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What Is SEO & How Does It Work?

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Do you run an online business? How would you like to increase your web traffic and conversions without having to spend tens of thousands of dollars on advertising?

The most successful online businesses use SEO or search engine optimization to improve their Google rankings and increase their online visibility.

Shopping online is easier and quicker than it’s ever been. Rather than visiting a traditional brick-and-mortar store, people are buying groceries, clothing, sports gear, technology, and more from websites.

Total e-commerce sales worldwide are projected to grow 26.7% year-over-year. By 2024, online sales are estimated to be valued at $6.4 trillion.

SEO may sound highly complex at first but by reading this article you will be able to learn about several guidelines to follow that will boost your online presence the right way to earn more visits, leads, or conversions.

As a business depending on online sales, you can’t afford to ignore your SEO. Keep reading below to learn what SEO is and how you can use it to grow your operation.

What is SEO?

SEO or search engine optimization has to do with you making adjustments to your website and online content to better rank in search engines.

The first thing most people do when they are searching for a product or service is to Google it. That means it’s important for your site to rank high enough to be seen. Research has shown that most people don’t look past the first page of search results.

While you can do your SEO it takes a lot of time and effort. Most businesses will hire an SEO specialist or digital agency to help them. There may be some costs involved in effective SEO—hiring a writer or buying a blog, for example— but it’s not as high as paid advertising.

The difference between SEO and paid advertising is that SEO involves organic ranking, which has to do with Google’s algorithm and how websites naturally appear to users.

Google’s role is to connect your search with the right content. If someone types “how to do my taxes” into Google, they want to learn more about the tax filing process and then how to do it. If you posted a blog about filing taxes, you would want it to be delivered to a Google user. The problem is your website needs to rank higher than everyone else who writes about filing taxes.

It takes time for effective SEO to catch on and it’s something you’ll have to regularly monitor.

The Importance of SEO

Sometimes we hear from naysayers who question why SEO is needed, especially if they’ve run a successful business for years without investing in their website.

Businesses who’ve never had to worry about SEO before may look into it today. This is because 86% of those searches start on Google. As a result, the Google algorithm decides who sees your website and who doesn’t.

You could be losing money if search engines decide your site should be ranking on Page 3 or Page 4.

Not only does SEO get you more traffic and conversions, but it also helps to build trust and confidence with your customers. The strategies you implement for SEO ensure you offer high-quality content, a user-friendly experience, and links with high authority.

If a new visitor doesn’t purchase their first visit, they’ll remember your page as being authoritative and reliable. One day they’ll need your product or service, and they’ll be back to order from you.

Good things will happen to your business if you follow the SEO tips we discuss in this blog.

How Does Google Ranking Work?

There are several search engines out there like Bing or Yahoo, but a large majority of the public uses Google to find products, services, or to learn more about businesses.

Search engines work by performing these functions:

  • Crawling the internet to find new web pages and documents
  • Putting that content in a giant index/database
  • Ranking that content on various factors

Search engines discover new content by sending out search engine spiders, or crawlers, to find it.

Crawlers are computer programs or robots that find new content like web pages, PDF files, videos, and images by visiting links on web pages.

They visit web pages very quickly which allows them to discover new websites, pages, and other content in seconds.

Crawlers also tend to visit popular websites that create new content more frequently than smaller unknown websites. That’s why you should consistently post new content on your site.

Creating a sitemap also helps search engines crawl your site. A good sitemap will link to every page on your site. SEO professionals also use the Google Console to find out what pages have been crawled and whether there are any errors caused by poor navigation structure, redirect loops, and server errors.

When crawlers discover new pages and content, they store the information in an index.

You can think of an index as a very large database containing all the web pages on the Internet that a search engine has found.

Search engines will analyze and fetch content from their index when searchers enter a search query.

Then Google will rank websites based on an algorithm. They assign scores based on various ranking factors and then rank the pages from highest to lowest.

Search engine algorithms also change over time to improve search results. Keep in mind that the goal of search engines is to provide quality content so that their users are satisfied with search results and keep using their search engine.

SEO 101: Where To Begin?

In the following section, we want to provide you with a crash course on how to do SEO. Once you understand what it takes to start boosting your website, you can decide whether you want to do it yourself or hire a professional.

The first thing you should understand is what we mean by “content.” While content refers to anything on your websites like copy, images, or videos, in most cases we are referring to blogs.

Blog articles are the best weapon in your arsenal to get more web traffic.


Remember above we mentioned that Google’s goal is to deliver the best quality content.

When you Google “best lawn care services,” the search engine will scour the internet for the best website to suit your needs. They’ll ensure that the site is authoritative, trustworthy and that its content is reliable.

The algorithm has so many ranking factors because it wants to connect people with the exact product or service they’re looking for.

As an online business, you’ll want to ensure your content is high quality and SEO optimized to reach the right customers. The ranking system ultimately helps everyone to have a satisfying experience.

High-quality blogs not only rank better on search engines but can also educate potential customers on your business, specialties, and what you offer.

Here is what you should focus on if you’re planning to post more blogs on your website:


In the early days of the Internet, any content with the right keywords could move the needle. But, today, content is more competitive.

Besides including high-performing keywords, you’ll also want to educate readers about a topic or solve their problem. Google changed the algorithm to measure whether or not your blog is providing value.

Coming up with great content isn’t easy but there are ways to generate ideas. You can take high-performing keywords and turn them into a full blog or you can piggyback off what others have written. It helps to read all of the blogs published by your competitors and across your industry.

Keep in mind that there is a ton of content on the web. If a visitor doesn’t see any value in your blog, they’ll click away in seconds. Not only is this a lost customer but it could affect your ranking.

For this reason, you need to post content that brings value to your potential customers. It’s not enough to just post random blogs to fill space.

Buyer Intent

One thing that makes SEO tricky is intent. Some keywords entered into Google can have different intentions, meaning the buyer is looking for something different than what you expect.

Remember that Google is trying to find the best content for its users. To do this effectively, they need to know what the user is looking for.

Typically, a person using Google is looking to learn something new, buy something, or try to navigate somewhere. Your content should match up correctly with their intent.

For example, you can’t create content about “the best basketball shoes” and then rank for a keyword about “running shoes.” They are both shoes but used for different purposes.

Someone who saw your content about “running shoes” would click away from your site or even get annoyed. There is new value in it for the reader. This is why it’s so important to understand buyer intent so you can match them with what they need, increasing the chances of conversion.


Another reason to post content consistently on your site is that your top content is out-of-date. Besides connecting the right topics with searches, Google will also evaluate the age of the content.

No one Googling for new software updates wants to get content that is a decade old.

Newer content will rank high and demonstrate to your potential customers that you are still in business. Who would want to buy from a site that hasn’t posted new content in years?

But, what happens if you have a lot of great content but it’s old? You can go through and refresh old content with new keywords and information. Part of that process would also include fixing broken links and checking them for accuracy.

Optimizing Your On-Page SEO

Now that you understand how search engines work, let’s cover what you can do to your website to begin ranking higher. This section will cover on-page SEO, which has to do with the things you can do to your pages and site structure.

On-page SEO is all about content and above we discussed the importance of content. You will need to conduct keyword research to find which ones get the most searches, and then incorporate those keywords throughout your site.

Don’t forget to also make your content have value for visitors.

You’ll have to include keywords across your site structure. This may sound intimidating but it doesn’t require you to know how to code. Web pages need to be optimized so Google crawlers can find your content and rank it.

Let’s go over the parts of your site that will need to be optimized.

Title Tags

The title tag is what’s displayed at the top of your browser and appears when your page is listed on Google.

The area in the black box is your title tag. This is the most prominent heading in the search and has a blue or purple color that stands out. Add your primary keyword to the title tag and make it compelling so users want to click and explore your site.

Don’t confuse the title tag with the H1 tag. The H1 tag is in the body of your content while the title tag is at the top of the page.

Meta Description

The meta description appears under the title tag in a search. It allows you to explain more about your page or content to the searcher. You should also include keywords in this description but keep in mind you only have 160 characters. Anything else you try to add may be cut off.


Schema is the result of a collaboration of several search engines. It’s just a subset of specific HTML tags that improves the way the SERPs display your content.

When you’re done adding your schema, don’t forget to test your page to make sure everything runs smoothly.


Subheadings are located in your content. They include items like your titles and subtitles. The H1 tag is your primary header and as you write the content you can use H2, H3, H4, or H5. This also helps Google figure out what section of your content is the most important and makes it easier for people to read.

Add your primary keyword to the H1 tag but don’t try to stuff everything in at the top.

The primary keyword can also be used in 1-2 subheadings, as well as throughout the body of your blog. But, as we mentioned above, don’t overuse it or you could be penalized.

Alt Text

Alt text is important for site accessibility. It describes images that appear on your blog or website.

Most people have no idea that alt text is there. It’s used by Google users with visual impairment. A specialized reader will explain the alt text to them so they have an idea of what the picture is about.

Alt-text is not only helpful for your visitors but Google wants to see that it’s provided for all images that aren’t decorative. Not filling in your alt text could result in a penalty.


A URL slug is part of the URL that tells Google what the content is about. These are also important areas for you to insert your most important keyword. An example of a slug would be the term “what-is-seo” in the URL “thehoth.com/blog/what-is-seo.”

URL slugs are like addresses to specific content and also tell Google what to expect from a specific page. You’ll want your slugs to be short and simple, but also reflective of what the content is about.

Technical SEO

In this section, we’ll discuss some of the technical adjustments you can make to your website to improve SEO.

Google Web Vitality

Google likes to track what makes an excellent user experience. This is called Google’s Web Vitals. They are metrics that show how customers are interacting with your site.

By collecting data throughout the search engine and on the Chrome browser, Google can make recommendations called the Core Web Vitals.

They have divided these performance-based recommendations into three categories:

  • Largest content-rich paint
  • First input delay
  • Cumulative layout change

The largest content-rich paint measures when the main image is rendered on the page. Visitors may bounce off of your site in the first few milliseconds if a page isn’t loading.

Websites can improve LCP by improving the server response and removing any page resources that block the user. They can also set smaller, more efficient images.

Many sites are designed with “event watchers” that can affect the first input delay. For example, there may be a tracker that monitors scroll depth or one that records the page’s heatmap for later analysis.

The best thing for websites to do is to limit these features.

The cumulative layout change or CLS metric determines how much the content movies as the user is reading it. An example of this is when content is moved down or an ad is displayed interrupting what the user was doing.

Website owners should strive to get the lowest CLS percentage possible to avoid frustrating visitors.

Page Speed

This has to do with how long it takes for your pages to load for a visitor. Page speed is important because it is one of Google’s ranking factors. It also can drive customers away who get frustrated at how long it takes for items to load.

There are several techniques website owners can do to improve their page speed such as enabling compression, optimizing HTML code, reducing redirects, improving the server response time, and taking advantage of browser caching.

Mobile Friendliness

Mobile searches now make up half of all Google searches and that amount is likely to increase into the future. Visitors are also five times more likely to leave your site if it’s not set up for mobile.

According to Google, mobile websites should have fast loading times, be easy to navigate on a mobile screen and be easy to take an action like making a purchase or completing an online form.

GT Metrix

Not every business has a web design team or software to evaluate their sites. We recommend that clients use a site called GT Metrix. Anyone can run a free analysis of their website.

The results of analyzing thehoth.com in GT Metrix.

GT Metrix will provide an overall grade on performance and structure, and it will report on the web vitals we discussed earlier.

The test can be done on your homepage or any other page on your site.

Site Architecture

Everything we have discussed in this section has to do with site architecture. You want to make sure your site is the best it can be so nothing internal is losing you conversions. Here are some other tips to optimize your site.

Easy Crawling

Google will crawl your site looking for content. They are trying to learn more about your site while identifying keywords and on-site issues. All of the information pulled from your site will determine where you rank in the search engine.

The easier it is to index all of your pages, the more likely you’ll receive a higher ranking. The thicker the web of links between pages of your site, the easier it is for the spiders to reach all of them, giving the search engine a better understanding of your site.

Sitemaps make it even easier for Google to crawl your site. You can use a plug-in or an online XML sitemap generator to get the job done.

Your goal should be to make the site as easy to crawl as possible. Otherwise, Google could struggle to collect data on your site and give you a lower ranking as a result.

Duplicate Content

As a best practice, avoid duplicating content on your site because it could result in a penalty.

Many people assume that everything on your page should be original but that’s not entirely accurate.

Reposting your content on other websites or publishing your guest posts again on your site doesn’t hurt your SEO unless you do it in a spammy way.

For example, if you repost your same content Medium, it might hurt your rankings because Google indexes your Medium article first since it’s more authoritative. This is called “canonicalization.”

The truth is duplicate content is all over the internet. Google may consider blog articles appearing in a sidebar as duplicate content, for example.

Many businesses also take advantage of content syndication, where they get their content posted on other websites. It’s technically duplicate content but isn’t a problem if you get permission ahead of time.

The Google Search Console or another tool can help you identify duplicate content errors.

If you have multiple versions of the same page, the canonical tag can help you specify which content is the original. All you have to do is drop in a single line of code that references the original page URL.

Site Security

Hosting a secure and safe site is not only important for your customers but Google also takes site security into account when ranking. Your ranking may drop if your site isn’t secure.

One way it’s helped filter the good from the bad is through SSL certificates and HTTPS. It’s simple to set these up and can give you the little lock next to your URL and HTTPS before the URL string. This is an important trust signal for your visitors and potential customers.

The Power of Backlinks

Link building is the process of acquiring a hyperlink from an external website that links to your website.

Think of this as another website or business referring back to you as a source for quality information.

Backlinks are one of the top factors for ranking in search engines, so acquiring them is vital for SEO success!

Google’s primary goal is to deliver results that answer the searcher’s query. They don’t want users to type in “shoes for sale” and see a ton of tennis rackets.

But they don’t just want their results to be relevant; they also want them to be high-quality.

In other words, when you type in “shoes for sale,” they are going to show you the most trusted place that consumers shop.

But how do search engines decide which websites are trustworthy?

Enter the backlink.

The backlinks you receive from other websites essentially tell Google, “Hey, look. These two websites like each other.”

This means that if the referring website has a high domain authority, the link will benefit your rankings.

If, on the other hand, the website is spam, that can hurt your rankings.

If you want to see what kind of websites are currently linking to your own, you can use Google’s Search Console or Ahrefs.

Here are five ways to start getting more backlinks for your site:

Build Out Brand Signals With Social Profiles

You can get quick and easy backlinks by opening up social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Guest Blog

Guest blogging can be a lot of work, but the good news is that these links are usually high-value backlinks. They aren’t low-quality because you focus on publications that have high domain authority.

Create and Share an Infographic

The best infographics include data on a certain topic or simple and applicable ways to solve a problem. Consider titles like “10 ways to keep your lawn green” or “Data that proves the power of Facebook Ads.” Images are one of the most effective types of content. Since they are visual and don’t take long to absorb, they are also highly engaging.

Scour LinkedIn for Contributors to Massive Publications

Another great way to build backlinks to your website — particularly from massive publications — is to go looking for the people who regularly write for the websites you’d like to be mentioned on. And LinkedIn is one of the best places to search for these people.

All you have to do is search for “contributors” and pick out ones that write in your niche. The search below came up with over 500,000 people.

A search for contributors on LinkedIn.

Write Testimonials

Make a list of business partners, customers, or other trustworthy websites that allow you to write a testimonial and include a link to your website within that testimonial. Then, write testimonials for these places and include a link to your website.

So much about backlinks has to do with authority. You can measure your domain authority, as well as your page authority. In the next section, we’ll cover both.

Domain Authority vs. Page Authority

Authority has to do with the strength of a website and how much you can trust it. Google determines the overall authority of your site by analyzing your domain authority and page authority.

Domain authority has to do with how well-known your website (and brand) is to the public. Nike.com, for example, because it’s one of the top brands in the world.

On the other side is page authority, which has to do with the authoritativeness of a single page on your site. In many cases, page authority is referring to blog posts.

Moz developed a metric called domain authority or DA, which measures your site from 1-100.

What is domain authority?

Why is it important to know your site’s DA? If you decide to partner with another website on guest blogs or link building, you’ll want to ensure that the other site has a higher DA than you. Getting that type of link will boost your ranking.

How To Do Keyword Research?

Keywords are the foundation of SEO. You include high-performing keywords on web pages, blogs, and any other content you produce. They even factor into how you build links on your site.

But, how do you know what keywords are high-performing?

The answer lies in doing your research.

Before we dive into specific techniques, we want to stress that using the right keywords is an ongoing process. Keyword research is not a one-and-done. You should be continually looking at your data and identifying new trending keywords in your industry.

Finding new keywords can help you boost Google rankings and create new content. The keywords you find can often be the inspiration for new blog content.

There are three factors you should consider when selecting the right keywords for your website:

  • Keyword difficulty
  • Search volume
  • Cost per click

Let’s dive into each of these factors so you understand what you should be looking for.

Keyword Difficulty

Keyword difficulty ranges from 0-100. The higher the rating, the more difficult it is to rank for.

The rating is based on domain authority and an estimate of how difficult it is for new websites to start ranking for it.

It’s important to note the difference between keyword difficulty and keyword competition. Many times you’ll see both pieces of information.

Keyword competition has more to do with paid advertising. They will be ranked as high, medium, or low based on how competitive the keyword is in the Google Ads platform.

Considering keyword competition can be helpful with making your final decision of which ones to use but keyword difficulty would be the better metric for SEO.

Search Volume

Keyword Volume is an estimation of the number of searches per month for a certain keyword or keyphrase.

Higher search volume means more potential traffic to your website, but high volume keywords can often be more competitive as well as more broadly targeted.

You may think that you should always pick the highest volume keyword possible, but that’s not always the case!

Although ranking for high volume keywords has the potential to send a lot of traffic to your website, it may not be worth the effort because they are too competitive and will require too much time and money to rank

Broad keywords also make it difficult to zero in on buyer intent.

Keyword search volume is an important factor in keyword research, but you won’t always want to pick the highest volume keyword possible.

Finding the right match between search volume and user intent is vital when selecting your keywords. Those will be more effective and increase qualified traffic and conversions.

Cost Per Click

The term cost per click or CPC is involved in paid advertising but it can give you some additional insight into whether a keyword is lucrative. In simple terms, it’s the amount an advertiser pays each time a Google user clicks on an ad.

It’s helpful to know if a prospective keyword is a high value or low value.

For example, the keyword “personal injury lawyer” has an estimated CPC value of $110! That means advertisers are willing to pay $110 every time someone clicks their ad.

The CPC and keyword difficult for "personal injury attorney."

The reason advertisers are willing to pay a high price to bid on this keyword is that it’s likely to result in a sale for their business. It is a high commercial intent keyword.

In this way you can use CPC values to determine whether a keyword would fit into your strategy.

Selecting Ideal Keywords

Keyword selection is more complex than choosing every keyword listed on your research tool.

Let’s say you’re an SEO consultant. What kind of audience would you attract by ranking for the keyword “free SEO tips?”

You’ll attract people looking for free stuff! That keyword could increase your web traffic but how likely is the visitor to pay for your services if they were looking for free tips? It would be smarter to pick a keyword with less web traffic if it’s more aligned to your conversions.

Search Intent

It’s important to consider search intent because you want to understand what your visitors need or want.

Most people only focus on keywords but that’s not what you want to do. Instead of looking at what people are typing in, you should be trying to identify what they’re searching for.

Imagine you own a career site that runs job listings. That means you need to get job pages ranking well so people come to your site instead of Indeed or somewhere else.

What happens if you try to rank for a keyword like “engineer?”

This keyword is too broad to understand intent. Are you looking for mechanical engineers, software engineers, or electrical engineers?

You need to get more specific with the keyword to match the user’s intent. Otherwise, you won’t connect applicants with the right job opportunities, and at the end of the day you won’t get paid for your services.

Keyword Research Tips

By now you probably understand the importance of keywords. They form the foundation of effective SEO. Without the right keywords, you won’t see an increase in traffic or conversion.

Here are some tips we like to use at The HOTH to find the best keywords for a client.

Analyzing Your Content Gaps

Conducting a content gap analysis will tell you what pieces you might be missing in your SEO strategy, and it’s an opportunity to identify keywords you never thought of before.

Start off by auditing your blogs and web copy. They are easy to pull up from the backend of your site. Then start to expand your audit of any content a visitor can download or content that is shared across social media.

You want to think about how customers find your site, how they interact with your site, and ultimately how they make a purchase. This is called the buyer’s journey.

Once you’ve taken a look at everything, ask whether there is a good balance between product awareness, consideration, and final sale decision. Some companies focus too much on awareness but don’t have content that makes the sale. Others want you to spend money in the first five minutes without telling you why.

Another good trick is to check out what content your main competitors have posted. No two businesses are the same but you may get some inspiration from a popular piece of content they have featured on their site.

You will also discover new keywords during this analysis that can be incorporated into your current SEO strategy.

Keyword Explorer Tools

The Google Keyword Planner is a free tool that can give you some insight into effective keywords for your industry. The Google Search Console can also be used to explore new keywords.

SEO professionals and digital marketing agencies will also pay to use other sophisticated keyword explorer tools like Moz or Ahrefs.

Most keyword tools will tell you about the number of clicks, search volume, keyword difficulty, current ranking and more. These tools are a more scientific way to conduct keyword research because you have all of the data at your fingertips.

The Top 4 SEO Tools

In the last section we briefly discussed some tools for keyword research, but in this section we want to share with you the top four SEO tools. These are tools that do much more than explore keywords.

It may be worth investing in one of them if you have additional dollars to spend.


We use this program at The HOTH all of the time. Ahrefs is described as the “all-in-one SEO toolset” to take your digital marketing to the next level. They also provide plenty of learning materials and an online community of support.

With this tool, you build links, research keywords, analyze your competitors, track your search engine ranking, and conduct site audits.


The Moz tool offers many of the same features as Ahrefs but according to some reviews of both products Moz is more appropriate for individuals or small businesses. On the other hand, most large marketing agencies will use Ahrefs.

You can still analyze backlinks, research keywords, track your ranking or audit your site, but Moz is a little more user-friendly than Ahrefs. It’s simpler to navigate for people just starting out in the business.


If you’re looking for another great SEO tool, then you can also consider SEMRush. This product offers all of the same features as Ahrefs or Moz, plus like Ahrefs can help you with content marketing.

SEMRush also requires a little more advanced marketing knowledge than Moz. It’s often used by many types of businesses because of the flexibility it provides. Enterprises found it especially helpful.

Free HOTH Tools

Last, but certainly not least, are the free tools offered by The HOTH. We have an entire menu of free tools anyone can access after signing up for an account.

Some of the free tools we offer include a keyword planner tool, SEO checker, domain authority checker, backlink checker and more.

All of the free SEO tools available with a HOTH account.

Our free tools are perfect for companies who want more SEO data but also have tight budgets.

Devising a Content Strategy

Once you understand your potential customers and have a strong list of keywords, it’s time to start developing your content strategy.

The first step in developing a content strategy is deciding on your goal. Are you looking to improve rankings? Grow your influence? Get more leads or sales? Or increase your brand recognition?

Clearly defining your goals will help you determine the best way to approach your content marketing.

For example, if your goal is to drive more inbound traffic and generate brand awareness through content, then you might create a good amount of keyword-targeted content to drive SEO traffic. On the other hand, if thought leadership is a priority, then you might focus more on creating original content or doing data-driven or research-based articles.

Another important step to take when creating a content strategy is to understand your target avatar.

Without a defined target avatar, your content operation may become inefficient as some of your content may not be targeting the right audience.

So how do you create a customer avatar?

You can start by brainstorming the pain points and interests that your ideal customer might have.

Visit forums and social media sites to see what kinds of questions people in your niche are asking. Check out competitor blogs and content to see what types of articles they are writing.

You can also use surveys or phone calls from current customers.

Do some keyword research to find out what search phrases people are using to find answers to their problems.

Write down a list of pain points and interests and you will have some great ideas for content that you can create to attract your target audience.

You need a systematic plan to create content on an ongoing basis so that you can stay consistent with your content marketing efforts.

Consistency is very important with blogging and failing to be consistent can cause people to lose interest and forget about you.

Content ideas can come from following industry or news-sharing sites, researching keywords, or even seeing what your competitors are doing.

Create your content depending on your goals and your niche. If you are selling food products, then using images and videos might work better than simply using text content alone as your target audience may be active on sites like Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook.

Publishing frequency and setting up a content calendar will help you stay consistent, which is important if you want the best results. A few businesses do well by publishing once a month, but most businesses should aim to publish at least weekly. This may require some trial and error.

Don’t forget you’ll want to optimize your content by adding high-performing keywords and making sure it’s high-quality.

The last step in your content strategy should be promoting your content, which can be done by posting it on social media accounts, email newsletters, news releases, or even setting it up as a paid ad. This will increase the number of people seeing your content, which also increases your traffic.

Avoid These Content Marketing Mistakes

By now you probably see the importance of content in your overall SEO strategy. Content not only contains ranking keywords but if done right can draw in potential customers to learn more about your products or services.

Good content will also get you more leads. As visitors read your blogs, watch your videos, or check out your infographics, they may sign up for your newsletter, download a deliverable, or set up an appointment to learn more. If done right, content is a very powerful marketing tool.

In this section, we wanted to show you some of the common mistakes people make when trying to produce content for their websites. That way you can avoid these mistakes when you start making your own.

Audience Confusion

One problem that novice content marketers face is not knowing their audience. Taking the time to create a customer avatar can help marketers properly target the right audience with their content.

Not sure what customer avatars are? Check out this article from Forbes. It’s really important to get this right before you start doing any marketing.

Many businesses skip this step and just start creating content. As a result, they either don’t reach the right audience or start attracting leads with no intention of buying your products or services.

Learning more about your audience takes time and research, but it will inform everything you do.

Creating content targeted towards your ideal customer will attract other customers like them as that content gets shared on social media or as it starts to drive traffic through SEO or other channels. Take the time to define who you are writing for and what type of content your ideal customer expects. This way you can attract the right audience.

Boring Content

Some businesses are so focused on creating keyword-targeted content for SEO purposes. Perhaps they noticed some of their articles ranked for certain keywords and were bringing in search traffic, so they decided to focus only on SEO.

Doing only keyword-targeted content usually does not result in a good user experience. Human readers will be unlikely to follow your blog because instead of targeting reader interests, your blog is throwing out keyword-targeted content for the search engines.

They will be able to tell after a few seconds of reading your content whether it’s worth it or not.

Evergreen keyword-targeted content (meaning broad content used anytime) can also be boring as the highest volume search phrases have already been written about by numerous other websites.

In other words, most blogs that are only focused on SEO are rehashing the same ideas other people have already written about. Therefore, you’ll want to set yourself apart from the crowd.

Don’t create low-quality content just to rank for keywords. Low-quality content can backfire and discourage other people from sharing your content or following you.

Headlines are also the first things your visitors see, so make sure you are crafting headlines that accurately describe your topic and entice the reader.

SEO is important for content marketing, but be sure that you are still creating interesting and useful content to attract new readers to your blog. Your goal should be to educate your audience.

Even if SEO is a priority, not everything you write has to be SEO-focused.

Ignoring SEO Completely

Some businesses go the other way. They start making content without ever thinking about SEO, which is a mistake in the long run. Search engines can drive continuous traffic to your site and the more content you create, the more traffic can increase.

Even if you are doing a few hours of SEO a week, make an effort to do some keyword research for each article. Find ways to insert relevant and high-performing keywords into your content, and optimize your tags before you publish.

If you’re stuck on what to write or what keywords to use, check out articles on other sites. Better yet, find your competitors and see how they’re using keywords in their content.

Your articles should contain a mix of content designed to engage your audience and other thought leaders in your niche, plus, designed to rank in the search engines.

Having a mix of SEO-targeted content and engagement-focused content will allow you to increase website traffic as well as build an audience that is interested in what you say.

Failing To Promote

Another common mistake businesses make is not promoting their content. Having a strong content creation plan is only half the game. If you don’t promote your content your target audience will never find it.

Marketers need to develop a strong content promotion plan. This will be a system of sharing your unique content with potential customers. You can always adjust your content marketing plan as you move forward, but be sure you at least have a plan in place when you start out.

A good promotion plan typically includes link building, guest posting, or social media plan to get other influencers to share your articles. You can even pay for Google Ads or social media boosts.

To maximize your reach, consider promoting your content in multiple channels or even repurposing it. Look for communities and social media sites where you can share your content for free.

Build relationships with influencers by sharing their content and mentioning them in your articles. Participate in communities to get your name out there by visiting and contributing regularly to online groups and forums.

Email outreach is very effective at sharing content. You can share your latest content while informing readers about what’s happening with your business. Links in the email can make it easier to visit your website or make a purchase.

Not Being Patient

This is something we’ve mentioned multiple times in this article. Businesses like seeing fast results and one mistake marketers make when getting into content marketing is expecting results too quickly.

But, remember SEO can take months to gain traction.

So how long should content marketing take before results are seen?

In most cases, it takes over a year of consistent content creation before seeing results or expecting to generate significant revenue from their content marketing operation. Clients need to stay patient so they don’t pull the plug before the real growth starts happening.

Consistency in posting is key. One study from Hubspot found that companies with 400 or more blog posts per month got twice as much traffic.

While the amount of time and effort required to do well with content can vary, organizations should plan for content marketing to be a long-term strategy.

Check out what happened to one company that got impatient, canceled our services, and hopped back on when their traffic began to spike.

What happens when a client gets impatient and cancels their HOTH account before things take off.
It takes time to build an audience and generate momentum, so marketers need to have the proper expectations before they begin.

As the number of articles on your site increases, your content will rank for more search terms, attract more links and social shares, and website traffic will start to accelerate. The best advice we can give is to be patient.

Too Focused on Sales

Yes, we are all businesses and our goal is to make money from our products or services, but it is possible to get too focused on sales when doing your SEO. This can actually turn customers off.

Many businesses get into content marketing with the goal of generating leads and sales from their content. However, some businesses may discover that their content does not directly generate new leads or sales.

To rectify the issue, some businesses will insert a sales pitch or incorporate their product into every piece of content they write.

While adding a call to action into your content can make sense in certain circumstances, some businesses make the mistake of selling too much in their content.

Mentioning your company in every single blog post, for example, makes readers question your authenticity.

Readers are more likely to follow a blog or read content from sources they feel are genuinely providing the best-unbiased information. It’s all about developing a relationship with current and potential customers before trying to sell them.

When marketers sell too much in their content, the reader becomes skeptical about the information.

Instead of selling in every article, try to limit sales pitches to the bottom of the funnel articles where people are more likely to convert. Or test out adding a call to action to a few relevant articles that get a lot of traffic each month. Just don’t go crazy and start putting CTAs everywhere or it could backfire.

For content marketing to be effective, don’t forget to put your reader first before your company’s interests.

Getting the Wrong Advice

Be careful about who you take advice from.

For example, if you look at job listings for content writers, you’ll see lots of job descriptions that require writers to write only really long articles that are 2,000+ words.

The belief that you have to use long-form content to be competitive comes from various studies that show that long-form content gets better search engine rankings than shorter content. It’s true but it doesn’t mean you should only do long-form.

To win at content marketing, you have to be able to make your own judgments about what works and what doesn’t. What works for your business won’t work for someone else, and vice versa. There is a lot of trial and error before getting it right.

People who become thought leaders do so because they are able to form their own opinions and be creative instead of just following what everyone else is doing or saying.

If a marketing blog says that something is true, always look for examples where someone did the opposite and still succeeded. There are few rules in marketing that can’t be bent or broken, so be open-minded when developing your own content marketing plan.

And don’t be afraid to pivot if something you’re been trying isn’t working out.

Turning Off Blog Comments

There are several reasons why businesses will disable their blog comments but most of the time they are afraid of negative feedback or inappropriate things happening in the comments section.

Another reason is that moderating and replying to comments can take a ton of time, especially as your blog gains a significant following. Taking time to reply to comments takes away time you could be spending creating more content or doing other things to grow the business.

Another reason is that as a blog grows, spam comments can also increase. These are companies posting comments about 1,000 links for $500 or other questionable SEO deals. Taking care of them can take up a lot of time.

However, ignoring comments or disabling them completely has downsides. Comments allow people to connect with you directly. While many of these people might just be casual readers, some might actually be potential customers thinking about spending money.

Additionally, blog comments are a good place to build a community around your content and serve as good social proof of your blog’s popularity. Blogs with lots of comments can attract even more followers and make your blog appear more authoritative.

A sample of comments from a HOTH blog.

Don’t disable blog comments just because you don’t want to deal with the hassle of moderating them. Instead, view blog comments as an opportunity to build a community and possibly generate more leads for your business.

Keep Thought Leadership In Mind

A study by Aberdeen found that marketing thought leaders experienced a 7.8x higher yearly growth in site traffic versus content marketing followers.

Achieving thought leadership in a niche is a content marketer’s dream goal, but many businesses may get discouraged from pursuing this goal due to the amount of competition.

Every content marketer should pursue thought leadership. There is a high return on investment for achieving that status, and it’s possible to reach it with high-quality content showcasing your expertise.

If you want to win big with content marketing, then hire the best people and find someone that is an expert in your industry. They should be able to help you reach that status.

White Hat SEO vs. Black Hat SEO

Did you know there are good and bad ways to do SEO like the heroes and villains we see in movies? These two sides of SEO are called white hat and black hat, and you can guess what they both mean.

It’s important for businesses to know the difference between these two so they aren’t tricked into signing up for SEO services that will ultimately hurt them.

Most reputable SEO companies—like The HOTH—understand that SEO takes time and practice. It also requires professionals with expertise in how search engines work. Unfortunately, there are other companies that like to cut corners and promise quick results.

Google has become adept at identifying these black hat SEO companies and punishing them through ranking. If the behavior continues, they could even get their websites blacklisted.

Remember two important things about SEO: it takes time to do well and it should focus on improving the search experience.

Your business and website SEO should be built up sustainably, with a focus on your potential and current customers. They should be able to find the high-quality content they’re searching for and easily navigate your site to convert.

What are some examples of black hat SEO?

  • Duplicate content: Sites will duplicate content on their site to try and get a specific keyword ranking. They believe this will happen if it appears in their text over and over again but Google will penalize this.
  • Invisible text and keyword stuffing: An old strategy was to include a ton of keywords at the bottom of your articles but make them the same color as the background. This is a trick Google discovered and started punishing sites for. Keyword stuffing in any way is a bad practice. Your SEO work should appear natural.
  • Cloaking and redirecting: This is when someone buys up a bunch of keyword-rich domains and directs all the traffic to a single site.
  • Poor linking practices: There are so many services that promise thousands of links for a certain price. The problem is these links aren’t relevant or high-quality. Google will also grow suspicious if your site suddenly gets hundreds or thousands of links over a few days.

Avoid these techniques at all costs and don’t work with any companies who do this. They may seem attractive at the beginning but they will end up derailing your SEO.

So now you’re probably asking, what’s white hat SEO?

Basically, everything we’re mentioning in this article would be considered white hat techniques. Or following anything that Google recommends will be white hat and help grow your site.

There’s also a middle ground between the two called gray hat SEO. Companies that use these techniques aren’t breaking the rules. Instead, they’re bending the rules to get an advantage for their clients.

Gray hat SEO is possible but Google policies are often broad, meaning they can be interpreted in many different ways. They are also updated constantly so there are always people who take advantage of what they see appear.

Guest blogging is a good example of this. Although Google said it doesn’t recommend sites to do guest blogs, they still remain one of the top ways to boost your rankings and web traffic.

The important thing to do in that situation is to follow all of the guidelines we’ve described here. Even though Google isn’t a big fan of guest blogs, you won’t get penalized for doing them as long as your posts are relevant to your niche and your website isn’t suspiciously getting an unnatural amount of links in a short period.

What If You’re a Local Business?

Not every business needing help with SEO is going to have multiple locations all over the world. Some are family-owned, neighborhood stores or shops that want to improve their online presence.

This type of small business should focus on what’s called local SEO.

Many local SEO techniques are the same as traditional SEO but there are some differences. You’ll want to optimize your website like any other company out there but then focus more on local directories and local content.

Ranking Locally

When we talk about local SEO, we’re looking to rank in search results that are localized like in Google Maps. When people search for a specific business it often appears with Google maps and a list of the top 3 matching businesses (often called the map pack).

This type of ranking puts you in the opportunity to be front and center for your customer.

Google will also automatically provide you with the nearest businesses in your search, even if you don’t specify a city in the search bar.

If you’re looking to improve your local ranking, Google My Business is the key.
The HOTH's Google My Business page.
First, you’ll have to claim your GMB listing from Google, which means you verify that you are in fact the business.

Then, you’ll need to optimize your GMB page by making sure all of your information is accurate and that you have uploaded pictures or videos of your business.

Once this is complete you should see a boost in your local SEO ranking.

The Importance of Local Directories

Besides keeping up on your GMB page, you should also get yourself included in local directories like White Pages, Yelp, Hot Frog and Yahoo Local.

Check to see where you’re already listed and confirm that the information is correct there too.

Then, you can go through manually and edit any directories that have the wrong information about your business. Or you can use a product like HOTH Local to find new directories or clean up old ones.

Another thing you’ll want to do is localize all of your content. If your potential customers are all in the same city, make your web copy and blogs only about issues facing that city. You don’t need to waste your time writing generic content that could apply anywhere.

Link Building

If you’ve optimized your website and content, it’s now time to move onto your off-page SEO. These are all of the activities you do outside of your site to boost SEO. Link building is a big part of this.

Link Building Factors

When starting to add links to your site, you’ll want to take these factors into account:

Link Quality

Quality is much more important than quantity when it comes to link building. Building quality backlinks is about reaching out to the right sources and offering value in exchange for a solid link. There are many ways to build links the right way, so Google rewards those who do it correctly.

You shouldn’t pay attention to how many links you have because some of them could be low-quality, from existing sites, or internal links that you set up yourself. It’s a good idea to have internal links but they shouldn’t be all you have.

Google expects the links you get pointing to your site to be relevant. Paying $100 for 1,000 links won’t get you what you’re looking for. They won’t be relevant or high-quality. Avoid any sites that charge for links. You could get penalized for using these.

The real point of a guest post is to share your expertise on a different site and have it refer back to your site for additional information.

It’s also a good idea to choose a site that already has traffic and a higher domain authority than yours.

Anchor Text

Anchor text refers to the words hyperlinked in your guest post. The goal is for the text to appear as natural as possible in the article and be relevant to what the article is actually about.

How to format an anchor text.

You want to have a variety of different types of anchor text because they each have their own place in the SEO realm.

The one thing you don’t want to do is have a bunch of text that says “click here” pointing to your site. Instead, if you wrote an article about drink recipes and you’re trying to get a link to it, you might want the anchor text with a link on it to actually say “best eggnog holiday recipe.”

Number of High-Quality Links

We already touched on this, but it’s not just total links you’re after.

The site with the most high-quality links will usually have a better edge. However, it also depends on the pages you’re getting links to. Links to your homepage are good, but most natural links won’t be to a homepage unless they’re mentioning your brand name specifically.

What you often find is people linking to pages or posts on your site. If possible, you want to make sure the right sources are linking to the right pages.

You also need to consider how and where you get links. If you’re trying to get links to this page, for example, you want to get links from landing pages or conversion-related sources.

Other types of links may be more suitable for different pages. It’s all about context!

The quality source of the links you get matters, but so does the place they’re linking to.

4 Ways To Get More Links

Are you ready to start growing your business by getting more backlinks? These four strategies can help you get things started but keep in mind link building is often a long, hard process.

Blog Outreach

This is the old-school way of collecting backlinks. You’ll just start Googling websites that may be interested in your content and start asking each one if they would be willing to let you write a guest post.

In this scenario, you’re manually reaching out to websites and recording answers on a spreadsheet. It could take you hundreds of solicitations before you get a yes, and even then it may be from a site that is less than ideal.

Backlinks have been earned this way but it takes a lot of time and effort, and most businesses would rather spend that time managing their operations.

Offer a Free Tool

Depending on what industry you work in, there is a service you offer that others would like for free. You can build a way for people to use this tool for free. Not only would this be effective at getting leads but it could land you a few backlinks.

As other websites discover your free tool and it’s value, they’ll begin mentioning it in their articles or posts. Each of these mentions could result in a backlink leading to your site.

Get Professional Help

Since link building is so difficult and time-consuming, we also recommend reaching out to a professional agency like The HOTH to help.

Our HOTH Guest Post product, for example, gets you high quality, natural, white-hat in-content links to your site to help boost your rankings.

Not only do we get the guest post written for you, but we conduct the manual outreach to high-quality sites to secure you a spot. We’ll get the post placed with links back to your website.

We have connections with hundreds of high-quality sites and we can leverage our relationships for our clients.

What Are Your Next Steps?

That was a lot of information but at this point, you should be knowledgeable enough about SEO to create a clear plan about what to do next. You should also understand what guidelines to follow to get picked up more by Google searches.

As we described in this article, start by optimizing your on-page SEO. This includes how keywords are used on pages as well as site architecture. Once everything is locked down on your site, you should begin expanding on your content using the same high-performing keywords.

Your last step should be switching to off-page SEO where you try to build links with other sites by writing guest posts or sharing other types of content like infographics.

The most important thing we want you to understand is that improving your SEO takes time. It takes an average of three months to start seeing any difference in web traffic and for some businesses it could take six months to a year.

Why does it take so long? For one, SEO is all about organic growth, which you can’t control directly. The other reason is that building an effective SEO strategy is often trial and error. It could take you a few months of collecting data before evaluating if your plan is working or not.

That’s why we recommend getting help, especially if you run a small operation with no dedicated marketing representative.

The HOTH has helped thousands of businesses in many different industries to achieve their SEO goals. We offer a variety of SEO services: content writing, link building, local SEO, web copy, and more.

Contact us if you want to chat about your current strategy or to learn how you can take your website to the next level. Simply book a call with us!

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