Big companies can make huge gains with reasonably small adjustments to their SEO and content marketing strategies. The opportunities are staring them in the face. They just need to update existing content and be willing to create new website pages.
In my new study, Big Businesses Fall Short with SEO and Content Marketing, I took a close look at the Fortune 100 to size up how they’re dealing with basic SEO tactics for their website content. Their performance isn’t surprising on some levels. They command No. 1 rankings on Google and often fall safely on the first page of Google search results.
The problem is that too many popular keywords aren’t making it to the first page.
What they’re doing wrong
In my analysis, I evaluated the 500 most-searched keywords per company based on Google ranking and search data tracked by SEMrush. On average, 19.4% of the Fortune 100 keywords ranked between 11 and 20 on Google (the second page).
Sure, scores of the most popular search words aren’t the least bit relevant to the Fortune 100 companies. “Quiz” attracts an estimated 1.3 million annual searches on Google. Does Disney really expect to benefit if it moves up from No. 15 to No. 5 in a search for that word? Boeing would hardly pursue a No. 3 ranking for “long-term forecast,” which has about 25,000 annual searches on Google (Boeing ranks 20th for the phrase).
What about the popular keywords that could match their lead, sales, and branding goals?
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Image source: Online Marketing Coach based on SEMrush/Google data.
Merck ranks 14th on Google for “Lisinopril” for its PDF about Prinivil, a prescription drug for high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. Merck misses out on a ton of traffic because it doesn’t even bother to include branding with the company name and logo until the bottom of the final page in a PDF that’s focused on every aspect of Prinivil.Image source: Online Marketing Coach based SEMrush/Google data.
Here are some key findings from my study on missed opportunities that diminish the Fortune 100 companies’ search engine ranking results:
- 56% don’t even use keywords in their SEO titles for their home pages.
- 23% of Fortune 100 companies don’t use a meta description on the home page that could appear with search engine results.
- 89% generally don’t name images with keywords with dashes (they prefer ineffective underscores and generic or jammed words).
- 20% aren’t mobile-friendly based on Google’s test
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It’s in (or not in) the SEO page title
Here are examples of how four companies don’t put SEO to work for their titles:
- <title>The DOW Chemical Company – Home </title>
- <title>BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY INC.</title>
- <title>Marathon Oil Corporation</title>
Even Google rejects the advice it offers on its Search Console for website developers and other marketers on how to create effective SEO titles:
“Page titles should be descriptive and concise. Avoid vague descriptors like ‘Home’ for your home page, or ‘Profile’ for a specific person’s profile …Page titles should be descriptive & concise. Avoid vague descriptors via @mikeonlinecoach #SEO Click To Tweet
The title of your site’s home page is a reasonable place to include some additional information about your site – for instance, ‘ExampleSocialSite, a place for people to meet and mingle.’ But displaying that text in the title of every single page on your site hurts readability and will look particularly repetitive if several pages from your site are returned for the same query.
In this case, consider including just your site name at the beginning or end of each page title, separated from the rest of the title with a delimiter such as a hyphen, colon, or pipe, like this:
<title>ExampleSocialSite: Sign up for a new account.</title>”
Some companies do a better job:
- <title>Ford – New Cars, Trucks, SUVs, Hybrids & Crossovers | Ford Vehicles</title>
- <title>Citi | Responsible Finance – Financial Ingenuity – Global Bank</title>
- <title>Welcome to Walgreens – Your Home for Prescriptions, Photos and Health Information</title>
Unfortunately, with their interior pages, 71% of Fortune 100 companies merely repeat their visible content header (like the headline) and use that for the SEO page title. The problem is that the headers are often general, which means the SEO page titles don’t benefit from keyword variations.
In this example, the headline words “Meats & Livestock” don’t reflect the investment context of the content. As a result, the SEO page title is very basic: <title>INTL FCStone – Meats/Livestock</title>
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It’s in the broken links
SEO and content marketing lose their effectiveness if the content doesn’t deliver. GE, for example, has a products page with several links to more pages. But one of the main pages is a broken link to a separate GE website for “Appliance Filters & Accessories.”
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It’s striking a balance
Nationwide stands out among Fortune 100 websites for how to maximize its SEO efforts. It still underperforms but can improve. Whoever led the SEO strategy made a significant difference for the company.
With the U.S. data from SEMrush, I took a sampling of 10,000 keyword phrases among the 200,000 that SEMrush tracks for the insurance company Nationwide (based on desktop computer searches). Of those 10,000, Nationwide has more than 2,400 No. 1 rankings on Google. Here are some examples:
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Nationwide’s calls to action likely are effective based on their colors, size, and location in the design:
So how is Nationwide underachieving? Keyword phrases that could help its bottom line are trapped on the second page of Google results. On an annual basis, the company misses out on a bigger share of millions of potential website visitors for phrases like “cheap car insurance” and “cheap insurance.”
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Nationwide does rank well for related keyword phrases that typically aren’t searched as often, including:
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Nationwide and other large businesses should strongly consider taking these five steps to improve their search engine visibility.
- Take stock of your stature.
Enterprises have inherent advantages that should be exploited for SEO strategies. Large companies have firmly established websites that contribute to their authority (it’s not uncommon for their domain names to be 30 years old).
Even better, they attract hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of inbound links from other websites. Many of those sites are credible in their own right. When the company gets an inbound link from them, the website can get a ranking boost from search engines.
The sheer size of a large company website reinforces its value to online searchers. Search engines don’t just recognize the number of pages and files. They factor in the overall source code and website structure, including internal links that point to specific content.
All of those variables – from the website age to inbound links – set the stage for high search engine rankings for large enterprises. They just need to fully optimize their websites to make headway with their search engine presence.
Some marketers argue about the significance of including a keyword phrase in a domain name. I still believe it makes a difference. But 99 of the Fortune 100 websites include only branded keywords. The only exception is HCA, which includes “healthcare” in its domain. Unfortunately, the great domain can’t make up for the website’s SEO shortcomings.
- Look at the data.
For years, I’ve heard marketers say it’s not worth focusing on search engine rankings because conversions are what matter at the end of the day. Well, you can’t convert a website visitor who doesn’t know your website content exists.
Companies should explore their search engine rankings, website traffic, and conversions, including the response forms they receive and other engagement metrics like phone calls and downloads.
Nearly all of the Fortune 100 websites have at least some kind of home page call to action – some are marginal. UPS is among the worst. A tiny “location” reference isn’t what I expected to see.
Sure, it gets better on the next page. But the first impression is horrific.
Sometimes home page text is tough to read, diminishing the value of a call to action. Tesoro should update its design.
Other enterprises like Halliburton don’t waste time. The company features several calls to action that appear quickly but last long enough to trigger interest.
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- Size up the challenges.
With SEO and rankings, one of the biggest problems is that too many keyword phrases compete for the same page. It happens all of the time because of the content. Companies like Nationwide could settle for a variety of rankings for any given page.
For example, Nationwide could adjust its content to get more keywords to rank for its popular Cheap Car Insurance Quotes page:
However, when you mess with the content and the SEO page title, some of the high-ranking keywords could be modified and their rankings could fall. If you tinker with an existing page, monitor the impact with rankings and changes in conversions tied to the page.
In other words, be careful as you adapt your content to go after a highly searched keyword phrase. If your site jumps from No. 14 to No. 6, that would be great. The gains might outweigh the impact on another keyword phrase that ranked No. 19 and falls to No. 27. The keyword phrase that was ranking 19th may not have been driving significant leads and sales anyway.
With your data analysis, you always need to look at:
- Website traffic
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- Create new content
Sometimes it’s best to simply create quality content around preferred keyword phrases that need a ranking boost. Content marketers have many opportunities to produce content. Need some ideas? Check out Content Marketing Institute’s 75 Examples to Spark Your Marketing Creativity, which includes these two successful examples:
- IBM’s Big Data and Analytics Hub with blogs, videos, podcasts, reports, infographics, and animations
- Autodesk’s Line//Shape//Desk microsite with everything from client-relations advice and marketing guidance to customer stories and software tricks
Your many new content options to help with SEO include:
- How-to guides
- Case studies
- Q&As with industry leaders, including your own subject matter experts
- Industry trends and resources
- White papers
- Videos with transcripts
- Executive briefs
- Excerpts from e-books
- Executive summaries from surveys and studies
When you publish content, be sure to get the SEO fundamentals in order, such as:
- Keywords in URL
- Keywords in the SEO page title
- Keywords in the visible page header
- Keywords in the content
- Links to the content from other related and/or high profile pages on your website
- Images named with keywords
- Meta descriptions with calls to action
- Internal links
- Measure the impact and adjust
If you add new content, then chart your rankings, website traffic, and conversions related to those new content pages. Your new page will rank for other keywords in addition to your focus keyword phrase. Regardless, your goal should be the same: The target keyword phrase should rank higher than it does for older content.
Some Fortune 100 companies struggle because they apparently are satisfied with the website traffic they do receive. Or, they’re not good at noticing problems in the first place.
How does your company diagnose SEO and content marketing efforts? What steps do you take to ensure that your content ranks as high as possible?
Learn more about how to build your content strategically at the Intelligent Content Conference March 7-9 in Las Vegas. Register today.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute