Some folks don’t like talking to other folks.Or at least they don’t like talking to other folks who are salespeople. Or consuming a lot of traditional marketing. Basically, they want to go out and educate themselves.Search is a critical way of reaching them, and that means you have to identify search terms and develop content that they want to go and find themselves.We recently interviewed Ely Kahn, Co-Founder and VP of Business Development at Sqrrl, about SEO strategies. Sqrrl went from not ranking in Google searches to being the first name you see in certain searches—all by targeting the right search terms.Here are three lessons he gave on how to identify search terms and create effective strategies around them.
1) Stand Out From the Crowd
Step one of any SEO strategy is to identify unique search terms that you can build some positioning around. One of the concepts constantly heard from both their security practitioners and advisors was the idea of “threat hunting.”The concept has been around within the government, namely, the NSA, for a while. But it never got a lot of traction inside this industry. Sqrrl wanted to separate themselves in their own industry by building some branding around that particular search term.It wasn’t too difficult for them to go out and win the term, and that was important. They didn’t only want a search term that was aligned with their company—they wanted it to be winnable.As for how they choose other search terms, they use some AdWords research, but mostly they use HubSpot for their marketing automation. HubSpot has some pretty awesome SEO research tools that do a good job of researching search terms’ difficulty to win.
2) Focus on Organic Growth
At first, the Sqrrl team wasn’t focused on cyber security (their current area of expertise), but on big data. They were positioning around search terms like “data-centric security,” which lined up with their technology stack. As they evolved, though, those terms weren’t relevant to their product strategy, so they abandoned them.A year ago they decided they wanted to build their branding around threat hunting. Within two or three months they were able to get to the top of Google’s search results. And almost all of that came through organic growth.They did some paid search marketing, but Ely admitted that the results weren’t great. They learned that their particular target audience was simply less likely to click on paid search, so they’ve scaled it back a great deal. Marketers get it: we scroll immediately past the paid results whenever we’re doing product research.Sqrrl focuses almost exclusively on Google, after learning that almost 95% of their site traffic comes through that avenue.
3) Once You Have a Target, Fire Away
Once you’ve identified search terms, how do you mechanically rank well for them? Follow three steps:1)Cover the basics. Establish a site page that has the search term in the URL, in the title, and in the first paragraph. In other words, do all the SEO 101 stuff, making sure your content is appropriately tagged.2)Develop a content schedule around the search term. For example, come up with blog series that highlight that search term.3)Develop a backlink strategy. One thing Sqrrl found to be effective was doing guest blogs or guest editorials on various sites. They went out not only to the more popular cyber security sites, but also to their advisor network—many of them had fairly popular blogs—and they asked them to do backlinks to their threat hunting site page.“Developing a set of backlinks is what propelled us to the top of Google most quickly,” Ely told us.They’ve never done paid backlinks, either. They simply used the existing contacts on their advisory board, who are different from their investors and are technology experts who have relevance to their product. A lot of them are luminaries in the field, with many followers.
Here’s the really good news about SEO: you don’t have to sweat it if you’re not already an expert. Ely came from a background of cyber security but now has enough expertise in SEO to talk about it on a podcast.He learned by reading a lot—on the HubSpot blog and various other similar blogs. He’s also had a lot of good advisors that came from the marketing space.A little reading and hanging around the right crowd can put you in a place to succeed in SEO, too.Just don’t try to rank for “threat hunting.”This episode is based on an interview with Ely Kahn from Sqrrl. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to the Hawke Media Podcast.If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.