Google likes to play with their search algorithms, which can make it difficult for marketers (and content creators, in particular) to keep up — much less excel — with their search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns. But despite the challenge, smart marketers do their best to achieve great paid and organic rankings on Google search engine results pages (SERP) for a wide variety of root and long-tail keywords. And that’s because, according to Chitika, the first organic position on a SERP receives 33% of a given term’s traffic share and all entries on the first page of a SERP receive 92% of all traffic for that term.
So, it’s clear that ranking well on a Google SERP is paramount to any successful digital marketing strategy, but achieving quality positioning can be extremely difficult. Thankfully, there are a few SEM fundamentals that don’t seem to change very often. If you’re able to lock down these best practices, you should improve your search engine marketing significantly — increasing your organic site traffic, lowering your cost-per-click in paid search, and generating great leads that become loyal clients.
Let’s focus on three simple strategies that are proven to yield SEM success.
1) Make Sure Your SEO Strategy Matches Your Target Audiences
Years ago, SEO was an afterthought — a brand-building exercise meant to increase awareness and hopefully get a few prospects to visit your homepage. Maybe one or two of those prospects would read a blog post or check out a featured product, but actually getting those visitors to convert wasn’t exactly top priority.
Needless to say, times have changed.
Today, SEO should be an element of pretty much every digital marketing campaign you run. That’s because it’s a core component of lifecycle marketing and is meant to inform and support prospects and customers through every phase of the buyer’s journey. Better SEO means purposeful content that translates into more traffic, great leads, and improved engagement.
For example, quality SEO campaigns can help you:
- Attract new prospects and enter them into your sales funnel
- Position yourself as a trusted thought leader in your space
- Provide informative content at each stage of the customer journey
- Supplement your automated email drip campaigns
- Compel unknown prospects to become known leads via content downloads
- Inspire customer loyalty and encourage client advocacy
- Develop sharable content that improves social media reach
Yet, while good SEO can improve and enhance basically every digital marketing tactic, search engine marketing is rapidly pivoting to embrace more personalized content, which means it’s more important than ever to align your SEO strategy with your company’s business objectives. It’s not enough to rank well; you need to rank well for topics that directly address your target audience’s problems and help them overcome these issues. Of course, this means you have to understand who your target audiences are in the first place.
To do so, you need to sit down with your executive staff to gain a crystal clear understanding of where your company is at now and where you want to be in the next six months, next year, and even five years from now. This could mean gaining more knowledge around key verticals, growth opportunities, product or service line diversification, and/or deciding whether your marketing team should pursue small- to medium-sized businesses or enterprise companies.
All of these elements will help you cultivate a better understanding of your target audiences, which you can then use to begin researching their needs and interests. Once you know what your clients want, you can begin creating content that addresses their key challenges. But before you begin writing, you should conduct smart keyword research and utilize those keywords effectively in all your content. This will help you ensure that your subject lines, page titles, blog headers, and overall content reflect the language of your consumers.
Developing awesome content is great, but you need to make absolutely sure that your efforts aren’t in vain. To develop content that gets results, you need to understand your buyer personas and the keywords those prospects are most interested in and then develop strategies, tactics, and content to meet those potential clients where they’re at online consistently.
2) Structure Your Webpages Properly to Allow Google to Crawl Them Easily and Accurately
Implementing quality on-page SEO best practices is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your search engine marketing campaigns and your organic rankings on Google’s SERPs. Minor changes can have a major and near-immediate impact. For best results, your content team should work closely with your webmaster when structuring and restructuring your webpages. This will ensure that you’re not sacrificing a quality user experience for improved SEO, as both are valuable components of a sound digital marketing strategy and effective customer journey.
We’ve already covered the importance of developing good and relevant content that is tailored to your target audiences, which is the most important element of quality on-page SEO, so now we’re going to look at some of the more overlooked or seemingly minor elements (that are actually crucial to improving your SEM).
- Title Tag: Behind the actual content of your webpage, landing page, or blog, your title tag is your most important on-page SEO component. Therefore, you need to make sure that your title is compelling and includes your primary keyword to attach more weight to it. You can also add modifiers to your title to rank for long-tail keywords.
- Meta-Description: The meta-description is the copy excerpt that shows up next to your entry on a SERP. So it’s important to describe your content in a way that is specific and concise to encourage users to click on your link. And to make it easier for Google to interpret the content, be sure to include your primary keyword in the meta-description.
- URL: You webpage URL should be short, descriptive, and include your primary keyword (noticing a trend yet?). It should also reflect a clear hierarchy that makes the topic of the page clear to your users. Here’s an example of quality URL structure in action:
The focus narrows from left to right in the URL slug, and it includes optimal keywords that indicate to Google the relevance of the page based on specific search queries.
- H1 Tag: Your H1 is an HTML tag that tells Google that this piece of copy is your primary header. Therefore, you should only use one H1 on each webpage and never duplicate H1s on separate pages. The H1 is a crucial aspect of each page and your larger SEO strategy, so even minor adjustments to this tag can have a significant impact on your SERP positioning (for better or worse).
- H2 Tag: Think of H2s as article or webpage chapters that breakdown your content into subtopics. As such, H2s are a great way to introduce secondary and long-tail keywords. So if you’re writing about, say… search engine marketing, a good H2 might be something like, “Structure Your Webpages Properly to Allow Google to Crawl Them Easily and Accurately.” Imagine that!
- H3 Tag: And further down the rabbit hole we go! H3s should be used to break up key elements of information you’re covering within your H2 content blocks. So if you’re including a list of bullets, definitions, testimonials, or statistics, you can break those down using H3s. Again, do your best to include secondary or long-tail keywords in these headers.
- Internal Links: Internal links are those that point toward other pages that exist on your primary domain source. Be sure to include plenty of links on all webpages and that those links point toward relevant information. This will improve the user experience by helping funnel your website visitors toward the information that is most valuable for them and will also increase SEO by helping to establish information hierarchy on your website.
- Alt-Text: Alt-text is probably the most overlooked aspect of fundamental on-page SEO. Alt-text is important because it tells Google how to crawl the images on your webpages, which is especially critical because Google delivers just as many image results as it does text-based results. So if you’re creating content that includes visuals (pro tip: you should include some sort of visual representation on every page), then you need to describe that image- or graphic-based content in plain English using alt-text.
There’s so much more to on-page SEO than we can possibly cover in a single section of a single blog, but if you focus on implementing the best practices above in a considerate and meaningful way, you’ll be on the fast track to a much improved search engine marketing strategy. If this is too much information to remember, we recommend installing a plugin like Yoast that can provide suggestions for how to optimize your content for SEO.
3) Strive for Paid Search Campaign Continuity to Improve Quality Score and Ad Rank
Achieving great paid search results is difficult because of the intense competition and Google’s lofty expectations, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done — especially if you can wrap your head around one critical element of all successful paid search campaigns…
Google AdWords is all about delivering a good user experience for users who click on your ads, so they want to see that your keywords align with your ad copy, that your ad copy aligns with your landing page, and that the asset, product, or service that you’re offering on your landing page relates all the way back to your keyword and what is promised in your ad copy.
The way Google quantifies this is through your “Quality Score” — a 1-10 scale that measures the relevance of your keywords, as well as your average cost-per-click (CPC) for each keyword. This score also indicates your Ad Rank, which determines where your ads are positioned on a SERP.
Here are several of the most important factors affecting your Quality Score:
- Keyword relevancy within your ad group
- Ad copy relevance
- Click-through rate (CTR)
- Landing page quality and adherence to best practice
- Overall user experience from start to finish
- Historical performance of the account
To improve your Quality Score, decrease your CPC, and attain better positioning on each SERP for a given keyword, follow these best practices.
Create Granular Ad Groups
Your ad groups should be as targeted as possible to each ad you create, which means only using keywords that are relevant to each ad and subsequent landing page. The goal is to ensure that your users are able to find your ad easily, so using only the most relevant keywords will result in a better search experience for your potential customers. Advertisers should never use more than 20 keywords in an ad group, and the most successful campaigns will use less than 10.
Conduct Thorough Keyword Research
Keywords that produce quality relevant traffic are the lifeblood of any successful Google Ads campaign, so you need to take time to conduct thoughtful and thorough keyword research before launching your campaigns. Don’t assume you already know what your users are searching; instead, use Google Ads’ keyword planner tool to get a better understanding of which terms are generating the most traffic at the most optimal CPC. Other great research platforms include the Google Search Console, Moz Keyword Explorer, and Ahrefs Keywords Explorer. (And don’t forget about negative keywords — these terms will prevent unwanted, irrelevant traffic and conserve budget.)
Don’t Slouch with Your Ad Copy
This is where you need at least one talented copywriter on your staff. Your ad copy is every bit as important as your keywords because the way you position your offer will determine whether a user will click-through to your landing page. When writing your ad, focus on a single offering with a single call-to-action, and be sure to include relevant keywords within the copy whenever possible. Most importantly, your ad copy should reflect the language and offering of your landing page. If your users click on your ad expecting one thing and receiving another, they will bounce without converting, which is a major waste of your advertising budget.
Optimize Your Landing Page for Best Results
By the time a user arrives at your landing page, you both have done a lot of work, which means it would be a terrible shame to fumble the ball this close to the endzone. Your keywords and ad copy won’t mean a thing if you aren’t able to close the deal. In fact, you’re actually only wasting time and money if you’re not putting good work into your landing pages, because every click eats away at your budget — especially if your potential customers aren’t converting. Therefore, you should follow landing page best practices across the board to ensure a great user experience that consistently results in conversion (and thus, a great ROI). Here’s how:
- Use ad group and ad copy keywords in your headlines
- Focus on a single CTA
- Keep your forms brief and your language clear, brief, and direct
- Use simple, intuitive design
- Do not include any navigation other than a link back to your website’s homepage (all messaging should point toward the CTA)
- Place all vital information above the fold
- A/B test different headlines and CTAs
- Inspire trust with testimonials
Remember, the sole focus of your landing page should be to persuade your users to take a specified action, so focus on that action and make it easy for your users to accomplish what you want them to do.
Improve Your SEM with Act-On’s Powerful Paid and Organic Search Tools
Search engine marketing is one of those things that is simple to understand but difficult to execute. With the right tools at your disposal, however, you can get on the fast track to SEM success in no time.
Act-On offers several effective, easy-to-use features that are designed to improve your search engine marketing and generate great results. Check them out!
- SEO Audit Tool: Analyze your content to ensure you’re getting more and better traffic across your web properties.
- Adaptive Web: Good SEM is not about just getting people to visit your website. To produce the best results, create a more personalized web experience to perfect your content marketing strategy and increase engagement and conversions.
- Landing Page Builder: Create, test, launch, and optimize your landing pages to drive conversions across the buying cycle.
- Progressive Profiling: Gradually learn more about your leads while keeping conversion rates high.
- Google AdWords Report: Track your Google AdWords campaign impact from keywords to clicks to closed deals.
- Advanced Social Media Module: Score and nurture prospects based on their social activity with our Advanced Social Media Module.
To get a better understanding of how to create, launch, and optimize paid digital advertising campaigns, please download our eBook — also conveniently linked below.