While SEO has become an involuntary function of marketing for all sorts of businesses, ranging from professional service firms to enterprise solutions providers, a lot of companies today are still struggling to integrate SEO successfully into their digital marketing efforts.
Over the past decade, SEO has become an extremely viable marketing outlet that results in more qualified leads and ultimately, more customers.
It has been widely reported that SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate while traditional or outbound marketing efforts such as print advertising and direct mail, only have a close rate of 1.7%.
Image: Online Marketing Coach
So what does it take to put together a strong SEO campaign?
It’s by no means a walk in the park, but it’s also not rocket science. Many small businesses are afraid that SEO will take up a lot of time and money without leading to quality outcomes.
While you most likely will not see big results overnight, there are many resources out there to push you in the right direction.
The biggest selling point in favor of the case for a consistent, all-out SEO campaign is the availability of SaaS tools that take care of almost every nuance and actionable component of SEO or related digital marketing tasks.
Let’s take a look at five tools that will help make your SEO investment a fruitful one. Certain tools in this list might be “suites” and have a great number of handy features, but I’m going to show you how they can be used for one specific function at a time.
Ahrefs – Keyword research
The foundation of any marketing campaign should begin with quality research on the goals and desires of your target audience.
The outcome of every SEO campaign begins in the search box – with a written or a spoken word. To get high returns down the line, you must put time into keyword research.
This is a make-or-break part of the campaign, no matter how much Google hides, groups or consolidates its keywords. Consider your industry’s keyword demand and determine which phrases or specific terms to target with your strategy. During this process, you will also learn a good deal about your customer base.
Ahrefs has a revamped Keywords Explorer tool (which tracks a base of 2.8 billion keywords) to help you gain these valuable insights:
The keywords explorer function on this platform lets you brainstorm a large number of possible terms or phrases that your company could rank for.
It provides a difficulty score of 1-100 based on how hard it would be for a specific entry to rank. Ahrefs also gives you thousands of keyword suggestions for your campaign which you can analyze by:
- Monthly search volume
- Top countries where the keyword is searched
- Cost per click
- Number of search results
- Number of words in a keyword
- Clicks per search result
- How often people search for the keyword again
- Traffic share per domain
In addition, Ahrefs also gives you an snapshot (current and historical) of the SERPs for your chosen search term.
Keyword research is one of the basic building blocks of an SEO campaign. With small details about how, when and where people are using them, you can predict shifts in demand, trends and buyer behavior.
SEMrush – Competitor analysis
Proper competitor analysis is a crucial part of marketing in general. Chances are, your competitors are researching your brand as you read this.
With a quality analysis of your competitor’s presence, promotions and messaging, you can gain an understanding of which channels to target and how to tweak your strategy in a way that maximizes conversion rates.
SEMrush is arguably the strongest competitor analysis tool out there when it comes to SEO.
SEMrush can give you real time, updated figures for potentially any of 74 million domains. It lets you gain insight into your competitors’ ongoing tactics by examining their:
- Organic keyword positions
- Top performing content
- Advertising copy, costs and history
- Display and video advertising analytics
- Channel wise spend strategy
- Traffic sources
SEMrush makes it simple to gather all the data you need and allowing you to organize it into customized PDFs or spreadsheets, as well as design your own reports. SEMrush also give you great insights into the kind of content you need to create and promote, in order to gain a competitive edge.
Brandwatch – Social media monitoring
Digital marketing is by no means a one size fits all entity. The truth of the matter is that consumer behaviors are constantly changing. When you start brainstorming ideas for compelling content to drive your SEO campaign, you need to know what exactly makes consumers tick.
And any one channel won’t tell you what makes consumers tick. However, there’s one place where conversations are constantly taking place: social media.
Brandwatch is a handy tool that lets you burrow into sources of consumer opinions across the social web. Keeping a critical eye on customer feedback and intent in the digital landscape is critical in planning your next move.
On the back of the huge “social” index that Brandwatch has built up, it can provide a breakdown of:
- What trends impact your industry at the moment
- Topics on which influencers are currently writing
- The demographics of your audience
- Audience activity, engagement and sentiment on various channels
- Brand reach and visibility
With these insights, content creation for the foreseeable future becomes much easier for most brands, which can target the masses’ sentiments in their quest for a higher ROI on marketing.
Outbrain – Content amplification
Now that you’ve done all this research and gained critical insight, it’s time to release compelling content. The harsh reality is that putting together quality content for SEO requires a lot of time and resources. And that just gets you started – it’s even more difficult to get your audience to consume it, trust it, and act on it.
At the end of the day, content is the driving force that will get you leads, sales and loyalty. However, regardless of how great the content you produce is, it will be practically useless if it’s not promoted correctly.
That’s where Outbrain comes in. Outbrain works by recommending more content by relevance to blogs being read all over the internet at any given moment.
Outbrain shows some 200 billion recommendations a month to a global audience of 557 million, and is used by brands such as McDonalds, Huggies, and Fleishman Hillard. Some of its features that can help you “storify” your content are:
- Multiple, adaptable content formats
- Story sequencing
- Personalized and contextual targeting
- Retargeting to custom audiences
- Performance benchmarking by industry or geography
Some of the largest media properties on the web that can serve as promotional channels for your content via the Outbrain platform include The Washington Post, People, CNN, and ESPN.
No matter how big or small your business is, Outbrain can provide measurable means of promoting your content to an ever-expanding audience.
Buzzsumo – Content analytics
You’ve created awesome content and distributed it to the masses, but how exactly did it resonate with the audience? An SEO campaign should be a constant work in progress, if your content is to get you rankings, views and leads. Content insights are critical in learning how to properly optimize your conversion efforts.
Buzzsumo specializes in providing content analysis for SEO campaigns by finding the most shared content on a topic and the best influencers to promote it on the web.
When you enter a topic or query, the tool starts by running reports on specific topics to reveal data such as the total articles written and platform-wise shares per article. Thereafter, you can discover:
- Great content ideas for posts
- The networks on which the content is getting the best reception
- What type of content is generating the most shares and segment it by format and length
- The most popular headlines that are grabbing attention
- Which days of the week see the most shares
- The most influential curators and aggregators within any niche
- More insights by exporting raw data to spreadsheets
Such insights are key to the optimization process and provide direction to your content marketing strategy as your campaign progresses.
93% of online experiences begin with a search, Forrester Research found. This alone should be an indicator that SEO is here to stay.
Brands in the digital age should be sure to recognize its significance in marketing strategies for years to come and do their best to create, execute and constantly fine tune the approach that works best for them. There is no excuse for them not giving it their best.
It’s time to plan the year ahead, so how about starting with a look at the content marketing trends that will make 2017 easier and more effective?
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Author: Rohan Ayyar