Leveraging SEO for Revenue with Dale Bertrand

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Zara Raezer
December 13, 2023
Leveraging SEO for Revenue with Dale Bertrand

Earlier this year, a few members of the Greenough team had the opportunity to attend Hubspot’s annual INBOUND conference. And if you read our highlights blog, you’d know that one of our favorite presentations was on SEO for Revenue. As any learning fanatic would do, we knew our full team needed to hear this presentation, so we invited Fire&Spark CEO and founder Dale Bertrand to our office!

Founded in 2008, Fire&Spark specializes in SEO and SEO only. After receiving his master's in electrical engineering from Brown University (and studying what would eventually become the basis of AI!), Bertrand spent a few years as a programmer. Eventually, Bertrand discovered he had a knack for SEO just as the keyword craze started. Today, he helps firms optimize their websites and make SEO work for them.

SEO is often shrouded in mystery. “When we're thinking about SEO, there are a lot of details that our friends told us to do, or we read about them online in a blog article. Either we thought it worked, and it never did, or it once worked but we are no longer seeing results,” said Bertrand. SEO largely relied on word of mouth, so Bertrand set out to get results from SEO strategy. Instead of peddling the same models that companies have relied on for over two decades, Bertrand built his business model based on today’s online environment, careful data collection, and what actually works.

His insights spoke to the heart of our own feelings about SEO and had to share them with you:

SEO changes pretty quickly.

Bertrand's team compiles real-time reference sheets to extract what’s new in the SEO world and consults them regularly. After working with clients on what Bertrand calls “SEO hygiene” (i.e., cleaning up broken HTML links and fixing broken site maps), he realized that this isn’t enough to drive traffic any longer. “That's why I have it as SEO hygiene because it’s like brushing your teeth. But we're not going to solely work on these technical SEO fixes in order to get new traffic.” Bertrand recommends staying abreast of the trends and, when in doubt, consulting an expert. Given Google’s ever-changing algorithm, what worked just a few months ago has no guarantee of working today.

Focus on SEO for revenue, not clicks.

“So back in the day when I was working on SEO campaigns, we would get excited and report to our clients when they had better rankings. If they appeared on the first page of a Google search result, then we did something right,” said Bertrand. Those days are long gone. Today, it’s important to consider the desired outcome: a sale. Getting eyes on your page is rarely enough. Bertrand brings up blogs, which have one of the worst conversion rates—under .01%. “Old school SEO content was blogging, and there are still a lot of people that think ‘I need to do SEO. I'm going to write some blogs. I just need to figure out what keywords Ican target with them.’ However, while they have a role to play in general awareness and education, blog articles can be one of the worst ways to target traffic that converts.”

Bertrand points to another example of a client whose services included corporate teambuilding. After a conference, they found their website traffic exploded. "One of their team building events was titled ‘singing like Taylor Swift.’ It turns out that page was getting a ton of traffic, and ranking great, but it was people looking for Taylor Swift's latest single, or her concert tour, what city she's going to visit, stuff like that.”

Those clicks? “Completely worthless. 100% worthless traffic for a company that does team-building exercises at conferences. But, if you were tracking these rankings and metrics, you might get excited or pat yourself on the back as a marketer or an SEO consultant.” All this to say, a click does not equal a sale. Design your content to support the latter rather than the former.

Work “a little backwards” to find the right keywords.

To convert clicks into those coveted sales, try to work backward to refine your keywords. Bertrand explains, "The way Google worked 20 years ago was if I typed ‘Dale Bertrand website’ into Google, Google would look for those exact words on pages online and then prioritize them, and then give them to you in order." With a laugh, Bertrand says, "Google is absolutely not doing that today. Google knows the real intent behind that search, and it's finding semantically relevant and similar content online and showing those pages.”

“Google knows a lot more about us when we search than just the keyword. 99% of the time, we're logged into a Google account, and Google knows everything you searched for today and last year. Including what you buy, what websites you visit and soon. Google knows a lot about you.”

Another example is a diaper company that was inclined to write blogs about a colicky baby or finding the right diaper size. But, with Google’s extensive knowledge, it’s unlikely that those topics will point the consumer to a diaper website, but rather a parenting blog or WebMD.

Instead, focus on targeting the buyer. “The buyer would Google ‘Huggies size 5 infant diapers’ or something like that. Sizes imply an intent to buy.” Just as your go-to-market strategy focuses on driving sales, your keywords should be focused on intent.

Know your audience…or get as close as you can.

The best way to intuit keywords is to know your audience well or at least have close contact with someone who does. Bertrand reminds us: "If you understand your customer, you’ve achieved the customer intimacy that I'm talking about. You've had conversations with them, or at least the salespeople that talk to them regularly.” Bertrand assures, "If you take the time to truly understand your customers, you will get to them without worrying about keywords.”

 

Thank you to Dale for spending the afternoon with us! We’re excited to continue working with Fire&Spark as we rethink clients’ SEO strategies to drive revenue.  

Are you trying to get to know your audience better or maximize conversion content on your website? We can help. Reach us at nfesta@greenoughagency.com.

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