We’ve driven more than 10 million clicks from the most powerful pathway to brand discovery — organic search. According to HubSpot 60% of marketers say SEO content is their highest quality lead source.
But SEO is not only about creating content. If that were the case, every business could rank for their ideal search terms and reap the benefits of organic traffic, increased sales and improved online visibility.
This is where award-winning SEO agencies, like Digital Authority Partners, come into the picture.
We help your brand stand out from the crowd through a combination of technical expertise, content strategy and visual media assets that are guaranteed to improve your online visibility.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has existed for as long as search engines have existed. At the most basic level, SEO is the art and science of making a website rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) to drive more “free” traffic to a website.
“Free” is in quotation marks because companies need to invest to boost their ranking. But at its heart, much of the traffic to a website with strong SEO is free. Compare that to running a “pay-per-click” Google ad. As the name implies, pay Google money every time someone clicks on your advertisement on Google.
With SEO, you aren’t “buying” your way to the top of the SERP by running an ad. You are earning your way there by improving your organic ranking and boosting your website’s relevance and authority.
Search engines create a map of the internet using what’s called “web crawlers”. Once the web crawler notes a site and adds it to the search engine’s “index” of the internet, the crawler examines what it finds on the site — content, pictures, as well as links to and from the site.
The other side of the equation is the person doing the searching. The search engine uses proprietary algorithms to return the most relevant and authoritative websites to any search query. SEO is the practice of increasing the relevance and authority of your site so that when people enter the search terms you want to rank for, your website shows up at the top of search results.
For example, an eCommerce store selling pet supplies might want to rank for keywords like “healthy dog food” or “cat scratching post for small spaces.”
Search engines like Google have historically had an adversarial relationship with search engine optimization agencies. Early SEO agencies tried “gaming” the Google algorithm, leading Google to refine its algorithm to become better and better at filtering out attempts to artificially boost ranking and relevance.
Practices like “keyword stuffing” and “private blog network” linking have become obsolete and even detrimental to SEO. However, search engines have become better at returning relevant user results – their ultimate goal anyway.
SEO agency — a company that helps you boost your SEO has improved, too. The current state of SEO is the practice of actually becoming more authoritative and relevant, rather than tricking the algorithms into thinking your site is more authoritative and relevant.
SEO is important for one reason and one reason only — over the long term, it is easily the most effective & has the highest ROI of any marketing channel.
It certainly has costs early on, but as the site’s authority and relevance gains steam, it becomes easier and easier to maintain, eventually providing exponential returns for the same amount of investment — up to twenty times or more the traffic achievable by paid search engine marketing or “pay-per-click” (PPC) for the same cost.
Consider — less than 20% of searchers click on paid search results in the US. Most searchers know PPC is “buying” your click — buying space at the top of a SERP. This behavior shows that search engine users trust SEO algorithms more than paid content to provide the solutions they need.
Think of SEO as a giant ship. It takes a lot of fuel to get it moving, but once it has momentum, it’s nearly impossible to stop. With the help of a good search engine optimization agency, a website can dominate its niche and make it hard for competitors to catch up.
Consider the following facts and figures:
A great deal of traffic is to be gained if you can rank your site on the first page — preferably the top five — of SERPs for right keywords.
Other benefits of SEO include:
Search engine web crawlers know the internet better than it knows itself. They look at every aspect of every website and compare it to every other website along a variety of attributes. How does your website stack up against direct competitors? Or people you don’t even compete with who might rank ahead of you anyway? A lot can go wrong.
In a way, it’s a “man vs. machine” dilemma. You’re trying to outsmart an algorithm that can track of hundreds of billions of websites. What’s a mere mortal to do?
Common issues that keep sites from ranking higher are:
Search engines want happy customers. They do this by attempting to return the most relevant and authoritative results for every search input.
If the user clicks on the top result and the website takes twenty seconds to load, the customer will not be happy. In fact, Google reports that the probability of a “bounce back” (immediately leaving the page) increases exponentially according to the seconds it takes to load the site:
Search engine web crawlers can actually test your site’s performance and assess whether it will load quickly. If your site takes longer than two seconds to load, you are probably losing SEO points. Search engine optimization agencies take action to improve page performance and speed up your load time, and you may see an improvement in your page ranking.
In addition, as you may have heard already, Google has rolled out one of the largest technical SEO updates in recent history this summer. It’s called the Core Vitals Update – and it is a new way of ranking top search results based on how fast their pages load when a visitor is sent from Google to a specific website. It is incredibly important for every company to make sure that they pass the Core Vitals Update minimum requirements. To learn whether you are Core Vitals Update compliant, check tools like gtmetrix.com for a quick analysis. Conversely, reach out to any trusted SEO agency and you will get a quick analysis of the Core Vitals Update for free.
In 2016, mobile searches surpassed desktop browser searches for the first time. Today, mobile searches account for 60% of all web traffic and as high as 72% for certain industries.
2016 was also the year that Google began moving to “mobile-first indexing.” This means that the first version of your website the web crawlers see is your mobile website. If your site does not work well on mobile or tablet, or it loads slowly or lacks content, you will lose ranking, even if your desktop website is comprehensive and lightning-fast.
Again, this plays into search engines’ desire for content customers. If their top-ranked site opens in a clunky desktop version when the user performs a mobile search, the user will trust the search engine less. Authority and relevance, once again.
When a website moves to a new URL, the original URL can be routed to the new location by means of a 301 redirect. When properly executed, the search engine web crawlers can still find the website, and your domain doesn’t suffer in terms of ranking.
If not properly done, when a user clicks on a link they may see nothing – a 404 page. This is clearly a bad user experience.
Search engine optimization agencies often find that website rebuild projects have neglected the redirects. This leads to a proliferation of “404 Site Not Found” errors.
Search engine web crawlers will encounter these errors and penalize your ranking for them.
Search engine web crawlers read all the content on the internet. Think about that for a minute. That’s a lot of content. But these are powerful algorithms. Not only does it note all the content on the internet, it also notes whether that same content appears in more than one place.
This is an easy trap for a website to fall in — it repurposes content across platforms, resulting in duplicate content on different websites. The problem here is that search engine algorithms may interpret duplicate content as plagiarism. The result — a big hit to your site’s authority ranking.
In addition, many websites find that they have the same content on different parts of their website. Or, for example, have different country versions of the website but, all using the exact same content.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways an SEO agency can prevent your site from being penalized for duplicate content, without removing the content. One way is to use the “Canonical” tag to indicate the primary source and differentiate it from duplicates and republications.
Search engines keep an index of the entire public-facing internet but that’s only partially true. It keeps an index of the entire public-facing internet crawlers can find.
Web crawlers have to find every page of your website in order for all that good content to count toward your SEO. And for all their sophistication and speed, search engine web crawlers prowl the web more or less the same way humans do — by following hyperlinks.
When sites balloon to hundreds or even thousands of pages — local landing pages, blog pages, etc. — it’s easy to miss a page. In order for the search engine crawlers to make a complete index of your website, your website must be “crawlable.”
One way a search engine optimization agency can do this is to interlink your content so that there are no dead ends, no blog pages or white papers on lonely unlinked islands of the internet.
In addition, they should submit an XML sitemap to the search engine.
This sitemap contains a complete directory of your site pages, including pathways that the crawlers can follow to note every page on your site all at one go. It’s a foolproof way to make sure that none of your content goes to waste by being ignored by search engines.
Meta content is invisible to users but shared directly with search engine web crawlers. They appear in the header of an HTML page by being coded into the content management system.
While users won’t see meta content when visiting the page, it provides the crawlers with valuable information about your site.
Optimizing your meta content is a great way to improve your ability to rank in Google search results. Why? Because meta content helps Google algorithmically understand better what your website is all about.
Meta content that a search engine optimization agency will help you optimize include:
Remember that a search engine may choose to show the meta content you create in search results, may choose to use part of it, or none. You can’t choose – but having good meta content on your page increases the likelihood that search engines will use it.
Search engine web crawlers will assign site relevance and authority based on the content and structure of your website.
A site has good on-page SEO if its top keywords feature prominently in the places that search engine web crawlers assign greater value, including the URL, headers, title, and meta tags.
Any keywords that feature prominently in the written content will help the page’s on-page SEO, but beware of “keyword stuffing.” Early SEO scams involved copy/pasting the keyword thousands of times to boost rank. Search engine algorithms can detect this kind of trickery and will actually penalize your site for it. In fact, after a certain point, using your keyword too many times will actually hurt your SEO.
Another aspect of on-page SEO is the quantity of your website — the number of pages and sub-pages, as well as the sheer number of words and images to be found on the website. Search engine web crawlers have always taken a “more is more” approach to assigning authority to websites. It interprets more content and a bigger site index as more authority. But remember, the algorithms can also detect keyword stuffing and other forms of junk content.
On-page SEO also involves making sure your images have keywords as well. Search engines will eventually evolve to use image recognition, but for the time being, the photo’s alt text is the place for you to add keywords to your site to boost its relevance.
As the name implies, “off-page SEO” refers to SEO tactics that take place outside of your website, in other parts of the internet.
What’s out there on the internet that could help your site? The most basic answer is “backlinks.” Backlinks are hyperlinks that point back at your website. Not links from your website to other sites, but links to your website from other sites. Someone who is not you must decide to link to you.
This is one of the earliest characteristics of the Google algorithm. Remember, search engine web crawlers make a map of the internet, including the interlinking of sites. In the early Google algorithm, a link from one domain to another domain counted as a “vote” for the authority of the target domain. The linking domain must obviously think highly of the target domain — why else would they link to them?
Of course, this was rife for exploitation. SEO agencies simply bought other domains and linked to their client websites. The Google algorithm had to be upgraded to detect these “cheat links.”
Nowadays, only legitimate links can confer SEO authority. The more authoritative the linking site, the better. If the New York Times links to your site from nytimes.com, expect to see a much bigger boost in domain authority than if you get a backlink from Bob’s Pool Service (although the latter doesn’t hurt).
There’s more to backlinking than just having the links, though. Links have “anchor text” — traditionally the blue underlined text. It will help your SEO if the anchor text contains keywords you want to rank for.
In short, off-page SEO relates to a series of signals Google gets about the overall digital presence of your company. These signals help Google, particularly when ranking your pages and articles at the top of search results above all other competitors.
The most common off-page SEO signals include:
Technical SEO is like on-page SEO in the sense that it happens on your website. But it involves aspects of your website that the user can’t see. Search engine web crawlers look at your website not only like users, but also like developers — down to the code level. If they don’t like what they find, you could lose ranking even if you have great content and tons of backlinks.
Technical SEO encompasses the basics. Is your site SSL-encrypted? Is it mobile-device-friendly? Does it load quickly? These are non-negotiable features that many users will notice. If you don’t have them, web crawlers will interpret this as a lack of domain authority and rank your website lower.
Technical SEO also encompasses whether the search engine web crawlers can make sense of what your website is about. Ways to help them along include:
Local SEO is one of the most powerful forms of SEO. It comes into play when search engine users enter search criteria that indicate they are looking for something local. Signifiers that trigger local search algorithms include phrases like “near me,” “close by,” or the name of a city, zip code, or street.
Local SEO is powerful because when local algorithms get triggered, they might place a site with lower overall authority above a site with higher authority, simply because it is more locally relevant. This is how a local service provider might rank above a national service provider, provided that the local provider has invested in local SEO.
Strategies for local SEO include adding locally relevant content, adding locally relevant anchor text in backlinks, and optimizing your local search engine business listings like Google My Business.
It also involves increasing your number of citations — mentions of your business that point back to your Google My Business entry. This helps you rank highly on the Google “Map Pack,” some of the most valuable real estate on a local SERP.
So are national brands shut out of this valuable and powerful SEO practice? Not at all. National brands can take advantage of local SEO by creating localized landing pages and Google My Business listings in every city they want to rank for. Smart SEO agencies take advantage of every avenue to rank and drive traffic.
General or National SEO refers to the art of ranking for generic terms which are not specific to a local business.
There are many examples of National SEO. The simplest one is the page you are on. If you are reading this article, it is because Digital Authority Partners, as a company, invested in SEO for the term “SEO agency.” This term is not tied to any specific city (we have offices in Chicago, Las Vegas, and San Diego) and it attracts potential leads for our company regardless of the location of the user searching for this service.
If we wanted to rank for “SEO agency in San Diego” the strategy we would employ would be significantly different than if we want to rank for “SEO Agency.” That’s the easiest way to differentiate between the two SEO approaches.
Another great example of National SEO is how eCommerce websites are ranking for their ideal keywords. If you want to rank for terms like “running shoes”, “argyle socks” or “red shirt”, as an eCommerce company, you will invest in SEO strategies designed to help you get more online visibility for generic terms like these. And that is the definition of National SEO.
Usually, a National/General SEO strategy is significantly more difficult to implement simply because there’s a lot more online competition for these terms, as the national traffic volume will, naturally, be significantly more than any local search result volume for a keyword.
On-page, off-page, technical, and local SEO are the main pillars of a robust SEO strategy. However, some specialized forms of SEO may be appropriate to consider depending on your specific circumstances.
Luckily, most of the efforts tied to ranking a page (content, backlinks, internal linking) are factors that Google considers when ranking your images as well. But there are also specific tactics tied to improving the visibility of your images. That includes the description you provide for an image when adding it to the content management system of your choice, and the field called “Alt Text”.
Alt text is the text alternative of an image written specifically to help search engines understand what that image represents. Making sure you include the keyword you want to rank for in the Alt Text field, alongside an ADA compliant description, is incredibly important to making sure that your image ranks highly in google search results.
As you can see, SEO agencies have to understand many moving parts. There are four critical types of SEO, and each one is a complicated task in its own right. To succeed at SEO, especially on a national or global level, get organized.
Here are some steps that an effective SEO strategy will likely entail:
All journeys begin at the beginning. To track your performance, it’s important to understand where you start. How does your site rank compared to competitors? How deep does it appear on SERPs for various keywords relevant to your industry? What keywords are you ranking for that you wish you were ranking for?
Look at analytics like your organic traffic, click-through rate, bounce-back rate, page speed, backlinks, and domain authority over time.
These benchmarks will play an important role in establishing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) a few steps down.
SEO is inherently competitive. Someone is going to get that #1 ranking for the keywords that your prospects are searching. Will it be you or will it be a competitor? The goal is to outrank the competitor. To do this effectively, you need to understand the challenge. What actions have your competitors taken to boost their ranking, and how can you do better?
Take stock of the top-ranking websites in your niche for each specific service or product they offer. How big is their site index? What is their content strategy, and how much content is on each page? How many backlinks do they have? Do they have local landing pages and Google My Business (GMB)? How many citations point at the GMB for local SEO?
Web tools can tell you all of these things. In some niches, outdoing your competition may be easy. For others, it may be a long haul—but with enough effort, it is always possible to outrank the competition through the persistent work of an experienced SEO agency.
Once you understand where you stand relative to your competition regarding SEO, you know your starting point.
Now you need to define where you want to go. Do you want to be #1 and get traffic for your top services? A few products you offer? What amount of traffic and, in turn, new business are you looking to generate?
It’s time to establish “mile markers” to track your progress. You need to set KPIs, which will tell you if your strategy is on the right track.
KPIs that show positive or negative trends in SEO include:
There are proprietary web tools that offer aggregated metrics for SEO metrics like authority, relevance, trust, and spam.
In addition, either at this stage or, preferably, before you even define the KPIs for your SEO efforts, you may define the budget you want to allocate to your SEO campaigns. Usually, what we have seen is that companies who dedicate a budget of $10,000-$20,000 a month reap the most benefits for overall visibility in Google search results.
SEO is built on keywords. After all, there is no point in ranking for a keyword that does not indicate a warm prospect. To devise an effective SEO strategy, we must identify the keywords that warm prospects are likely to search and from which they are likely to convert.
Consider—someone who searches “movers” might just be price shopping. “Movers who accept last-minute bookings” might show much more buyer intent.
Each primary keyword will be assigned a “Pillar Page” — a content-rich page specific to that keyword, with the intent that this specific page will rank highly for that keyword. How much content needs to go on the page? Preferably more content than your top competitor’s pillar page. With good technical SEO and backlinking, you stand an excellent chance of outstripping that competitor’s pillar page.
Pillar pages are built around core keywords, sometimes called “short-head” keywords. These are your basic, one- or two-word keywords that relate to your organization generally.
But the short-head keywords and pillar pages are just the start. Some of the best-converting keywords are long-tail keywords — longer and more specific keywords that may show more present buyer interest. You need content to address long-tail keywords as well.
We call this “cluster content” because it clusters around the pillar content as subtopics. Cluster content looks like a “mind-map,” springing off of the core keyword as related keywords. Planning cluster content around long-tail keywords will help build out your content strategy.
It is virtually impossible in 2021 to rank for generic keywords without a specific topic cluster strategy. The topic cluster is a collection of usually 10-20 content assets designed to prove to Google that you are a subject-matter expert on a specific topic in a specific industry.
Your SEO agency might not have to start from scratch with your content. Take an inventory of the content assets you already have. Can any of them be repurposed into pillar content or cluster content? Perhaps expanded to fit your new content volume goals? If you repurpose older content, beware of losing ground by creating duplicate content.
Perhaps some content can expand to fit your new content volume goals? If you repurpose older content, beware of losing ground by creating duplicate content.
Once you know which clusters still need content, start developing that content. From your pillar and cluster planning, your SEO agency should have an itemized list of content assets, as well as some idea of how much content is needed to outrank your nearest competitors.
Technical SEO issues hide in plain sight. To tighten up your technical SEO game, your SEO agency should go down the checklist:
Mastering off-page SEO means mastering the fine art of backlinking — identifying opportunities to create legitimate backlinks from other websites — preferably sites that are relevant, high-authority, or both.
Link building might involve reaching out to the target websites asking to be a guest blogger for the opportunity to place a link on their site. It might also involve building “Skyscraper” content or “Ultimate Guide” content that attracts backlinks.
Be careful, though — search engine algorithms are wise to spammy and disingenuous link-building schemes. If you or your SEO agency tries to build illegitimate backlinks, it could hurt your SEO rather than help it.
Once your strategy is in place, monitor your KPIs. What is working? Do more of that. What isn’t working? Consider cutting it out of your strategy to focus on tactics that prove to be effective. No SEO strategy is static — it always evolves.
An SEO manager is a marketing professional who assumes responsibility for your website’s SEO strategy. This includes planning, implementing, and managing that strategy.
What specific duties does this entail? Quite a few. The SEO manager will either implement or coordinate a team to implement some or all of the following:
When facing a big project, it is natural to wonder if you can do it in-house or if you should outsource it to an expert or team of experts.
Remember SEO is a multifaceted discipline. It intersects with web development, content creation, PR, and a variety of other disciplines. A truly effective SEO strategy for a national brand can be a huge task, especially for an inexperienced team.
There is always the chance that the strategy could do more harm than good. Remember, search engines don’t want brands to game the system. If your SEO efforts rub the search engines the wrong way, it could set back your domain authority for years.
If you want SEO done right without diverting your organizational resources, consider hiring SEO agencies.
A good SEO agency brings a lot to the table, especially for national brands that want to attack SEO along all vectors to achieve truly game-changing results.
The name of the SEO agency game is market dominance, becoming a juggernaut that is nearly impossible for a competitor to unseat. Here’s how SEO agencies can help.
SEO exists in a complicated and ever-changing landscape. Even if your in-house team knows something about SEO, they may have gaps in their knowledge — technical SEO but no off-page SEO, for example. If your team doesn’t constantly stay abreast of SEO best practices, what they think they know about SEO could be outdated — even counterproductive.
Bringing in an SEO agency means you will have access to the most current best practices, as well as the ability to implement a comprehensive strategy and to quickly pivot based on feedback.
If you do your homework, you can select an SEO agency that not only has a track record of success, but also a track record of success in your industry, helping other businesses like yours. Nothing teaches like experience. Consider finding an SEO professional who knows how to work with businesses like yours.
While it might seem more cost-effective to perform SEO in-house, doing so could divert substantial organizational resources from other key tasks. If your in-house team has an incomplete skill set, those resources may be spent inefficiently. For a comparable expenditure of resources, SEO agencies may deliver more results — greater efficiency.
SEO takes time, but by starting off on the right foot with an expert, most organizations can expect to reap the tangible rewards of SEO faster than if they were to do it in-house with an incomplete strategy.
SEO agencies can customize a strategy to your goals. In this way, you can exercise more control over your SEO process than you might if you relied on non-experts from your IT team.
Bad SEO can actually hurt your search rankings. If your team does not include seasoned SEO agencies, it may actually be detrimental to assign them SEO tasks. Relying on an experienced SEO professional reduces that risk. Even if it comes at an extra cost, the ROI of SEO is so significant that it becomes much easier to justify.