A website isn’t doing much for your business if it’s not getting any traffic. With the web growing more crowded by the day, and large players dominating the landscape, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd and be found by your prospects. At Centori, it’s not infrequent that we get questions as to whether SEO still works.
It’s a fair question.
When the path to appearing at the top of Google’s search results is getting more and more crowded, you may be wondering if it’s worth trying. Our response to that is, of course it is! It requires a bit more creativity than you may have been able to get away with in the past.
Remember that at its core SEO is about getting organic exposure to your website. Traditionally this means your site appearing number 1 on Google however there is not much of a difference with it being other websites directing back to you.
The state of SEO and Google
We’ve written countless articles on SEO, it’s always worth revisiting though.
Search Engine Optimization is a practice of optimizing your website according to how Google ranks pages. Google’s primary job is to answer questions, therefore your job as a content creator is to A) know what those questions are B) create content that answers them and C) ensure that content is top quality, informative, and authoritative. Sounds easy enough, right?
The trouble is, there are likely dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of other marketers who are as good at writing you as you, as knowledgeable as you, and deserving to rank as you.
It used to be that you could churn our 500-word blog posts and call it a day. SEO is changing though. The web is crowded and standing out for those popular keywords just isn’t as feasible. What’s a marketer to do?
We’ve got some tips for boosting your site’s rank and getting more organic exposure to your brand.
Write a guest post
If you are starting to focus on SEO, the prospect of ranking can seem imposing at best. Heck, even writing a few blog posts for your site in hopes of spurring traffic along is a daunting task.
Fortunately there is a easy way to start building traffic and boost your SEO cred: guest posting.
Guest posting on another website is a great way to give yourself a major boost for two reasons. For one, if they are an established site they are likely getting more traffic than you so the post will have a broader reach, and secondly you can get a backlink to your website. In one post you can reach a broader audience while improving the authority of your site via a link – a pretty good deal if you ask me!
Asking to guest post on another site might be intimidating – especially for a newbie writer.
Getting started guest posting
If you’re nervous, take a step back and remember: you are essentially asking to add value and expertise to another website for free. Imagine if someone approached you with a solid resume asking to write a guest post on your site – wouldn’t you accept? Your first step is to take to Google and look up sites that are accepting guest posts.
Run a quick Google search for site’s accepting guest posts and you are bound to find some openings. To get you started, here are a few resources:
Best practices to keep in mind
You don’t want to simply email each one asking to post the same topic – take some time to choose a few blogs that look like they’ll be a good fit and then pitch them a story that really fits in with their site. Read a sampling of articles, as well as other guest posts, to see how well your piece of content could fit in. Do your best to get a sense of their target demographic and research common questions being asked in that space that you can answer.
Once you’ve picked a site to pitch, read their guidelines in full for a guest post and write a personal and well-crafted email. Don’t just start off with a generic ‘Dear site owner’ – try to find the name of the recipient.
Then introduce yourself to illustrate your expertise, and pitch the idea (or submit the post if they are looking for already-written content). When it comes down to writing your post make sure its formatting matches those already on the website. Remember this is about them, not you – you’re getting a great value out of the backlink.
Search for keyword alternatives/variations
It’s nearly impossible to start ranking for a broad keyword nowadays.
You never know, a miracle could happen, but for us marketers grounded here on earth we are faced with the reality that if I want to rank for a broad industry keyword I’m out of luck. Take us for example – we’re in an extremely crowded space: content marketing. If we drill down to SEO and content strategy, that’s hardly niche. With content marketing giants like HubSpot and Marketo alongside SEO behmouths like Moz and SEMRush we do not stand a chance at ranking.
Don’t get me wrong, I think our content is pretty darn good – but those guys dominate SERPs leaving us with little room to grow. That’s why it’s key to go after the alternative.
For example, ‘Moz alternative’, ‘Ahrefs alternative’ or ‘SEMRush alternative’ might be good ones to go after. In the same vein, ‘best seo software’ or ‘cheap seo software’ would be good ones as well.
Why focus on these? Google is getting smarter and ranking list-articles at the top for keywords like these. These list articles are popular resources because they are easily digestible, share information in seemingly unbiased way, and show all the product offerings side by side for transparency.
As a competitor we’d want to ensure we are included in those list articles that get returned, as well as create content using those keywords and buy up ads for them. We might not be able to rank #1 for ‘SEO software’ but we sure can capitalize on the fact that there are bigger players out there.
Similar to the strategy behind guest posting, try to make your outreach as personal as possible. If possible, connect with the author on social media and even offer to do writeup of the addition for them. Anything to make it less of a ‘out of left field’ request helps.
Much like the guest post, the goal is to get a link back to your website from an already-ranking page. This gives a ton of referral traffic as well as an SEO boost from the backlink to your site.
Organize your content into pillar pages
Our final piece of advice is to organize the content you have on your site into pillar pages.
We’ve written on the subject of pillar pages before though let’s review.
A pillar page is a longform piece of content (think 2000+ words) that links to several resources (such as blog posts). Your pillar page should be around a core topic for your business. For us, it might be SEO, or content strategy. For a wealth management firm it might be index investing. The pieces of content you link to should be specific blog posts for the subtopics of that major topic. For example, a subtopic of SEO is keyword research, another one might be competitor analysis.
Pillar pages are great for two reasons: they are an excellent resource to share with your prospects and customers, and they do Google a favor by building an internal link structure that says what your site is about. Google likes it when you do favors.
Pillar pages won’t make you rank immediately on Google, but they go a long way towards organizing your site and can certainly help.
Your next steps
I know there is a lot of info to digest here – hopefully we haven’t lost you.
If there is one takeaway from this post let it be this: SEO is not dead and it’s not impossible to rank, you just need to be a bit creative. Through writing a simple guest post, or scouting out opportunities for backlinks and reviews you can start improving your site’s authority and relevance in your industry. By creating resources like pillar pages, you’ll further help Google know what your site is about (and have some excellent pages for your new site visitors to land on).
It may not be easy, and sure can put you outside your comfort zone, but with practice you’ll get the hang of it.