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In March 2024, a massive leak of roughly 2,500 documents hit the internet. The topic? How the Google Search Algorithm works.

The unexpected event released thousands of details about ranking features and metrics (although it did not clarify how much it weighted each of these). Readers were treated to insights on how content is ranked, boosted, and demoted on Google’s industry-dominating search engine. In late May, Google confirmed that the leak is, indeed, real, which means the internet has been gifted with a unique glimpse into how Google ranks content — or at least how the company did as of March 2024.

Anyone looking to establish, re-establish, or maintain SEO should be sitting up and paying attention. That said, sifting through 2,500 pages is a big ask. We’ve scoured the reports and media emerging from the leak and pulled together five of the biggest takeaways you want to keep an eye on (along with a few bonus SEO factors to keep in mind) during your next content review.

1. Backlinks Really Are Important

Backlinks have always been a contentious subject, but many have maintained their aura as a critical component of a link building SEO strategy. And now we know, for sure, that they matter. The quality of each backlink is important here, but relevance is also important. Don’t just value a backlink because it comes from a reputable site, but also look for those links that come from sites relevant to your business.

Link diversity is another area to consider. Don’t pile up backlinks from the same source, even if it’s a good one. Look for a variety of relevant, high-quality third-party sources to provide a smorgasbord of off-site signaling that your site is both relevant and credible in your niche.

2. UX + SEO = Marketing Synergy

Clickstream data (that is, the process a user takes as they click to and around your website) is also important. There are indications that data from Chrome (the most popular browser by a long shot) may even be particularly important in making these ranking decisions. 

Click data can help you rank, which means user experience (UX) isn’t just helpful. It is an essential part of good SEO. 

User experience and search engine optimization chart

The takeaway here? Never do SEO without UX in mind. Take advantage of every consumer interaction to reinforce UX. Focus on keywords that are less competitive to show up higher in search results. Fill out thoughtful meta descriptions. Consider the user experience when someone clicks through a link. 

Also build up your brand across a variety of digital marketing channels — YouTube, social media, display ads, etc. Use these touch points to build positive brand recognition. That way, when a customer does see you show up in the SERPs, they’ll recognize you and click through with confidence.

3. Sitewide Topical Relevance Is Important

Topical authority has been recognized as an important part of Algorithm Google Search for a while now. Ever since the Helpful Content Update came out in 2023, the emphasis on E-E-A-T (experience, expertise, authority, trustworthiness) has gone through the roof. Now, we’re seeing that your topical relevance shouldn’t just be clear. It should be reflected across your web page.

Experience, expertise, authority, trustworthiness graph.

Google uses site embeddings to determine how on-topic each page is. It turns out that the search engine is also vectorizing entire sites and comparing pages to see how on-topic they are to a brand’s overarching topical authority. Post a page that isn’t in line with your site’s topical relevance, and it may have trouble ranking. Make sure you have a strong website content strategy in place.

User-generated content (UGC) is also important here. Commentary from consumers on your site can be a ranking factor based on your topical authority. One easy test could be turning off UGC on your site to see if it helps or hinders your search ranking. If positive, on-theme comments are common, it might help. If negative or tangential threads are a regular occurrence, they might be diluting your topical authority.

4. Build, Build, Build Your Brand

In the past, Google denied using a site-ranking metric, even if tools like Google Analytics seemed to indicate otherwise. Turns out they have one, and it’s called site authority. While it remains mysterious, especially as it relates to downstream website scoring, we know it exists, which means the quality of your brand’s online presence is a really important ranking factor.

Make sure every time you invest in digital marketing, you’re building your brand. If you’re creating a piece of online content, procure the byline of a reputable author or subject matter expert. If you’re trying to get backlinks, make sure they’re clean, high-quality, and relevant. Always keep your content helpful and build that positive consumer sentiment.

5. Indexing Matters

Google’s core indexing system, called Alexandria, is organized into tiers using its SegIndexer. The most important, consistently updated content is stored in a flash memory tier. Less important content is put on solid-state drives for quick and easy access when needed. Poor quality or irregularly updated documents go on TeraGoogle, a secondary, long-term indexing system composed of standard hard drives.

What does this mean for your content? Make sure you’re indexing all of your pages. (If they don’t automatically rank, you can manually submit them using Google Search Console.) Then, review, optimize, and delete content as needed.

Google search console for google search algorithm

Gleaning Value From the Google Algorithm Leak

It’s been a rough year for a lot of SEOs as they’ve navigated more than one algorithm update and the arrival of AI Overview. The Google Algorithm leak was a godsend for many looking for a way to react and improve their chances of surviving and, eventually, thriving again after the Google Update.

There are many other takeaways besides these five, too. For instance, the leaked documents indicate that:

The biggest takeaway of them all? Google isn’t a complete black box. SEOs have cracked many of the codes already, and this recent leak will help us all do even better in the future. 

If you’ve been struggling in the wake of the Google algorithm update in the past months, don’t give up hope. Use the tips above to retool your content and SEO strategies. If you find you need a helping hand along the way, reach out for a free strategy session. Together, we can help you right the ship and get your site back in the good graces of Google’s ever-intimidating algorithm.

Search engines are seeing some of the biggest impacts of the AI revolution. Generative AI has breathed new life into smaller platforms like Bing. OpenAI is working on its own search engine. 

And Google? The biggest search engine of them all has upended the marketing industry yet again by introducing AI at scale in the form of AI Overviews (AIO). 

Let’s take a look at these new generative AI snippets at the top of many SERPs, why they’re important, and what you can do to make the most of them in your marketing strategy.

What are AI Overviews?

AI Overviews are Google’s official term for what it previously referred to as Search Generative Experience (SGE). After developing the AI search experience in its Search Labs since early 2023, Google rolled out SGE results to the public on May 14, 2024, and relabeled them as AI Overviews.

The new experience adds an AI-generated response to the top of the Google SERP. This takes several third-party search results and creates an amalgamated response that best answers a user’s query.

Google AI overview

Why Prioritize AI Overview?

AI Overview is a major turning point for online marketing. It takes a front-and-center position in the primary vehicle that drives so much activity across the internet. This is especially true for top-of-funnel (TOF) queries.

AI Overview can provide accurate, informative, and tailored results for basic questions. If someone needs to know a preliminary concept, such as “What is SEO” or “What does SaaS mean?” They can get a quick answer, and, in many cases, their search ends right there at the top of the SERP.

Fortunately, marketers can get in on the action right in the AIO. Google displays the primary sources that it uses to formulate an AI response in the form of “cards” that sit just under the initial response. In the search engine’s own words


“AI Overviews show links to resources that support the information in the snapshot, and explore the topic further. This allows people to dig deeper and discover a diverse range of content from publishers, creators, retailers, businesses, and more, and use the information they find to advance their tasks.”

We’re still learning how these links are selected. What we do know is that a large majority of carded AIO links were not top-ranking content. This indicates that AI Overviews operate with a different set of ranking factors from the traditional Google algorithm and anyone can show up in these snippets.

When you make it into an AIO result, it can lead to clickthroughs to your site. Even if that isn’t the case, it helps with brand recognition, which can build trust for later inquiries that move further down the sales funnel.

How to Make the Most of Google AI Overview

It’s easy to understand the game-changing nature of Google’s AI Overview. The question is: 

How do you get your content and links featured in AI Overview snippets? 

Google reports that its system automatically decides who ranks. It also says creators don’t need to do anything different and should just continue with business as usual. 

However, we’ve done some extra digging, and we think SEOs and marketers hoping to rank in AIO results can maximize their chances with a few basic steps.

1. Understand Where You Stand

Make sure you invest in AIO with a content plan in place. What are the keywords you’re targeting? Does AI show up for related queries? If so, what content is it pulling from? Compare this to the content you already have ranking. Make sure this is part of a holistic marketing plan that takes everything from social media to paid campaigns into account, too.

2. Optimize and Delete

As you review your content, consider what is and isn’t working. What pieces could use optimization to help them move up the SERPS toward that top AIO carded position? Are some pieces cannibalizing one another or failing to perform, in general? In that case, consider deleting them entirely.

3. Create Helpful Content

Never underestimate user intent. As you review your content, don’t just look at the stats. Consider how each piece is genuinely helping its target audience. Google’s Helpful Content update in 2023 put an added emphasis on content user value. Don’t sacrifice value for quantity. Make sure every piece you have ranking is clear and direct and leaves a searcher with a positive user experience.

4. Deliver Perspectives

In the past, 101 content has been streamlined and generic. Now, AIO is pulling on a growing number of perspectives and viewpoints to round out basic TOF information. In fact, user-generated content (UGC) is having a moment. Google is paying Reddit tens of millions of dollars per year to access its user data, which represents an infinite number of personal perspectives and insights. Add yours to the mix. If you have something unique to say, speak up. It will give your content a better chance to cut through the white noise.

5. Publish Original Data

Regurgitating existing information is no longer helpful. You might be able to present a basic concept better than the next guy, but you can’t outperform the tailored responses of an generative AI answer. Instead, look for ways to release your own owned data. Use research, polls, stats, and any other first-party data sources to help you stand out. This can go beyond AIO and even help you land helpful backlinks and meaningful digital PR.

6. Hone in on Your Specialty

What do you want to be known for as a company? Try to clarify and streamline this focus and then hone in on that message. Only publish content in the topical areas you want to rank for. Pushing into those niche messages will help Google recognize you as an industry leader worthy of AIO contribution.

7. Secure Backlinks

Backlinks have been the bread and butter of SEO activity for years — and they remain important in the age of AI Overviews. In fact, in light of the recent Google documentation leak, we now backlinks and link building are important ranking factors. This makes sense, as it indicates that a website is a trusted authority and resource. Keep investing in a backlinking strategy. These will continue to be important for a long time to come.

8. Analyze and Optimize

You saw this one coming, right? It’s always important to track and analyze your AI Overview initiatives over time. Watch AIO as it evolves and look at your marketing outcomes. Even if you’re doing well, consider how you can do better. Regular iteration and optimization are key to ongoing success.

Thriving in the Age of AIO

AI Overview is here and it is only going to become more embedded in the Google search experience. Are you taking advantage of it yet? Use the tips above to set the stage for AIO success — and remember to stay holistic in your approach. 

If you need help differentiating and optimizing your growth marketing goals, reach out for a free strategy session. Our team can help you stay up-to-date and optimized, even in a digital marketplace that is in such a constant state of evolution.

YMYL, standing for “Your Money Your Life,” is a key aspect of SEO for those industries that fall in the space. The acronym references online content that has an important, real-world impact on its users.

As the term implies, the most obvious YMYL category would either be health and finance. However, the categorization can also apply to things like legal advice, news and politics, parenting and child development, personal safety, real estate, and even education and employment.

If you’re creating YMYL content, it’s important to be thoughtful about every piece you develop. Google search uses YMYL SEO guidelines as part of its standard for how it ranks content quality to ensure that these important pages never sacrifice accuracy for SEO.

This makes it hard for YMYL websites, but if you have genuine, high-value YMYL content, you can (and should) ensure that Google Search can find it and present it to your target audience. Below are seven tips to help you address YMYL SEO optimization in an honest, transparent, and effective manner for your content marketing.

1. Always Be Helpful

YMYL content is inherently helpful. When addressing something important like mental health or financial welfare, you should always seek to provide genuine value to your readers. Be helpful to humans first and optimized for search engines second.

The good news here is that Google’s Helpful Content Update has raised the bar for all content across the internet. Everything needs to be helpful now, and the more value you offer your readers, the higher you’re likely to rank in the SERPs.

2. Use Quality Links to Enhance Value

Link building is a common SEO strategy. Backlinks come from third-party sites. Internal links interconnect your own owned content. External links point outward from your site to third-party resources. That last option is a particularly effective way to enhance YMYL SEO.

As you source external links, look for high-authority websites with quality information. Often, sites with .edu or .gov URLs are considered high quality. Major news sites like Forbes and Deadline or health sites like Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic are also typically safe. By using quality links, you connect your YMYL site to reputable sources capable of furthering the conversation. This sends the signal that you’re invested in creating honest and transparent solutions for those with real-world problems.

3. Follow E-E-A-T Standards

E-E-A-T (often simplified to EEAT) is a set of Google content quality standards that stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. These are all traits that you want to exhibit in all content—but especially YMYL resources.

YMYL topics naturally address important concerns. As such, you want to ensure that you are bringing an appropriate degree of quality that can pass the E-E-A-T filter. Expertise and experience are particularly important here, as you want to speak from a position of knowledge and understanding as you help people answer important questions in their lives. The result is better engagement, which can positively impact your SEO.

4. Emphasize Contributors

Subject matter experts (SMEs) are important contributors to YMYL content. This type of content creator has specific knowledge and experience in the areas of business, health, and any other YMYL subjects or categories. 

Example of a strong SME bio for YMYL SEO

As far as SEO is concerned, you want to publicize and emphasize SME contributions. Whenever possible, have an article bylined by a credentialed professional. If you can’t do that, at least have it reviewed by a qualified SME and then indicate that in the piece. Once again, this sends the message that you’re doing your YMYL homework and ensuring your content is genuinely helpful.

5. Get Rid of Low-Quality Content

Low-quality content is never helpful for any optimization. With YMYL content, in particular, it can be an search engine optimization killer. In the past, Google has stated (via Forbes), “We have very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages because low-quality YMYL pages could potentially negatively impact a person’s happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.” 

The use of YMYL pages is important enough to justify these stringent standards. As such, it’s wise to proactively review and either optimize or eliminate your low-quality content. Consider performing a content audit every 6 or so months to prioritize high-quality content.

6. Improve Your Brand’s Reputation

A strong brand is a key aspect of the ongoing health of YMYL content. If you can support each piece with a recognizable brand name, image, and reputation, that can develop trust with both consumers and search engines.

With this in mind, consider investing in digital PR to get positive press alongside your SEO efforts. These two marketing tactics can have a synergistic effect when used together and provide digital marketing momentum for your YMYL content.

7. Utilize Social Media, Too

Along with digital PR, use social media marketing to enhance your brand reputation surrounding your YMYL content. Engage with consumers, stoke conversations, help answer questions, and generally spread brand awareness through socials.

By incorporating consistent social media content into your marketing activity, you can build further momentum for your brand. As is the case with digital PR, this can translate to greater SEO impact, even for something as sensitive as YMYL content.

Building SEO Momentum for YMYL SEO

YMYL topics thrive on quality content. They also are notorious for their strict standards and resistance to SEO-focused promotional activity. The better the content, the more likely quality raters will appreciate and reward the site.

However, focusing on SEO tactics that go hand-in-hand with quality content creation can enhance your YMYL SEO while also serving your target audience. If you’re struggling to identify and optimize your YMYL content, our team of content strategy experts at Relevance can help!

As you look for ways to optimize your YMYL pages, remember the golden rule: always put people first and search engines second. If you can do that, the search engine results will speak for themselves.

Google’s Helpful Content Update recently pushed the Google updating cycle back into the spotlight. However, the reality is search engine updates are part of an SEO’s life. Every year, multiple core updates take place across the Google ecosystem. 

The impact of a Google algorithm update is difficult to predict. Some can have detrimental effects on a site, while others can harmlessly pass you by.

If you were hit by a recent Google Core Update (or you’re unsure if you were), you want to identify the potential issue and, if there is one, fix the problem. Even if you haven’t had a catastrophic hit, a slight dip in traffic or clicks can be the perfect motivation to re-evaluate your on-site SEO practices and ensure you’re setting yourself up to withstand future updates.

Let’s see if a core algorithm update negatively impacted you. Then, we’ll consider steps you can take to restore life to your owned digital media and regain your presence in Google search.

Have You Been Hit by a Google Algorithm Update?

The first thing you want to identify is that a Google update actually impacted you. Here are three steps to take:

Check in on Google Search Console

GSC is the search results side of the equation. It gives you insights into things like average search position, impressions, and click-through rates. 

Check your site’s GSC data on and around the date when the last update rolled out. If you see a drop in impressions, clicks, or search result positioning at that time, it may correlate with an update. 

In that case, review your core web vitals and make sure your site is performing well. In addition, look for any manual actions that may be on your account. These occur when a human reviewer flags a site for spam-like behavior. When that happens, read the entire manual action description and thoroughly update the marked pages on your site to address the issue.

GSC core web vitals

Look at Google Analytics

Once you’ve reviewed GSC, hop over to Google Analytics. This is where you can find data related to user behavior, such as demographics, page views, and bounce rates.

Review the same period of time on and around the latest update and compare it to a period of time prior to the update. Did you lose organic traffic during that time? Did any other healthy metrics dip? If this aligns with a decrease in GSC, chances are an update had something to do with the downturn.

Identify the Breadth of the Impact

The last step in identifying the issue is figuring out if the SEO damage is sitewide or if it is contained to a select number of pages. Look at both GSC and GA data to see if the decrease in search engine-related activity is occurring on a specific page, a group of pages, or across your entire site.

Start with page-level data in Google Analytics. As you identify pages that are lower, conduct coordinating queries in GSC to see if you lost clicks. Compare these searches to alternative dates that are reasonably removed from an algorithm update.

Once you’ve confirmed that you were hit by an algorithm update and you know the parts of your site that need help, it’s time to take action.

Steps to Take After a Bad Algorithm Update

Below are eight different steps you can take to help your site bounce back after a negative experience with an algorithm update. 

1. Research the Update

Make sure you understand what Google is trying to improve before you make adjustments. Research what changes took place in the update that hurt your site. You can usually find this kind of information in unbiased industry publications like Search Engine Journal or Search Engine Land shortly after an update goes live. 

2. Revisit Metrics

Once you know the target areas of the update, review your core web vital metrics again. Is your LCP (loading performance) under 2.5 seconds? Is your site’s mobile responsiveness smooth? There are several tools you can use to conduct an audit of your site when looking for these kinds of website performance shortcomings like SEMRush or Ahrefs. Or, it may be time to bring in an SEO agency to assist.

3. Analyze Hit Pages

If an algorithm update hits certain areas of your site, review the page experience for those trouble spots. Do they provide helpful content that moves a conversation forward? Are they written for the user first? Do they cover important keywords for your brand? If so, can you re-optimize technical SEO for those pages for better SEO? Can you clean up and improve the content to fall in line with the update?

4. Review Rankings

Where was your site enjoying strong SERP positioning before the update? Have you slid down the search rankings in areas that are important to generating quality organic traffic for your site? If so, consider if the correlating content addresses the search query it is ranking for. Can you tweak it to better meet search intent? Can you update and enhance the content to be more relevant?

5. Offer Helpful Content

If you want to attract your target audience and nurture leads, don’t simply create fluffy promotional content that works the system. As you review your content, remember to prioritize users first and search engines second. Along with answering basic search intent, make sure you’re offering quality content with unique value, genuine insights, and actionable takeaways for your readers. Unoriginal content or low-quality content won't help you succeed in the current Google ecosystem.

6. Reassess Linking

Links are the network of the internet. Backlinks, in particular, are important, as they provide third-party validation that your site is important and relevant. If you’re low on quality backlinks, invest in a good linking strategy that incorporates both SEO-focused backlinks and digital PR to beef them up through mentions, bylines, and similar backlinking strategies.

7. Utilize UX

User experience can make or break a website. If a core update dings your site on its UX, take steps to improve it—for the sake of your target audience as well as your search rankings. Interlink content thoughtfully. Make navigation easy. Do everything you can to facilitate a positive online experience.

8. Update Your Content Marketing

Finally, step back and consider your site from a 10,000-foot view. Is your content focused on important themes that are relevant to the industry you’re in? Were you giving your content strategy a healthy amount of attention and investment before? If not, re-evaluate and improve your content workflow to ensure your content is satisfying both Google updates and website user needs moving forward.

Bouncing Back (and Staying Ahead) of Algorithm Updates

If your site is already struggling, use the list of recommendations above to get back on track. Once things are moving in the right direction again, take steps to keep your content helpful, high-quality, and optimized at all times. 

If you need help turning your digital marketing around or you want to reinforce your site against future updates but aren’t sure what steps to take, reach out for a free strategy session. Together, we can develop a plan to keep your company healthy and growing, no matter what surprises Google sends your way.

The world of SEO went through a lot of changes in 2023. Google rolled out its Helpful Content Update (HCU) and overhauled key elements of its search engine guidelines, such as its E-E-A-T criteria. AI was also a major factor as cheap, low-quality content became much more accessible.

SEO underwent significant changes. But it didn’t become irrelevant. On the contrary, it remains a powerful promotional tool for small businesses, many of which are already dependent on search engines for steady traffic and visibility.

As the business world adapts to the new changes, it’s important for smaller enterprises to continue investing in the optimization of online content for search engines. With that in mind, here is a breakdown of small business SEO, what it looks like a quarter into the 21st century, and why it remains a critical part of a company’s online presence.

What Is SEO for Small Business?

Search engine optimization in the context of a small business refers to the attempt to generate organic traffic online using Google Search and other search engines. This comes through a variety of strategies (see below), and it can be an effective way to boost visibility online.

SEO offers multiple benefits for a smaller business. For example, small business SEO is:

All of these benefits are technically possible. However, a small business team must invest in the correct SEO strategy if it wants to turn potential into reality. 

Elements of Small Business SEO to Consider

If a small business leader wants to take advantage of the benefits of SEO, they must consider the right things to integrate into their small business SEO strategies. Here are a few common SEO elements that are particularly relevant for smaller businesses:

If you’re a small business, this is your SEO toolkit. Use these elements to build a strategy that can propel your company into local search engine results.

How Does SEO Differ for Small Businesses vs Big Businesses

It’s tempting to think of SEO as a big business activity. Larger companies have the resources to pour into both onsite and offsite optimization. This ensures that they appear at the top of SERPs and attract the most organic traffic from competitive keywords.

While it’s true that big businesses heavily invest in SEO, though, it is also a powerful small business approach to promotion. As we’ve already seen, some elements of small business SEO, like technical SEO and linking, are similar to any SEO strategy. Others, like owning your Google Business Profile, using local terminology, and selecting long-tail keywords, are uniquely effective for small business SEO success.

There are other ways that SEO for small businesses stands out, too. For instance, it tends to be more targeted. Take keywords as an example. Specific long-tail local keywords are particularly relevant for smaller businesses seeking to attract consumers with niche problems they can solve.

Small business SEO is also harder to get started. This isn’t a surprise, as fewer resources make gaining that initial SEO momentum challenging. On top of that, once a small business gets its SEO going (usually, it takes a few months to see results), they are more agile and can tweak their approach easier than a big business.

What Are SEO Tips for Small Businesses?

Despite the benefits SEO offers to small businesses, over half of SMBs (small and medium businesses) didn’t have an SEO strategy in place as recently as 2022. Now, with HCU and other updates in effect, having a purpose behind your SEO is more important than ever before. 

That said, here are 11 tips small business owners and marketing teams can use to jumpstart their SEO in 2024 and beyond.

Local SEO isn’t a formula. It’s an art form. Use the tips above to create a unique SEO strategy for your small business to attract local customers. 

Small Business SEO: A Path to Online Prosperity

Small businesses must consider multiple ways to promote their businesses. While SEO isn’t everything, it should certainly be part of the mix.

Use the tactics and concepts listed above to inform your SEO strategy and ensure that your small business is getting the most out of this free, powerful, and effective form of local business promotion. And if you’re struggling to do it yourself, it may mean you need to seek out an SEO agency to lay the groundwork and build an effective strategy.

A well-rounded marketing strategy requires a lot of moving parts, each of which must work cohesively and contribute to the success of the whole. 

Digital PR enhances your credibility as a brand. Solid human-focused content reinforces your authority in the eyes of consumers. Social media personalizes your brand.

But what about SEO marketing? How does search engine optimization improve your marketing efforts? 

Let’s break it down.

What Is the Goal of SEO?

SEO is the process of optimizing your branded content online. This includes website pages, sales pages, guest posts, and most additional forms of digital marketing content. SEO cleans up this content so that it shows up in search engine results. There are multiple forms of SEO, including:

It’s important to understand the differences and utilize the various forms of SEO as part of a larger marketing strategy. When done correctly, this can unlock a variety of benefits, including:

SEO also helps cultivate a sense of trust as consumers see your quality content appear in targeted search results over and over again.

How Does SEO Fit Into Marketing?

SEO is a search engine-centric activity. A quality SEO strategy signals to search engines like Google Search what kind of information your content contains. This allows these search tools to answer search queries by matching your content to users with related search intent.  

As an example, consider a plumber that creates a basic article on unclogging a drain. They use SEO best practices, such as including a target keyword phrase like “unclogging a drain” or “how to unclog a drain pipe.” 

“When a user asks Google “how to unclog a drain,” the search engine can easily find and use the plumber’s resource as a suggested answer on its SERPs. If clicked on by the user, the piece of SEO-optimized content generates organic traffic to the website.

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in the SEO Basket

SEO can feel like a magic trick. Given enough time (SEO often takes at least six months or more to really kick in), a well-optimized piece of content can generate a steady flow of organic traffic to a website for a very long time.

This can make it tempting to pour all of your resources into SEO content. But you have to resist that temptation.

Good SEO requires balance. SEO success should always come as part of a larger growth marketing plan

For instance, when investing in on-page and technical SEO, you also want to make sure you’re creating solid content that benefits your target audience. This means it should always prioritize the reader and only optimize for search engines after reader value has been satisfied.

Fortunately, there are times when you can overlap SEO and other growth marketing efforts at the same time. Digital PR often includes drafting guest posts on other websites and industry publications. Along with building brand credibility, this is a great way to invest in link building and generate value through off-page SEO. 

The important thing is to keep each SEO effort strong and balanced with other digital marketing initiatives. This will give you the greatest synergy and the best results over time.

Using Good SEO to Boost Your Brand

SEO is a powerful marketing tool. However, it isn’t the kind of investment you can make lightly. 

On the contrary, SEO best practices are constantly in a state of flux as Google and other search engines tweak their algorithms and change how they search for quality content. This requires ongoing research.

In addition, properly integrating SEO into existing marketing is tricky. It requires the ability to maximize on and off-page SEO without sacrificing the impact of other things, like your social media marketing or digital PR.

This is where working with an SEO company can be a game changer. An SEO agency can bring experience and bleeding-edge SEO knowledge to the table along with the tools to track and confirm that they are delivering results.

If your brand is coming up short in the SEO department, consider working with an SEO company. The targeted investment in optimizing your content can infuse your marketing efforts with a synergy that will continue to deliver results far into the future.

SEO is a great way to help a brand grow. Things like link-building and technical SEO are effective ways to enhance a brand’s visibility online. 

One of the most common tools associated with search engine optimization is keywords. If you’ve invested in SEO, chances are, you’ve done your homework when it comes to keyword research. 

However, as you’ve consulted Google Keyword Planner, considered your target audience’s organic keywords, and selected the best options for your brand, have you ever added competitive analysis to the mix?

Competitor keyword analysis is a great way to give you an edge over the competition and help you establish yourself as a leader in your industry. Here’s how to identify and make the most of competitor keywords.

Identify Your Top Competitors

It’s difficult to conduct competitor keyword research if you don’t know who your competitors are. You may already have a vague idea of the brands that overlap with and compete for your target audience.

If you want to invest in serious competitive keyword research, though, you need to be more specific. Take a closer look at the variety of companies within your industry 

Yes, it’s tempting to focus on the big dogs, but think twice before you put all of your energy there. Bigger companies will have more resources to fight over a specific keyword, which can be difficult to compete with. 

In addition, smaller and medium-sized companies that are thriving likely have found a different degree of success with their SEO. What target keyword is helping them survive and thrive? 

Identify several different companies that are doing their best. As you research, this will give you a larger industry snapshot of what keywords are trending with consumers. This will help you create your competitor keyword research strategy.

Find the Common Keywords

After you find competitor companies, you want to find the a relevant keyword that will allow you to compete within the SEO arena. That means it’s time to uncover the common keywords you’re fighting over. There are multiple keyword analysis tools that can help with this.

BuzzSumo, Ahrefs, and Semrush are just a few popular options. Each SEO tool comes with its own approach for how to find competitor keywords. Semrush, for example, offers an Organic Research Competitors report that combines identifying competitors and the keywords you battle over.

Find a keyword research tool that you’re comfortable with and begin running searches for common keywords. Once you collect data, it’s time to begin analyzing and turning it into an actionable SEO strategy.

Review Competitor Keyword Data in a Few Different Ways

Once you have collected your competitor keyword data, you have to interpret it. There are a few ways to do this to give you a well-rounded sense of how you stack up against the competition, SEO-wise:

By taking the time to conduct a thorough competitive keyword analysis and cross-examination of keyword data, you set the stage to get the most out of your competitor research.

Dig Deeper Than Single Keywords

Once you’ve identified a keyword opportunity, it’s time to dig even deeper. Look beyond single keyword ideas and phrases to consider the larger SEO elements at play.

As you identify important keywords, research long-tail iterations of those related keywords that have enough search volume to be worth pursuing. For example, if a coffee shop was investing in a local SEO keyword like “coffee shop Portland,” they might also choose to incorporate the long-tail keyword “ethically sourced coffee shop in Portland.”

You should also look for topics and themes that stand out. If a competitor is focused on a specific niche product or service that doesn’t relate to your company, you may be able to differentiate your keywords to focus on your unique service lines. 

Remember to look at your keywords, long-tail keywords, topics, and themes on a cluster level, too. Just because a competitor ranks for a good keyword doesn’t mean they’ve capitalized on it. If they don’t rank for similar or sub-keywords based on a high-ranking keyword, you may be able to take some of their search traffic through a quality content marketing strategy that establishes your brand as the true authority in that area.

Using Competitor Keyword Research to Up Your SEO Game

Whenever you’re pulling together an SEO strategy, remember to keep competitor analysis in the mix. An SEO agency can help you keep tabs on these metrics. By factoring in competitor keywords, you can expect to improve your SEO efforts.

By clarifying the search terms that your competitors are prioritizing along with normal audience and industry-related keyword research, you can ensure that all of the on-page content, social posts, and Google Ads you create are optimized and tailored to put your brand in the SEO spotlight.

SEO is a powerful marketing tool. Optimizing your content for search engines may be a concept that is always evolving, but it remains a critical part of digital marketing success all the same. 

An effective SEO strategy can reinforce your online visibility and increase your organic traffic. It can amp up your conversion rates and ensure that your content is ranking high on the SERPs for keywords related to your business. 

The question is, how do you know your SEO work is paying off? Here is how to measure the ROI of SEO.

1. Compartmentalize Your SEO Efforts

The first thing to consider when measuring SEO ROI is how to compartmentalize each SEO campaign you create. Establishing these boundaries helps you measure the effect of specific SEO initiatives. 

For instance, consider a project where you invest $20,000 in creating a pillar page and its accompanying sub-pages and additional pillar content. That should be a single SEO campaign that stands on its own. 

This makes it easier to track the effects of that campaign (more on tracking metrics in the next section). It also simplifies the task of comparing the impact of each individual campaign against others like it.

2. Measure the Right Metrics

Next up, consider what SEO strategy metrics you can measure. There are several key metrics you can consider here:

Setting up the ability to track each of these metrics is critical to creating a clearer picture of your SEO ROI.

3. Consider the Monetary Value of Each Metric

Once you have your metrics, you want to get a rough idea of what they are worth. In some cases, this is difficult to pin down. 

For instance, ranking for a keyword that is relevant to your brand helps with important things like traffic, visibility, and credibility. However, it’s difficult to put a specific monetary value on ranking for a keyword.

A rise in organic traffic is valuable, as well. But conversions are the easiest ways to put a real dollar figure on your ROI. 

For instance, if you have a 5% lead conversion rate (i.e., the number of leads that convert into customers) and your customer lifetime value (LTV) is $10,000 per person, you can calculate the monetary value of each conversion thusly:

LTV x lead conversion rate = $10,000 x .05 = $500

As a quick note, Google also offers the ability to track Assisted Conversions. These take place when SEO and an organic search result take part in a conversion without being the only interaction a consumer has with a brand before making a purchase. If you have this data set up, it’s wise to factor it into your conversion rate value, as well.

Once you have a value per conversion, you’re ready to measure your SEO efforts to ensure a positive ROI.

4. Calculate an Estimate of Your ROI

You can measure an estimated value of your SEO by using an ROI for SEO formula. This is a basic mathematical exercise that looks like this:

SEO ROI = (Conversion Value - Cost of SEO Investment) / Cost of SEO Investment 

In other words, start with your value per conversion times the number of conversions you’ve achieved (i.e., Conversion Value) in association with a particular SEO campaign. From there, subtract the cost of that SEO, and then divide the total by that same cost again.

In the above example, say you generate 50 conversions during an SEO campaign that costs $5,000. The Conversion Value would be 50 x $500 = $25,000, and the final ROI calculation would be:

SEO ROI = ($25,000 - $5,000) / $5,000 = 4

That means for every dollar you spent on SEO, you made four dollars in ROI. Keep in mind the compounding effects of your SEO efforts, though. And once you make it on the race track and are ranking well, you’ll continue to benefit from your efforts and the ROI can really begin to snowball. 

Why Is It Important to Measure the ROI of SEO?

As with most things in business, understanding the return on investment for your SEO matters. Search engine optimization is a powerful business tool — but that doesn’t mean it’s a magic bullet.

On the contrary, it’s perfectly possible to pour significant time and resources into an SEO strategy and see little-to-no impact. Even worse, you can have no idea whatsoever if your SEO is working.

Measuring how your SEO marketing is influencing your revenue gives you a factual confirmation of whether or not it is helping your marketing efforts.

It may not be a direct dollar-for-dollar calculation, like comparing a salesman’s salary to the amount of revenue they generate. Nevertheless, getting at least an approximate idea of how well your SEO is working to generate revenue for your brand helps you do two things. 

First, you can identify weak points and improve your SEO’s overall effect. Second, you can justify the SEO investment and help guide how much you should budget toward search engine optimization in the future.

Investing in Effective SEO

Content marketing is a multi-faceted activity that should always focus on your target audience above all else. With that said, it’s also important to prioritize SEO as you craft content. 

By cultivating SEO with a high ROI, you improve the quality of your content in the eyes of search engines. Hire an SEO agency if you need an expert's opinion. All of these factors can help boost organic traffic and can keep a steady flow of consumers visiting your site for the long term.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a critical part of an online presence. It gives you visibility in search engines, which is a critical part of a comprehensive growth marketing strategy. 

While it’s possible to engage in keyword research and work on linking all on your own, by and large, SEO can be a complicated activity. The worst part? When an SEO strategy isn’t done well, it can be ineffective and, at times, even harmful to your brand.

One simple solution is to work with a third-party SEO company. The question is, when is the right time to do so? Here is a quick rundown of what you want to have in place (both necessarily and ideally) before you start shopping for SEO agencies. 

The Foundational Stuff

If you want a third-party partner to help with your SEO campaigns, you ideally have two key digital marketing elements in place before you contact anyone.

A Working Website

The first and most obvious item on the SEO expert checklist is a website. Without a website, there’s nothing to optimize.

You can’t just have a website in development, either. You really should have a live, functioning online presence for your brand. A quality website design gives the agency data to analyze about what’s working and what isn’t for your site. Without that, it’s all a guessing game.

Google’s SEO Analytics Tools

Along with publishing a website, you need to get your site data up and running. Once your site is live, get Google Analytics plugged in and ready to go.

Along with the basic data that Analytics provides, you also want to set up Google Search Console. This gives you deeper insights into your organic traffic data right in Google Analytics’s dashboard.

The Ideal Stuff

A website and Google’s SEO tools are critical first steps. However, if you bring an SEO consultant in with just those two things set up, you’ll still have to spend a lot of time getting everything else set up. You can shorten this process by also getting the following elements in place.

Goals in Google Analytics

Setting up Analytics is helpful. But you can go a step further. Creating goals within the program helps you track conversions and understand what is working.

Don’t worry about jumping the gun with these. These goals are easy to edit and share with a third-party agency in the future. However, getting them set up proactively helps you clarify what you’re trying to accomplish with your SEO.

The Right Personnel to Reinforce SEO Initiatives

Working with an SEO partner may take a lot of the workload off of your plate. But your team still needs to hold up their end of the process. With that in mind, make sure that you have the right people to do so before onboarding an agency.

For example, you want someone in place to implement technical website optimizations on your end. It’s also a good idea to have someone who can make onsite content changes. 

This could be the same person or two people depending on your needs. You could set up a budget to outsource these responsibilities, as well. Just make sure you’re giving them some thought ahead of time so your SEO agency partner can be as effective as possible.

A Content Library (Blog)

A good SEO partner can help you start from zero content-wise, but you’ll likely get more out of the relationship if you have started the process of building up content. At the very least make sure you have a holding-place for the blog on your website.

Again, you have options here. You can launch a blog with in-house talent. You can also set aside the budget to bring on a freelancer or even develop your content plan and then see if the SEO team you choose can help you create the most important content.

It works well if you have in-house options to create that brand-focused content while the SEO agency can help with the SEO-focused content, which tends to be more educational and general, just like the SERPs like.

A Handful of Starter Keywords

Finally, try to pull together a list of a few words to help guide your initial SEO efforts. This doesn’t have to be comprehensive, but it can provide a starting point for the SEO agency that you work with.

Consider words that past customers have used to search for your services. You can also gather a list of known competitors. A good SEO company will do most of this work themselves, but having a basic list ready speeds up the process and gives the agency a starting point.

A Brief Word on Mindsets and Perspectives in SEO

The list above is a practical approach to prepping for an SEO partner. There’s another side to that coin, too: your mindset and perspective. Along with setting the stage logistically, here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that you’re setting the right expectations internally:

If you set the right expectations, it’s much easier to have a healthy and profitable relationship with your SEO partner.

Setting the Stage for SEO Success

SEO specialists can work wonders for a brand. But they can't meet your SEO needs with nothing.

 If you want a partnership to accomplish your SEO goals, you need to invest in the right things beforehand. That way, you can rest in the fact that you’ve optimized everything and have given your SEO marketing the best chance for success.

SEO and inbound marketing strategy are two common aspects of digital marketing. But did you know each marketing method is closely connected?

Let’s break down the intimate relationship between search engine optimization (SEO) and inbound marketing, what they can do for your brand, and what steps you can take to get the most out of these powerful marketing concepts.

What Is an Inbound Marketing Strategy?

Inbound marketing is a popular term in the modern marketing world. Unlike traditional marketing, the concept focuses on creating value for customers through your marketing activities. You can do this in a variety of ways by writing inbound marketing content such as a blog post, infographic, video, news article, and social media posts. 

In contrast, outbound marketing emphasizes things like television ads, billboards, and cold calls. These marketing efforts are interruptive in nature and don’t provide value.

Inbound marketing focuses on fostering engagement through targeted content. When done well, inbound marketing seamlessly presents itself to a potential customer. Quality content will make itself heard, seen, or otherwise consumed as a part of a positive experience consumers opt into.

Inbound marketing is a long-term strategy, which makes it an interesting (and important) part of growth marketing in particular. With growth marketing, the emphasis isn’t on building a company quickly. Avoid tactics such as email marketing or influencer marketing. That’s called growth hacking, and it can lead to fast results that don’t last.

Growth marketing focuses on creating customer-focused growth that steadily builds over time. In that sense, inbound marketing is a major part of the “long game” that growth marketers have in mind as they set up frameworks and build out strategies.

What Is SEO and Why Is It Important for Inbound Marketing?

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” This is the process by which marketers use tools like keywords, hyperlinks, and technical configurations to optimize your online content. When done well, SEO helps your relevant content organically show up higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). This means more people see it, click on it, and visit your website.

SEO is an integral part of any inbound marketing strategy. It draws the ideal customer to your content when looking for answers to related search queries. When that content is well-designed, it answers their initial questions. It also encourages the reader to remember the brand that provided helpful, thoughtful content.

Good SEO attracts the attention of a prospect and establishes that you are a useful resource and can offer them value. At that point, it passes the torch to inbound marketing. This uses tools like gated content, samples, demos, and newsletters to encourage visitors to take the next step. From there, they enter your sales funnel, moving from awareness to consideration and eventually decision-making.

To put it another way, inbound marketing and SEO serve two separate but essential and complementary functions. SEO brings traffic to your content. Inbound marketing encourages those visitors to enter your sales funnel.

How to Work SEO Into an Inbound Marketing Strategy

The complementary nature of SEO and inbound marketing makes it easy to see how they flow together. But what can you do to make sure that happens with your own brand? Here are a few tips to help you ensure your inbound SEO is synergistically worked into your inbound marketing campaign:

Stay Focused on the Customer

It doesn’t matter if you’re working on SEO, inbound strategy, or both. You should always have the customer in mind. From choosing keywords to answering questions, make your target audience lie at the heart of every action and decision that you take. It's important to target existing customers and a new lead. 

Write for the Reader First and Search Engines Second

SEO is important, but it isn’t everything. In fact, it shouldn’t even be your top priority. As you invest in customer-centric content creation, make sure you’re writing for the reader first and search engines second. Don’t overuse keywords or optimize at the expense of readability or experience. Engage readers first. Then optimize content so search engines can find it.

Consider What Part of the Marketing Funnel You’re Targeting

Both SEO and inbound marketing target the entire marketing funnel — or they should. Often marketers get focused on the top of the marketing funnel. But remember, valuable content is helpful to your customers at any part of the customer journey. From brand awareness to how-tos and whitepapers, make sure everything is optimized and targeted for a specific part of your funnel.

Create E-E-A-T content: 

Remember that content marketing is central to any SEO strategy. As such, in order to have genuine value, it must clearly communicate that value to the reader. E-E-A-T content stands for “experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.” These are four filters you should have in mind with every piece of content you create. Not only will it create more value. As consumers engage more, it will boost your SEO and attract more visitors, as well.

Creating Synergy With SEO and Inbound Marketing

When you can tap into the power of both SEO and inbound marketing, they can work together to create incredible results. The challenge is creating a growth marketing framework that unlocks the power of both at the same time.

 If you’re struggling to create an effective inbound marketing strategy, reach out. Our team at Relevance can help you make the most of these two potent aspects of growth marketing for your brand.

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