Why Organic Search Results & Leads Aren't Actually Free

by Mary Ann Hegvold on June 10, 2019

There is a misperception out there that building a new website will automatically draw in more leads. The first step, before you get more leads, is getting your website to appear at the top of the organic search results. Although the term is "organic results," it's not as simple as planting a seeding and walking away. Just like a plant, you have to do things to your website make sure it grows and stays strong. 

That means that the websites you see at the top of the  search engine results page (SERP) didn't show up by accident. They most likely spent time and energy figuring out what they can do to be the most relevant search result for their potential visitors. So what do you need to do to get up there at the top of the SERP?

"Time is money."  And that holds true here too.

Achieving high organic rankings on major search engines like Google and Bing requires time. And time is money – whether you do it yourself or you hire someone to handle search engine optimization (SEO) for you – it's an investment.

What Is Involved in SEO That Costs Money?

While the whole point of SEO is to get your website to the top of the organic search results without paying for an ad, you will need to invest either your time or your money (and most likely some of both) into getting these results. An even once you get there you can't drop the mic and walk away. Google will keep you on your toes with things they decide to change (pretty often). You'll have to show them that you're paying attention to what they're asking for.

Below are some of the activities that will cost you time and/or money to keep your website high in the organic search results.

1. Identifying Your TOPICS and Key phrase Focus

When people perform searches in Google, Yahoo, or Bing, they're using keywords to get the desired results. But anymore, they're typing a sentence, or just talking into their phones, to ask a question. The more people search for a particular key phrase (which can be a sentence) the more importance the search engines place on it.

Before you write a bunch of content in an attempt to draw in more visitors, make sure you know which topics are important to your target audience. And from there, think about the types of questions they would be asking.  

If you don't know what people are searching for, you won't know what type of content to create, which isn't going to get you where you want to be in the organic search results. There are really big topics and then there are phrases that support that topic. 

 Related Read: Using Topic Clusters in your SEO Strategy

There are some free research tools out there that will give you a list of relevant keywords for what you're trying to promote. These aren't an exact count, but will give you a general idea of what's popular. You can also a few tricks to help you with your research. 

Free Tools for SEO Research

  1. First, in Chrome, add the the Keywords Everywhere extension. It's going to give you some ideas of how frequently your phrase is searched and it will give you some ideas for other phrases. 
  2. But on top of that, Google will give you hand if you're looking in the right places. 
    • Look at the drop down in Google Search.  You might see some options in the drop down to give you some new ideas for your content. These are popularly searched phrases.
    • Use the "People also searched for" feature. After you click one of the results,  go back (using the back arrow in your browser) to get back to the Google SERP. They will give you a treasure trove of other ideas just below the result you clicked. 

Here's an example when searching for "taco recipes." 

  • Keywords Everywhere:

Keyword Research Example


  • Google Search Dropdown:

Google Search Research Example


  • Google's "People also ask" Suggestions:

SEO Research Examples

You could spend some serious time looking at ideas by doing this. It's a good use of your time though. Don't skip it! It's going to be a good way to find "long-tail keywords," that are pretty specific, but very helpful to those who are looking for that specific information.  It's a time-consuming process, but so important!

How to Know What is a Good Key Phrase

When you use something like Keywords Everywhere, you'll be able to see a few things at the right side of a desktop screen.

Keyword Everywhere Example

  • Volume - This is the number of searches a keyword gets per month in the US on Google - ISH. It's not an exact science. But a phrase with 2,000 searches vs one with 20 searches per month gives you an idea of what's popular. You want to choose a keyword that people search for regularly. If not, you won't get much traffic to your site, even if you did rank high on the SERP.
  • CPC - This gives a general idea of what this key phrase would cost in Google Ads. Again, this is a broad stroke, but gives you some sense of how much competition there is for that phrase out there. 
  • Comp (meaning Competition) - This is sometimes called Keyword Difficulty for organic search results. It measures your competition, that is, other sites that use your target keyword. The close the Comp number is to 1.0, the harder it is to rank for. (Sometimes this on a scale of 1 - 100 where 100 is the hardest to rank for). 
  • And a big long list of other key phrase ideas - Some of these keywords, sometimes referred to as key phrases, are more specific than your average keyword. For example, instead of using "shoes," you'd use "brown sandals for women." This is a more focused keyword and would satisfy searcher intent better than the other keyword. Long-tail keywords are a good addition to your targeted keyword and phrases because, often, they give you a higher chance of ranking for a searcher that is looking for a specific result.

2. Writing content to match the phrases

Once you've spent a considerable amount of time identifying the right keywords to target, you will then have to spend more time writing content that includes these keywords in a meaningful way. Content creators used to get away with "keyword stuffing" to make their page show up in the search results. But now, Google can read things like a human. It's not about how many times you can cram the same exact phrase into a page, over and over. It's about crafting content that a human can read using a mixture of phrases. We will get into more of this in the on-page SEO section below. 

Side note: You can always have someone create content for you including ideas about what to write about. This is an alternative cost to your time.

Finally, once you have your content and it's published you'll need to bundle related topics together using a pillar page format. This is an ongoing process.

If you have questions about pillar pages you can read: What are Pillar Pages?

3. On-Page SEO

There's more than just writing new content too. You should also constantly evaluate the pages you already have. Based on your keyword research, are you using relevant key phrases on your web pages? Does your page answer questions that people may be searching for?

Part of the process for getting your website to rank at the top of organic results is taking long-standing content making it work harder for you.

  1. Add more text. 1000+ words is good. 2,000+ is better. Break it up so you don't overwhelm visitors. And don't worry about scrolling. It's really not a problem.
  2. Add videos that are related to the topic for that page. And be sure your transcript is included for Google read it.
  3. Make sure you haven't overlooked your Meta Title and Meta Description. These elements are needed so that Google can understand what your content is about and at the same time, produce the most relevant results for searchers.
    • Meta Title - Read by Google, appears in the search results, and should be related to your key phrases. The title of the page isn't always good enough. take some time to understand these and write them so that Google makes a good connection with your phrases.
    • Meta Description - Not so much about ranking but matters when your page shows up in search results. Make someone want to click your result with a good description.
    • Image alt-tags - Give those pics a name where Google can read it. Most content management systems make this an easy task, but it can be time consuming if it wasn't done at the time your website was built.
    • Cross-linking - You also need to link to related content within your website. This linking action shows search engines that you are an authority in your industry, offering more than just one page on a specific topic. This increases your chances of ranking well. 

Related Read: What You Need to Know About Your Website Content

If you do want to run paid ads, SEO is important because it determines your quality score, which is Google's rating of the quality and relevance of your keywords and pay-per-click (PPC) ads. The quality score affects how your ads appear or if they appear at all. This is because Google wants content that best matches searcher intent, solves a problem, or answers a question. The higher your quality score, the better your ability to satisfy searcher intent. The better you satisfy searcher intent, the better your ad rankings will be at the lowest possible cost. 

4. Link Building

So you've performed thorough keyword research, sprinkled those keywords throughout your content, and fully optimized your content for the search engines. But if your website still isn't ranking, then it's probably because you haven't built any links. And Google loves links.


Because when there are many high-authority sites linking back to your website, Google sees it as a high-quality site with quality and authoritative content. Link building takes quite a bit of time because you need to do some foot work and build relationships with other reputable sites. Some people do email outreach and partner with other sites to get links. Others do what's called black-hat SEO and pay for links. Google doesn't like this method and will penalize you for it. Moz.com has a great guide for link building. Whatever method you choose, just be aware that quality is better than quantity. 

5. Monitoring and Reporting

When you put this much effort into getting your website's content developed around a specific set of topics, you have to make sure it's working. That means someone needs to own this responsibility. Along with some software, like HubSpot or SEMRush, you will need to consistently keep track of where your website is ranking.

NOTE: We don't recommend randomly Googling to see if you appear.

Google produces very specific results based on your geography, past searches, etc. The software gives a much more objective overview of your ranking. Be sure you know what you're looking at and what it means so you can provide reporting to the highest levels of the organization.

What Is "It" Worth to You?

"It" - could be referring to

  • the value of a lead generated from the website
  • your time
  • your marketing budget

Or all of the above. There's a direct correlation between your SEO success and the amount of time and/or budget that you invest.

Ultimately, it's up to your company to decide how to allocate each of these, but if you want to rank in the top of the organic search results, there is a cost associated.

If you'd like an honest, unbiased opinion of your current marketing efforts and how your currently ranking in the organic results, let's talk. We can spend 15 minutes with you to review your SEO strategy.

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