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The Small Business Guide to Search Engine Marketing

If you can master the art of getting traffic from Google, you’ll build foundations that’ll keep customers coming to your website month after month. However most small businesses think it’s either too competitive or too expensive. In this article I’m going to show you how to steadily grow your organic traffic, and make sure your paid clicks are profitable.


How to actually get good rankings on Google

SEO (or Search Engine Optimisation) has a bad name. It’s seen by many as a dark-art, with no specific route to success. Google are perceived to constantly move the goalposts, so how do you succeed in such a grey area?

The reality is, gaining organic traffic from Google is a marathon not a sprint. There’s no secret formula or magic links that will catapult you onto page one overnight. All Google want to do is provide the very best results to its users. They judge this by the quality of the content, and the quality of links pointing to that content.

Therefore, your first task is to produce content that’s worthy of top spot. Look at who currently ranks first for your desired keyword, and analyse what they’re doing – all you have to do is do it better. 

If your competitor has 1000 words of content, you write 2000. If they compare the top 10 products in your market, you compare the top 20. If they showcase images, you create a video. Go above and beyond, and give Google a reason to rank you first.

Capsicum Media looked at across Google search results and found the ideal average content length can be anywhere from 2,000-2,500+ words.

Interestingly, a study by serpIQ found that the average length of content that ranked first on Google was 2,500 words. This is what you should aim for on your key pages.

Of course creating valuable content is a great start, but you actually have to promote it. This means reaching out to related people and websites in your field and encouraging them to link to you. 

As a rule of thumb, the easier a link is to obtain, the less value it will have; so put the groundwork in. The majority of people won’t link to you just because you ask them. You have to give them something in return that’s of value to them. The most tried and tested method for this is guest blogging. This deserves a whole article in itself, so instead take a look at the work of top SEO professionals like Neil Patel and Matthew Woodward.

If your competitor has 1000 words of content, you write 2000. If they compare the top 10 products in your market, you compare the top 20. If they showcase images, you create a video. Go above and beyond, and give Google a reason to rank you first.

How to actually make Google Adwords profitable

PPC Management is a bit more black and white than SEO. Everything from your clicks to your costs are transparent. It’s also instant; you can set up a campaign and have traffic reach your site within the hour.

Some find this concerning and think it means uncontrollable click costs. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Google Adwords lets you control absolutely everything from budgets to bidding. You’re in charge and everything is trackable and measureable.

So how do you make a campaign profitable? Well, aside from the obvious metrics (knowing your breakeven point, knowing your website conversion rate, and knowing your average click costs), I’m going to show you how to drive you click costs down, and your conversion rate up.

The amount you pay on Adwords is a combination of your maximum bid and your Quality Score. This calculates something called your Ad Rank. For example:

Maximum bid £1.00 x Quality Score 5 = Ad Rank 500

If your Ad Rank is higher than your competitors in the Adwords auction, you’ll appear above them. Naturally, you want your Ad Rank as high as possible and your maximum bid as low as possible. If you increase your Quality Scores, you can lower your bids and still rank highly. For example, increasing it from 5 to 8 (out of 10) enables you to lower your bid to £0.70 and still outrank your competitors.

Maximum bid £0.70 x Quality Score 8 = Ad Rank 560

So the question is, how do you increase Quality Score?

Well, the main way to do this is to increase your ad Click-Through-Rates. This means getting creative with how you describe your business and products, and continually testing new ad variants. Here’s how you do it:

Rapid Ad Testing Method

These steps can be applied to any Ad Group in your campaigns. However, your time is best focussed where you spend the most money.

  1. Write two new ads
  2. Run them until each has received at least 100 impressions
  3. Pause the one with the lowest Click-Through-Rate
  4. Write a new ad
  5. Repeat the test

This will guarantee you continually find the most effective messaging, drive up the Click-Through-Rate, and increase your Quality Scores.

I recommend a handy tool called Headline Analyzer; it’ll help you write better ads. I also recommend a clever platform called TenScores which tracks your Quality Score improvements over time – a feature that Google Adwords doesn’t offer.

Next, we’re going to look at how to increase your website conversion rate. The majority of PPC advertisers concentrate on the campaigns for this, when in reality, you can have a far quicker impact by testing changes to your landing pages.

The principle is much the same as advert testing. Create a new variant of your landing page, test the two against each other and see which one converts better.

Now before you get worried that this will line the pockets of your web developer, there’s a fantastic tool for this called Visual Website Optimzer. Essentially, it lets you test different variants of your page, without the need for a developer.

As I’m sure you gather by now, the secret behind a profitable PPC campaign is continuous refinement. Make your campaigns as efficient as possible to avoid waste, and turn your website into a well-oiled sales machine.

There you have it, the not-so-exciting-but-highly-rewarding secrets behind dominating the search engines.

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Clive Harris is an Online Marketing Specialist and Premier Google Partner. He’s managed campaigns on Google for over a decade and has worked at some of the UK’s top digital agencies.

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