The Ultimate Guide to Growth Hacking SEO
What would it mean if your company ranked in the top 3 positions on the most important search terms in your niche?
At GrowthHub we love to help you out. Even in very competitive niches we can help you rank in the top three positions in Google organic search results pages.
A beginner’s guide to search engine optimization
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization SEO means you are optimizing your website to increase the quantity and quality of traffic through organic search engine results.
Some important considerations about SEO based on research by Brian Dean
1. The #1 result in Google’s organic search results has an average CTR of 31.7%.
2. The #1 organic result is 10x more likely to receive a click compared to a page in #10 spot.
3. Organic CTR for positions 7-10 is virtually the same. Therefore moving up a few spots on the bottom of the first page may not result in more organic traffic.
What this means is that your aim with SEO should always be to reach number one position for the search terms with the buying incentive your target customer uses to search for your product and service in Google.
Being on page 2 is not an option at all.
Furthermore, SEO takes time. Sometimes a few months but it can take up to a year to get position one if you do the work right.
Why is SEO important?
High quality organic traffic lowers your customer acquisition costs drastically. Especially when margins are less than 50%, SEO can make the difference between profitability and bust in our experience. We recommend that you always aim at at least 40% of all website visitors finding your business via organic search results.
How to measure your organic traffic properly?
The majority of companies use Google Analytics to measure their website traffic. Google even offers a service called Search Console to help you with SEO. Google bought a major search engine optimization software tool called MOZ. In Google Analytics, organic traffic is nicely shown, but Google will not tell you which specific keywords your customer used. Nasty. For now, go ahead and install Google Analytics & Sign-up for search console. Be aware that those services are from Google itself.
Why you need a SEO strategy
We already explained why organic traffic is important. You need to build a sound strategy to get to position one for your most important keywords. You are most likely facing competition and your competition is fighting for the exact same spot. Your SEO strategy should be designed to be ongoing and will include regular checks. Furthermore, Google is updating the algorithm on a daily basis as well as pushing major updates a few times per year. Your organic rankings might fluctuate and some businesses have seen their organic rankings tank.
How to combine SEO with growth hacking
If you included organic traffic in the growth model, then you might want to hire a growth hacker that has specialised in SEO. In case you are just scaling, you can include many SEO experiments and execute them very fast in our experience. Some parts of the SEO game take more effort and time (e.g. link building). If your team members have no knowledge about SEO, you can always hire outside expertise to tell you exactly what it takes.
How to get started with SEO
Building an SEO Strategy
Your SEO strategy will always include the following items:
1. Measurements & Monitoring
2. Keyword research & Goals
4. Technical SEO
5. On-Page SEO
8. Off-page SEO
Let us explain this in detail:
SEO Strategy in Detail
Here is a detailed description of SEO strategies we used for 300+ customers to rank them in top 3 positions on organic search results.
1. Measurements & Monitoring
You want to measure what your current rankings are and if your SEO efforts are moving you up in the search results. That means that you check the rankings weekly or bi-weekly or monthly. You can do this with Google Search Console but we recommend doing this with a dedicated SEO tool.
2. Keyword research & Goals
Researching keywords is easy if you use a tool. Make sure that you have mapped out the customer journey and you have identified the customer persona (and have included all possible search terms).
Be aware that many search terms are containers. The intention behind typing the words into a search engine can vary a lot. And some terms are used across industries. Search terms can be informational, commercial, navigational and transactional. The latter are usually the most competitive ones.
Let us explain: Letś say some searches for “t-shirts” in Google they might be looking to buy t-shirts, researching the history of t-shirts or want to know how to repair a t-shirt.
The shorter the keyword phrase, the higher the search volume (in most cases). We recommend that you better focus on what we call Long Tail Keywords. The reason why long tail phrases are so much more lucrative, in our experience, is that people who type in longer phrases tend to know what they want and be more decisive. And, they tend to be less competitive (Blue t-shirt with print).
Further it is important to include the complete customer journey and monitor your rankings. Customers might be searching for “Help installing XYZ”, “Error code Your Product” or “How to use”. Make sure you are covering the complete customer journey.
Your task is to make a list of keywords, check your current rankings and define short term and long term goals.
Long term goal is always to conquer the number one spot, but on the short term you might want to aim for being indexed at all or page 1 results.
Number of keywords on your list can vary a lot. It can be just 50 (niche B2B) or 100.000 (large ecommerce websites) and what geographical coverage you have. If you sell in the EU keyword list double with every country you offer your product or service.
3. Competition & SERPs
Competition is an important factor in SEO. Once you have a list of keywords. You should check the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) per keyword. Which websites rank top 10 positions per keyword is an important factor to decide which keywords you want to focus on.
Some SERPs are dominated by strong sites: governmental sites, wikipedia, highly authoritative publishers and if you add the Google Ads on top, you might find that some organic search terms are much less attractive and not worth the effort you have to put into.
If you have a very large number of keywords, start with transactional keywords. If this number is also large, make a selection on margin and volume. Which products or service is in high demand and has the highest margin? Organic search traffic will reduce the customer acquisition costs.
Checking SERPs in detail is essential. Make a selection of not more than 20 keywords you want to focus on.
4. Technical SEO
For technical SEO you need a developer on board. We have a checklist for you. Contact us and we send it for free to you. In this guide we focus on the major technical SEO aspects. First one, is that Google always prefers clean coded HTML sites. They are fast and indexed very well. WordPress (like our site) is a good option as well. Landing Page builders, Shopify and many others have major drawbacks and getting them to the top spot is usually a challenge.
One of the most important ranking factors is your page speed. Make sure that your page loads in 4 seconds or less. The faster the better.
Make sure that your site is secure (HTTPS). Sites that are insecure are marked as not safe and many times users get a warning.
Keep the following in mind: Google crawls your page occasionally completely and many times the Google bot just scans the first 300-500 lines of code. That means your developer should be aware to include the most important information (keywords) in the very first lines of code.
Great technical SEO guides are available here and here:
5. On-Page SEO
Once you have your main keywords identified, you create pages for the users. Those pages should be optimized well for search engines. Most of your on-page optimization is very low hanging fruit:
URL: how long is it and does it include your main keyword?
Page title: how long is it and does it include your main keyword?
Description of the page: although it is not a ranking factor, it can make a difference for the CTR. Make sure it encourages users to click on your result
Headings: use one H1 heading and include your keyword. Use as many H2 to H6 headings and make sure to use your keyword again.
Images and their alt tags: include images on your page and fill in the alt tags
Videos: if possible include a video on your page
Text length, readability and format: we cover more in the content part but longer content (3000+ words) tends to rank better than shorter content. Make sure your content is easy to consume and formatted well.
Usability / User design: mobile friendliness is an important factor. Make sure your pages are readable on mobile devices.
Read our content marketing guide. Do not be tempted to produce content for SEO and stuff keywords and phrases. Make sure you always write content and produce pages that are adding value to your users.
Well designed pages are essential. In the first place for the user but also for the Google Algorithm. Key here is to take the mobile first approach. Design your pages for mobile first and then desktop. As said before, mobile pages are extremely important.
Most of your users are visually oriented. Include visuals that add value. Do not use stock photos. Have a designer work on your most important pages to create compelling visuals that add value to the content on your page.
Recording videos is another part of the game. Adding videos to your page can have influence on your rankings. Just make sure that you produce videos that really add value to your audience.
8. Off-page SEO
This part is the most difficult part of the SEO game. Off page SEO or authority are all sites linking to your site. Not all links to your site are equal. It matters if The New York Times link to your site or a directory site that contains thousands of other links. Your backlink profile is another very important ranking factor. Google does not allow you to pay sites for a backlink.
The plan here is to create great content, reach out to authoritative sites informing them about your content and hopefully you will get a backlink.
This part of the SEO game involves a lot of work, is not sexy & is not easy. Unfortunately, your backlink profile makes all the difference. Sites without backlinks are usually not indexed at all or appear on result pages user will never discover (results page >100).
SEO Growth Experiments
Including SEO growth experiments in your growth hacking backlog is highly recommended. Most SEO experiments (technical and on-page) usually get a high impact/ low effort score. Be aware that keyword analysis is prerequisite. When you formulate your SEO hypothesis in experiment designs, you should always make it super concrete.
Example:We want to get page X on page 1 Google results for keyword Y by Date.
SEO Tools: Making a Choice
Here is a list of SEO tools. We recommend that you chose one of the all-in-one tools. We use AHREFS a lot but we do have a subscription to a few others as well.
Tools per categorie:
Toolbars, Plugins etc.
All in One
- SEMrush, analysis organic and paid traffic but also offers rank tracking, keyword analysis, on-site SEO analysis, brand name monitoring, social media monitoring, backlink analysis, competition and much more.
- SEO PowerSuite, offers keyword rankings, keyword research, on-page SEO analysis, rapports, backlink tracking, social media analysis much more.
- Search Metrics: content optimisation, backlinks analysis, keyword data, mobile rankings, local visibility, competition and much more.
- MOZ SEO tool voor o.a. search terms analysis, SEO audit, monitoring, rank tracking, link analysis and local visibility.
- Ahrefs, strong focus on backlinks & search terms.
- SERanking: keywords, backlinks and competition.
- CognitiveSEO, backlinks content & competition.
- Sistrix, keyword data, backlinks, marketshare.
- Lipperhey, free SEO tool with numerous functionalities.
- Ubersuggest: freemium tool, very complete: backlinks, content, competition.
- Keyword Tool: shows you Google autocomplete and a great tool for long tail keywords.
- Wordstream, search term tool for search queries in the USA.
- InstaKeywords, good keyword tool with statistics
- Keywordshitter, well it says what it does.
- Keyworddit, discover keyword ideas via Reddit
- Bulk Suggest Tool, uses several sources for keyword suggestions
- AnswerThePublic, generates questions based on search terms
SEO Tools for On-Site Analysis
- Screaming Frog
- Raven Too
- Structured data testing tool
- Mobielvriendelijke test
- HTTP Status Code Checker
Rank Tracking Tools
Just looking for a tool to track your rankings?
- Pro Rank Tracker
- Rank Ranger
- Rank Tracker
Website Speed Analysis Tools
- Pingdom Website Speed Test
Toolbars, Add-ons, Browser Extensions and Plugins
- Web developer
- SeoTools for Excel
- Search Analytics for Sheets,
- User Agent Switcher
- Redirect Path
- Yoast SEO
Examples of Great SEO Growth Hacking Strategies and Tactics
1. Create content specifically for webmasters for backlinks
Most businesses create content for their customer persona. To win the SEO game, you need backlinks from sites with high authority. One way to get backlinks from those sites is analysing their content needs, producing the content they want to link to and reach out to them. In your content strategy, make sure to include webmasters in your niche and produce content pieces they are likely to link to. You can create an award, a must-go to database, a list of resources (events) etc.
2. Reproduce the backlink profile of your SEO competitors
Going through the backlinks of your SEO competitors is always a treasure. Why are sites linking to your competitors and what pages are they linking to? Doing this exercise on a regular basis shows you what content strategy they have and what works and not. Sometimes competition from keywords does not come from direct competitors but from other sites that are targeting the same audience. Make sure to include those sites in your analysis.
3. Find Broken Links
Links brake occasionally. Sites and content change, get moved or are taken down. Many webmasters do not track broken links. Find broken links on high authoritative sites, produce the content the broken link was pointing to and reach out to the webmasters to offer your site as a new resource to fix the broken link.
4. Use the complete customer journey
Many times traffic on money keywords is highly competitive. By using the complete customer journey, you can get in front of your audience by finding topics that are much less competitive and adding value and being visible through the whole customer journey helps acquisition as well as retention and referrals. Let’s say you developed social media ad software, creating how-to-guides for great social media campaigns as well as tracking and reporting results (which get shared) are great candidates for content / SEO campaigns. How about building a great page with all possible Q&As? How about making guides about software your customer uses in combination with your own software? You get the point.
5. Focussed SEO
SEO itself can become huge. Our best advice is always to bring it down to just a few focus keywords and work on those. Make a list of 20 keywords, execute experiments for a few sprints just focusing on improving positions for a small set of keywords. If you have a large site (like ecommerce), changing all descriptions, H1s & titles will in many cases cause anxiety and will frustrate your team. Focussing on set and working your way up or down the customer journey will show real business impact sooner and improve your knowledge what has worked.
Calculating the Return On Investment of SEO
Every ROI calculation is the same:
Measure SEO’s ROI with the following formula:
(Gain from Investment – Cost of Investment) / Cost of Investment
Let’s break it down quickly:
Gain from Investment:
You can measure the conversions from organic traffic in Google Analytics.
Sometimes it is good to ask customers: how did you find us/ hear about us? This is always a good check on all your acquisition efforts.
Cost of Investment:
Keep track of all hours going into SEO (and other channels). How much time did you spend on on-site improvements. How much time creating content? Outreach?
For SEO it is always good to include a rough Google Ads CPC calculation to benchmark against it. What would the cost have been to buy the traffic from Google Ads?
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