Marketers often advise client companies to “lead with digital” in their outreach. Sadly, some of these client companies have websites that are hard to find unless you know just where to look, making it tough to lead.
All around us, optimized websites and micro-targeted digital outreach are revolutionizing marketing, sales, meetings, presentations, and a myriad of other business activities. For the small business competing in this milieu, getting found online is not a finish line to be reached but a de rigueur ongoing discipline to be managed and monitored from now on.
Enter search engine optimization (SEO). It’s hugely important and hugely complex.
Do not despair. Focus on what matters most to you. First, determine who must see your website. If the answer is “businesses that need fire protection systems for buildings in the Central Ohio area,” you’ve substantially narrowed your desired reach and defined your SEO needs.
Second, learn (or get help learning) what search terms people are using to find your company and your services. Are they searching for “fire safety”, fire suppression” or “sprinklers”? Google Webmaster Tools, or a qualified SEO professional, can help you with this task.
Optimize on-page. Updating or overhauling your website? Make sure you or your developer is designing or updating it in a way that at the minimum does no harm. Banish obsolete design platforms such as frames and Flash. Remember that your site must work well on mobile devices.
Make sure you DO incorporate the factors that matter in SEO. Search engines (by which we largely mean Google, which dominates the market) look for content, performance, authority, and user experience. Use of an up-to-date, open-source content management system in site development can simplify your work in optimizing SEO later on. We often use WordPress when developing client websites that will be easy to maintain and update, and that will be SEO-friendly to boot.
Optimize off-page. Off-page SEO includes organic and paid techniques.
Organic off-page SEO entails processes to obtain a natural (non-sponsored) placement on search engine results pages. Make sure you (or your consultants) engage only in “White Hat SEO” (defined by webopedia as the usage of SEO strategies, techniques and tactics that “focus on a human audience” as opposed to search engines and “completely follow search engine rules and policies.”) This avoids the real possibility of actively damaging your SEO results by going afoul of practices that major search engines (okay, Google) condone. Generally, with organic off-page SEO, you can pursue having your pages become the “go-to” for a number of relevant search terms and phrases, bearing in mind your likely geographic market and both the popularity and specificity of the terms.
Paid SEO includes sponsored listings or ads high on search engine results pages. For paid off-page SEO planning and program management, you will use web analytics tools such as Google Webmaster Tools to choose terms that are 1) frequently searched for your topic and 2) likely to be “buy” terms and 3) hopefully, affordable. Remember that you are paying for clicks whether the visitor turns out to be interested in what you have for sale or not. Vague “non-buying” terms of broad general interest are typically not ideal for pay-per-click.
Monitor your efforts, trends and visitors. This should become part of your regular business routine. Fortunately, it can be interesting and rewarding.
They came! They left! Once a visitor has come to your site and then left after visiting defined pages, you can continue to target. Retargeting programs let you track visitors and then remind or incent them by presenting follow-up messages or ads, often on their social media sites. (You’ve probably seen the side ads on Facebook showing a product you just recently checked out on another site). These retargeting services, for which you contract, are available from several companies.
Call for help. If SEO is important to your company, you may be well advised to seek experienced consultants to guide you. The stakes are high and the playing field is constantly shifting. Having basic knowledge of the tools and techniques available to you is valuable, but having the right expert guidance may be the best way to achieve the results you need.
We’ve touched on fundamentals in this article. Of course, there is much more to know – and much more from which you can profit.
Michelle van Schouwen is president of van Schouwen Associates, LLC, a B2B marketing company based in Longmeadow, MA. The company is known for vSALaunch™, its proprietary, modular and scalable system for B2B marketing launches, as well as its expertise in integrated marketing for B2B. Search engine optimization is important in many of vSA’s marketing launches, and is an area in which the company consults. Contact Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2014 Michelle van Schouwen