google search on mobile

Keyword Ranking Fluctuations: Why Does it Happen, What Can I Do About It?

google search on mobile

You have worked hard and finally rank first overall in SERPs for that specific keyword you’ve been targeting. 

Your site is gaining more traffic organically, and you are starting to see conversion rates increase. 

Now that you rank highly,  your authority increases, and you can start targeting more competitive keywords. 

One day you check your traffic in Google Analytics to look for more non-branded keyword opportunities and notice that your traffic has started to decrease. Panicking— you look for reasons why you are no longer the top rank in SERPs. 

You aren’t even on the first page anymore! 

What have you done to deserve this? Why are you no longer ranking in SERPs when you were just a few days ago? 

You didn’t change anything about the article, and the information is still all relevant, so what gives? 

This is a common problem many marketers face— keyword ranking fluctuation

What is Keyword Ranking Fluctuation? 

Keyword ranking fluctuation is when the SERPs change for a keyword you are targeting. Google, like most companies, wants to provide as much value to the end user as possible. To do this, they roll out new algorithm updates, altering the search engine results page to find out which articles are best for the reader. 

keyword rankings example

These tests can last from a few days to a few weeks. Most companies who see a change in their SERP position will return to their natural position once the tests are over. At the same time, some companies may see a more permanent change in their position. 

When companies start to see a change in their rank, they begin to panic and change their article that already ranks highly. Sometimes for the worst. 

Keyword ranking fluctuation is natural, temporary, and should be expected. However, the most important thing is not to panic and make an impulsive decision. 

So why did Google choose your article to move down in position, and when should you start to care or panic? 

What Causes Keyword Ranking Fluctuations?

Websites that recently started ranking for a keyword are much more susceptible to keyword ranking fluctuations. The longer you’ve ranked for a keyword, the less likely you will see a change in position. 

However, how long your content has been published and providing value to the end user is not the only cause of keyword ranking fluctuation. 

Google has a variety of factors they consider when they shake up the positions in SERPs. Here are a few of the most common causes of keyword ranking fluctuations. 

Google Algorithm Updates

It is very common for Google to change its algorithm. It’s Google. They are always innovating and trying to be better.  

Often, Google will roll out an algorithm update without telling anyone and will make the information public months later after testing and perfecting the changes.

Algorithm updates try to weed out content stuffed with keywords and is more focused on SEO tactics than actually providing value to the reader. 

It’s always important to stay updated with Google algorithm updates to gain a competitive edge. 

At Tuff, we always explain to clients that Google is going to rank the content that provides the most value to the reader the highest. Regardless of keywords and vanity metrics.

To keep it simple, write to provide value for the reader. Use natural language when talking about a subject, don’t stuff it with keywords. 

Issues with the Platform You Are Using

There are a ton of great SEO tools to analyze your traffic and ranking in SERPs. Unfortunately, although they can be extremely helpful and provide valuable insights, they aren’t always 100% accurate. 

Issues with the platform you are using are a common cause that companies see their keyword ranking fluctuate. 

SEMrush is one of the best tools on the market, but it uses third party data that may not be up to date. The metrics they provide aren’t completely accurate. Your traffic could be higher or lower than what their data says, and the same goes for your ranking positions for certain keywords. 

Don’t panic. Take the information with a grain of salt and give it some time to become more accurate before you make any changes. 

Loss of Important Backlinks

Backlinks are essential in your page ranking. If other websites are linking to your content, it shows that you’re a thought leader and have authority in the space. 

If you start to lose those backlinks because companies are linking to competing articles instead of yours, you may see your backlinks and ranking decrease. 

You can analyze your backlinks with a variety of SEO tools, like SEMrush, and ahrefs

backlink audit

Google Penalty

Google penalizes websites for a variety of red flags they find when crawling your pages. For example, you can be penalized for duplicate content, keyword stuffing, hidden links, or not being easily accessible for all users. Some of these are automatic, but others occur when Google pushes updates and recognizes something negative in your site.  

If you are penalized by Google for duplicated content, it’s time to worry. Plagiarism isn’t acceptable, and neither is unoriginal content. 

Your content should be original and be unique compared to the other search engine results. For example, if your content simply summarizes the top 3 articles for a keyword and doesn’t provide any additional insights or value, you will most likely see your position change.

Backend Site Issues

Common backend site issues that cause your rank to change include slow load times and other backend issues that are inconvenient for users.

Google wants the users to have a seamless experience. If your site has extremely slow load times, users are going to leave. And if users leave your site, that hurts your ranking. 

If you notice a decrease in site traffic, it could be a result of your page speed. A page speed report can show you how fast your site is. Testing competing websites is a great way to gauge where to stand on the spectrum. 

Pro tip: Images typically make up about 75% of total page weight when they aren’t optimized, resulting in longer load times. Optimizing your images is a great way to increase page speed and reduce load times. 

Your Site Has Been Hacked

Site security plays a large role in how Google views and ranks your website. If your website has been hacked and no longer is secure or safe for users to enter, Google will reduce your rank to protect the user. 

When Do You Need to Worry? 

Keyword ranking fluctuations are only temporary for most companies and shouldn’t raise too much concern. It’s common for these changes to stay in place for 3 to 4 weeks. So don’t panic right away and give Google time to adjust. 

If you still see that you are no longer ranking highly after a month or two, that should be a red flag, and changes should be made.

One of the best things to do is to look at competitor sites. 

  • Where are your competitors ranking?
  • How were they affected, if at all? 
  • What are some of the websites that moved up in rank?
  • What are they doing differently than you? 

Odds are, the keyword ranking fluctuations didn’t only affect you. Your competitors should see a change in traffic and rank as well. Unless, as mentioned earlier, they have been the top result for years. 

If you notice that you are the only one affected by these changes and it’s been longer than four weeks since the change, that should raise concern and you should take action. 

What Can You Do About Keyword Fluctuations?

The true answer (the answer that no marketers want to hear) is that all you can do is wait and see. You need to give Google time to gather information and adjust accordingly. But, again, most websites will return to their normal position after 3 to 4 weeks. 

If you don’t return to your normal position, there are a few things that you can do. 

  • Site audit 
  • Backlink audit 
  • Content remediation 
  • Competitor analysis 
  • Learn about the algorithm 

Site Audit

Performing an audit on your own site is an easy way to evaluate your website’s overall performance and search engine friendliness. This is where you learn about page speed, site security, and how user-friendly your website truly is.  

Backlink Audit

Backlink audits are similar to a site audit, but they strictly analyze the external sites that link to your content. Therefore, when performing a backlink audit, you should pay attention to the types of websites linking to your content, the quality of the backlinks, and how often websites link back to your website. 

Content Remediation

Content remediation is something that most websites should do regardless of how high they rank or if their rank has changed. Information changes as time passes, and Google wants to see that websites are keeping up with the times. Your content might be missing key questions that readers have and want answered. Adding new relevant content and improving existing content can help get you back to the top of SERPs. 

Competitor Analysis

A competitor analysis is a great way to discover what Google is looking for. If a competitor jumps above you in SERPs analyze their content. 

  • How does your content stack up to theirs? 
  • What are your competitors doing in their content that you aren’t? 
  • What questions are they asking and answering that you’re missing? 

Competitor analyses are easy to perform and can provide valuable insight into what changes you need to make. 

Learn about Google’s Algorithm Updates

Like we’ve said, Google is constantly innovating and updating its algorithm to provide the most value to the end user. Learning about the algorithm and staying ahead of the curve can give you a better understanding of what Google is looking for. 

This is a lot easier than most people think. Twitter is a great place to gain some valuable insights. Both @RustyBrick and @DannySullivan are great Twitter follows that tweet daily updates on how Google’s algorithm is changing and how it may affect your website. 

Overcoming Keyword Ranking Fluctuations 

With so many different factors affecting your keyword rank, it can be hard to find the specific fault that is causing you to lose traffic and conversions. Therefore, the first step in overcoming keyword ranking fluctuations is knowing where to start and implementing the right strategy to improve results and increase conversions. 

It’s important to remember that keyword ranking fluctuations are typically temporary and shouldn’t raise too much concern right away.

If you find that your SERP positions are falling too low, not returning to your average rank, and you aren’t reaching your goals as a result, our team at Tuff can help. We offer free growth strategy sessions and will analyze your current content strategy/performance to correct any keyword fluctuations you may be suffering from. 

Need help overcoming keyword ranking fluctuations? Let’s talk. 

 

The Difference Between On-Page, Off-Page, and Technical SEO

If you want to really increase your site’s traffic and make that traffic stick, then you’re looking at Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Why? Because prioritizing SEO increases the chances of customers finding your website whenever they research for keywords related to your products or services. According to databox, 70% of marketers find SEO more effective at driving sales. And if that wasn’t enough, compared to other tactics like Pay Per Click (PPC), SEO is cheaper.

So how come every growing business isn’t investing in SEO? Well, like so many twenty-something relationship statuses—it’s complicated. 

At Tuff, we analyze our clients’ websites from home page to blog and from site speed tags to 404 redirects to discover what SEO tactics will positively impact their growth. But did only some of that make sense? Well, probably because we threw some technical SEO jargon in there. That’s right! There are different types of SEO, and they all help optimize a site for search, but they do it differently.

So, to help clear up any confusion, we’ll walk you through the difference between on-page, off-page, and technical SEO and how each helps your growth marketing strategies. 

What is on-page SEO?

On-page or on-site SEO involves optimizing specific elements of your website’s pages, such as content and HTML source codes. On-page optimizations help search engines, like Google and Bing (if you’re into that, we do not judge), interpret page content to understand what it’s about. When the search engines understand the purpose of your page, they can turn around and help visitors searching for the goods or services you sell to find you. 

But for on-page SEO to be effective, it’s now what you tell search engines but how you tell them. And of those ways is through HTML tags. So to understand how on-page SEO works, you need to know a bit about HTML—the basic coding language that websites use.

The source code of most web pages filled with tags that look like this:

<title> What is HTML?</title>

So, if I had that bit of code on the Tuff site, you would see “What is HTML?” in the title bar of your browser. If you were to find this page on a search engine (hopefully in the first position), “What is HTML?” would be the name of the link you’d click.

Search engines use these tags to understand what a web page is about. One method of increasing on-page SEO is to optimize these tags (like using keywords—more on that in a sec) to make the search engines display your page for relevant search queries. If you do it correctly and don’t abuse it by stuffing keywords, you should see some positive organic results. However, nothing in SEO is that easy. 

Targeted keywords

In the good ol’days of SEO, you could have articles filled with search terms for your industry. So if you were a dog food company, most of your pages would be jam-packed with search terms like “best dog food,” “top-rated dog food,” “number one dog food,” etc. This was great for search engines but terrible for people that had to read sentences like “Have you asked yourself, ‘Is there dog food near me?” Now, spamming keywords into your content will not get you rewarded by Google but penalized because you aren’t providing users valuable information but devaluing your site’s expertise, authority, and trust (E.A.T.). 

On-page SEO is about utilizing these targeted keywords to help your site rank higher. But it’s not just going into SEMRush picking the top-ranking keywords. There is a technique to it. First, you want to perform a SEO competitive analysis where you determine the top keywords for your industry and how your competitors rank for these as well. Plus, you want to look for relevant keywords but have low competition. This will help your site build out its expertise and authority, which should have Google start ranking your content higher in the SERPs if your content is deemed valuable to the end-user. So tl;dr:

  • Identify your competitors and compare your keywords
  • Determine how the customers you want search for your goods or services.
  • Research successful pieces of content in your space and determine how they utilized keyword phrases
  • Use online SEO tools like SEMRush to look for keyword opportunities

So that’s it for on-page SEO, right? Well, actually, there’s more!

Title optimization

If you recall, way up there, we mentioned how essential tags were, especially title tags? Well, there is a bit more to it. Every piece of content you produce should have a compelling title that informs what the article should be about and contain the primary keyword you want to rank for. Search engines and users don’t have a lot of time, so if you can tell them what they can expect from the web page in the most concise way possible, you’ll be rewarded.

Title and header tags are also a great way to add your primary and secondary keywords. So if you were writing a piece on say, different types of SEO, your structure would look like this:

H1: The Difference Between On-Page, Off-Page, and Technical SEO

H2: What is On-Page SEO?

H2: What is Off-Page SEO?

H2: What is Technical SEO?

Well, you get the point. Search engines can crawl the page title and headings to help them determine what the content is about, and for a user, it is an excellent way for them to skim the content and get to the answer they want. All that engagement will go a long way into boosting your visitor site time and click-through rate, which will, in turn, increase your organic growth. 

Optimized Content

You want to make sure you use those keywords in your content you worked so hard to discover and ensure that your content talks about the subject you’re telling search engines what the content is about. It’s not enough to just sprinkle keywords throughout the content. On-page SEO will add depth and breadth on a subject for both search engines and your visitors. Plus, you want to use those keywords as naturally as possible. 

Remember our “dog food near me” example? Yeah, that type of content will be penalized because you’re not telling the search engines or your visitors how to find dog food closest to the user’s location. However, search engines, like Google, are getting better at determining user intent, which means content that answers a user’s question with a wealth of information will be rewarded by ranking higher in the SERPs. 

SEO-friendly URL

This one often gets overlooked, but the title should be a simplified summary of what your page is about. It may be tempting to just go with an auto-generated URL, like the ones Shopify and WordPress suggest based on your content, but take a minute to think about it. If you can remove any filler words and ensure that your title contains your primary keywords, you’ll have a greater opportunity to rank higher in the SERPs. So in short, make sure you:

  • Exclude words that don’t add significance to the URL 
  • Add relevant keywords
  • Make it easily readable
  • Use hyphens and underscores
  • Needs to contain your single domain and subdomain
  • Match URLs with your content’s titles as closely as possible

In the end, your URL will look something like this:

https://tuffgrowth.com/seo-competitive-analysis/

Optimized Meta Elements

Unfortunately, it just doesn’t end with a good title tag. In fact, the meta elements can have a more significant impact on your organic growth than the URL. So, again, don’t just go with the auto-generated meta elements from a CMS platform. As Google likes to tell us, you know your content best. So you take a moment to craft a meta title and meta description that stands out from your competitors and utilizes those valuable keywords. 

Google typically displays the first 50-60 characters of your title and 155 characters of your meta description. This includes spaces, so you don’t have a lot of room to work with. Let’s drag out our dog food example again. For a page on our made-up Pawsome Dog Food company, we want to tell both the search engines and the reader what it’s about while also encouraging them to click. So it should look something like this:

example of an updated meta description

Optimizing Images

Are images important for on-page SEO? They sure seem to be. According to an article in HubSpot, articles with images get 94% more total views than articles without images. But just like the keywords, the images have to be relevant to the content, and you have to do some on-page optimization to make the images work a little harder for you. This means titling the images using your keywords if possible and adding Alt-text that uses your keywords so the search engines can better categorize the content. 

That was a lot, and there are tons of tweaks and on-page SEO strategies you can implement to make your growth strategy successful.  But now we need to discuss off-page and technical SEO, and how they can also be an important part of your company’s organic growth. 

What is off-page SEO?

So you know what on-page SEO is, but what about everything that happens outside your site? Enter off-page SEO. Typically, Off-page SEO also includes anything that refers back to your site, such as social media, podcast, leaving comments on a guest blog, or anything that happens off your site that influences your site’s authority. Off-page SEO tactics generally fall under the Social Communications Manager or Social Ads Strategist role at your company. 

The most common off-page SEO tactic is link building. In the earlier days of search engines, SEO strategies determined if a page outside of your website linked back to your site, creating a backlink, that it was a signal of the popularity of your content. The more backlinks you had, the higher you would rank. In addition, you got bonus points if the sites linking back to you were also popular. So there was a mad dash of websites linking to each other as much as possible. 

But like that judgemental principle in your middle school, Google judges your site by the company you keep. So if you have too many backlinks that are considered “toxic,” meaning they have a low domain authority or are from just terribly spammy sites, a backlink from these types of sites could actually hurt your on-page SEO. This means you have to be careful who you request a backlink from. 

A big part of off-page SEO is curating your backlinks. Often, you can’t control who links back to your site. In this instance you have to disavow these toxic backlinks. Plus, you could have sites linking to pages that no longer exist on your site. This would require a link reclamation campaign. Off-page SEO is labor intensive, so a lot of companies choose not to do it, and focus on SEO tactics, like on-page and technical, that are more in their control. However, when done right, off-page SEO can have a huge impact on your rankings. 

What is Technical SEO?

Finally! The unsung hero of search optimization. Talk to a technical SEO for a few minutes, and you will most likely not understand a word they said, but we guarantee what they were telling you goes a long way to the health of your site. 

Technical SEO is a catch-all term for optimization improvements that are not on-or off-page. An SEO skilled in this will perform technical SEO optimizations on your site to make sure that you have a solid foundation for all your on-page and off-page SEO tactics. Their behind-the-scenes work can do wonders on your site’s performance and your organic growth. This is because Google not only rewards good content but it also regards a good user experience. If your site is too slow, too hard to crawl, or you have too many dead links, all the great content in the world won’t get you to rank high in the SERPs.

At Tuff, we look into a client’s site health before we make any changes. We know that if the site’s foundation is bad, then all our work for the client won’t help them grow an inch. So technical SEO is just as important as any other SEO tactics, if not more important. So what does technical SEO include? This isn’t the definitive list, but it’s some of the heavy-hitting a technical SEO will perform on a site.

Site Architecture

We mentioned how vital a good foundation was, and a technical SEO can inspect your site and ensure everything is working and linking as it is supposed to be. 

Your site’s architecture makes it easy for search engines and users to find you. With over a trillion pages on the internet, you can see what is important. The search engines’ crawlers need to be able to thoroughly and easily navigate your entire site. A website with an ideal architecture helps crawlers locate anything they’re looking for across all of your pages.

Another reason technical SEO can be so effective is that it flushes out any internal linking issues you may have. Internal linking to high-priority pages gives them greater authority (Remember that whole E.A.T. thing?) These high-priority pages are recognized by Google and receive a higher ranking, which is key for sites like your homepage.

It’s not just for search engines. A good site architecture also helps people find what they need more quickly and keeps them from bouncing too soon. Keeping customers happy lowers your bounce-back rate, which helps your organic rankings. 

Sitemaps

Your site map or XML sitemap is really just what it sounds like. It’s a roadmap for search engines to explore your site. Just like any good map, an XML sitemap will highlight the most critical areas of your sites, like landmarks, so the crawlers know what to check out first. 

xml sitemap example

This is key for extensive sites where the crawlers may not know where to begin; you want to make sure that the search engines prioritize your most important pages, such as landing pages before your crawl budget is used up.

Mobile-first Optimization

With Google prioritizing mobile search over desktop, your site must be mobile-friendly. Technical SEO ensures your site not only looks great but functions as it should when someone accesses it from their phone or tablet. 

If that doesn’t seem too important, consider that mobile search accounted for 52.1% compared to desktop searches of 44.2%. So yeah, how your site functions on mobile is pretty essential.

Duplicate Content

Some things are so important you feel the need to say them multiple times, but too much and Google will ding your rankings. Technical SEO will look into what content or pages have the same message or even the exact same content and devise a plan on what to keep and what to throw out. 

A technical SEO will also look into thin content or what pages are not providing much value from a search standpoint. Remember, Google will penalize you if you throw up a page that offers no value. Google doesn’t like it when you waste its or a user’s time. For large enterprise sites, chances are there are a lot of duplicate or thin pages, and a technical SEO can ferret these issues out to ensure your site is healthy. 

Site Speed

Do you hate sitting in traffic? So does Google, and if your site loads too slow, more than two seconds, then Google is going to have something to say about it. But it’s not just search engines that have a problem with slow site speeds. 

website site speed

Most people will leave a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load. But, unfortunately, all this clicking-and-bouncing negatively affects your site rankings. There could be too many redirects, line breaks in your code, Javascript issues, image optimization issues, and more. So having a technical SEO that can determine why your page is loading too slowly can save your business. 

Schema Markup

Schema markup or structured data is a type of code that communicates to search engines how to follow your website and what the data on your site means. Rember, Google isn’t patient, it has a lot to do, so good communication with search engines is key to getting you to rank higher. 

Technical SEO also looks at how your site performs internationally, hreflang tags, and a host of their back-end issues such as canonicals robot text, core web vitals, and assesses how any Google update may affect your site’s overall health.

What kind of SEO is best for your site?

Easy and lazy answer. All of them, and this is true. A holistic SEO strategy will utilize all the strategies that affect your organic growth channels. However, sometimes it’s not realistic to focus on all three. You may not have the expertise or the people to make a serious SEO- impact to grow your site’s organic channels. 

This is where a growth marketing agency like Tuff comes in. We’ll do a deep dive on your site and determine which SEO tactics will have the biggest impact on your business. We’ll determine if on-page, off-page, or technical SEO is going to improve your conversions and website rankings and then come up with a plan and help you execute. Each business model is different, so there is not a one-size fits all approach. If there was, SEO would be easy. However, with a partner like Tuff on your team, on-page, off-page, and technical SEO are a whole lot easier.

If you want to know more about how on-page, off-page, and technical SEO  can be a part of your growth marketing strategies, hit us up. We’d be happy to walk you through our game plan on how we can attract the right traffic to help make your business successful. 

Content Remediation: How to Boost Your Ranking By Refreshing Old Content

So, you’ve done the heavy lifting making your case for content, doing your competitor and keyword research, identifying your best opportunities, creating a content strategy, etching in goals, and putting pen to paper.

But now that your content creation engine is chugging along like a sleek machine, you know there’s got to be other activities you can be doing to sneak up in the SERPs and capture more organic traffic. Enter: remediation!

Remediation is only a viable option if you already have a relatively deep well of content to work with (think at least 20 blogs published more than a few months ago). If you’re just starting out, no problem! Bookmark this page and revisit it next quarter or next year.

What is content remediation?

Content remediation is the systematic and strategic process of updating your growth content in order to give your readers new and up-to-date information and, debatably more importantly, send out the signal to search engines that there’s exciting fresh content that deserves a ranking boost.

As part of your bigger-picture content strategy, it can help fortify target keyword pillars and build greater authority in strategic areas.

Why remediate blog content?

I know what you’re thinking, your content is already great. And that’s probably true! But beyond adding some fresh information to make sure your post is as up to date and timely as possible, there are a lot of other reasons to implement a remediation strategy including but not limited to…

  1. You lost rankings because your competitors updated their content and you want to compete with them.
  2. You average time on page is low and you want to add new creative to the content to get readers staying on the page longer.
  3. The publish date is old and may discourage readers so you want to update the content and show the updated date to visitors. 
  4. Your bounce rate is higher than average and it’s because you don’t have enough internal links linking to your pillar pages. 
  5. You’re ranking on page 2 and you think with some minor improvements you’ll be able to rank on page 1.

The biggest takeaway: when we tell Google content is new, we’ll likely see a spike in traffic, making the relatively tiny amount of work required well worth it.

How to remediate content

First of all, it’s best to have a strategy in place before you start remediating old blog posts. If you have hundreds or thousands of blog posts, you’ll certainly need a plan for tackling all of these in bite-sized chunks over time. 

Process

Let’s begin with process and strategy. Before you begin creating content you typically start by building a content strategy, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do when we focus on remediation.

Similar to a content calendar, it’s useful to build out a content remediation process for each piece of content going forward. This is typically done on 30, 60, or 90-day basis, depending on how time-sensitive or evergreen your content is.

Once you’ve got the overall strategy nailed down, you’ll want to develop a strategy for each individual piece of content, which I’ll discuss now.

Improve

When setting out to improve an old post with good structure, it’s good to start with improvements in keyword targeting and general writing and grammar. You want to make sure that your blog post has a clear focus, targets a specific topic and keyword, and is doing so in proper English (or whatever language your blog may be in).

Once the content itself is in good shape, make sure to add any technical improvements that the piece may need, such as relevant internal links, alt text, or schema markup.

Then it’s time to make sure it’s pretty. Instead of big blocks of text, look for ways to make it chunkable and easier to read. This could be adding line breaks, paragraphs or creating bulleted or numbered lists. Visual improvements impact user experience and can keep people on the page longer, improving overall SEO. 

Expand and update

Another way to get more value out of your content is to repurpose or update the information contained to make old content fresh again. Data says that this is well worth the effort, with business bloggers who update older posts being 74% more likely to report strong results.

A few ways to expand or update a post are to explore a different take on the initial thesis, add newer data, or integrate more recent developments or changed opinions. Look to correct any data that is more than a year old with the most current information.  

Increasing word count has also shown to be beneficial, as longer blog posts typically perform better. This goes the same for adding images and other rich media such as infographics, videos, and charts and graphs.

Many of the blogs we recommend for remediation are under 750 words. We want to add more content as long as that content is good quality, answers FAQs, and provides the audience with useful information.

Update and add keywords

While remediating content, we also want to update the target keywords and add as many semantically related keywords as possible without crossing over the keyword stuffing line. The best way to add keywords is to include them within a sentence where it sounds natural. 

For example, in the sentences below, the keyword is in bold. Note how the first option sounds more natural, while the second one forces the keyword to create a jarring experience for the reader and the search engines.  

Do this: 

As a business owner, time is money. Save both by outsourcing bookkeeping services which allows you to focus on your company and not just your books.

Not this: 

Business outsourcing bookkeeping services tend to save time and money.

Add Images

Sometimes adding images to long-form content can completely rejuvenate the content by increasing the average time that readers spend on the page and in turn increasing its organic rankings. 

We recommend adding at least 3 images for every 1,000 words of content if possible. This can be done using a free stock image website such as Unsplash if you don’t have an extensive image library.

Content Remediation is The Low-Hanging Fruit of SEO Strategy

One of the things we find ourselves explaining most often: a great content strategy is one of the best long-term investments you can make when it comes to growth strategy. While, true, it’s a time consuming and can be more costly strategy to fire up and maintain, once you have a solid well of content, strategies like remediation can have you reaping riches for years to come.

Excited but not quite sure where to start? Let’s chat!

man looking at magnifier

How to Do a Keyword Gap Analysis

man looking at magnifier

There are no ties in SEO.

In order for one company to be number one, there also have to be losers. How can you make sure you’re on the right side of this equation? It’s all about strategy.

If you’ve identified your competition, you may be wondering:

  • What’s the next step?
  • Why are my competitors continually outranking me?

It’s likely time for you to do a keyword gap analysis.

What is a keyword gap analysis?

A keyword gap analysis is a method for choosing the best keywords for your organic SEO strategy. In a keyword gap analysis, you’ll compare yourself to your competitors to determine where they are outperforming you, and how you can catch up. Your keyword “gaps” are areas in which you have a realistic ability to overtake your competitors and outrank them. In short, it’s a way to reveal keyword opportunities you’re missing out on. 

A keyword gap analysis is an essential part of an SEO competitive analysis. You’ll identify keywords that your competitors rank for, but you don’t. You’ll also identify keywords that you have a low ranking for, for example positions 5 to 15. From there, you can create a strategy to “boost” low rankings and steal keywords from your competitors.

Why is keyword gap analysis important?

The ultimate goal of any holistic SEO content strategy is to drive traffic to your site. But you don’t want just any traffic. You want high-value, high-intent website visitors whose problems you can solve. That’s just what you get when you use a keyword gap analysis to reveal areas of opportunity where you either don’t have content or where you can improve existing content. 

Keyword gap analysis is vital to creating quality content that will capture the right audience at the right time. At Tuff, we use PPC and organic search together, building a strategy in which they complement each other, help drive growth on more competitive keywords, improve rankings and traffic, and increase share of voice. That translates into more traffic – and more revenue.

How to do a keyword gap analysis

You don’t need to be an SEO master to do a keyword gap analysis, but having a professional on your side is always helpful when it comes to interpreting results and creating a list of keywords. Here’s how we do it at Tuff.

Pick your tools

You’re going to need at least one SEO tool in order to perform a keyword gap analysis. The options here are similar to the tools you can use for on-page SEO analysis. We use Semrush, which does have a free version available with a limited amount of queries allowed. (That’s another benefit of hiring an agency – we have the tools and the expertise to use them!)

keyword gap analysis using SEMRush

Get your keyword list

Open up your tool and enter your website domain. Then enter your main competitors and click “Compare.” The tool will show you a list of keywords that your competitors rank for, as well as where you appear in the SERPs for those same words. You can sort by organic, paid, or PLA, and Semrush will also show you keyword volume, difficulty, competitive density, and CPC among other metrics. For in-depth analysis, download the file as a CSV report so you can sort and search more easily.

Interpret your results

Now you need to determine where you can get the most value from your keywords. Your keyword tool will do some of the work for you. Semrush, for example, has a section showing “Top Opportunities” for keywords that your site is missing as well as weak keywords—where you have a ranking but it is lower than all of your competitors’ rankings. To discover opportunities yourself, look for keywords that are:

  • Highly relevant to your business and your website
  • Regularly searched for by your target audience
  • Not overly competitive, but still high-value
  • Easily filled using existing content or easy to create new content for

We export each keyword gap analysis into a spreadsheet to better sort, analyze, and filter the data. It looks something like this with four core tabs: Shared, Missing, Weak, and Strong.

keyword gap analysis spreadsheet

Try a page-level analysis

You already know a few different areas where you and a competitor have similar articles. You want to determine what they’re doing right and replicate it. Doing a keyword gap analysis at the page level instead of the domain level is helpful here. You can enter the exact URL of your competitor and compare it to your own page to see what you may be missing. Then add those keywords to your page – or create an entirely new page – and start stealing competitors’ traffic.

Put it into action

How do you know whether to refresh an existing page or create a new one? What types of content will most effectively attract customers from your competitors? This is where SEO becomes not on a science, but an art. To determine your plan of action, analyze the top content that is already ranking for that keyword and look for things like:

  • Content type (video, blog, gallery, etc.)
  • Content length and organization
  • Headers and keywords used

Do you have content that already fulfills these criteria? You can update it to use the new keywords. If you don’t, you’ll want to create something new. 

Organic growth is crucial to the overall growth of your business, but it isn’t always straightforward. Tuff can help you with every step of the process, from performing a keyword gap analysis and determining the best course of action to creating content that outranks the competition. Contact us today to get started.

A person reviewing data on google search console

How Long Before you See Results from an SEO Content Strategy?

A person reviewing data on google search console

Your website is up and running. You’ve added some basic keywords to your landing pages and posted some thoughtful, organized blog articles. Maybe you even updated your HTML and other technical SEO factors. And yet…nothing. You’re left wondering, “How long does SEO take to start working?” 

The answer is: It’s complicated. There are numerous factors that affect your SEO results, and content while essential is only one of them. 

Organic SEO is a long-term play with a lot of moving pieces. But once the foundation is laid, you’ll be set up for success long into the future.

How long does an SEO content strategy take to show results?

A holistic SEO content strategy will typically take 4 to 6 months to start showing results. The amount of time depends on many different factors, including the current status of your website, your competition, and the resources you have to put into SEO. The quality of your content is also a big factor.

Remember: SEO results are cumulative. While you’ll start to see results in 4 to 6 months, after a year your results will compound even more. A solid, ongoing SEO strategy is the gift that keeps on giving. Have you noticed that certain types of searches always seem to return the same websites, over and over? Once you become a trusted, knowledgeable source in the “eyes” of the search engines, they’ll start amplifying your content automatically.

Why does organic SEO take so long?

There are dozens of ranking factors and signals that determine the overall organic health of your website and therefore your SEO results. Let’s go over the major ranking factors you need to know about.

Two coworkers brainstorming content strategy on a white board

Keyword competition

Do you have a unique product, or are there a lot of competitors in your space? The more competition you face, the longer it will take you to rank for those keywords. Selling neon-colored unicycles? Not a lot of competition. Selling kids’ bicycles? Probably really competitive. 

Domain age

You can’t get around this fact: If you have a new website that is not as established as your SEO competitors, it will be tougher to rank. New websites automatically have a lower domain authority because the search engines aren’t yet familiar with your content. They also have fewer backlinks pointing to them one of the signals search engines use to determine the ranking of your site.

On-page factors

On-page SEO includes anything your website visitors see: landing pages, product pages, blogs and so on. This is the most visible part of SEO and likely what you’ve been working on. But it goes beyond cranking out content and hoping for the best. You need to think about quality, duplicate content, hyperlinking, images and more. An on-page SEO analysis is a good place to start.

Technical factors

Technical SEO is the backend of your website. Don’t ignore these factors they’re an important piece of the SEO puzzle. In fact, page speed optimization is the top tactic marketers use to improve search performance. You should also make sure the search engines can easily crawl your website, understand your site architecture, read your hreflang, and canonicalize your URLs. Sounds like a lot of big words, right? That’s what we’re here for.

Off-page factors

Off-page SEO is often the last factor you think about, but they can make the difference between making page one or being bumped to page two. Your domain authority, bounce rate, geographic location, and target market all affect your off-page SEO. The best ways to improve this category is to work on your backlink strategy, improve your social media presence and create off-page content like guest blogs to increase your authority. 

Ever-changing algorithms 

Search engines are fickle beasts. Changes in the Google algorithm (that is, the way that Google ranks pages) send SEO specialists everywhere scrambling to update their technical and on-page SEO. Penguin, Panda, EMD (Exact Match Domain), Page Layout Algorithm … the algorithms never stop. Luckily, Tuff is here to help you keep up.

Is an SEO content strategy worth the wait?

In short yes! There’s a reason that 61% of inbound marketers say that growing SEO/organic presence is their top priority. In second place at 55% is blog content creation, a closely related topic. High-value organic traffic can result in better leads and faster acquisition times, and ultimately helps drive revenue. 

While PPC can give you instant results, you have to keep the money pumping. Organic SEO results are sticky: if done right, a good content strategy will keep delivering long after the 4 to 6 months have passed. In fact, we’re living proof. Tuff increased our own organic traffic by 630% over 12 months, which drove a 60% increase in monthly revenue. 

The key is that you have to take the time and effort to ensure that your content is fresh, good quality, and a valuable resource for your customers. A growth marketing agency like Tuff can help get your organic SEO on the right track, while also serving other channels and helping you to create a holistic strategy for growth.

A "Google" sign on top of a building in front of a blue sky

A Two-Step Guide to Identifying Your Competitors

A "Google" sign on top of a building in front of a blue sky

So you’ve determined that a growth-focused content strategy has definitively moved up your priority list. We wholeheartedly approve. A holistic SEO content strategy really pulls its weight in the acquisition department. It’s a great compliment to a paid strategy, and although it doesn’t drive immediate wins like a Facebook or Google Ads campaign can, the power it has to be an integral pillar of real, sustainable growth makes it an important strategy for almost any company serious about growing over time.

Before you jump in both feet, though, it’s important to lay the groundwork. And a super important part of that is identifying the right competitors.

Here at Tuff when we’re creating a content strategy for one of our clients, we’ll think of competitors in two different ways. 

  1. An organization that directly competes with you; your customer or clients might consistently pitch you against them. 
  2. The competitor that ranks high on the search terms we’d like to rank for. 

Step One: Define Your Market Competitors

A market competitor is an organization that directly competes with you in your market or industry; your customer or clients might consistently pitch you against them.

If you’ve been in business for any amount of time, you should be familiar with your market competitors. You likely performed competitive research about your market and industry before you even started your business and incorporated it into your business plan. 

Why is it so essential to research your market competitors? There are tons of reasons, including:

  • Differentiating yourself from the competition
  • Replicating their strengths
  • Leveraging their weaknesses to your advantage
  • Honing in the market your product or service
  • Staying ahead of trends in your industry

It’s also important for us at Tuff to know. It’s a foundational part of our onboarding process and helps guide our strategic recommendations. We’ll lean on you to bring us juicy information here – so if you haven’t identified these organizations yet, here’s how to get started.

Interview customers and clients

Competitive research can seem overwhelming – where do you even start? Reaching out to your clients and customers is a great first step. Interview both new and long-time customers to determine not only what brought them to your company, but what keeps them coming back

Phone calls and email are reliable ways to gather this type of information. You can also incorporate social media by asking your followers to fill out a survey. Both qualitative (descriptive) and quantitative (numerical) information will be useful to inform your business and marketing strategies

Talk to your sales and customer service teams 

You need more than external data to create a well-rounded competitive analysis. Don’t ignore your internal teams – they have a wealth of information about your competitors that you won’t be able to get anywhere else. You especially need to talk to your sales and customer service teams. 

Your sales team will have great insights from pitches and discovery calls, where they’re sure to hear a lot about what’s great and not-so-great about your competitors. And your customer service team has probably gotten an earful about what your competitors do better than you. Make sure you create an environment of trust and confidentiality so they feel comfortable being honest.

Find the right tools

There’s never a shortage of tools in the marketing industry, and that’s true of competitive research, too. Which one (or more) is right for you?

  • Klue: Research and track your competitors through a combination of news tracking and internal data, then track them so you know when they change their website, update their products or get new customer reviews. 
  • Crayon: Capture data from hundreds of millions of sources and use AI to filter it down into key insights. Identify and follow market trends to stay ahead of the competition. 
  • FirstRain: Get high-quality and relevant information that’s categorized, prioritized and ready to be put into action. Stay up-to-date on current information like management changes, M&A and industry trends.
  • Kompyte: Differentiate your product or service with information about your competition’s features, pricing and messaging, learn what works for them and discover how it all fits into a high-level view of your market.

A screenshot from Klue, a market research company, showcasing how their software works

Enlist help from the pros 

Don’t have the time to perform competitive research yourself? We’re not afraid to tell you that this isn’t necessarily our expertise. But there are companies out there that focus specifically on digging into this type of information – and hiring one can be a smart move for enterprise-level businesses.

If you have the resources to spend, getting help from the pros can actually be more efficient than doing it yourself. Just make sure the company you choose is fluent in your industry and check their references.

Step Two: Hone in On Your SEO Competitors

An SEO competitor is an organization that ranks highly on the search terms we’d like to rank for. 

Your SEO competitors are the businesses you’ll be directly competing with in order to rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). While SEO competitors sometimes overlap with market competitors this list will likely shorter than the first. It could also be composed of businesses that aren’t direct competitors, for example one that is within your industry but has a different product or service than you. 

Once you identify your competitors, you can create a plan of attack to understand what content is generating their strong results, and how you can do better. 

This all starts with focused competitive research. And the benefits of doing so go far beyond the satisfaction of unseating your competitor from the number one spot.

What are the benefits of SEO competitive research? There are tons of reasons, including:

  • Increasing organic website traffic
  • Driving high-quality traffic to your site
  • Improving conversions by providing value to potential customers
  • Earning more revenue and grow your business

This is Tuff’s wheelhouse; our bread and butter. We’ll perform and leverage SEO competitive research to create content strategies that outrank your competitors and win on critical keywords. Here’s how we identify your SEO competitors. 

Identify your keywords 

Your SEO competitors are only your competitors because they have keywords you want. To identify competitors through keywords, you must know what keywords you want! What are the keywords that your best customer is most likely to use to find your service? What are related keywords and longtail keywords?

Now narrow down your list using the following criteria:

  • Relevance. Will this keyword bring you the type of traffic you want? Is it highly relevant to your business goals?
  • Business strength. Is your business strong in this area or topic? Will a search engine believe that you’re an expert?
  • Current rankings. Are you currently ranking on page two or three for a keyword? That will make it easier for you to reach page one. 
  • Volume. Monthly volume isn’t the end-all, be-all (in fact, sometimes you may want to choose lower volume keywords). But it does give you an idea of what people are searching for. 

A graphic showcasing what keyword research looks like in Semrush.

Find your competitors

Now you can identify your competitors for your chosen keywords. You can choose the free way: manually searching Google by typing in each keyword and taking note of the businesses that show up on page one – but that can be time-consuming. It’s much more efficient to use a tool like Semrush to see who is ranking for each keyword.

The best way is to have someone do it for you. Tuff will conduct a full on-page SEO analysis, including choosing the keywords that are right for you, identifying your competitors and building you a strategy that can beat them!

Think you’re ready to fire up your content engine with Tuff? Let’s talk!

How To Do an on-Page SEO Analysis

a man sitting at a clean white desk researching on-page seo

You’ve probably heard the phrase “Content is king.” Bill Gates said it in a 1996 essay, and it’s been true ever since. So it’s likely that you’ve got content. Lots of content! But is anyone seeing it? Is it helping to drive growth for your business?

An effective growth marketing strategy means more than throwing together a blog where you write about topics that you’re familiar with or that you find interesting. To create content that truly connects with your audience – and that drives conversions – you need to think about on-page SEO analysis.

What is on-page SEO?

SEO is commonly split up into three types: on-page, technical, and off-page. On-page SEO is anything that your visitors see when they come to your website: product pages, location pages, resources, blog articles, and so on. Technical SEO is what happens behind the scenes of your website: HTML markup, site architecture, site speed, and so on. Off-page SEO includes things like link building, guest blogs, and social media

Here we’ll only be talking about on-page SEO: your website’s content. Thorough and knowledgeable on-page content is an essential piece of the SEO puzzle because it signals to search engines that your content answers searchers’ questions – a key to ranking highly. 

Ranking factors for on-page content include:

  • Keyword optimization
  • Content quality, length, and organization
  • Internal and external hyperlinking
  • Meta information (URL, title tag, and meta description)
  • Images and image alt text

These are all the elements you’ll need to analyze and optimize in order to improve your position in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Seem like a lot? There are tools that can help. 

On-page SEO analysis tools

On-page SEO analysis is much more than sitting around guessing what Google wants. Done right, it will show you the gaps in your on-page strategy so you can optimize your content – and help drive organic traffic and revenue. But you’ll need the right tools. Here are three of our favorites. 

Google Analytics

You’d probably expect that Google has some of the best data on the web, and you’d be right. Get real-time reporting on visitors, traffic sources, conversion rate, and more across devices so you can analyze what’s working and what isn’t. You can also use Google Search Console to drill down into organic search traffic to see what keywords your pages are ranking for.

a chart from google analytics showing site traffic

Semrush

Semrush is an excellent SEO tool for building a keyword strategy. Use Keyword Overview to get a quick summary of metrics, dive deeper with Keyword Magic to build your list, and use the Keyword Difficulty metric to find low-competition keywords that will give you an edge. You can also use it to perform competitive analysis and do topic research. 

metrics from semrush showcasing keyword overview

Yoast

Yoast is an SEO analysis plug-in for WordPress, making it a convenient option for the many businesses whose websites or blogs are built on that platform. Yoast will rate your pages’ SEO optimization and the Page Analysis feature will give specific feedback on where you can improve. It indicates areas for improvement with red dots – once optimized the dots turn green. Yoast’s user-friendliness makes it incredibly popular.

Remember that you don’t just need the tools, but also the expertise to use them. You’ll want to know what your competitors are doing so you can differentiate yourself – or go after them directly. These are all areas that an expert agency like Tuff can help.

How to do an on-page SEO analysis

You’ve got the tools and you’re ready to perform your on-page analysis! Here’s how we do it at Tuff.

Perform keyword research

On-page content that will crush it in the SERPs always starts with finding the right keywords. Use your SEO tool of choice to perform keyword research around the topic you want to write about. Ask yourself:

  • Are the keywords relevant to your topic? 
  • Are these terms regularly searched by your target audience?
  • Can you realistically rank for these keywords?

Decide on your primary keyword

Keyword research will likely give you a list of hundreds, if not thousands, of keywords. Your SEO tool may prioritize them for you, but it will still be up to you to choose your primary keyword. So which keyword will be able to rule them all? Your primary keyword should:

  • Be highly relevant and laser-focused on your topic
  • Have low competition or relate to an area where your business is very strong
  • Not already be used as a keyword in another piece of content (this is called cannibalization, and it confuses the search engines)

Choose related keywords

To create a piece of content that will catch the attention of the search engines, you need to round out your primary keyword with related keywords and topics. Related keywords will help you capture more search intent and can be used to target your PPC campaigns, too. Choose three to five related keywords that are:

  • Based on your target keyword and semantically related searches
  • Related to the intent of your searchers and their stage in the buyer journey
  • Long-tail (three or more words) or other variations on standard keywords

Look for audience questions

The ultimate goal of content marketing is always to answer the questions that your audience is asking. Audience questions, or PAAs (for “people also ask”), help you do that. PAAs are related questions that appear on Google SERPs. Being featured in the answer box is a big deal in SEO, but using these questions can also help you:

  • Rank for the question or long-tail keyword
  • Create FAQ sections within your content
  • Guide your content to ensure it’s useful to your audience

Create a content plan

Now that you have your primary keyword, related keywords, and FAQs or PAAs, you’re ready to create a content plan that will help you conquer the SERPs and drive conversions. But the content you’ll create depends on several factors:

  • What stage of the buyer journey is your searcher in when they search for that keyword?
  • Will they be looking for an informational blog, a conversion-focused landing page, a branded product page, or something else?
  • Can you use it to create content that fills in gaps in your content strategy?
  • Can you create content around this keyword that outranks your competitors?

Best practices for on-page content

You’re almost there. But before you hit “publish,” make sure your content follows best practices. (Yes, Google will know if it does!)

  • Always create high-quality, original content to avoid plagiarism and duplicate content penalties.
  • Structure your content in a way that is informative but easy to read (bulleted list, no large blocks of text). Put the most useful information front and center, then expand upon it.
  • Use your primary keyword in the title, title tag, meta description, at least one of the subheadings, first and last paragraph, and about two to three times per 500 words – but not more. “Keyword stuffing” will be penalized.
  • Use related keywords at least one within the copy and be sure they sound natural.
  • Answer audience questions either directly with an FAQ section or H2, or naturally within your content.
  • Use at least one image and ensure it is SEO optimized with an image alt tag, title, and file name that uses the primary keyword. 
  • Include your primary keyword in the URL structure. 
  • Track your keyword performance and re-analyze and optimize as needed.

 

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to on-page SEO analysis. At Tuff, we have the tools and expertise you need to create and execute a holistic content strategy that drives traffic and grows your business. 

What Does a Holistic SEO Content Strategy Look Like?

ceramic letters spelling out SEO

SEO is a fast-paced world. It seems like every day there’s an update, a new best practice or a new tool to learn. As soon as you get down the basics of technical SEO, you learn there’s a whole different side to it: content strategy. 

A holistic SEO strategy that includes technical SEO as well as on-page growth content is essential to increasing organic traffic – and helping to improve lead generation, acquisition, and revenue. It’s also highly personalized to your business and involves a lot of moving pieces. Here’s how to ensure your SEO content strategy is effective and efficient.

What is growth content?

Growth content includes landing pages, blogs, product pages, and so on that are designed to rank in Google. When you appear at the top of the SERPs (search engine results pages), people who are searching for the particular topics you are targeting will discover your brand, click through to your website, and – if your growth content strategy does its job – stay there and make a purchase.

So how do you make a successful growth content strategy? At Tuff, we use site traffic analysis, competitive review, and keyword gap analysis to create a strategy for building content that’s always helpful, engaging, informative, and that gives you a timeline and projections that put the future in focus. 

Do I need a growth content strategy?

Got your eye on long-term growth? Chances are you need a content strategy. True, paid ads drive quick wins, but real staying power and long-term revenue growth comes from a content strategy designed to drive (and keep!) stronger, more engaged traffic over time. 

Some content strategies work more quickly than others – for example, refreshing existing content and filling gaps in your buyer funnel are both “low-hanging fruit.” But overall, a holistic SEO content strategy isn’t meant to be a quick fix. It’s a series of actions and content pieces that build up your credibility over time until you’re outranking your competition and bringing more customers to your site.

Step 1: Do your research

Before you dive in, take a step back and do your research. A truly holistic strategy includes elements of content analysis, audience research, and SEO analysis. 

  • Who are my competitors? You can’t outrank your competitors without identifying them first. We think of competitors in two different ways. One type of competitor is an organization that directly competes with you; agents or sellers might consistently pitch you against them. The other is the competitor that ranks high on the search terms we’d like to rank for. 
  • What are my competitors doing? In addition to performing an SEO competitive analysis, we also take a deep dive into our competitors’ existing content. What does their content look like? How regularly are they publishing? You’ll want to stand out just enough in terms of tone of voice and imagery, while also following established best practices.
  • Who is my target audience? Defining your target audience helps you choose your content topics and build a strategy that answers their questions. That’s why we work so hard to define and understand a target audience for your growth content strategy.
  • What tools do I use? There are many SEO tools out there. We use SEMRush to perform a keyword gap analysis to glean important takeaways.

screen cap of visibility and keyword ranking in semrush

Step 2: Define your strategy

All that research you did in step 1 will reveal the content strategy that will benefit you the most – but you must know where to look. Research will reveal different gaps and goals for everyone, so there’s no real blueprint here. This is where it’s super helpful to have the guidance of an expert that can spot opportunities and overlay a strategy designed to be efficient, effective, and keep goals in sight. 

We have tons of examples of growth marketing strategies we can share with you. Here’s one we compiled for a client with a relatively new business and a site that didn’t have much content:

  • Create content to capture searches that are at the top of the funnel. This means focusing on long-term keywords to grab impressions and clicks at the beginning of the customer journey.
  • Ensure all pieces of content are rich with keywords and, more importantly, that those keywords are followed by useful information for SMEs.
  • Target high-traffic keywords and create content that will capture traffic. We want to go after industry-specific terms that the customers you want are searching for.
  • Ensure your landing pages are working for you. We’ll test your landing pages to ensure they’re answering audience questions and helping to initiate action.
  • Creating guides, how-tos, and informational content for your blog. This will help us construct pillars that we can back link to creating a content web.

Step 3: Determine your focus keywords

No SEO strategy is complete without keywords. As part of on-page SEO, they’re vital to ensuring that whatever is produced is targeted and strategic. Google is clear on how to get your content to rank: Answer your audience’s questions in a concise, authoritative way. But what should your keywords be?

After you perform a keyword gap analysis among your competitors look for opportunities in the 10,000+ keywords where the competition is lower (<75) – lower competition means you’ll have a better chance to rank. Then whittle those down to a more manageable number.

Next hone in on projections. If you start with a pillar piece, you can estimate that if you get on page 1 you can get a piece of the total keyword traffic volume. Do this by taking the total volume of keywords for that piece of content and estimating around 15% of that total.

Sound complicated? It’s just another day on the job for our SEO experts.  

Step 4: Set traffic targets

Growth marketing always comes back to one thing: your goals. And when it comes to SEO content strategy, one of the most important growth marketing metrics is traffic: 60% of marketers say that inbound – which includes SEO and blog content – is their highest quality source of leads. When your traffic goes up, your leads and revenue should follow.

In most cases, you’ll want to see key indicators of growth such as higher search rankings and new traffic within 60–90 days of publishing. Then, within four to five months you’ll want to see significant traction toward your client acquisition goals

Based on your existing organic growth and your growth content plan, benchmark what your organic traffic is like now and set a goal for how much you want it to increase. Then, take the CVR of your current organic traffic and use it to make a projection about how many new customers/clients your new strategy will drive. 

a graph showing different kinds of site traffic in semrush

Step 5: Execute and report

It’s go time. Content is most effective when it’s published consistently over time, so put together your content calendar and get writing. If you’re overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content, enlist help. You can find freelance writers on Upwork, LinkedIn, Fiverr, and more. 

Provide them with an outline of the topic and keywords, plus guidelines on your brand identity and style. Even though this is performance content designed to generate traffic, it will also serve as an introduction to your brand for many people, so make sure your tone of voice is consistent and on point. 

Creating and managing a holistic SEO content strategy is pretty involved. Use a project management software to stay organized (we use Trello). You’ll also want to keep a simple spreadsheet that showcases performance and helps you understand what’s generating the most traction over time. SEO content strategy is an ongoing process that is always being updated, refined, and improved to get the best results. 

Typing on google search.

Branded and Non-Branded Organic Traffic: What Is It and Why It’s Important to Track It

Typing on google search.

When it comes to SEO (search engine optimization), it’s important to be able to track branded and non-branded organic traffic. So what is branded and non-branded organic traffic, why are they important, and how do you measure them? Let’s get into it. 

Simply put, branded organic traffic is any organic traffic that comes from a keyword phrase that contains a branded term. 

For example, QuietKat is a well-known eBike company so they receive a lot of branded searches, but not everyone spells their brand name correctly – or spells out the full name. Some examples of the branded searches that they receive are: 

  • quietkat bike
  • quiet cat bike
  • qk electric bike

Why is tracking branded and non-branded traffic Important?

It’s important to accurately track branded and non-branded organic traffic because it gives you a sense of how well your content and technical SEO is performing and what outside factors are having an effect on it. 

After all, the goal of technical seo and seo content is to help see higher search rankings and new traffic – not just to gain traction with people already looking for your brand. 

There are a lot of factors that lead to an increase or decrease in organic traffic and by tracking branded and non-branded keyword movements you’ll be better able to accurately pinpoint what the cause is. Let’s look at a few scenarios:

  1. You just hired a PR agency a few months ago and are seeing a 30% increase in organic traffic MoM (month over month). Is this increase due to the PR agency’s efforts, your SEO content strategy, or both?  
  2. Your brand reputation took a hit on social media. Organic traffic is steady but conversion rate is dropping. Could it be that non-branded organic traffic is still performing well but branded organic CVR (conversion rate) is decreasing?
  3. Your industry as a whole is growing exponentially and your company is reaping the benefits of this as organic traffic is up 60% MoM. Did your keyword rankings improve or did they stay the same but the monthly volume for those keywords has increased? 

These are just a few reasons why it’s important to track everything you can about your organic traffic and keyword rankings. 

How to track branded and non-branded organic traffic

So now you know why tracking organic keyword movement is important, but how do you track your keywords? There are a few different ways to do so. Let’s discuss the options. 

SEMrush

Report data from SEMRush.

SEMrush is probably the easiest way to track branded and non-branded organic traffic, along with other keyword movements. SEMrush is built for SEO keyword research so it’s no surprise that it’s the number one option. 

With SEMrush, there is no math involved because not only do they calculate branded and non-branded traffic for you, they even plot it on a timeline so that you can see the historic performance as well. 

There are a few caveats with SEMrush’s calculations and you should not completely take this at face value. I suggest taking a look at the keyword rankings and doing some quick math in your head to see if the percentage of organic traffic matches with these calculations. Sometimes SEMrush doesn’t count certain words that are misspelled or contain a space in the brand name, etc.,

Keyword report from SEMRush.

By looking at the keyword rankings, you can filter the keywords by branded and non-branded keywords and focus on the Traffic % column.

Google Analytics & Google Search Console

The second way to track branded and non-branded organic traffic and sales is to use Google Analytics and Google Search Console. 

One advantage of using GA & GSC is that you can view organic sales data as well as other on-page metrics that GA tracks. Another advantage of using GA is that people are generally much more familiar with GA than SEMrush and have more experience working with the data.

In order to track organic keywords in Google Analytics, you’ll need to make sure that Google Search Console is connected to Google Analytics. This takes just a minute and will be worth it in the long run. It’s important that you do this asap because Google only starts tracking data from the date when you connected to two platforms.

Search data from Google Analytics.

From here, we’re able to export this information to a spreadsheet and calculate the percentage of organic traffic from branded and non-branded keywords. 

Conclusion

Whether you’re an agency or a brand, it’s important to understand and measure the difference in traffic, sales, and CVR between branded and non-branded traffic. If you’re running PPC campaigns alongside your organic efforts then you probably know how important it is to track branded and non-branded keywords and the different ROAS you get from each campaign.

Branded vs non-branded organic traffic and sales reports can be a game-changer when reporting on your SEO performance. 

Are you tracking your branded and non-branded organic traffic? What are some trends you’ve noticed? Let us know!

How We Outranked Home Depot for the #1 Position

Early in 2020, Renogy approached Tuff to handle all of their SEO needs for their US and international websites. 

Tuff had previously been creating blog content for Renogy’s US website but was not managing technical SEO or anything else.

We analyzed all of their existing websites and put together a comprehensive SEO strategy to increase organic traffic and revenue. This is how we did it.

Technical SEO

When we first took over SEO implementation for all of Renogy’s international sites nobody had previously been maintaining their technical SEO. With that being said, it’s no surprise that there were quite a few errors that needed to be addressed.

This isn’t to say that the websites were in bad shape, they just weren’t SEO-optimized and there’s a big difference. So our first step was to make sure that all the international websites were SEO-optimized. This is how we did it…

International SEO (hreflang tags)

The first issue to tackle was the hreflang tags, and Renogy had about 16,000 of them. 

If you have multiple versions of a page for different languages or regions, hreflang tags are a way to tell Google about these variations. 

For instance, you may have a US and UK website and they’re both in English but one is in US English and one is in British English. Aside from having two different URLs – either uk.domain, domain.uk, or domain.com/uk – we need to specifically tell Google about the language differences.

The same goes for international versions with completely different languages such as German, French, or Chinese, etc.,

Some of the most common hreflang tag errors are:

  1. Not having any hreflang tags
  2. Having incorrect hreflang tags (Ex. having your French tags on your German site)
  3. Hreflang tags being incorrectly coded
  4. No self-referencing hreflang tags

The most common issue is not having any self-referencing hreflang tags, and that’s the issue that we were dealing with on Renogy’s websites. Fortunately, this can be solved programmatically so it’s not extremely time-consuming to fix all 16,000+ errors.

Meta Descriptions

Once the hreflang tags were fixed, one of the most common technical SEO errors across all websites has to do with meta descriptions. Whether it be missing or duplicate meta descriptions, this is something that commonly goes unnoticed.

Sometimes these fixes can be done programmatically by pulling the first sentence on the page and setting it as the meta description but for a variety of reasons, this wasn’t possible for Renogy. One of those reasons is that their website is hosted on Big Commerce and this makes it more difficult. Another reason is that the first sentence wasn’t ideal for a meta description.

So long story short, I began manually fixing and creating hundreds of meta descriptions so that there weren’t duplicate or missing meta descriptions across all of their international websites. 

Internal Linking & Broken Internal Links

Internal links are a very important part of technical SEO, whether it be improving the internal linking throughout the website or fixing the broken links. We did both, starting with the broken links. 

Having broken internal links on your website is another common SEO issue that can not only harm your organic performance but also your user experience and revenue. 

When fixing the broken links, my initial focus was on top-performing product pages to make sure we weren’t losing revenue due to users not being able to purchase the product. 

This is another manual fix so some of it was done in unison with the meta description fixes since I was already going through the pages manually.

No-indexing Pages

It’s important to remove low-quality pages from Google’s search engine. 

Most of us have a habit of wanting all pages to be indexed in Google and I understand it. But when we think about how Google ranks a website, it doesn’t make sense to have our blog tag archives, author archive pages, and other similar pages indexed in Google, for a few reasons. 

  1. When you search for something in Google, you are presented with its search engine results page (SERP) and for that reason, Google doesn’t like to direct traffic to another SERP, even if it’s your own website’s SERP. 
  2. This typically isn’t a good user experience. If someone is searching for 
  3. For these reasons, Google won’t rank these pages very well and if you have a lot of low-quality pages, it will eventually harm your whole website.

For these reasons, we no-indexed any low-quality archive pages that were on the Renogy website. 

Content Creation

Now that the technical SEO is all done, let’s talk about the SEO content strategy and content creation that we executed. 

We began by creating a few pillar pieces of content that we could build a cluster strategy around. We defined a few high-traffic keywords that were essential to the business and created high-quality content around those topics. These pieces of content live at the top of the Renogy blog. 

We then created 3 to 4 pieces of related content that we used to link to these hub pages as well as internally linked dozens of existing content.

Aside from the hub pages, we consistently produce one new blog post each week for each of Renogy’s website properties. 

The other main piece of content that we created was what we refer to as customer service content.

E-commerce Customer Service Content

E-commerce Customer Service Content is essentially FAQ data that is specific to the page that it is on. Not only is it helpful for SEO, but it’s also helpful for the user experience. 

You can find this content on all the major ecommerce websites. 

Ex. Amazon

Ex. Best Buy

Renogy was missing this content on their core category solar panel listing pages, including their solar panel kits listing page, and by adding it, it helped us increase organic rankings of these pages and in return, drive more sales.

We’ve seen the most significant organic improvements to the pages that we added this customer service content to.

Results

After all of these improvements and about 6 months’ time, we are ranking #1 in Google for ‘solar panel kits’ – outranking Amazon and Home Depot when we previously weren’t ranking in the top 100. We also rank #4 for ‘solar kit’ when we previously weren’t ranking in the top 100.

In addition to that, we increased our ranking for ‘solar panels for sale’ from position 12 to position 5.

We’ve also seen significant improvements in tons of other organic keywords that are essential to Renogy’s business and bottom line. 

As I write this, organic traffic is up over 32% from when we finished our implementations and organic revenue is steadily increasing and growing about 37% quarter over quarter.