[Editor’s Note: We are excited to welcome Nathan Somsen as our featured Industry Leader for this week’s Q&A. Nate is the SEO Manager at Hawke Media where he works with businesses of all sizes and industries to optimize their web presence for discoverability. As a seasoned digital marketer, he loves the challenge of helping businesses succeed online through his knowledge and experience with Search Engine Marketing (SEM).]
[MV] What is the role of SEO in a company's overall marketing strategy? Why should business owners care about SEO?
[NS] Understanding SEO is rather crucial for a business. Ultimately it is a matter of making sure your business can be discovered online. We live in a day and age where practically all information is available digitally at our fingertips, and obviously, if it can’t be found online, it might as well not even exist. This is where SEO comes in. We swoop in and help polish a website for best practices to be picked up by Google and other search engines if it hasn’t already been discovered, and then push the website to be more noticed and then receive additional traffic. As a business owner, if someone uses Google to search for “widget maker near me” you want to ensure your business is at the top of the search results.
[MV] Increasing web traffic through SEO is great, but how do you ensure you are getting the clicks you actually want?
[NS] There are things that can be done to help ensure the clicks that a business may want yield results. Tactics may vary depending on the business type, a company’s overall objective or goal and other factors. One simple thing every business should do is to frequently observe and evaluate the web traffic they are already receiving. What the traffic is doing can tell a story about the people visiting your site. You can observe which pages on a website are the most popular, and what keywords are bringing visitors to the website.
Sometimes it is a matter of drawing a line and determining if the best performing pages and/or keywords are effective. There could be issues that may need to be addressed to help correct traffic or re-adjust a business’s understanding or expectations. A simple example could be a website that is ranking extremely well for a specific keyword and receiving tons of traffic, but the business doesn’t have anything to really do with the keyword that is performing well. That would be an opportunity to utilize what is there and bring traffic towards the main emphasis of the website.
[MV] As search engines have evolved so has the process for search engine optimization. From your perspective what are the factors that matter most?
[NS] One of the most important factors that matters most to me as search engines continue to evolve through various algorithm updates is adaptability. There are and will always be the standard optimization techniques such as:
Optimizing Metadata (Titles and Meta Descriptions) to ensure they fit within the proper character count recommendations.
Reviewing images for ALT Text and incorporating keywords, where appropriate
Checking and fixing internal links that are not properly linking with either redirects or broken pages.
Ensuring that an XML sitemap is present on the site for easier indexing.
However, with each new algorithm update there are opportunities to adjust and to evolve. During those moments, it is important to observe clients and how their traffic is performing and take note of any kind of crazy dips or jumps in traffic. From time to time, search engines notify of a recent algorithm update and what it was targeting and other times it is a matter of playing detective and tracking down what may be an issue. Fortunately, in the SEO-World, there are many brilliant individuals that share their discoveries and observations that can be reviewed. Some of the resources I like to review include Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Roundtable, and for Local SEO Sterling Sky is a must. These respective sites cover an array of topics related to SEO from algorithm updates to suggested optimizations and much more.
[MV] What are the typical errors that you see companies making most frequently with their SEO?
[NS] First and foremost, one of the things that never ceases to amaze me is how often businesses tend to not know who has access to their very own intellectual properties. Countless times I have heard speculations that an intern set up Google Analytics for example, or they’d have to track down the web developer for access to their very own website.
Along those lines I have seen hand off from web development to the client where the website has been set to a noindex status, which more or less tells crawlers and bots to the website to not index any of the pages that they may discover and as a result it tanks all organic search traffic. It’s not a pretty picture.
The other issues I frequently see are businesses not optimizing their website whether because they don’t know or understand how to or they just focus on other priorities, and then we end up coming in and having to pick up optimizations that have fallen by the wayside.
[MV] What are some simple steps that every business owner should take to improve their search rankings?
[NS] There are a few items that can be done to improve a website's search traffic and rankings. One that I frequently tell clients is to frequently produce new, fresh, engaging content. If there is a constant flow of new content, it shows that the website is never going stale. There is always something to be read or experienced on their website.
Another thing that businesses should do, that was hinted at before, as businesses continue to develop their website, they need to keep up with simple optimizations for the new content going forward. One example would be to properly optimize metadata including both the title and meta description.
An additional approach that businesses should take would be to continually monitor their site. There are a few things that they can check that are rather simple such as making sure that all internal links are functional and that images are loading properly, etc.
[MV] An SEO strategy can't just be "set it and forget it." With what frequency should businesses be updating or rethinking their SEO?
[NS] In an ideal world, SEO would be a continual ongoing process, that it would never come to an end. This is especially true as Google and other search engines frequently produce algorithm updates to keep all of us on our toes. Typical optimizations can be made frequently, especially if the website is continually growing. Quarterly audits can be helpful to notice patterns on common pitfalls as well as new opportunities of improvement for a website. After that fact, a constant observation of organic traffic to a website can also reveal additional issues that a website may be experiencing.
[MV] Do you have any favorite tools that help businesses evaluate, monitor, or optimize their SEO?
[NS] There are plenty of tools out there in the SEO Industry that can assist in both evaluating and monitoring SEO efforts for a website. It also depends on what I am specifically looking at analyzing. Some of the tools through Google that I prefer to work with include:
Google Analytics - This is an amazing tool that shows all kinds of detailed analytical data on how a website is performing. I, myself, primarily like to take a closer look at the session data as well as cross-correlate it with how the different channels are doing and if there are patterns or some notable outliers. The same can be observed with the individual pages. It can always tell some kind of story. With the recent transition from Universal Google Analytics to Google Analytics 4, there is the challenge of finding the previous information that was easy to find.
Google Search Console - This is a great tool to primarily assess how the website is doing on Google Search as a whole. I typically use it to add the XML Sitemap so that Google can have a more concise list of all the available web pages that are available on a website. Search Performance is also another great feature where overall performance queries and pages can be observed. It tells a story on how the website is doing overall on Google Search, through organic search.
Google Business Profile - Formerly known as Google My Business, is a must-have tool for businesses that are focusing on their Local SEO efforts. This is the best way to establish a business’s local presence with accurate information such as business name, address, phone number and other contact information. It is also a hub to ensure that information is accurate and a chance to respond to reviews.
ahrefs - There are several useful features that I use to monitor a client’s website as well as their competitors. It gives a helpful idea on how some important key performance indicators are performing including keyword performance and keyword traffic in their Overview section. It is also helpful when conducting keyword research for ideas on similar keywords as well as search volume and the competitiveness of their difficulty to rank. It also does a fantastic job of auditing a site and revealing where the site needs to be improved for SEO efforts.
[MV] This was a fantastic amount of insight, thanks Nate!
[NS] My pleasure!