can be helpful to think of queries as having one or more of the following intents.
Know query, some of which are Know Simple queries
Do query, some of which are Device Action queries
Website query, when the user is looking for a specific website or webpage
Visit-in-person query, some of which are looking for a specific business or organization, some of which are looking for a category of businesses”
In addition to this, if you see a search result in Google which looks relevant, and you click through (increasing a page’s CTR) to find it is actually relevant, then a few things are likely:
- You won’t click off the page immediately - bounce rate will not increase
- You might stay to read for a while - dwell time will be a reasonable length
So when designing a page for RELEVANCE, even though these are not known ranking factors, it makes sense to pay attention to:
- Title - make sure it includes your focus keyword
- URL - include your focus keyword if you can
- Description - include your focus keyword
- CTR - are people clicking through to your page?
- Bounce rate - check it’s reasonable for your industry
- Dwell time - check it’s the right sort of length to enable someone to get what they need from your page.
How do we know if our page is high quality?
Quality is one of the original ‘fluffy marketing’ terms, being unmeasurable, so it has no place in digital marketing. Or does it?
Well, it does, because Google says so and it’s their game we’re playing. So we have to work out what we think a quality page looks like and how to measure it. Fortunately, Google has helped us here by publishing their search quality evaluator guidelines, a 164 page document last updated in July 2018. Yes, Google actually employ thousands of real people to assess the quality of search results, whose assessments feed into improving the search algorithm. What would they think of your site?
“What makes a high quality page? A high quality page should have a beneficial purpose and achieve that purpose well. In addition, high quality pages have the following characteristics:
High level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
A satisfying amount of high quality MC [Main Content], including a descriptive or helpful title.
Satisfying website information and/or information about who is responsible for the website. If the page is primarily for shopping or includes financial transactions, then it should have satisfying customer service information.
Positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the MC on the page. Positive reputation of the creator of the MC, if different from that of the website.”
“We will consider a page to be “deceptive” if it may deceive users or trick search engines. All deceptive pages should be rated Lowest.”
It’s reasonable to assume that a QUALITY page is one that looks good and works well. OK, we can work with that.
To look good on mobiles it certainly needs to be mobile friendly. This is actually a known Google ranking factor, so let’s pay attention to that too.
Also, we all know that if a page doesn’t load quickly enough we don’t like it, in fact we bounce off. There are a whole host of reasons for poor performance and they are all detailed in your SEO audit. Things like images and other files, not being optimised, being too big to load quickly. Also too many redirects can slow things down as the site keeps having to look up where to send you next, only to find there’s another page redirected and it has to look that up too.
We also don’t like it when a page we click on leads to a 404 error page, so let’s measure 404 errors as well.
When pages don’t load properly due to poor signal and the pictures just cause a big space with nothing but a small icon - that’s not cool. Instead let’s make sure we use the image tag as a way to labelling the pictures and diagrams, so at least our users can tell what we meant to show them in the picture.
So to ensure a QUALITY page, you can measure and keep an eye on:
- Mobile friendliness
- Page speed
- Bounce rate (again)
- Redirect chains
- Image tags
- Image sizes
- Resource file sizes
So you now have a few tangibles to monitor and fix using Google Analytics and a comprehensive SEO audit.
But there’s more to it than that. (Of course!)
How does the competition affect my rankings?
You need to pay attention to what your competitors are doing with their pages and make sure that your page is better than theirs.
What do I mean by better?
Well, we already know it needs to fully satisfy the search query, providing a comprehensive answer to the question, supplemented by infographics if appropriate, or pictures (labelled - more on this later - see Image tags and how to use them).
We know it needs to work well, loading quickly and being user-friendly on a mobile.
Google notices all this - the fact that people are using your site to satisfy their intentions. As a result, your ‘Domain Authority’ is increased because your domain now seems to have enough authority to interest people and answer their search queries well.
‘Domain Authority’ is really, really important in SEO because it is the way that Google compares the ‘authority’ that your site (domain) has compared with your competitors.
If your Domain Authority is much higher than your competitor’s Domain Authority then it’s highly likely that if you choose the right keywords and use them correctly, then Google will rank you higher than your competitor.
HOORAY! This is the point. This is how we can say that by choosing the right keywords for a particular page (and using them in the right way) then your organic traffic for that page will increase, reducing your reliance on PPC. (Hooray again!)
Keyword list - how to use it
“My SEO agency gave me a huge keyword list so I’m fine”
Maybe, but maybe not. What are you going to do with the keywords? How will you decide which keywords you will use on which pages? Perhaps you plan to use the keywords all over the site - surely that’ll work?
Well, no, not really. If you use the same keyword throughout your site then you may find you are driving traffic to a page which isn’t relevant.
For example, if you are an adventure activity centre with zip wires, climbing walls and orienteering. If you use all keywords on all pages you could end up driving users who are interested in climbing walls to your zip wire pages, then they’ll arrive on your site and not see anything about climbing walls, so they may close the page straight away (causing your ‘bounce rate’ to increase - not good for Domain Authority).
This is why we first choose a page to optimise and then find relevant keywords for that page.
How to choose the right keywords
As you are starting to see, it absolutely matters which keywords you choose and how you use them (more on this later).
So, your keywords for a particular page need to satisfy the following criteria:
- Relevance - must be about the subject of the page or very closely related.
- Search volume - you want at least 1000 search per month for a keyword to be worth using.
- Keyword difficulty - must be achievable in relation to your Domain Authority.
How to use your keywords for maximum benefit
Before we start this section, it’s worth noting that if you have got a lot of onsite technical SEO errors, then you need to fix them before continuing.
However, some of these errors cannot be fixed properly (effectively) if you have not done page by page keyword analysis.
For example, if you have a missing meta title or meta description or you have a confusing plethora of h-tags (headings and sub headings), then you need your keywords for that page before you fix these things.
So, you have a handful of strong, relevant keywords but how should you use them?
- Firstly you need to decide which of your keywords best satisfies all three of the criteria listed above (relevance, search volume and difficulty). This is your ‘focus keyword’.
- Your focus keyword should ideally be used in the following places:
- Title - at the beginning of the title if possible.
- Meta description - Although Google doesn’t pay attention to the content of the meta description, your users do. They read it in the Google results page before deciding whether they want to click on your link or not, so it needs to include their search term to reassure them your page is relevant.
- H1 tag - Tells Google and your readers what the page is about.
- Throughout the page, written naturally in the copy a few times (but the number of times you use it should not be more than 2% of the total number of words on the page).
- Your other main keywords should be H2 tags (or H3, H4 etc) and used in the copy of that section, as well as being used in the image tag for any photo which supports that section (see below).
Image tags and how to use them
You may have been given a site audit which states ‘Missing image tags’, but what does this mean and why does it matter?
The image tag is a sort of invisible caption which describes the photo in cases where the image can’t be displayed, so people still know what would have been there. It’s also used for people with impaired site, so they can get the same value from the photo as sited people.
So, how should an image tag be written?
The image tag needs to describe what’s in the image. As simple as that.
To make it better though, because the image relates to either the section or the page that it’s on, we’d recommend using the keyword for that section or focus keyword for the page in the image tag. But it shouldn’t just be dumped in the tag. It needs to be written naturally using the keyword.
Building domain authority
We’ve seen how Google uses Domain Authority as a way to rate your website, compared with your competitors, and how we use Domain Authority to choose achievable keywords.
If your domain authority increases and your competitors’ domain authorities remain the same, then does this mean you can rank for more difficult keywords?
So how do we make our domain authority increase?
“Dwell time, CTR, whatever Fishkin’s new theory is, those are generally made up crap. Search is much more simple than people think.”
As discussed, you need to pay attention to Google’s overall objectives, rather than individual so-called ranking factors. But below are a few of the factors that Google has actually told us they care about because they all contribute to serving a high quality website experience to Google’s users:
When asked, “if the page is fast, and has relevant content above the fold will it please users?”, Google say: “We use over 200 signals to rank pages, and some of those are even announced and you mentioned them.”
- Mobile friendliness - if your site doesn’t work properly on mobile then Google is less likely to choose to show your site on its results page.
- Relevance and user satisfaction - we talked about this before in section 1 of this article
- Quality - sounds fluffy but there are lots of indicators you can measure to check quality, see section 1 again.
- Site speed - if your pages take too long to load then people get bored of waiting and click off and go somewhere else. Not good.
- Backlinks - this is a measure of the number and quality of other sites who link to your content. They need to be relevant to count - it’s not just about numbers.
SEO optimisation can sometimes feel like eating an elephant. But everyone knows the way to do that is to make lots of elephant sandwiches. We can help you prioritise what to focus on first to give you the most bang for your buck - for your current competitive situation.
Whatever your current domain authority, you can benefit from choosing poorly performing pages and optimising them with respect to search terms and content marketing.
You poor performers may be pages which have a high bounce rate (so visitors are not finding the content satisfying) or they may be costing you too much in PPC or paid advertising to drive traffic.
We are constantly surprised at how easy it is to rank for some very valuable high volume keywords. Some industries have just not tried at all at organic optimisation. And if yours is one of them, then it’s your lucky day.
(In fact, one of the most difficult industry to compete in is ours - SEO - for obvious reasons!)
One industry which we have found to have huge, we mean HUGE keyword search volumes at very easy difficulty ratings is Travel. If this is your industry then get in touch now before your competitors do!
So with a mixture of paying attention to the content on your pages (content marketing), along with checking your onsite technical SEO issues, you could soon be enjoying free organic traffic to your website.
What are you going to spend your PPC budget on now?