Why Patience is the Most Important Virtue in SEO

As the adage goes, good things come to those who wait.

These days, that saying seems like more of an outmoded cliche than genuine advice. We live in a world built to stoke our impatience, a civilization defined by instant gratification. In such a world, it’s all too easy to mistakenly assume that anything requiring a bit of time and effort isn’t worth doing. 

This very much applies to search engine optimization (SEO). Although the shysters and scam artists that infest the SEO industry would have you believe otherwise, it’s not a strategy that will generate results overnight. It’s focused more on the long-term—some SEO campaigns take months or even years to achieve results. 

SEO is not a set it and forget it strategy, either. It requires constant, ongoing effort and improvement. You must be willing to not only perform regular keyword, audience, and sentiment research but also regularly produce high-quality content. More importantly, you must understand that there is no such thing as guaranteed results in the world of SEO. 

This is because at its core, SEO isn’t solely about traffic. Not really. It’s about getting as many eyes on your website as possible and ensuring everything is in place to capture and hold people’s attention. 

It’s about building authority, establishing a strong reputation, and cultivating relationships with your audience. Unless you’re dealing with someone who’s a walking red flag, none of this happens overnight. These things take time and persistence. 

It’s also important to emphasize just how much content exists online, even within your industry and niche. You have scores of competitors all vying for the same audience you’re targeting. Many of these competitors have likely been doing this for far longer than you have—meaning they have a head start. 

Although it can be tempting to look for shortcuts, we strongly advise against: 

  • Regularly changing your domain name. 
  • Completely changing your content strategy. 
  • Targeting competitors with ‘black hat’ techniques. 
  • Trying to buy your way to success. 

If it helps, think of SEO as a sort of digital gardening. Your initial keyword research plants the seeds, but it’s up to you to cultivate them and help them grow into something tangible. And while it’s certainly possible for these things to grow on their own, the best results will come to those with the right blend of patience, persistence, and skill.

So be patient. Learn to navigate the complexities of SEO. Approach your optimization efforts strategically, deliberately, and intelligently.

In the long term, it will all ultimately be worth it. 

5 Things to Account For When Planning Your SEO Budget

How much should you spend on search engine optimization (SEO)? 

That’s a challenging question. One made all the more difficult by the fact that no two companies will have the same answer. There are many different factors at play where SEO is concerned. We’ll go over some of the most prominent.

Here are five things you must account for when planning your SEO budget. 

Your Current Website

Are you starting fresh and optimizing for an entirely new website, or are you looking to drive traffic to an established brand? Have you put any thought into your website’s information architecture, content quality, and backlinks? Are you currently suffering any algorithm penalties?

These are all questions you need to ask yourself at the outset before you even begin planning a strategy. 

Objectives

What do you want to achieve with SEO? Measurable, realistic goals and milestones will help you track your progress and help you figure out a baseline for how much you should spend. The keyword here is realistic. 

Avoid striving for a specific place on the SERP or trying to generate explosive traffic in just a month. You need to understand that SEO isn’t immediate. It takes time to get results. 

Once you’ve established your goal, try to estimate how much additional revenue your website will generate once you achieve it—that figure can then be used to guide how you spend. 

Marketing Budget and Spending Limits

In most cases, SEO is not going to be the only line item on your marketing budget. You’ll likely have to balance it with things like paid social, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, and inbound marketing. To figure out how things should be allocated, you need only ask yourself a simple question.

In a perfect world, what’s the maximum return each of these investments will generate? 

Current Traffic and Conversions

While a small or mid-market business certainly could dedicate its budget towards enterprise-level SEO, that doesn’t mean it should. Just as the current state of your website represents an important SEO starting point, so too does your brand. Consider the following when budgeting: 

  • Monthly traffic numbers.
  • Conversion rate.
  • Average order value per customer, if relevant. 
  • Other marketing channels. 

Your Competitors

Last but certainly not least, look at what your competitors are doing. If you can find and assess a business that’s similar in size to your own, you’ll be able to determine your SEO budget more accurately. More importantly, this research can help you identify potential opportunities—weaknesses in a competitor’s brand, for instance, or a gap your business could potentially fill. 

The Right Budget Doesn’t Break the Bank

Taking into account all of the above, we’ll wrap things up with one final piece of advice. The right budget is one that you can comfortably afford while still generating a reasonable return. Keep that in mind, and everything else should easily fall into place. 

Should You Consider Targeting Keywords With a Low Monthly Volume?

This story should be familiar to most of you.

You’ve come up with an excellent idea for content—something you’re confident will resonate with your audience and bring in qualified leads. However, when it comes time to start researching keyword permutations for that topic, you’re met with a rather unpleasant surprise. No matter how you phrase or rephrase your terms, no one seems to be searching for the topic. 

Back to the drawing board, right? 

Maybe not. As it turns out, low-volume keywords can be just as valuable as low-hanging fruit, if not more so. As noted by marketing expert Neil Patel, this comes down to a few factors:

  • Clear intent. This means that any content to which the search phrase is connected will be highly relevant. 
  • Low difficulty score. As you may already know, the lower a keyword’s difficulty score, the easier it is to rank for that keyword. 
  • Length. A long-tail keyword that contains a secondary, more valuable or higher-volume keyword may not appear worth targeting on the surface. However, it can still generate considerable traffic—and again, there’s the matter of intent. 
  • A highly niche topic. Some topics are going to be low-traffic no matter what you do—for example, a blog that exclusively targets business brokers and their clients may appear to primarily contain low-volume keywords. But the people who search for those keywords have high intent. 
  • Low cost per click. A keyword’s cost per click is another indicator of its competitiveness. Lower means the keyword has less competition, meaning it’s easier to rank for it. 

There’s also one more factor to consider—your competition. Competitors are very likely taking the same approach as everyone else, targeting relevant keywords with a reasonable search volume and difficulty score. 

By switching your focus to lower-volume keywords, you might well be able to get the jump on them from a marketing perspective. As long as you understand your audience, what they want, and what they search for, low-volume and non-competitive keywords can be just as valuable as high-traffic keywords. In some cases, more so. 

“Ignore the metrics that everyone else is using to select their keywords,” advises SEO expert Dmitri Dragilev. “Instead, focus on keywords where you can intercept the customer in the middle of the purchase decision, piggyback on the authority of an established player in a related field, [or] offer a better solution to a problem posed by an established player in your field.” 

At the end of the day, targeting low-volume keywords is really a matter of quality over quantity. After all, which would you rather have for your business? 

  • Content that brings in 50 qualified leads but generates no additional traffic. 
  • Content that brings in thousands of leads, but none of them convert. 

It’s simple mathematics at that point, really. 

Brain Engine Optimization is More than Just a Buzzword

If there’s one thing the marketing profession loves, it’s buzzwords. And by all accounts, Brain Engine Optimization (or BEO, for short) appears to fit the bill.  No, it doesn’t have anything to do with Google’s RankBrain Algorithm (even though by all accounts one would expect it to). 

As noted by Marketing Week, it’s a phrase created out of a quote by John Bradshaw, founder of marketing consultancy Brand Traction:

“The most important search engine is still the one in our minds.” 

Alright, so our brain is a search engine, then? What does that mean, exactly?  More importantly, what does it have to do with marketing? 

Bizarre analogies aside, the concept of BEO actually has quite a bit to do with marketing and search. First and foremost, we all know the push Google’s been on recently—how it’s making every effort to reduce the importance of technical search engine optimization (SEO) in favor of something more holistic and intent-based. In short, it wants businesses to optimize their website for people rather than for robots. 

google search engine

To consider what their visitors want and need instead of what will help their content play nicely with the algorithms. 

In other words, it’s meant to optimize your content for how people think.  This is where you rely on a combination of intuition and research. For every piece of content you create, you need to answer the following questions: 

  • What do my customers want? 
  • What do people like about my brand?
  • What customer needs does this content serve to fulfill? 
  • What mental associations does this customer have with my brand, if any? 
  • What emotions do I want the customer to experience when associating with my brand? 

Realistically, this is just a roundabout way of advising you to create and maintain ideal customer profiles. This advice applies to business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) organizations. Although the sales funnel for each is slightly different, the same knowledge is invaluable in both cases. 

There’s a bit more to the topic of BEO, like category entry points and memory generation. But it all ultimately boils down to what we’ve already said. As a marketing professional, knowing and understanding how your audience thinks, browses, and shops is more valuable than any keyword or sentiment research. 

So, brain engine optimization. Is it another largely unnecessary buzzword? Most definitely.

At the same time, it speaks to an important truth that underlies every marketing strategy, regardless of industry, sector, or demographic. The more you know about your audience’s thought process, the better-equipped you are to approach them in a way that captures their attention and holds it. And the deeper your understanding of your customers, the more success your brand will likely enjoy in both the short-term and the long-term. 

Is It Ever Worthwhile to Optimize for Search Engines Other Than Google?

There’s no question that Google dominates the world of search. Its algorithms handle roughly 90% of all search queries worldwide. Its closest rival, Bing, has a market share of a paltry 3.33%; the next runner-up, Yahoo, clocks in at 1.34%. 

With the above in mind, it’s hardly a surprise that the majority of search engine optimization (SEO) focuses on playing nice with Google’s algorithms. It keeps with one of the most basic tenets of doing business—be where your audience is. But could we actually be sabotaging ourselves? 

Could it be better to expand our focus, even in the face of seemingly minuscule returns? 

Why Bother Looking Outside Google? 

We’ve all heard that adage about putting all your eggs in one basket. Google’s algorithms may form the backbone of the Internet as we know it, but it is, at the end of the day, still a business. And if you optimize exclusively with Google in mind, you’re arguably leaving your website at the mercy of that business. 

After all, everyone’s heard at least one story of how a single algorithm update brought an entire company to its knees. 

That isn’t the only reason you might consider shifting your attention away from Google. If you know for a fact that your target audience is incredibly privacy-conscious, then there’s a good chance you might not even find them on Google. They’re far likelier to use a search engine like DuckDuckGo. 

It’s also worth looking at each search engine’s market share not in terms of percentage points, but search volume. Bing, for instance, saw roughly 1.2 billion unique global visitors in May 2022 alone. That may pale in comparison to Google’s 89.3 billion, but it’s still nothing to sneeze at. 

If you could capture even a fraction of those unique visitors as leads, one could argue that your efforts have more than paid off. 

Finally, a lower market share arguably means there’s less competition on the lesser-used search engines. It may potentially be easier to rank on Yahoo or DuckDuckGo than on Google, which could, in turn, lead to more traffic. 

Optimizing for Other Search Engines

Here’s the good news—for the most part, SEO on other search engines isn’t actually that different from Google SEO. In the case of Bing and Yahoo, the process is almost identical. You might need to do a bit of extra keyword research, but optimizing for Google means you’ve effectively already optimized for other search engines. 

That said, there are a few differences that you should keep in mind:

  • There’s evidence to suggest that Bing may treat social shares as a ranking factor, something Google has yet to do. 
  • DuckDuckGo places considerable emphasis on usability, privacy, and high-quality backlinks, even more so than Google. 
  • Because DuckDuckGo doesn’t track user data, you’ll need to adjust how you target your keywords. 
  • Some search engines, like Baidu, require you to submit your URLs to them directly. 

So, to circle back to our original question, is it worthwhile to optimize for search engines other than Google? Most definitely—at least in part because you’ve already done most of the work.

Search Engine Optimization Is Not A Magic Bullet. You Need to Understand Its Limitations

We’ve all met at least one search engine optimization (SEO) snake oil salesman. You know the type. 

Grandiose and sweeping promises. Language bogged down with so much jargon it’s functionally meaningless. An endless barrage of gaslighting and cold opens. 

To hear these people talk, SEO is some sort of mystic art, and mastery means you’re guaranteed to dominate the search engine results page (SERP). 

Anyone who’s spent even a little time studying the craft knows this to be a blatant lie. SEO is valuable, indeed—it’s a powerful lead generation and marketing tool in the right hands. But it’s not some secret weapon, and it won’t allow you to seize control of Google’s algorithms. 

In order to leverage it effectively, you need to accept that—you need to understand the limitations of SEO.

It Can’t Save Low-Quality Content

All of Google’s most recent algorithm updates have been deployed with the goal of making the search engine better at recognizing whether content is valuable to the audience. Rather than operating exclusively on keyword matching, the search engine is increasingly focused on intent. It’s focused on understanding what the searcher wants and providing them with the content that best fulfills what they’re looking for. 

For this reason, if your content is poor quality, it doesn’t matter how much time you put into SEO. It’s not going to generate any meaningful returns. 

Google’s Algorithms Are Mercurial, at Best

Google releasing an algorithm that completely upsets our understanding of SEO and penalizes countless websites is very nearly an annual tradition at this point. It’s easy to forget that, regardless of how much effort we put into optimization, we’re ultimately at Google’s mercy. A single algorithm change could wipe out our progress. 

It Doesn’t Provide Immediate Returns

Unlike other paid promotion strategies, SEO is more of a slow burn. It rarely generates fast traffic or an instant return on investment. Instead, it’s more about gradually cultivating your website, building up a reputation and a rapport with high-quality content, and ensuring that content is seen by targeting the right keywords. 

It takes patience, in other words—and some people lack that patience. 

It Might Not Be A Secret Weapon, But SEO Is Still Valuable

We’d like to conclude with a bit of a disclaimer. We spent a lot of time today talking about the limitations and drawbacks of SEO. We are by no means trying to say that SEO isn’t worthwhile. 

Quite the opposite, in fact.

Even though it’s relatively slow and heavily relies on Google’s algorithms and inbound marketing content, an effective SEO strategy is ultimately a cornerstone of every successful business. It’s not a magic bullet or some holy grail of marketing. But it’s still more than worth exploring. 

Go Beyond Traditional User Intent With Micro-Intents

We’re going to assume you’re already familiar with the four major search intents—transactional, informational, navigational, and brand.  What you may not know is that as search engine optimization has continued to evolve, those intents have slowly started to lose relevance. To put it another way, a general idea of what a searcher wants is no longer sufficient. 

You need specifics. What precise content does someone with informational search intent want to find? At what stage of the buyer’s journey is a user with transactional/commercial intent? 

That’s where micro-intents come in. As noted by Search Engine Land, these subcategories of traditional search and user intents offer a better understanding of audience expectations. And that, in turn, can be used to create more targeted, higher-value content.

We’ve listed the different micro-intents below for posterity.  

Informational Micro-Intents

  • Entertainment. Entertainment-focused content is all about passing the time. It can take many different forms but is typically easily digestible. 
  • Definition. If you want an example of definition-focused content, you’re reading it. You came here because you wanted to know what micro-intents are. 
  • Expansional. This type of content is similar to definition-focused but takes a much deeper, more comprehensive dive. 
  • Enablement. Typically, enablement content takes the form of how-to articles and videos. 
  • Overview/Aggregation. Similar to definition/expansional, overview content takes a high-level look at a topic. Examples include infographics and listicles.  

Transactional/Commercial Micro-Intents

  • Comparison. The user is looking to buy but wants to determine which product/brand is the best before they do so. 
  • Category. The user has a general idea of the product or service they want but is still trying to decide on a specific solution. 
  • Product. The user is at the bottom of the funnel and is about to make a purchase—they’re looking to find out a bit more about a product or service before they finalize their decision.  

Brand Micro-Intents

There are actually no specific brand micro-intents to speak of. Generally, branded searches can be positioned under one of the other three categories. With that said, branded searches are typically looking for reviews, testimonials, or other information—anything that one would typically use to build trust. 

Navigational Micro-Intents

  • Support. The user is currently a customer and is looking for help with their product or service. This could take the form of instructional articles, a product-related knowledge base, or contact information for a support professional.
  • Website. Self-explanatory. The user wants to find a specific page, blog post, or social channel. 
  • Location. Similar to the previous intent, except that they’re looking for a location in the real world rather than online. 

How Do You Determine Micro-Intents? 

The good news is that micro-intents are no more challenging to determine than high-level intents. Simply pay attention to specific phrases or keywords, and use your best judgment. From there, it’s simply a matter of creating content that’s more directly targeted. Couple this with the information we provided on identifying keyword targets, and you’re sure to find success in your SEO efforts.

Three Things You Need to Understand About TikTok SEO

With over one billion monthly active users, TikTok is among the most popular social networks in the world, eclipsed only by Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. It’s also rapidly becoming the social app of choice for millennials and generation Z, who together make up roughly 75% of its global base. Suffice it to say, if your brand is looking to target either of those audiences, it’s in your best interest to gain a foothold. 

That’s actually not as difficult to do as you might expect—or at least, it’s no more or less challenging than any other social network. As is usually the case, success starts with a solid marketing strategy and a decent understanding of search engine optimization.  With that in mind, here are the three most important things you must understand about TikTok SEO.  

The Basics of Topic Ideation Remain the Same

Plenty of brands treat social media as some sort of arcane, unknowable entity, as if they’re convinced they’ll need to reinvent the wheel in order to succeed. The reality, however, is that the foundation of TikTok SEO, topic ideation, is the same as on any other site. To summarize: 

  • Understand your audience—who they are, what they’re looking for, and why they might be interested in your brand. 
  • Leverage sites like Quora and tools such as Answer the Public to research the questions your audience is asking and the topics that interest them.  
  • Pay attention to how any topics you identify relate to your brand’s niche. 
  • Identify the specific keywords in those questions and topics, then leverage them in your TikTok videos, captions especially. 
  • Be respectful of your audience’s time. There’s rarely a reason for a TikTok video to be longer than a minute. 

Trends and Hashtags Are Crucial for Discoverability

Especially with Google’s eventual plan to index TikTok video content, choosing the right hashtags and trends goes a long way toward increasing your brand’s reach and visibility. Successfully leveraging more popular trends can generate a torrent of views and engagement, potentially even causing your page to go viral. Provided you’ve targeted the right users and linked your TikTok channel back to your website, that also has the potential to lead to a high volume of conversions. 

Quality and Consistency Always Win

The phrase ‘content is king’ may be overused, but that doesn’t make it any less true. High-quality, relevant content is the most important factor in your success on TikTok—or really, on any channel. That means crystal-clear audio and video and a well-written script geared towards your audience. 

Without those characteristics, it doesn’t really matter how well you optimize your TikTok videos from a search perspective. Reach is all well and good, but only if it’s attached to content that people actually want to watch. Always keep that in mind.

And above all, remember to always create content with purpose. 

What Are the Four Pillars of SEO, and Why Are They Important?

To hear some people talk, search engine optimization (SEO) is some sort of arcane, incomprehensible craft. Those are the snake oil salespeople of the SEO sector—we’ve warned you about them in the past. The truth is that SEO isn’t actually as complicated as you might think.

Though with that said, it can be overwhelming, particularly if you’re new to the discipline. With that in mind, we’re going to break things down to be a bit more digestible. At a high level, SEO can be separated into four distinct pillars.

They are, as defined by Search Engine Land, your main areas of focus—and the primary determinants of your success. 

On-Page SEO: What’s On Your Website

This is what most people immediately think about when you mention SEO. It includes keyword research, website metadata, URLs, internal links, and page titles. There’s also a great deal of overlap between on-page SEO and technical SEO, as both are concerned with user experience. 

Technical SEO differs from on-page in a few key ways, however. 

Technical SEO: What’s Under the Hood

Technical SEO is, in many ways, the most complicated of the four pillars. It’s focused on your website’s backend—the factors that influence page speed, security, responsiveness, and overall performance. Technical SEO is also concerned with the way search engines crawl your site, as defined by your XML sitemap, robots.txt file, and meta directives. 

Generally, mucking about with technical SEO is something that’s best left to the experts—failing that, most decent SEO tools provide you with the necessary functionality to tweak the technical side of things. 

iphone with google open

Content: Your Bread and Butter

Content, as they say, is king. In addition to being a crucial component of any inbound marketing strategy, effective site content is a pillar of SEO. Good content is not only high quality, but also highly relevant to your audience. Your goal with content is to provide visitors with exactly what they’re searching for, whether that’s a food recipe or guidance on how to build a deck. 

In most cases, you’re going to want to strike a solid balance between content that’s sales-focused and content that’s audience-focused. 

Off-Page SEO: Promoting Awareness

Last but certainly not least, off-page SEO is sort of an umbrella term for everything that doesn’t fit under any of the other three pillars. It’s all about how people find, perceive, and talk about your website and brand. Unsurprisingly, there’s a great deal of overlap between off-page SEO and social media marketing. 

Off-page SEO is also a cornerstone of local SEO, as that requires that your business maintain a Google My Business Page and monitor factors such as reviews. Inbound links are another element of off-page SEO, alongside your business’s outreach strategy and any mailing lists you maintain. 

What Role Does Page Speed Play in Search Engine Optimization?

Faster is better. 

That’s been common knowledge for a while now. Unless there’s a noticeable gap in quality,  a faster website will almost always outperform slower sites in the same niche. We aren’t solely talking about search engine optimization (SEO), either. 

More than half of mobile users abandon a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load. Bounce rates increase exponentially for each additional second it takes a page to load, topping out at 123% for 10 seconds. On top of this, for every second above the average a page takes to load, customer satisfaction plummets further. 

All this is to say that if your website is slow, you’re getting hit from multiple angles—by Google’s algorithms as well as a dissatisfied audience. 

How to Optimize Your Website for Speed

So, we’ve established the importance of page speed. Let’s wrap things up with a brief overview of what you can do to optimize yours. We advise the following while also using Google’s PageSpeed Insights to check on your progress as you do: 

  • Minimize HTTP requests wherever possible. 
  • Implement a content delivery network positioned geographically close to your primary audience. 
  • Leverage browser caching. 
  • Use adaptive web design, including both images and layout. 
  • Compress your website’s content. 
  • Minify your code, and only use scripts where absolutely necessary.
  • Avoid using rich media where possible.
  • If you must use JavaScript or rich media, asynchronous loading is your friend.  
  • As an addendum to the above, defer resource-heavy files so that they only load after the most crucial elements on your site. 
  • Work with your host to improve your backend and minimize time to first byte.  Note that this may require you to choose a new web host if your current one does not meet your needs. 
  • Consider running a compression audit with a tool like GIDNetwork
  • If you’re using a content management system such as WordPress, assess your plugins and uninstall any that you don’t absolutely need. Factors to look for include: 
    • Overlapping functionality.
    • Tasks that can be easily accomplished manually.
    • Poor performance optimization. 
    • Lack of consistent updates.
    • Security flaws.
  • Cut down on redirects. 
  • Optimize for mobile first, desktop second. 

We realize that’s a bit of a comprehensive list. But we also promise it’s worth the effort to incorporate every piece of advice. Not only will Google’s algorithms like your website a lot more, your audience will thank you for your efforts. If you want to see other ways you can increase the SEO performance of your site, check out our post on the role of Backlinks in SEO.

Remember that you also don’t need to incorporate all of our advice overnight. SEO has always been a gradual, ongoing process. This is really no different—ironically, if you try to rush your page speed optimization, you might end up shooting yourself in the foot before you even manage to get off the ground.