SEO 101: The First Steps Toward Creating a Website that Works for You

Focus on answering the questions people ask, get your message across quickly, and build strategies that bring people to your content.

Let’s assume you’ve got the basics in place – you have a crawlable, accessible website that’s reasonably fast and mobile-friendly. You’re starting to see traffic from search, but how do you attract the right traffic?

First, consider what you’re putting out to search visitors, which essentially means the title and description/snippet of your page. Is it compelling? Is it accurate – click-bait may drive impressions, but does it create customers? Does it get your message across quickly – the first couple of words can matter a lot.

Second, consider search intent, or maybe more correctly, Google’s view of intent. If someone has a question about how to use your software, and Google is surfacing videos, for example, you need to think about video content. If every result for a search is informational and you’re pushing a sales page hard, consider if you’d be better served by having some content at the top/middle of the sales funnel.

Third, answer the questions people are asking. As natural language search and voice devices grow, search engines are more and more interested in answering questions. Competitively, too, if you don’t answer your customers’ or prospects’ questions, someone else will do it for you.

Over time, search marketing is becoming like all marketing – you’re trying to build a brand, and a brand is more than just your website. The egalitarian early days of the web, where anyone could rank in search by just targeting the right keywords are over. Search engines are going to look more to signals that show you’re an entity in the real world. Ultimately, that means that you need multiple forms of promotion, including social posts, to fuel each other.

Next Steps for ISVs and Software Developers Who Aren’t Getting the Web Traffic and Engagement They Need

How to build web traffic and engagement is a very tough question because the answer can range from technical problems to brand awareness to product fit to UX considerations. If you’re a new business or website, search marketing is harder than it used to be. You’re going to have to build content people care about and use a variety of methods to attract people to it, which will drive search, which will drive more engagement, and on and on. Put aside aspirational vanity (“We have to rank for ‘software’!”) and start with what’s already working for you. Are you doing well on certain types of searches? Is certain content getting attention? Don’t just focus on what happened this week, but look at the pages that have been performing for you for months. Try and build on those successes.

Take a Practical Approach to Keeping Up with Change

Google made over 3,000 changes to search in 2018. You have a business to run, and you can’t spend your time chasing every one of those changes. The best advice I can give is to understand where Google is headed in your niche. Are they rewarding certain types of content? Are they heavily pushing paid results for certain searches? If you can realistically understand Google’s goals and challenges in your space, you can understand where they’re probably headed.