SEO For IT and Technology Companies in 2020: Your Ultimate Guide
by Mike Khorev
Why SEO For IT and Technology Companies Is Unique?
Let’s carefully consider three factors:
- The number of people using search engines is increasing at a rapid rate, each and every year. There are over 3.5 billion searches being made daily.
- The search engine results page (SERP) has significantly improved since the early days of the internet. In the past, we only get website results, but now we can get various “rich” and interactive results from featured snippets to embedded results from Google Maps,
- The search engines—and especially Google—is now a very important aspect of our lives. It’s now one of our main ways to find information—besides social media—. It is also one of the primary ways we learn about new brands, products, and services.
So, SEO is obviously very important for any industry nowadays, an effective way to get noticed in this very saturated market where everybody got their voice (or rather, noise).
With that being said, SEO is even more crucial in IT and technology companies due to several reasons:
First, in the IT niche, more of your competitors know about the technicalities of SEO and already have a strong online presence.
In short, you are in the big leagues and the competition is even tighter.
Next, your prospects—or leads— are generally tech-savvy. They expect more from your content, and you can’t use gray-hat SEO tactics to get your shallow content to rank. They will notice when your content isn’t well-developed and will be quick to jump to your competitor’s.
Last but not least, especially if you are a B2B technology company, SEO is an important but risky tactic that can make or break your business. According to Junto back in late 2017, 57% of B2B marketers stated that SEO for IT and technology companies generates the most leads. On the other hand—as mentioned above— if your content isn’t powerful enough, these leads simply won’t convert.
The Future of SEO and The Importance of a Right SEO Mindset
Seemingly each and every year there’s always a piece of news or two stating the death of SEO—like this one.
Here’s the deal, if you think of SEO as a tactic, it will always die every couple of years or so.
Think about it. SEO used to be all about keyword stuffing back in the early 2000s. The practice is now mainly dead ever since the introduction of Google’s Panda algorithm update back in 2011, but there are still many marketers and “SEO experts” that are still focused on keyword optimizations and keyword density in 2020.
What about link building? Yes, backlinks are still important, but nowadays it’s more about the quality rather than quantity. Think about it. Is there any tactic or strategy that can let us consistently get links from high-quality websites and relevant influencers? None, besides actually producing high-quality content and build your credibility. So, link building as a strategy is also dead.
Thus, before anything else, let’s first change our mindset: SEO is not actually a strategy, but rather, a philosophy.
A very common—and dangerous—mistake is to think of SEO as a way to “beat” the search engines, as we treat Google and the search engines as the enemies we must defeat.
Instead, a better mindset is to treat Google as a partner, and the job of SEO is to align our online presence—our website, our content, and even our social media presence— with Google’s and the other search engines’ goals.
So, here comes our next focus: what actually is Google’s goals?
What Google Actually Is About?
Let us be clear first. Google today has expanded tremendously as a company, encompassing several different industries outside the search engine focus, from its Android OS to hardware production (Google Home, Pixel Phone, etc.)
Here, we are solely focusing on Google as a search engine.
According to Google Search’s mission statement, we can summarize that their main focus is to: create a better search engine that can deliver the most relevant, reliable, accessible, and useful for the human searchers.
We tend to forget that the end aim of SEO is the human audience, not the search engine algorithm.
Also, we can see again in that mission statement that one of Google’s goals is to help creators succeed. Don’t forget that the search engine algorithm is being updated and perfected not to give SEO marketers a harder time, but on the other hand, to ensure that the best, most relevant content and the best content creators will be the ones found by the searcher/user.
So, to reiterate, don’t treat the search engine algorithm as the enemy you must beat, but a friend you must embrace—or even a lover—. This way, think of SEO for IT and technology websites not as a strategy to help beat this enemy, but a dating guide to help you get this girl.
Let us finally begin.
Step-By-Step Guide to Building SEO for IT and Technology Companies
Now that we’ve established a better mindset to approach SEO, it’s finally time to start developing our SEO strategy for IT and technology companies.
Although we can always use the complex technical lingo and jargon to describe the process, SEO is actually a pretty simple concept—as we’ll learn together—. So, below we’ll break down the process into a simple, step-by-step guide, starting with the first one.
Step 1: Define Goals, Assign KPIs, and Define Ways To Achieve These Goals
In short, have a working strategy. Above, we have stated that one of the most common mistakes is to treat SEO as a strategy to beat the search engines, but it’s surprising that even many of these people actually have no working strategy at all.
First, and arguably the most important. Define your SEO goals.
Wait, isn’t the goal of SEO is obvious already? To rank higher in the SERP?
Here’s another common misconception: SERP ranking—and even ranking #1—, is not the end goal of SEO, but rather, a means to an end.
You can, for example, rank #1 on an unpopular keyword quite easily, but that won’t bring any value for your business since you won’t get any traffic, right?
Instead, here are the common objectives of IT and technology SEO:
- Organic Traffic: simply put, getting more people to click the content and visit your website.
- Lead Generation: we go a little further from just “traffic for the sake of traffic”, and aim to convert some of them into prospects—and in turn, customers
- Sales Conversion (eCommerce or affiliate marketing): convert those who consume the content to purchase our product/service (or others’ through affiliate marketing)
- Brand Presence: improving our company’s online presence to increase awareness and perceived credibility
- Online Reputation Management (ORM): manage your online reputation, for example by preventing negative reviews to rank higher for your branded keywords (and let your own content rank on these positions)
- Reaching to a Specific Target (Consumer or Company): Difficult, but possible, mainly by targeting keywords that are searched by specific customers. We call this Account-Based Marketing
- Customer Service: optimizing content that can provide useful information and answer your customer’s specific questions. This can be effective in building continuous engagement with your prospects and customers.
You can define specific goals for all of these objectives. For example, x % increase in traffic, y% increase in lead generation, specific goals in brand awareness, and so on. Or, you can focus on just a select few, or even just one of them.
Nevertheless, make sure to define at least one goal that is:
- Specific: that is, clear and well-defined
- Realistic: achievable. If the goal is too big or too long-term, break it down into smaller, more realistic milestones
- Measurable: fairly straightforward, you should be able to measure the performance by measuring a specific metric tied to a KPI. (i.e. measuring the number of social engagements instead of abstract
Next, develop a clear strategy on how you can achieve these goals. For example, if your goal is to increase organic traffic by 10% in a year, how can you achieve it? Should we develop new content to target a new audience? Should we create new landing pages or even a new site altogether?
No matter the strategy or tactic you choose, the core of any SEO tactic for technology and IT company will revolve around the target keyword(s), so this will be the focus of our next step.
Step 2: Proper Keyword Research
Above, we have established that today’s SEO is no longer about keyword stuffing, but it doesn’t mean keyword optimization is no longer important—we just need to approach it differently, as we’ll learn together further below—.
Keyword research remains one of the most important steps in developing an SEO strategy, and here are some key considerations:
- The first and most important thing here is to define and understand your audience properly, based on the goals we’ve established above. Conduct market research and develop a buyer persona, and the key here is to especially find out your ideal audience’s search intent.
- In a nutshell, search intent is the reason behind any search query: why the audience is making the search in the first place. The idea here is to align these potential search intent with your SEO objectives—as discussed above—. For example, if your SEO objective for your IT or technology business is to increase traffic, you might want to target keywords related to informational intent. Similarly, you might also want to target keywords related to transactional or commercial intent. You might want to check out a brief guide on the different types of search intent here.
- Based on these possible search intents, find your target keyword by following these important principles:
- The keyword must be relevant to your audience. This is commonly identified with a high monthly search volume.
- On the other hand, the keyword must be relevant to your business. Fairly obvious, but often neglected.
- The competition for the keyword must be manageable according to your budget and timeline. Some keyword research tools will display “keyword difficulty” or similar metrics to assist with this.
- Last but not least, after the keyword fulfilled all the three criteria above, is it possible to expand the keyword into a proper content—or better, topics you can create several content pieces from—
- Use as many keyword research tools as possible (according to your budget). You can use tools like Spyfu to check your competitor’s target keywords, Buzzsumo to search for trending keywords—and topics—, or SEMRush and AHrefs, among others, for a more traditional keyword research. (possible affiliates here)
- However, even with all the available tools and technologies, sometimes going with your guts and trusting your instinct (and experience) is a better approach. For example, keywords like “slam dunk” might be obvious for us as humans if we are targeting the basketball-related niche, but it might not be noticed by the basic keyword research algorithms.
Make a list of your target keywords and divide them by SEO goals and user intents (as we have discussed above), and divide them by priorities.
Step 3: Starting a Content Marketing Plan
Let’s reiterate what we have discussed further above: as the search engine’s algorithm getting smarter, there’s no shortcut to SEO in 2020 besides actually having high-quality, relevant content that is valuable for your audience.
So, planning how you will approach your content marketing ahead will tremendously help you in the process. We’ll always start, however, with why, which is the searcher’s intents, that should be the main driving force behind the content creation process.
In general, here are several key steps in developing a content marketing plan:
- Decide ahead on who is/are going to work in the content development process, which can possibly include:
- You yourself (if you are willing and have the time, you can do it yourself)
- Content writer
- Voice artist for podcasts
- SEO marketer and/or strategist
- Graphic designer
- Programmer (for web design, technical optimizations of SEO, etc).
- Examine the keyword list you’ve made above and expand it into a topic list. If you’ve already published content in the past, you can include them and mark them as (done). In the future, you might decide to update or re-use them in one way or another, so having them on the list might help. Again, structure the list according to objective/search intent, and priority. This is the what.
- Decide on possible publication channels—how you are going to distribute the content—, or, the where:
- Your blog
- Guest posting opportunities
- Medium.com and other similar publication sites
- Other video sharing platforms (Vimeo, etc.)
- Email newsletter
- Podcast publication
- Determine the when: when to publish the content, how frequent, and so on.
- Also very important, but often neglected: how are we going to promote the content (we’ll further discuss this one in the backlinks section here.)
- This is where we can develop an editorial calendar using all of our decisions above. You can create a basic spreadsheet containing:
- Publication date
- Who’s going to work on the content (creator/author)
- Tentative title or just the topic name
- Target keyword(s)
- Goal(s) for this specific content
- Planned publication/distribution channels
- Call-to-action (if any) and lead magnet (if any)
- Development/publication status
- Execute, monitor, and evaluate the workflow of your content marketing. This process will include maintaining consistent communication with your team members (if any) about:
- Your overall marketing goal(s), content marketing goal(s) and SEO-related goal(s)
- Whether the content is developed with the right tone, whether the quality is up there and whether it’s up to your standards. For SEO purposes, the main benchmark here is whether your content is better than the ranking competitors.
- Make sure your team member understood your content marketing plan and can use the content/editorial calendar properly
- If necessary, adjust your content marketing strategy based on your evaluation, including and especially evaluation on SEO performances (more on this further below, or here)
In SEO for IT and technology companies, the phrase “content is king” can’t be any truer. On the other hand, however, the IT and technology niche is a sector with a lot of opportunities to develop various forms of content from technical tutorials to the latest news in technologies to actionable tips and tricks, among others.
An important thing to consider here is not to focus too much on keyword optimizations. Include your target keywords naturally, use synonyms and semantically related words. Focus on delivering relevant and valuable content for the human audience.
Remember that how good your content is will ultimately be the main factor in deciding the results of your SEO campaign.
Step 4: Proper Link Building In 2020
Further above, we have mentioned that today, the quality of the inbound links—backlinks— is significantly more important than quantity.
So, how can we determine the quality of a backlink? While there isn’t any one-size-fits-all approach to answer this, in general, the main thing to consider is that a backlink’s quality is directly proportional to the source website’s authority.
We can use various analytics tools—both free and paid—, to check website authority, for example, Moz’s famous Domain Authority metric, and Ahref’s Website Authority Checker, but there are also various free alternatives available.
The point is, getting backlinks from any high-quality, authoritative sites is going to be difficult, unless you are already a big website or brand in the first place—most of us simply aren’t.
So how can we do it? The answer lies in your content. If it’s any good, someone will link your content sooner or later, especially when your content is a good source of reliable data or unique information.
With the quality of your content as the prerequisite of proper link building, there are still several tactics you can use to amplify the results:
1.Deliberate add something linkable in your content but make sure it’s natural and relevant
What’s our most common reason in adding an external link to our content? It’s to back-up relevant data or to provide information about something—that is indirectly related to our content and usually too long to discuss .
For example, in this article, we might not want to provide the definition of backlinks but it might be useful for you—the readers—, so we can add an external link to a content that specifically discusses inbound links/backlinks.
Another common reason is to add references to data presented in the content to give it some weight. For example, if we make a claim that 50% of B2B technology companies are using Linkedin (it’s just an example), we can link content that provided the original claim.
We can add these kinds of data and information to our content—let’s call it a link hook— in various forms such as:
- An original research report or case study (white paper, ebook, etc.)
- Infographics, images, and well-taken photos (makes sure to optimize these images properly so Google can index them as valid inbound links)
- Data roundup content like this one will always attract a lot of backlink opportunities when done properly
- Unique information, how-tos, and interesting content will always attract links
Be creative, and don’t be afraid of trial and error. Thankfully in the IT and technology niche, there are plenty of ways to include data, actionable tips, and technical facts in our content. Meaning, many opportunities to get these valuable inbound links.
2. Promote your content to get backlinks
Here’s the deal: we’ve discussed how the quality of your content is very important in getting these backlinks. However, no matter how good your content is, it won’t bring any value unless someone actually notices and consumes the content.
This is where promoting your content has twofold importance:
- Getting more organic traffic to the content (which will bring various benefits for your website in general)
- Getting more backlinks in the process, which in turn will improve your SEO ranking, generate more organic traffic, and produce even more backlinks. This will create a long-term ecosystem where you can continuously generate traffic and backlinks.
Promote your content using all the available channels, and always aim to get both traffic and backlinks within each promotional channel. Always build relationships with business partners, influencers in the tech industry, and even your competitors. Be generous and link their content first, and they can be valuable sources for your backlinks in the future.
The good news is, you don’t really need to be aggressive in your link building effort.
In fact, building a lot of links too fast might be counterproductive and might get you penalized by Google—especially when you get a lot of low-quality links—. Instead, just aim to get 1 or 2 high-quality links per content, and you should be good to go.
Step 5: On-Site SEO Optimization (Technical Optimization)
Now that your content has (hopefully) performed accordingly, it’s time to optimize the technical factor and any other aspects of your website.
Optimizations are done outside our site, especially content promotion, and backlinks building, are often called off-site optimizations. Here, we will focus on on-site optimizations, both technical and non-technical.
Non-technical on-site optimizations mainly involve content optimizations like keyword usage, the readability of your content, and so on.
Technical SEO, on the other hand, can be really complex and cover various different areas from improving your website speed to structured data markup.
You might want to check out our previous guide covering a technical SEO checklist here for a better picture. But first, there are two main objectives in attempting technical optimization:
- Ensuring Google (or other search engines) can index and understand your website (and all the included pages properly
- Providing the best possible user experience (UX) to keep visitors on our site for as long as possible. UX metrics like bounce rate and dwell time are now both indirect and direct ranking factors.
Based on those two objectives, here are some important areas to focus on.
- Mobile-responsiveness (or at least, mobile-friendliness) of your site. You can use Google’s mobile-friendly test tool to check your site’s current condition.
- Page load speed. Some studies have suggested that 50% of visitors will leave the website immediately if it loads in more than 3 seconds (standard 3g connection).
- You can follow this guide by Neil Patel for a series of steps to ensure proper and instant indexation of your site.
- Implement structured data markup properly. This will allow your site to be viable for featured and rich snippets. You might want to check out this guide on how to implement structured data markup for SEO.
- Optimize the website’s interface (navigation menus, layout, etc.) to ensure your visitor can get the best possible experience—to maximize dwell time—.
- Optimize all the different elements in your content, including videos and images.
- Test everything regularly, and test on as many different devices as possible.
Technical SEO optimizations are generally not a one-off thing, but a continuous process where we might need to readjust our approaches and reoptimize different aspects. This is where our next (and last) step comes in.
Step 6: Evaluation and Re-Optimization
This last step is about establishing a system where we can audit and monitor our website and specifically, SEO performance.
SEO is—it’s important to note— a long-term strategy where commonly we’d need to spend 6 to 12 months before we see our site on the first page of Google’s SERP. This is why maintaining consistency and performing regular evaluation is integral.
We can use various tools to assist us in this step, from the free Google Analytics to premium tools like Ahrefs/SEMRush/Moz Pro to HubSpot. However, knowing what metrics to track is more important than simply using the most advanced tool out there.
Here are some of the most important performance metrics to pay attention to in an SEO evaluation:
- Technical side
- Whether the search engine can index your website properly
- Loading speed (you can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights for this)
- Title tags and meta descriptions on all pages, and whether they are properly optimized
- Alt text on images
- Content aspect
- Whether your content is free of grammatical and spelling errors.
- Check the relevance of the information, and whether there’s a more up to date data. You might need to update your content otherwise.
- Proper internal linking structure
- Whether the content has fulfilled the intended objective/catering to a specific search intent
- Performance metrics
- Traffic from organic search
- Referral traffic
- Pages that have relatively low/no traffic
- Improvements/negative changes in rankings
- Backlinks profile and its improvements over time
- Best performing and least performing content
- Content conversion rate
Based on these metrics, make the necessary adjustments to your SEO strategy to improve the results.
Schedule a regular evaluation of your overall SEO strategy, and dedicate time to update and leverage existing content according to their performance—as this is often the most time-consuming aspect of the whole process.
Voila! Your technology company’s SEO strategy is set and ready to execute.
To reiterate, it’s very important to understand that SEO is a long-term game and you will need to invest at least 6 to 12 months before you see significant results from IT and technical SEO services. Once your SEO strategy is well established, however, you will get a sustainable source of traffic and prospects that can generate revenue for years to come.
As we can see from the step-by-step guide above, there’s no secret tactic and holy grail strategy for SEO: it’s all about consistency both in quality and quantity. The quality of your content and quantity in publication. The quality of your backlinks and consistency in growing your backlinks profile naturally, and so on. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Everybody can certainly attempt and execute SEO, the hard part is to stay consistent until the finish line.
February 17, 2020