Torbjørn Flensted is one of Denmark's leading SEO experts. Not only is he the co-founder of the technology and consulting company SEO.dk and the analytics company StoryBase.dk, he has also written several books on SEO that help companies and organizations achieve organic growth through search engine optimization.
In this blog post, Torbjørn explains why SEO is so important for even small businesses and gives his top tips on how to get started with SEO and, if you've already started, how to optimize your SEO strategy.
Why is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) important?
Torbjørn: SEO allows businesses to attract new customers organically via rankings at the top of Google. This means you can achieve greater visibility for a website and increase revenue - without increasing ad spend.
Another benefit of SEO that I love is that you invest in your own website, your own communication and you focus on providing solutions to your potential customers' problems.
Does it make sense to invest in SEO for small and start-up businesses? Can small businesses even compete with big businesses for top Google rankings? If so, how?
Torbjorn: Small businesses can compete with the big players in your industry. The key to success is to focus on the problems your potential customers are searching for on Google that your competitors have overlooked - or haven't yet focused on in their communication.
- Start by identifying your customers' problems
The best way to start your SEO work is to research what questions your potential customers are Googling, because it reveals your target audience's problems. And those are the ones you need to solve. For this purpose, my team and I have developed the StoryBase tool to help you find your audience's most important questions.
- Prioritize the first 5 questions you want to answer. Focus on timeless questions that address a problem your business can help with. Create one blog post for each question and answer it as thoroughly and completely as you can. This could be a step-by-step guide that includes everything from illustrations and video clips to good descriptions of how your customer solves the specific problem.
- Then tell your customers how they solve their problems
For example, if you sell bicycles, you could create a blog post that answers the question: "How many calories do you burn by cycling?" That question has been Googled more than 1000 times over the past year, but no one on the web has yet to answer it very well. In other words, it would be easy to rank at the top of Google when the question is Googled by the target audience - and the potential to sell more bikes with an answer to that question is huge.
Tip: Lay out bait and get the hook in people
Every visit to your website should lead to a sale, or at the very least, you should get your hands on people's email. You do this with pop-ups or anything else that gets users to sign up for your mailing list.
In the example of the bike shop, he was able to lure people's email addresses by writing: "Join our mailing list and immediately receive the video with 3 easy tricks on how to burn even more calories while cycling."
- Little, but better
Your SEO success comes from focusing your resources on a few great articles that are timeless. These are pages on your website that you can keep improving and updating so they're always up to date.
Better to have 10 well-crafted articles that actually help your customers than 100 cold news pages. Focus your efforts and keep working on existing content rather than stressing yourself to death over all the new content you think you need to produce. Ask yourself the question: Is your website a news site created to provide a never-ending stream of news, or are you a business that wants to solve real problems for real people?
- Spread the word!
Once you've published your great new content, you need to market it. Share your article on, for example, LinkedIn and other social media. Talk about it in your newsletter and remember to link to it from your own websites. As a minimum, your content should appear on the front page of your own website, and it should also have a link from the front page. It's initiatives like these that directly or indirectly influence your rankings on Google.
What is the biggest mistake companies make when working with an SEO strategy?
Torbjørn: The biggest mistake is when people think of SEO as a campaign or a limited project.
From the 1960s to the present day, marketing professionals have been taught the idea that we have a message that we send through a channel to a recipient. We can do this through different types of ads, which are important elements of a campaign. And campaigns have a start date and an end date.
The problem with this mindset is that if you have an SEO strategy where you think that SEO is a project we just need to get done or it's a campaign, you're probably not going to succeed. You might get a little bit further, but you're probably missing the point that with SEO you need to solve problems today, tomorrow and a year from now.
SEO is not campaigns, it's not ads, it's not a project. Instead, your approach and strategy should be based on a process where you continuously help your customers through the timeless content you create. SEO is also a commitment, where you focus on optimizing and improving the same content over time. It's a great feeling when such a process plays out and creates a steady stream of new customers.
What trends do you see in SEO today?
Torbjørn: The trend in SEO is that you are rewarded for good communication that addresses your potential customers' real problems. Google is working on getting even better at using brand signals and customer loyalty signals as an indication of whether you make a real difference to real people.
For example, if your company name is searched for a lot in Google or for specific products that only you have, it's a signal that you help people. If your users come back to your website again and again, it's a signal to Google that you're able to keep your regulars happy.
In other words, it's no longer just the more technical side of SEO that matters to your Google results. You need to have a great product that your customers love and be able to communicate it in the best possible way.
Read more about what SEO is and how to get started as a beginner here
Torbjørn's top 3 SEO tips
Torbjørn's SEO tip #1:
Whether you want to do your SEO yourself or hire outside SEO help, I would recommend reading the book SEO LEX by Thomas Rosenstand, who is a good colleague in the industry. It will give you good, concrete tools and insight into the SEO methods you need to work with.
Torbjørn's SEO tip #2:
Attend SEO training courses and get lots of inspiration. You can go to the annual SEOday in Kolding, usually in January. I also highly recommend getting inspired by talented SEO specialists and marketers like Lars Skjoldby, Thomas Rosenstand, Nikolaj Mogensen, Christian Doeleman-Lassen, Christopher Hofman Laursen and Christian Højbo Møller.
You can also kick off 2019 and take home a lot of tips when Sofie Hermansen hosts the course "ToolTime: Content and SEO tools for beginners" in both Aarhus and Copenhagen.
Torbjørn's SEO tip #3:
Last but not least, I would like to invite you to join my network SEO Growth Academy. Here you can meet other like-minded enthusiasts, participate in free networking events and get lots of great tips and inspiration on how to get ready for organic growth with SEO. You can sign up for SEO Growth Academy for free here.
If you want to learn more about SEO, you can also listen to Torbjørn's podcast SEO podcast here