I’ve focused this on Google as it is the most significant player in the search market and when most people think of search engine traffic and SEO usually Google is the one that everyone focuses on, however much of this applies to other search engines such as Bing or Yandex…
SEO or Search Engine Optimization Lead Generation is when a website ranks on the search engines, such as Google or Bing for queries (keywords) that searchers are typing into their browsers when looking for information or answers to their questions with the hope of providing enough interest that the searcher clicks on the listing, comes to the website and interacts with the business in some way.
There’s a lot more to cover so keep on reading…
Someone could visit your website and interact with your business through an email capture form where they would submit their name, email and possibly phone number or by contacting your company by phone directly.
Once contact is made the contact details would be considered a ‘Lead’ for the company to either follow up on immediately or contact at a later date. Nowadays immediately is considered too long, so act fast, or your competitors will beat you to it.
When it comes to SEO Lead Generation, you should break it down into two parts.
Part one being the SEO or search engine optimization of content and part two would be obtaining the actual lead.
Think of the content as the bait, with the ‘Lead’ needing to get hooked and landed.
I’ll explain as we go…
Content has the intent of answering a search query and is created in such a way that the search engines can clearly identify what the content is about and identify whether or not it solves the original question.
If it does, then the search engine displays the content within the search results.
If your page shows within the results, the next task is to attract the searcher to your listing.
Your title plays a pivotal role in attracting the searcher to your listing as it needs to be compelling enough to catch their attention and also clearly be relevant to the original query.
Your description should help seal the deal in convincing them that if they click through to your website, you’ll be able to offer the answer or solution they seek.
In the case of Google, this used to be 100% determined by the meta description that you wrote, however, these days Google will often generate the description based off of the original search query and pull text from your page that it feels is more relevant.
The jury is out on this, as it might not be exactly what you had in mind when introducing your page; however, it’s what Google has deemed to be most relevant and the reason it displayed the page in the first place, so we have to go with it…
Page rank. Over time the search engines will ‘test’ your page for different queries to see what the engagement is from the searcher and this will eventually determine your page rank for both your intended keyword and other possible variations.
For example, if you searched for ‘how to create a compelling headline’ and you saw a result you thought was relevant, Google would measure the success of this through various metrics, such as how long you spent on the page or did you just ‘bounce’ immediately and click another result?
If you did, then it would indicate that the result didn’t answer the query or maybe it was just poor quality.
Google would do this many times until it was satisfied that the content merited a place in the results or not, for certain queries, otherwise known as page rank.
Other factors will come into the equation over time, for example, does the page have any backlinks and are they natural? If the content is good people tend to link to the content without being asked, and this is a significant signal to Google, Bing or other search engines that this is valuable content that helps people.
Now that your SEO’d content is ranking and performing well on Google you should have some traffic coming to your website. One of the jobs of your content is to not only help people with their queries but also to help build your reputation as an authority on the subject that they are interested in or a solution to a problem they may have.
Now we have traffic, they’re now ‘starting’ to trust you as you’ve helped them in some way.
That’s great, however, this is not going to help build your business and is very charitable of you, but we now need a way to ‘convert’ these people into potential leads.
Now depending on your industry, objectives and goals, this can be achieved in many ways.
For example, let’s say you’re a consultant, you may wish to offer a free strategy session, or a case study on how you’ve helped people similar to them achieve a specific outcome.
To either deliver the information or collect their contact details you would use an opt-in form, with an autoresponder automatically taking care of delivering the emails and download links.
Once they have ‘signed-up’, you have a ‘Lead’ to either nurture or contact immediately, depending on your situation.
You will need to create a compelling CTA (call to action), and this could ask them to sign-up through an opt-in form within the content or a link to a dedicated lead capture page which would usually go into the various benefits of signing up, in other words, sell the deal.
Why do you need SEO leads?
Imagine a scenario where you arrive to work, log in to your email or CRM system to find qualified leads for services or products that you provide without having to pay for advertising or cold call people to try and find someone interested in what you have to offer.
Qualified leads are the lifeblood of your business, and I’ve yet to meet someone that doesn’t need or want them to build and expand their business.
Once you have a web page ranking for keywords that are relevant to your business, they effectively provide free traffic to your business which can save you thousands of dollars in ad costs each and every month…
SEO leads are often considered to be more valuable than leads generated through paid advertising, like PPC (Pay Per Click) leads, they also tend to convert very well.
Why do SEO leads convert better?
Long tail keywords. If you’re ranking in Google for a long-tail keyword and have a page that is well optimised and designed and able to provide a solution, then it should convert much better than a short-tail keyword and even a paid ad.
Why is this the case? Simply put if someone writes a long-tail query into the search engine they are looking for something very specific, in other words, they know exactly what they are looking for and need a precise result to help them.
This is where you come in with your well-optimized page that gives the solution to the query. If you come across as trustworthy and are able to help them, there is a high probability that they will take the next step and engage with you.
Buyer intent. In marketing terms these people are further down the funnel and are in a phase known as buyer intent, in other words, they are going to take action, as they are motivated to solve whatever it is they are looking for.
What about PPC or paid advertising?
If SEO is done well, with a solid strategy, it can outperform paid advertising in terms of conversion rate, as often ads are triggered by a search just because it contains some of the keywords. This doesn’t always provide what the searcher has in mind or is looking for.
Having said that I would use both paid advertising and SEO together for optimum results, but that is a strategy and conversation for another day.
Search volume. However, there is a downside, and that is search volume. These exact long-tail keywords just don’t have a lot of searches on the search engines, so yes the conversion rate is high, but the number of hits may well be lower.
This may work for your industry especially if you have a high-value product or service this could be an excellent strategy for you.
I’ll share one tactic that is often missed, and that is to find multiple long-tail keywords, relevant to your industry and set up individual pages for them.
If you set up just 20 of these and each page brings you, 5 high-value visitors, this extra 100 visitors could make a significant impact to your business, again this works if you are dealing with higher average order values etc.
Trust is a big deal on the internet
These days users tend to know that the first items shown on the results page are generally paid for, and anybody within reason can pay to be there.
Whereas the organic listings are displayed because Google trusts the website enough to show it in the organic search results. The algorithm is now so sophisticated that Google will more often than not bring back the best results in line with the original query and people feel more confident to click through to the website.
Is SEO free?
Yes and no.
Yes, SEO is free in the sense that you don’t have to pay to be listed in Google as you would in an online directory, however, that’s where the free part of SEO ends.
It takes a lot of time and resource to produce content that will be picked up and ranked by the search engines, whether you’re creating the content yourself or hiring someone to do it for you.
The content needs to be high quality, valuable and ultimately helps readers answer their questions and also establishes you or your brand as an authority on the topic.
The other side of SEO is that it takes a lot of time to see any meaningful results or traffic.
You generally won’t see any results for months, and many give up before they reap the rewards of their hard work, usually blaming the competition for the lack of success.
SEO is a vast and varied subject encompassing both on-page SEO, off-page SEO and technical SEO; unfortunately, many people are looking for ways to cheat the search engines and fast track their results.
Some of these tactics will give you short-term wins but Google, especially, is very good at finding the cheats and any gains will be short-lived.
My advice, play by the rules, if you’ve done some SEO in the past, then you’ll probably find that most of what worked before is completely irrelevant and useless now.
Google is smart and knows when you’re trying to outsmart the system, whether that’s through buying backlinks links or building sites with the intention of pointing links to your main website or other devious ways.
I’m a big believer in playing the long game, invest the time and resources now to produce valuable content, and you’ll reap the rewards later on which I’ll talk about in the next section.
Why SEO is so important?
This is an excellent question as unfortunately over the last few years many businesses have toned down their SEO efforts and this is a big mistake as I’ll explain in this section…
Optimizing content for the search engines makes content easy to understand for both users and machines.
Three areas come under the SEO remit
1. On-page SEO
2. Off-page SEO
3. Technical SEO
What is On-page SEO?
It’s where the webpage content is optimized to make it clear for the search engines to know exactly what the page is about.
There is a balance to strike here as we need the page or content to be not only understandable to machines but more importantly to humans. We don’t want something that looks or sounds robotic with no substance behind it.
If the search engine understands what the page is about then when a query is typed in, it will suggest pages that it believes will provide the best answer.
Once the page is found the searcher wants to be able to make sense of the content and find the content helpful, valuable and will solve their particular request.
This, in turn, will build trust between you and the searcher, with Google to provide quality results and help to build your brand.
By providing quality content that Google believes will help their users, they will reward you with higher rankings, which in turn produces a steady flow of traffic to your website that you can convert into leads.
As mentioned previously, if you structure your content correctly you’ll be rewarded not only with more site visitors but also high conversion rates.
What is Off-page SEO?
Off-page SEO is basically backlinks, links from other sites pointing to your content.
From Google’s perspective, at least at the time of writing, this shows a vote of confidence from other websites or sources that the content is valuable, helpful and that they trust it enough actually to link to it.
This is a huge part of Google’s page-rank metric.
Unfortunately, it’s been abused with all manner of methods, systems and tricks to try and gain links with the hope of boosting the authority of the page. Usually, through buying links and creating fake links, this is generally known as Blackhat SEO.
Important: No matter how desperate you are to reach success DO NOT buy Backlinks, no matter how convincing the sales pitch is. You will come to regret it, so don’t do it.
Blackhat SEO was a massive problem for Google, so they changed the rules with their Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird updates.
In a nutshell, Google got very smart at discovering who was cheating the system and penalized them for it.
Reputable and some not so reputable companies lost their rankings overnight, with traffic slowing to a trickle or stopping altogether. Panic ensued, and many genuinely weren’t aware of what their SEO experts were doing and even if they did, didn’t see the harm as it was being done by their competitors and the attitude was if we don’t do it we can’t compete.
This was a painful experience and as it stands companies are still hesitant to invest in SEO due to past experience.
This is a real shame as any company that was using White-hat techniques did really well from this with the reward of higher rankings and a stream of extra traffic.
This is a massive subject, as are most things to do with SEO and the internet in general, but I’ll highlight some of the main points here.
When creating a website and producing content, you must ensure that the infrastructure of the website and content has been set up correctly to enable the search engine crawlers and spiders to read and index the content correctly.
If they can’t do this successfully, then it’s irrelevant what your website is about as it simply won’t rank very well.
Areas for consideration are your domain and URL structures, navigation, page hierarchy, redirects, robots file and sitemaps, 404 pages, SSL certificates, site speed and most importantly be mobile ready…
This is only a few points to consider, and technical SEO deserves its own post.
SEO is so important to get right…
Companies are now seeing the benefits again of investing in high-quality content and a solid SEO strategy while accepting the fact that this is not an overnight solution.
As mentioned previously it takes time to win the trust of Google, for them to test your content and ultimately reward you with rankings and traffic for your efforts.
What does Google want?
Original, high quality and helpful content…
If you’re writing an article, this needs to be optimized for On-page SEO so that it is easily understandable by Google as to what the content is about and importantly must be written with the user in mind.
Gone are the days of mass producing content based around the same or similar keywords as that brings nothing new to Google’s users.
What they do want is high-quality evergreen content that genuinely helps its users. Exceptions to this are news sites or topical sites that genuinely have new things to regularly talk about or products to display.
Good UX (user experience) and UI (User Interface) is the best way for both Google and your users to consume your content and to find other areas of interest too.
The websites architecture needs to be technically SEO’d and an area that you need to pay a lot of attention to is making sure that the website is mobile friendly, especially now as more and more users are only using their smartphones and tablets to browse the web.
Google, in particular, are using their mobile first index and this needs to be taken into account when designing your website.
Make sure your pages load quickly, as speed is a significant ranking factor, so make sure images are optimized, and the format is easily readable across these devices.
You must include an About page and privacy pages and associated legal terms and conditions.
Google and their RankBrain algorithm want to see engagement with your content, whether that is time spent reading an article or an amount of time a video is viewed they will use these metrics to help judge how relevant your content is to the search query and the quality.
If users are coming to the page and going (bouncing) within a few seconds, then that is either a poor page or Google has misunderstood the question and maybe ranked your content incorrectly.
Just a note on bounce rates. In my opinion, this is often misunderstood as most feel that if someone has visited a page and then left, there is something wrong. However, this is not the case and is where I feel a little common sense is needed.
If you’ve made a search query for example ‘what was the population of London in 1969’ results are returned, you visit the website, and the website answers your question. You don’t necessarily need or want to go elsewhere on that website, and Google knows this.
This is not negative, in fact, it’s highly positive in that you’ve managed to answer the question. You may not have succeeded in getting more page views, but remember your goals are not Google’s.
What is detrimental is if you go to the website, don’t find what you need and bounce back to the results and choose the next listing and so on.
That just shows Google either there are no suitable results, the web page doesn’t give the right information, is poor quality, or they haven’t understood the query.
Social signals, social links, shares and comments also send signals to Google that the content is being engaged with and will have some weight within the Google algorithm.
Check out this article if you want to find out how businesses use Social Media.
Outbound links to authority websites can also help support the authority of your own page if it supports the content you are writing or producing, as this often signals to Google that you really have the interest of the user in mind when creating your content.
Inbound links that are 100% natural are precisely what Google wants to see, as it proves to them that if others are willing to link to it, your content is valuable and high quality.
As I mentioned earlier this is one of the areas that is abused, and Google is getting better at seeing the fake links and patterns, if you’re caught cheating, your website will be penalized and may never recover, which is both harmful to your brand and bottom line.
‘White-hat’ is the way to go for the long game, and you want to be in this for the long game right?
How long does it take to see results from SEO?
Maybe the question should be how long does it take for a website to rank on Google?
Google is the number 1 search engine and it is what most people gauge the success of their website by.
Let’s be honest the quality of traffic from Bing is excellent; unfortunately, there ’s just not the high volume that Google provides and is treated as a bonus rather than a priority traffic source, sorry Bing.
To answer the question is really not straightforward as there are a lot of ‘well it depends’ to go through.
Depending on the niche and how competitive it is really is a major factor in the time it takes.
Ranking in any niche though takes time and persistence, and many webmasters don’t see it through.
However, let’s say we take a long tail keyword with low competition, you could start to see traffic within a few weeks or months if your site is in good standing with Google.
This can be significantly quicker if your site is already ranking for other keywords, is an aged domain with a good backlink profile and so on.
For new sites, it typically takes between 6 to 9 months to see the traffic become consistent and this assumes you are providing valuable content for Google’s users and that your website is populated with enough content overall, 30 – 40 pages for example.
Why does it take so long?
Testing, Google is testing your content when matching it to user queries, to see what the user engagement level is and so on.
There are thousands of variables, and you may actually be tested for key phrases that you hadn’t even thought of, and search volume can play a part in this too.
Google will keep going through this process until it’s satisfied it knows what your content is about and which queries to best serve it up for.
Your content will then settle in the search results, although it may improve if and when it gets more whitehat backlinks.
Is SEO lead generation worth the effort and time?
However, you must have a strategy in place, be prepared to make the investment in time and in well-researched content that genuinely helps people along with all the technical considerations to enable this to become a reality.
The volumes may be lower than paid advertising, depending on the keyword or your budget, but it is something to consider in your overall marketing strategy, and any strategy should be built on multiple fronts to achieve success.
As I mentioned earlier in the article, why wouldn’t you want potential customers knocking on your door, digitally speaking, for your services 24/7?
SEO is the long game, but patience will pay off with the reward of a steady stream of highly qualified leads…