Nearly everyone knows the value of high search result rankings. If your website can be found easily by qualified prospects online, you’ll enjoy a steady stream of customers. We recently enjoyed a conversation with Tim Lowry, the founder and head of SEO at tiptop SEARCH + MARKETING. Tim has worked with small businesses and Fortune 500s. He learned the ropes of digital at a book publishing company, where he was responsible for getting book titles seen on Google, Amazon, and other online platforms.

Tim eventually launched his own search marketing firm. Today, he helps companies and brands get found on various platforms online.

Successful SEO Depends on Your Content Management System

Not all content management systems are created equal when it comes to SEO. Some are extremely limiting, restricting access to certain areas of the site. Tim shares, “The biggest mistake I made starting out was not properly vetting the content management systems that new clients were using before starting on their projects. I’d realize once I got into the website that a CMS wouldn’t let me do what I needed to do to get results. We then had to hire a developer to go into the code.” Before launching an SEO project, do your research to know what your CMS allows and budget in any programming help you’ll need.

Signal vs. Noise: How to Get Found

There’s a lot of noise out there — a lot of content. The job of a search engine is to sort through the noise to create the “signal” that searchers are trying to find. Tim shares a startling statistic: “Just north of 50% of search engine results never receive a click.” Companies need to provide real value in order to attract people’s interest get the search engines to reward them with better search rankings. Search engines look at engagement levels — the more engaged people are with your content, the better search engines will rank you.

It’s Not About Keywords Anymore

Google has around 200 ranking signals that they look for. One of the major ranking signals is the nature of the content — how helpful is it? Tim offers an illustration: “For example, someone who types in, ‘How do I fix a dent in my car?’ isn’t necessarily looking for a body repair shop yet — they’re evaluating first if they can do it themselves. If a particular body shop provides a comprehensive step-by-step guide for people who are looking for this information, then chances are that this body shop will earn that person’s business when he or she later searches a more buying-related query.”

Other important signals include the focus of the content (where keywords become helpful), social sharing, and high-quality backlinks.

Tools to Measure Success in Google Search Results

There’s a suite of tools that you’ll need to use so you’re not just throwing darts blindly, hoping some will hit their mark. And these tools are supplied by Google. Tim says, “Google wants you to be successful, so they help you learn how to provide more value to your audience.”

The main tool you need is Google Analytics. If you don’t have Google Analytics, then you’re not going to know how your traffic is getting to your site. Google Search Console will give you front-end information — the search phrases that are bringing traffic into your site. Google Adwords will tell you the monthly search volume of different queries. Beyond these, there are additional technical tools that will help you go deeper and fine tune for greater success.

Broad Search Terms vs. Long Tail Terms

There are two ways of thinking about search terms. Going after high-value, broad search terms is challenging and will take time. Going after long-tail search terms that aren’t as popular but still have a good number of monthly searches will allow you to get some quick wins while you’re working on the broad search terms. Long-tail search terms can actually bring better traffic to your site because they’re more specific, and the user’s intent is more obvious.

Tim’s Thoughts on Split Testing Headlines Via Google Ads

Many people test different versions of headlines by running different versions of Google ads. Tim doesn’t recommend this approach, because you’re not going to necessarily get an accurate metric of performance for other situations (like organic search results or on a landing page or on other ad networks).

There are better ways you can A/B test headlines. Tim suggests using two landing pages that are optimized the same way but have different headlines (or whatever factor you’re testing). Keep in mind that you need to target a slightly different variation of the keyword for each of the landing pages so they’re not competing in Google. There are software programs you can use that will manage the testing process for you.

Don’t Forget the Nurturing Funnel

Not everyone will be ready to buy when they find you. At the top of the funnel are people who are interested in buying, but they’ve just started doing research. You need to capture these people and get them into a drip email campaign with additional valuable information so that you’re top-of-mind when they’re ready to buy. If people are halfway down the funnel already, you need to share case studies or what sets your company apart. You also need something for people who are now ready to buy, such as promotional offers.

Tim left us with the following advice: “You need to be working on getting organic rankings all the time. Once your organic rankings are bringing in sufficient traffic, you can drop back on your paid ads.” Organic is something that you should be focusing on continually, because the rankings fluctuate.

Hear all that Tim shared in the conversation.