Launching an SEO Program in Real Time, Part 2: Updating Your Content for Competitive Search

August 7, 2017

SEO tips

Editor's Note: This guest was contributed by Ryan Johnson. It is the second in his series detailing the reworking of Ricoh USA's SEO program. 

In my most recent LinkedIn post, I described Ricoh USA’s plan to build an SEO strategy from the ground up, including some steps any business needs to take before launching an SEO program. Now, roughly two quarters into the plan, I’d like to look at some of the major changes Ricoh has made to its product pages and the effects that are being seen.

The Ricoh USA site already had decent authority (or website strength), which is the primary factor in web rankings, but has had trouble ranking competitively for non-branded search terms. Good authority combined with poor rankings is a clear signal that the site has not been optimized using the words that Google, Bing and other search engines understand and that customers are using.

Keywords Still Matter

We all dream of the day that we can write sites any way we want and search engines will magically understand what we are talking about. However, we aren’t there yet.

Many writers approach writing for the web as they would a brochure. In a brochure, you can use flowery and non-specific terms. You can talk about “cutting edge solutions” without overt product/service language.

Unfortunately, the Internet doesn’t work that way. Every piece of web content is simultaneously competing against millions of other pieces of content for attention in search. Additionally, you are counting on a search engine robot reading your page, understanding what that page is about and then delivering that page to the appropriate person in search results.

That means getting precise with long-tail keywords that specifically describe what you are offering. Instead of “cutting edge solutions,” describe “cutting edge document management software solutions.” Instead of “high-end device,” use “high-end HD projector.” Help the search engine do its job by making your copy clear and relevant.

Letting Go of Branded Terms

Many brands hurt their organic search by overestimating the importance of branded terms. If I am searching for your brand name (for example, “Ricoh copier”), I already want to do business with you. You don’t even need SEO. In fact, I don’t even bother tracking rankings for branded terms. If you aren’t ranking highly for your brand names, you have much bigger problems.

SEO is about getting web traffic from people who know what they want, but don’t know from whom they want it. This is where Ricoh was running into trouble; the brand’s overreliance on branded terms was preventing the site from ranking for competitive keywords, and that traffic ends up going to better optimized competitors.

Ricoh was only getting 28% of its traffic from non-branded search terms, a number that should be over 60%. This was preventing the brand from ranking for core business terms like “portable projector” and “color laser printer.”

Here’s one example. Ricoh eForms Manager is, in non-branded terms, form management software. However, nowhere on the page did we actually use the term “form management software.” The first focus of our content refresh was adding primary, non-branded descriptive terms to each product page. In this case, we added “form management software” to the page's meta content.

In addition, we made sure to use the term “form management software” in our on-page content along with related terms (more on that shortly). In the four weeks since we updated the page, Ricoh has jumped from unranked to #13 for “form management software,” with hopes for further upward movement as we optimize the rest of the site for search.

Using the Words Your Customers Use

You should amplify your current on-page copy by using related, non-branded, product-related keywords. Use a tool like the Google Keyword Planner, MOZ or Brightedge to find terms that describe your product and that have actual search volume. This allows you to use the words that your customers use.

For example, we were calling a product a “desk edge projector” every time we referred to it in our web copy. However, a search through Brightedge told us that no one is searching for “desk edge projector.”

This is when you have to think like a human, and ask yourself, “If I didn’t work here, what would I call this?” That’s when we started discovering relevant search terms that people are actually looking for, like “portable projector” (9,900 searches per month) and “mobile projector” (1,000 searches per month). Select one keyword to be used as your primary keyword (used in meta content, headline and body copy) and some secondary keywords that are related to that main idea and that have search volume behind them.

By using related keywords, it allows Google and Bing to build a more rounded picture of what a page is about. It allows a search engine to say, “I see that this page is about a color multifunction printer, but it is also a compact printer, an office printer, an environmentally-friendly printer and a wireless printer.” Write your page about an entire topic, using related keywords, instead of one particular keyword.

After developing lists of primary and secondary keywords for each and every product page, we amended the page copy to incorporate those keywords. We didn’t scrap everything and start over. We updated the meta content and adjusted the page copy to use words that our customers use. Here’s an example:

Adding Schema to Product Pages

Adding product schema to product pages is another important element of search that many brands miss. Adding this simple code addition to product pages makes search engines do less work in understanding and categorizing your pages. Anything you can do to ensure that your information is processed correctly by search engines should be done.

Product schema tells a search engine very clearly, “Hey, this page is about a product, and here is all the important information about that product, including its name, product type and product number.”

Additionally, schema enhances your listing in search results, and can show important product information like price, availability and ratings right on the Google page, as you see below.

Future projects to add schema to services and article pages will help search engines better understand our site and deliver the right pages to customers in search results.

Early Results Are Promising

What we are seeing now, despite only optimizing product pages, is a noticeable growth in Google rankings for non-branded competitive keywords. What you see below is our tracked keywords that we are ranking for on page one (blue), two (yellow) and three (green) of Google’s search results. 

As we continue to improve site functionality (which affects search rankings) and continue rewriting content for search, we should continue to see a pattern of growth. Additionally, we have seen quite a bit of keyword movement on Google pages four through 10, so we would expect many of those to break through as well.

The second success metric we are looking at is organic traffic and activity for the site and specifically to product pages. The site saw a 52% increase in organic visits in June 2017 compared to a year ago.  

Additionally, organic traffic to product pages is up considerably in the last two quarters; up 11% over the previous two quarters. When comparing the last two quarters to the two previous, key conversions from organic traffic are also up significantly since the start of the SEO program, with a 165% increase in “Click to Chat” selections and a 141% increase in our leads KPI.

SEO is a Long Play

SEO requires a lot of upfront work, but will prove over time to be extremely economical, as it builds and grows on its own success. A new website is often not the answer to a brand’s woes. Most simply need to make better use of the site they have by cleaning up technical issues and learning to write for the web.

Ricoh still has several projects in the pipeline this year in this major SEO overhaul, including further technical improvements, optimizing services pages for search and combining multiple separate websites together to improve the strength of the core brand site. With consistent focus, we project Ricoh USA’s search presence to continue to grow. I’ll cover those in future posts. 

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