When founders and site owners start focusing on SEO, they tend to zone in on one thing: getting ranked on page one of Google.
And while rankings are certainly an important metric to track, it’s critical to note that SEO serves a much greater purpose. At the end of the day, SEO is intended to bring more business to your site.
In this blog, we’ll cover six common goals that you can shoot for when plotting out your strategy. Consider which of these are most important, and how your SEO goals may change over time.
1. Increase traffic to your site
This is the most common reason why many entrepreneurs get their start with SEO. Higher search rankings, after all, have the power to attract thousands upon thousands of new site visitors without any regular payment.
For this reason, many site owners who simply want to bring the highest amount of traffic to their site tend to eye high-volume keywords. They like to chase after short-tail keywords like “ice cream” or “digital advertising” with a very broad reach.
We’d be remiss if we suggested that this was a good approach. Most startups and small site owners will have difficulty ranking for these broad terms, especially if they have a low domain authority (DA) score and low brand recognition.
It’s also worth noting that if you search these keywords, you’ll notice that the search engine results pages (SERPs) for them don’t have a clear focus. A google search for “ice cream” may show recipes for how to make your own ice cream, next to Black Pink’s and Selena Gomez’s’ music video for “Ice Cream.” Sure, some results will be for ice cream brands—but even then, you likely have many local results appearing at the top of the SERP.
So, if driving traffic is your main goal, you should balance search volume with other factors like organic competition and search intent. Find keywords that are both regularly searched (even if overall volume is lower than a term like “ice cream”) and are associated with your line of business or expertise.
Learn More: How to Successfully Do Keyword Research
2. Generate more organic leads
This may sound similar to the goal above, but there’s a subtle difference here: when you’re aiming for more leads from SEO, you’ll be looking to engage people who are likely to purchase from a brand like yours.
Search intent takes center stage, and it may be tempting to target more middle-of-the-funnel or bottom-of-the-funnel keywords. Think: “best digital advertising agency” versus “digital advertising.”
With that said, the buyer journey (or marketing funnel) is anything but linear these days—especially in B2B marketing. Your buyers are hopping from site to site, device to device. And though they may enter your site through an ad or blog advertising your service, they may take several more interactions (like an email, event, or another ad) before taking any real action.
Beyond that, you may have to appeal to various stakeholders who each have their own way (and timelines) for researching a new solution. Because of this, many content marketers and SEOs won’t single-handedly target commercial-intent keywords. They’ll try to appeal to various—if not all—stages of the user journey to try and nurture leads over time.
In other words, more of your time may be spent analyzing the user journey and your ideal customer profile (ICP). Though you may target keywords that touch various stages of the journey, you should have a clear idea of how you want your visitors to engage with your content and who you want to engage. Is it the hot-shot sales guy at a Fortune 500 company? Or the store owner of a small mom-and-pop shop?
The more specific you can get with your targeting, the more intentional you can be with your content. You can also optimize your calls-to-action (CTAs) on a given page, increasing your odds of converting an anonymous visitor into a known contact.
3. Improve your branding
If you’re one of the Nikes of the world, you have the benefit of people knowing your brand name. People will simply search “Nike” online to find your store or product.
However, if you’re an SMB or a newly launched company, you still have some brand-building to do. Fortunately, SEO can help to further your vision. In one sense, you can target more branded keywords (terms or phrases that include your brand name) early on to supplement your advertising and sales strategies.
Imagine: Bobby meets your team at a conference. He goes home after a few days, and while he’s sitting at his desk, he thinks about that kind person that he met at one of the conference sessions. He googles your company name and…will he see your site as the top result?
Or, let’s say Sally was shopping on Amazon one day and sees one of your products listed for sale there. She purchases your product from Amazon and loves it so much, so decides to look for your online store to search your full catalog. What will she find when she searches for your products?
While it seems like an obvious starting point for online brands, this part of SEO is easily overlooked. You’ll want to make sure that your site appears at the top of search results that are directly related to your brand and show the right information (think: strong title tags and meta descriptions that accurately represent who you are). If you have competitors bidding against you, either via paid or organic means, you’ll want to be especially vigilant about this.
Apart from ranking for branded keywords, your other content (those that target unbranded keywords) can also be a gateway for introducing new buyers to your brand. Make sure that any keywords you target with this respect are closely related to the products or services that you actually offer. Avoid accidentally misleading readers by speaking to a topic that you don’t actually support or focus on.
4. Provider better customer service
SEO can be just as helpful to your customers as it may be to strangers of your brand. For instance, it’s not uncommon for SaaS users to google questions that they have while using a platform. Sixty-seven percent of surveyed consumers say that they prefer self-service over speaking to a company representative.
Amazon’s open forum for marketplace sellers is a good example of this. Sellers are constantly asking questions about how to use Seller Central, the portal for managing all of your listings on Amazon. They’re also googling for Amazon best practices. In response, Amazon created this forum where sellers can interact with other sellers, or occasionally hear from Amazon itself. These self-sustaining pages rank highly on Google, giving Amazon more online real estate, plus opportunities to display pages that they have control over.
While your brand may not be anywhere near as large as Amazon, you could similarly get your Help Center articles ranking on Google. This is a particularly useful approach if you receive a lot of repeat questions from customers and already create articles to address them; why not kill two birds with one stone?
5. Go head-to-head with competitors
One of the best things about SEO is that it’s a cost-efficient way to outrank your competitors. Google nor its users necessarily care if you’re an older or larger company than another one in the SERPs. They care about relevance, accuracy, and trustworthiness. (This is why Google established its E-A-T criteria.)
Many davids have beat Goliaths with SEO. To achieve this for yourself, you should have a clear understanding of the greatest value you can offer—both knowledge and product-wise—to your online audience.
In addition to this, carve out time to perform a thorough SEO competitive analysis. Check out what your top business competitors rank for online. See if there’s an opportunity to nab traffic from them, or to rank for a keyword that they may not even be competing on yet.
Content provides an opportunity for you to shape the narrative around your brand, as well. For example, it could benefit you to publish a roundup of the top 10 service providers in your industry, to include your brand. Or, you could create comparative pieces (“You Brand vs. Your Competitor”) to capture where your brand excels. A word of caution: when writing pieces like this, you’ll want to be careful not to come off as completely self-absorbed. Be honest about any shortcomings and/or instances in which Brand A may be a better option than your brand.
6. Increase local visibility
If you own a brick-and-mortar store, you’ll want to make sure that your site shows up when someone searches for “[stores] near me.” Local SEO has its own set of best practices, which include things like creating a Google Business Profile to appear on Maps and local results.
You’ll simultaneously want to optimize your business information on online directories, plus produce location-based pages and content. The end goal is to make sure that your physical store is easy to find and tagged with the right store details. There should be no inconsistencies or missing data across your local listings.
What’s your SEO goal?
It goes without saying that you may be targeting a few of these at one time. There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how to define your strategy. At the same time, you’ll want to have clear guardrails—or a purpose to your SEO investment—to keep your team motivated.
These goals can further help you to pinpoint the right SEO KPIs to track. If you find that you need more hands or brainpower to achieve your SEO dreams, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Our SEO experts are available to provide guidance on the right SEO approach, alongside realistic ways to get your strategy off the ground.