SEO for Manufacturers: From smoke and mirrors to clear-cut strategy
But SEO is based less on mysterious algorithms and website wizardry, and more on two simple concepts:
Let’s start with a very straightforward overall explanation of how SEO works.
It’s just this simple: Relevance + Authority = #1 Ranking
To understand how SEO works, you have to start with the two main reasons people are using search engine browsers like Google or Bing:
1. They are searching for information.
2. They are searching to make a transaction.
Blog pages are structured to satisfy those informational, typically providing information and research. The tone is helpful, not sales-focused.
Product and Services pages are transactional in nature. They are designed for people who want to buy a product or sign up for a service. They are designed to close the sale.
Keywords = Relevance
Now each of these two types of pages will have keywords. When Google (we’ll use the #1 company used for search) reviews your pages, these keywords indicate what your page is about. This indicates Relevance to a particular subject on Google.
Your content can only have so much relevance in terms of keywords. In fact, if you overuse them on a page, that can indicate “keyword stuffing,” and Google will penalize you for this.
You should use keywords in a natural style, including “semantic” keywords, or other keywords related to the one you’re trying to rank for. There are some technical points here, which we’ll dive into in a bit, but essentially when you construct the page, you’ll build it to be relevant.
Backlinks = Authority
But relevance alone is not enough for Google to determine which website page should be ranked highest. For that, it needs some sort of signal from other websites that your website (and by proxy, you) is a reputable source for information.
This occurs when other websites link to your page. For example, let’s say you publish an article on how to improve efficiency on the manufacturing floor. You’ve conducted research on the topic, and you have data that proves your point.
You publish the article, and notify other publishers via social media and direct contact about your findings. Eventually these other collaborators will mention your content in their own writings, and link to it on their websites because now you’re a source.
You’ve just received what is called a “backlink” to your site. Backlinks, or inbound links, indicate your site is an authoritative and trusted site.
People will link to informational articles as a reference source. But they won’t link to your product pages (and why should they?). That’s why informational pages are so valuable for SEO.
This is how you get ranked #1 on Google!
Now you’ve got both boxes checked off. You have Relevance and Authority. When Google sees relevant keywords and semantic keywords, and an abundance of links to your site, they will reward you and rank you #1!
That’s the overall concept of how SEO works. There are subtleties involved, including technical aspects, but if you understand this, you can build your content strategy.
And that leads us to…
How to rank for content in every stage of the customer journey
Remember the overall mindset behind creating the Digital Twin. You want people to know you, like you and trust you.
This lines up perfectly with your SEO strategy. You can create content that ranks for keywords in every stage of the customer journey. The end result: When people search for a topic, your “Digital Twin” is waiting for them!
Step #1: Conduct keyword research and build content for each stage of the customer journey.
The first step is to conduct keyword research for terms that apply to each stage of the customer journey, then create the content for those respective stages. We shared this overall approach in our section on “Making your content fit in the Manufacturing Customer Journey.”
Conduct your keyword research first, then build the content for the different stages. Always link from top of funnel pages (which tend to be your informational blog pages) to mid and bottom funnel pages (website product and services pages), passing along that “link juice” you’ll get from inbound links.
Step #2: Make sure each page is optimized
We’ve given you the broad strokes behind SEO. But you shouldn’t overlook the technical aspect of it.
Yes, your content needs to be delivered strategically, but there are some cues you’re going to pass along to Google to indicate relevance.
Title Tags and Meta-Descriptions: Your title tags may be the most important — and underestimated — part of your content creation. These indicate what will appear on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
It’s the first thing people see when they conduct a keyword search, much like an outside envelope in direct mail. Your goal is to get them to click through — here are some tips on optimizing for SERPs.
Content ready to be indexed: Using a tool like SEO Yoast, you can create an automatic site map of your website. This site map automatically notifies Google when new pages have been published.
(NOTE: If you’re creating a new page, you’ll want to alert Google’s Search Console that the page is ready for indexing. We do this with special pages. Your Google Analytics will need to be connected with Google’s Search Console to make this work.)
Use headlines and subheads, aka H1, H2 and H3 tags: Any good writer knows an article should include headlines and subheads. When people read on the Internet, they tend to skim, and these headers get them to the information they need quickly.
In the HTML code of the webpage, these headlines receive tags, such as “H1”. It’s a signal to the Google metacrawlers that this is an important line of text — a summary of sorts.
Think of your headlines as outlines of your overall article. Within this outline, you’ll want to use the keywords you’ve researched. Your most important keywords should be in the H1 headline — the main headline of the article.
Integrate semantic keywords throughout your article: Google encourages you to write for people, not for robots. What they’re encouraging you to do is not to game the system. They don’t want you to overstuff an article with keywords, for example, just to get a high ranking.
We’ve always written articles without worrying too much about keywords, because in the course of doing that, you’ll integrate “semantic” keywords. These are keywords that are related to the main topic.
If I was writing an article about headlines, for example, “subheads” would be a semantic keyword. Many of these will occur naturally through your writing, but you can look on Google’s “People also asked sections” on a search results page for other questions or phrases they use in a search.
Click on the down arrow (highlighted) in the “People also ask” box and Google will display more questions.
Step #3: Create links naturally
Why? Because sooner or later, those who control search engines don’t like marketers who try to game the system, and you’re one Google update away from losing your ranking.
Instead, we recommend focusing on the types of content that inspire links:
Original research. Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media has long made the case that original research inspires backlinks. Creating your own research can be a time and resource intensive process, but as he notes, the rewards can be amazing.
Strong opinion pieces. If you can craft a strong argument that will be cited by other writers, you’ve got a good chance at inspiring backlinks. This may be a tall order for manufacturers, but it’s an option.
Collaborative content. A slow and steady approach can be to integrate other experts and influencers into your articles. Your article has to be high quality, so the experts you’re featuring will link to it from their own site.
With manufacturers, we do this by writing articles about their suppliers and strategic partners. This not only extends your industry expertise, but it compels them to link to your page and share it through their social networks.
Guest posting. This is a great strategy, particularly for manufacturers in a defined niche. When you create a guest post on an industry news site, for example, you can link to your own content. You have to be careful you don’t keyword stuff on those inbound links, however. But guest posting has multiple benefits, including increased exposure for your business.
Link reclamation. You can also research the websites currently linking to your own site. If you find they are linking to incorrect pages (perhaps you want them to link to a specific page on your site), you can contact them to see if they’ll adjust the link.
All of these tactics (and there are many more) take time and effort. As a rule, we tend to focus on creating the kind of content that will inspire people to link to it. Once you do that, things happen naturally. They don’t call it organic traffic for nothing!
Have we demystified SEO?
Of course, there’s more to SEO than we’ve covered here. Like any subject, there is greater nuance and tactics that can be employed. But by and large, these are the fundamentals of SEO.
At Winbound, we’ve never been overly techie. We’re writers and communicators. We’ve always been writing for people, not computers.
However, once we understood the fundamentals of SEO and applied these techniques to our approach, we began achieving hundreds of page 1 rankings for our clients. You can do the same!