Stop Waiting for Customers to Come to You
Before I co-founded Boise Idaho Advertising LLC in 2016, I was just a college student taking any freelance gig I could get to make a few bucks for beer money. I didn’t have a website, let alone a business card, and I always ended up waiting for potential clients to approach me – which was not very often.
Fast forward one year, and here I am writing to you about the success of a 6-month-old ad agency in little old Boise, Idaho that I co-founded with my good friend, Joe, and his brother, Nick. But it wasn’t an instant success.
We had a website for BIA, but other than a few clicks, our website was not generating any new business. We weren’t ranking well for searches, and our competition was just eating up all of the new clients we could have been signing on. As bad as this situation sounds, it wasn’t a priority at the time (I know, big mistake!).
We were too busy taking care of the clients we already had and leveraging our personal networks to get new clients one-by-one. This was very time consuming, frustrating, and as a new agency, we barely had money to feed ourselves.
What if your website generated enough traffic and sales revenue that you didn’t have to worry about advertising your products or services?
After putting WAY too much effort into hunting down one client at a time, we came to a realization – “Unless you’re an overly funded startup with capital up the wherever capital goes, it’s not an efficient plan to try building your business up one customer at a time.” It was time to get our website to work for us.
But where to start?
We figured the easiest place to start was to see what keywords had the highest search volume in our local area, and which of our competitors were ranking highest for them.
1. How to index your website on Google Webmaster Tools
An easy way to figure out high volume search phrases related to your business is through Google Webmaster tools. If you don’t know what Google Webmaster Tools is, or if you haven’t already submitted your website to Google Webmaster Tools for indexing, please, for the love of all things profitable, do so now. (It’s like… literally how Google knows you even have a website online…so…).
Screw it, we’ll walk you through the whole process:
Once that’s all taken care of, enter the Search Console (reference image below).
If it’s your first time in the Google Search Console, you’ll see a little reddish button that says “Add a Property”. Fill in the bar to the left of that button with your website’s URL and click the little reddish button (reference image below).
After clicking “Add a Property”, you’ll end up on a page that prompts you to verify ownership of your website.
The easiest way to verify your site is to hit the “Alternate Methods” tab and find the option that says HTML tag and click it. A box will open up right under it with some code to copy. Just copy the code and paste it into your website’s home page, then go back to the Search Console and click “Verify” (reference image below).
Note: If you don’t feel comfortable playing around with your website’s code, find a nerd to help you… we can be that nerd 😉
Congrats! Your website is verified.
Now head back to the main Search Console page and you’ll see your website listed. Click your website’s URL (reference image below).
Once you’re in your website’s dashboard, find the “Search Analytics” tab in the center of your screen and click it.
Note: It may take a few days for the Search Console to start registering your website’s data. If your website’s search analytics show up blank, don’t worry. Go out, shotgun a few beers with your friends, plan a road trip for the weekend, find love, and start fresh on Monday.
Now that Google is registering your website’s data, We can see what relevant keywords have the highest traffic.
2. How to find high traffic keywords
Click on the “Search Analytics” tab. You’ll find a graph that has options for clicks, impressions, CTR (click-through rate), and position. For the purpose of this lesson, only the average position and impressions are important (As you can see from the chart below, we’ve managed to gain an average position of 44.8 and total impressions of 10,499 in under 90 days – not bad for a local ad agency).
Scroll down a little on the search analytics page, and you’ll finally see what you came here for; KEYWORDS! Yay. Sort your list by impressions from largest to smallest and take the top 5-10 keywords and start throwing them into your website.
NOT SO FAST.
This is where SEO specialists always make a YUGE mistake. You can’t just take this arbitrary list of keywords and throw them into any web page you choose!
(Reference the image below): Hit the Pages section, and choose the page URL you want to keyword optimize (we chose our home page).
Once you’ve filtered down to a specific page, go back to the Queries section. You should now only see keywords specific to that page of which you can choose 5-10 to implement.
Note: This is VERY important because if you place keywords on the wrong page, you’ll have multiple pages fighting over those keywords. You want your website to compete with competitors, not itself.
3. How to rank higher by implementing those keywords
We can split SEO into two parts. Meta optimization, which involves editing your source code, and content optimization which is simply implementing keywords into your content just like you’d add adjectives to a sentence.
Note: if you use a CMS like WordPress to manage your website, you can use plugins like Yoast SEO to edit your metadata on each page without having to get into the HTML. Again, I must disclaim, if you are not familiar with coding, or are uncomfortable with your ability to edit source code, please contact an experienced professional.
With metadata optimization, you need to stick to a hierarchy. For each page, you want your primary and secondary keywords to branch down from your <title> tags (reference image below).
As you can see from the image above, our primary keyword is “Idaho Ad Agencies”. Normally, you want to put your primary keyword as close to the beginning of the <title> as possible, but for the sake of readability, we decided against it.
The 2nd level in the SEO metadata hierarchy is the <meta description> tag. As you can see in the screenshot below, our primary keyword “Idaho ad agencies” is at the beginning of the description. If you’ve noticed, our secondary keywords “digital marketing agency” and “Boise” as in the <meta description> as well as in the <title>.
As a local Boise ad agency that specializes in digital marketing, we figured this combination of keywords served us best. The broad industry “Idaho ad agencies”, our specific service offered “digital marketing agency”, and our geographic location “Boise”.
Project: Try implementing this simple SEO method into your own website, wait a few weeks, and let us know how it went!
As you move on to content optimization, you want to maintain the hierarchy that you put into place in your <title> and <meta description> tags.
Your <h1> tags, or heading 1 if you use a website editor like WordPress, is the top of the content hierarchy. This is where you’ll put your primary keyword. Generally, you should only have one <h1> tag at the top of your page, unless you’ve specifically broken everything up using <section> tags. For the purpose of this lesson, however, we’ll only use one <h1> tag at the beginning of our content.
Note 1: your <h1> tag should be a short heading. We recommend only using your primary keyword so that Google can easily understand the broad concept of your page.
Note 2: Although the <h1> tag is the kingpin of the content hierarchy, it DOES NOT supersede the metadata hierarchy. Always SEO your metadata first, then work your way down the page.
After the <h1> tag, move on to your <h2> or Heading 2 tags. Here is where you’ll place secondary keywords. Below is a screenshot of our homepage. Circled in blue is our primary keyword in our h1 tag, and highlighted in yellow are our two secondary keywords.
With <h2> tags, you can use as many as your heart desires, as long as they are relevant to the page you are working on.
Under each <h2> tag should be a <p> tag, or paragraph. This is where the majority of your content goes. In your <p> tags, tastefully use your primary and secondary keywords. Sprinkle them in here and there but don’t overuse them or else Google will find you and kill you*.
*Google will probably not kill you but they may take your website down a few rankings due to keyword stuffing. Murder is a felony in the United States with a possible 25 to life sentencing. Don’t kill people.
Think about it: If your <p> tag is a biscuit, and your <h2> tags are gravy, then your <h1> tag is the plate. You can have multiple biscuits, but each one has to have gravy on it, and you can only have one plate to eat off of. If you don’t like gravy… leave, now.
4. What to Look for in Successful Competitor’s Websites
I’m guessing you like gravy. Good, now we can move on to competitive analysis.
Here’s what you’ll do:
First, type in the primary and secondary keywords you’ve already researched and run a search for those words or phrases in Google. Who ranks number 1? Number 2? These are the competitors you want to reference when implementing your SEO.
If you are a local or regional business, you can see who ranks well for your keyword in other cities. For example, if we wanted to see what ad agencies are ranking well in Shanghai, we’d type in “Shanghai ad agencies”. Using ultra populated cities like Shanghai, New York, Los Angeles, etc. to reference your SEO is useful because these markets are extremely competitive.
Note: sometimes the first few search results in Google are ads. Ignore those. They pay for those spots and most of the time their SEO isn’t done well.
Below is an interesting example of our Google Search results for “Idaho Ad Agencies”. As you can see, we rank number 5 on page 1 for this SEO keyword phrase.
Here’s a breakdown as to why we rank the way we do:
- There’s a website called www.idahoadagencies.com. Domains that match your keyword exactly are very hard to compete with. Furthermore, this website is a directory of all ad agencies in the Boise area. This means that they have hundreds of pages of highly specific content and a very quick turnout of new content daily making it even harder to compete with.
- The bracket labeled Number 1 is inhabited by drakecooper.com and daviesmoore.com. These are the big-dogs. They are the well established corporatized ad agencies of the local area. Honestly, their on-page SEO isn’t that great and they lack a substantial amount of content, but, they have so much page authority from backlinks from hundreds of high authority client websites, and years of reputable work that no matter what on-page SEO you do, you’ll never compete with them. The only way to outrank these guys is to increase your own backlinks through clients and social media presence.
- The bracket labeled Number 2 is where we fall as a new local Boise ad agency with a highly search engine optimized website. Potentially, we can move up to the #4 spot in the short term, but anything higher than that will take months of acquiring clients, building backlinks, and writing blogs like this so that people like you can help us be agencies like them.
- The Number 3 bracket is the wildcard. Here is where established local agencies with bad SEO, and new agencies with great SEO fluctuate positions all the time. As you can see in the image above, we have two perfect examples. Number 7 on the list is the Tom Scott Agency, which is old, and tired. It is a very well established agency with a great reputation within their specific services, but their website needs an overhaul. It’s slow, lacking keyword optimized content, and it needs a bit of a facelift. SOVRN, on the other hand, takes the #6 spot because they are freakin’ awesome. They’re rather new, and the actual SEO on their website could be better, but they are killing it in the social media realm. They’re also just fantastic at what they do. One of their designers created the logo for Killer Whey, a new competitor to Halo Top’s protein Ice Cream and it looks amazing.
When you run your own searches, break down the first page rankings the same way we did. Use some deductive reasoning as to WHY each website ranks they way it does for that specific keyword. Is it because they’re actually optimized for that keyword phrase? Or is it just because they are a major player in the industry?
I hope you found this article useful. Good luck on your web rankings!
Creative Director & Managing Partner
Boise Idaho Advertising LLC