When talking about SEO and Online Marketing, you would expect that the conversation would be all about SEO and Online Marketing. Well; success with SEO and Online Marketing extends beyond just a good search engine ranking so there’s no way we can limit a discussion to just these elements. Below I have outlined 3 basic needs when talking about online marketing and the last one may surprise you, but it needs careful attention.
For far too long, it appears that the only goal of many SEO’s and SEO companies has been to focus on traffic; Lots and lots of traffic coming to your website, believing that this would solve the big problem for many businesses. While traffic is indeed important, it’s not the ONLY thing you need to concern yourself with when it comes to online marketing.
Traffic is important – Don’t get me wrong. No visitors means no prospects, which translates into no money in your bank account, so as you can see; Visitors are important. The trouble is that most SEO companies stop there. They make their bread and butter by helping you get visitors and many SEO companies are good at it.
Many SEO companies help you get visitors to your website and their job is over. BIG MISTAKE. While traffic is important, there are still 2 more aspects that need to be addressed after (and before) the majority of the traffic shows up at your website.
# 2 CONVERSIONS
Converting your traffic into customers is the next major hurdle. There’s no point in having a lot of traffic, if none of that traffic results in increased sales. This needs to be thought out, before the traffic starts coming.
Now the question is this; How do you convert the traffic?
There’s a lot to consider when trying to answer this question. First and foremost, you need to have a great product or service. Beyond that, your website needs to be structured in such a way that it compels people to buy or inquire and makes it easy for them to do that. Giving them useful information and resources and an easy way to get in touch with you are just two of the ways that you can increase conversions. This discussion, however can be a whole discussion on it’s own.
#3 REAL LIFE
Now comes the hardest part of online marketing. Getting the clients and keeping them. At some point in your online marketing process, you actually need to meet the clients and provide them with your product or service. Having a stellar online marketing plan can be completely worthless if you aren’t able to present your business in a professional manner. Your office, your appearance, your sales pitch, your offline marketing materials and most of all, your product or service all need to come into play to make your business a success.
Far too many times I have worked with potential clients who wanted to have a strong online marketing and SEO presence, but at the end of it all, their product or service offering was sub-par. If you’re going to dominate the search engine listings, you need to do the best that you can do by offering amazing products and services to your clients and customers. SEO becomes challenging when we have to fake our way to the top of the search engine listings because your product or service is not the best that it can be.
Who else can help?
For many, a little extra help is needed to take your business to the next level. Throughout my business life, I have been fortunate enough to have worked with 2 great business coaches who have helped me to really think through various aspects of my business. Jamie MacDonald of Maximum Impact and Ross Rains of Tier 1 Exec Corp have both been instrumental in helping me to put the pieces together and I highly recommend the services of professional business coaches.
Beyond that, make sure to take advice from competent professionals. Accountants, Lawyers and other professionals who are able to assist you in making your business a success. Don’t be afraid to delegate whenever you come up against something that isn’t your forte.
In the process of learning SEO, I have tried many different tactics to improve rankings as I am sure other SEO companies have also done. There is some trial and error as it relates to SEO and figuring out what works and what doesn’t work.
There is a big difference between doing testing and trial and error on your own websites versus those of a client. I learned SEO through building and doing SEO on approximately 50 of my own niche websites. Some were successful and ended up earning me some money, some where not, but I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by learning the SEO business this way. If I messed up, I was only hurting myself.
Unfortunately not all SEO companies are created equal. It would seem that many SEO companies are still using techniques that are old and out-dated and are more likely to get your site de-indexed by Google, rather than get it onto the front page.
Two scenarios come to mind when I think about all the different problematic SEO tactics I have seen used by SEO companies in the past 5 years.
1. A few years back I owned a few article directories. This was when article marketing was at the height of it’s effectiveness for SEO. Day after day I would clear out hundreds of spammy articles, written by offshore writers for some pretty reputable companies. Time after time I would see the same poor quality article, submitted to all 4 of my article directories. Spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes and often they just didn’t make any sense whatsoever.
A few times I was tempted to contact the owners of the businesses being represented in the articles to let them know what their SEO company was up to, but I never did. It would have been a full-time job in itself. I think it’s safe to say that they had no idea what their SEO company was doing to get them higher rankings.
2. A few months ago I was doing some SEO work for a client. When I logged into the control panel for their website, I noticed that their website had hundreds of blog posts about various topics, which in no way related to their business. It would seem that their SEO company had signed them up to some sort of private blog network which allowed other people to post articles on their website (unknowingly) everyday, linking to various websites. None of the posts were accessible through the website’s main navigation, so customers weren’t seeing these articles, however they were there. Google was indexing these articles and many were about gambling, online poker, online dating and prescriptions drugs.
What’s My Advice?
While you don’t need to know every detail of your SEO company and what they do to get your website to the front page of Google, you need to be able to trust them. If you don’t get the sense that you can trust them, don’t work with them. It’s that simple! Get to know your SEO company or SEO expert, ask them questions, learn about their integrity (if they have any) and then move ahead with the business relationship. You don’t need to choose your SEO company overnight either. Choose carefully and make sure you are going to be comfortable working with them since this is not a one-time transaction.
A word of advice though: Don’t breathe down their neck. SEO takes time and sometimes, LOTS of time. If you hire an SEO company today, don’t ask them in 3 days why your website isn’t on the front page of Google. It takes time. Most likely they will want to work with you ongoing for several months to start and at first, you may not see a lot of results. Rest assured that a good SEO company is building a foundation and that over time, you will see those rankings improve.
SEO is an ever-changing discipline and 2012 was a year that SEO experts will remember as an eventful year. Some changes were for the better, helping to further eliminate spam and clean-up Google’s search results. Other changes made the job of SEO’s more challenging, taking some tools out of our toolbox seemingly overnight.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the changes in SEO in 2012 and what we can expect going forward.
Local Search – It’s everywhere and it’s here to stay. Let’s face it. The average web surfer, when looking for a product or service online, is most likely looking for something within their local geographical area and Google has gotten better and better at serving up geographically relevant results. Local citations (ie. Google Local, Yellowpages, Manta, Hotfrog etc) and a whole host of other local directory/citation websites have become more and more important for local search to be effective.
Social Media – Social media indicators have become a ranking factor for Google, although it’s not entirely clear just how much social media plays into rankings directly. If you aren’t involved in social media (ie. Twitter, Facebook, Google+) you need to be. You can’t ignore social media and claim its just for a younger generation. It’s for every business and industry, both profit and non-profit.
Mobile – Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are growing in popularity, so mobile websites and mobile SEO have become a hot topic in 2012 and is expected to be even hotter in 2013. If you aren’t building mobile responsive websites and doing mobile SEO, it’s time you start!
Directory Links – With the exception of local and high quality niche directories, most online directories hold little value. Their role has been reducing in recent years, but I think we have seen the biggest push in 2012 to nearly completely discredit those links.
Article Marketing – 2011 and 2012 were both tough years for Article Marketing and those that relied on it for the bulk of their SEO efforts. I think it’s safe to say that sites like GoArticles and EzineArticles hold little, to no value at this point in time. That’s not to say that content marketing doesn’t work, it’s just that your standard low quality, spammy article directories are no longer good sources for backlinks.
I am looking forward to 2013 and watching all that unfolds in the world of SEO. I think it’s safe to say that Google is continuing it’s push toward cleaning up spammy SEO tactics and ridding the search results of low quality websites. For consumers, this has been mostly a good thing, but it has made the job of SEO’s slightly more complicated. It’s time to get creative!
If you operate a business, it’s important to build a strong online profile for you or your business. Your online profile is like a trail that leads right to your business and will show prospective clients and customers that you are serious about doing business online.
What Do I Mean By Online Profile?
Put yourself in the shoes of your potential customers or clients. They will fall into two different categories when searching for information about a business:
1. They don’t know who you are, but they are searching for keywords related to your company’s activities.
2. They know who you are and they’re searching for your company, using search terms like your company name.
SEO most often deals with the first scenario. We help our clients get found in search engines by keywords that customers are searching for. For example, in my business, it’s important for me to be found by the terms “SEO company” or “London Ontario SEO Companies.” Those terms are of value to me and I optimize my website and try to build backlinks to my website with those terms in mind.
Scenario number 2 seems to get overlooked by far too many people, but it is equally as powerful.
Imagine that your customers have been referred to your company by a friend or family member and they decide to search for your company name. First and foremost, you hope that your company website is the first website that appears. If that’s not the case, you have some work to do.
After your company website, if you have spent any time online building your online profile, your customers will find other profiles about your company. Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Quora, Weblocal, Manta, Yelp and the list goes on and on.
The goal of this second scenario is to fill up the first page or two of the search results with your company.
Why would you want to do this?
Because it makes you look like a large company, with plenty of reach. If someone searches for my company name, Blake Strategies Group, the first two pages are filled with my profiles on various websites. Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Quora, Manta, Yelp and so on. If they don’t go to the first option, which is my company website, there’s a good chance that they will still end up on my website eventually by choosing any of the other links associated with my company.
While this isn’t rocket science, it gets overlooked and it’s too bad. Some of these websites can also offer valuable backlinks to your website, which will help improve your organic search results as well.
What’s the Final Word?
Seek opportunities to build online profiles and accounts on social media sites, local directories and more. Just be careful not to build these profiles too quickly and make it appear that you’re spamming the search engines. Just be diligent and serious about growing your reach online and making sure you’re everyone that your potential customers are.
Should you spend your online marketing budget on Google Adwords (PPC) or SEO (Organic Search)
This is a question that every business with a website must ask themselves when they start to look at how to spend their online advertising dollars.
On one hand, a business can use Google Adwords and set their investment at any amount that they can afford and get almost instant leads (in a perfect world.) A simple text ad can produce great results and your traffic can skyrocket overnight, if you can afford it.
One the other hand, a business can invest in SEO by committing to a monthly SEO package with an SEO company and their rankings will increase over time in the natural search engine results pages.
So which one is a better use of your marketing dollars?
This isn’t an easy question to answer because every business is different and every scenario is different.
Again, in a perfect world, you could start an Adwords campaign and for example, spend $300 per month on PPC ads. If your landing page (the page you point your ads to) is optimized properly, you may end up with quite a few leads or conversions, but in order to keep those leads or conversions coming in, you have to keep paying Google, month after month. Obviously plenty of businesses are doing this since Google is reportedly generating over $100 million per day in Adwords revenue!
This is a great way to generate leads, but it can get expensive because it never stops. If you stop paying, your leads or conversions stop.
Hiring an SEO company to increase your search engine rankings offers you another option. If you invest that same $300 per month in SEO services, over time your website should end up on page #1 of Google in the organic (free) results pages. Once you’re on page one, you should be getting plenty of traffic and you don’t have to keep paying for it. As long as you don’t do anything drastic from an SEO standpoint, a small monthly maintenance fee by an SEO company should keep your website in a high ranking position.
With Organic SEO, you get FREE traffic, day after day, month after month.
In my opinion, if you don’t want to keep paying for an Adwords campaign, investing money in organic SEO services is your best option. The downside of course to spending money on Organic SEO is that your rankings will not change overnight. It could take several weeks to several months before you see the results. In this case, SEO services are front loaded with costs and then it will ease up once you are in a good position, whereas Adwords continues to cost, day after day, month after month.
Ultimately you need to decide what’s best for your organization and your current situation. One good option for many companies would be to split your investment between the two. This way you get the best of both worlds; You get leads or conversions immediately while building your rankings for future leads or referrals that come in free of charge.
Over the course of completing SEO audits, I consistently see SEO issues that are avoidable, even by amateurs. For example, improper page titles are a very important SEO component that still get overlooked for the value that they can bring. Page titles are one of the factors that will tell the search engines what a web page is about. Combined with meta description, on-page content and backlinks with relevant anchor text, these factors help Google determine how to rank your page or website for certain search terms. This of course is a simplistic view as many other factors apply, but just because this is a basic concept, doesn’t mean it’s not an important one.
Time and time again I see page titles written in a way that is inefficient and sometimes, just wrong. For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, the best way to describe a page title is to go to a website/webpage and look up at the top of your browser. This is the title of the particular page and there’s a right way to write the page title and there’s a wrong way.
Page Titles – The Basics
The page title should be descriptive of what a particular page is about. If your website is selling “yellow widgets” on an individual page, using “yellow widgets” is a great start for your page title. You have about 60 to 65 characters to work with in a page title, so it’s usually a good idea to use up your available characters, if you can use them without looking spammy. Putting a location in your page title may be a good idea as well, especially if your website is targeted at a certain geographic area. It’s likely that people will type “yellow widgets in Toronto” into their Google search page, so adding the location may be of benefit.
Wasting Page Title Real Estate
Time and time again I see websites wasting SEO real estate by putting words or phrases in their page titles that do nothing but waste space. For example, if your company name is “The Blue, Green & Yellow Widget Company,” using that in your page title may seem logical, but it’s a waste of characters, since you only have about 20-25 characters left to tell your visitors and the search engines what that page is about. It’s common for websites to have their company title on every page title, but this isn’t a great title in many cases. Putting your company name on your index page can be a good move for some companies trying to build their brand, but not for everyone.
Some companies waste page title space by putting a slogan in the page title. This may work for your home page (maybe,) but it’s a bad idea for the bulk of your pages. This is another waste of space that should be avoided in most cases.
Duplicate Page Titles
It’s tempting when building a website to just put the same page title on every page of a website. This is a bad idea! Make sure every page has a unique title that is descriptive of what’s on the page.
“Home” is Not a Good Page Title
An unnamed, fairly high profile website in the city I live (London, Ontario) has a page title that makes me laugh. The saddest part of this is that the website was built by a big web design agency in London and they should know better. What’s the page title that I’m referring to? Here it is: ”HOME – Company Name”
This page title makes me laugh. Yes, it is the “homepage” but it’s not really important for them to tell everyone that their index page is called “HOME.” It’s not a big deal in that it only uses up 4 characters, but it’s unnecessary.
Keyword Research Is at the Foundation of a Good Page Title
Your page titles should be determined after you have done thorough keyword research to find out what phrases and keywords actually get enough search volume to make them worth pursuing. There’s no sense using a page title that doesn’t get much search volume or one that isn’t descriptive of what’s on the page.
An Optimum Page Title
An optimum page title is goes something like this:
Keyword 1 | Keyword 2 | Company Name or Brand
Remember, you only have 60 to 65 characters to work with, so sometimes you have to make sacrifices with a page title, but the above is a general guideline that works well.
Choosing the right page titles should be done after some thought and research and not chosen in haste. Choose page titles that describe what service or product you provide, make them keyword rich and possibly include a geographic location if appropriate or maybe your brand/company name, but avoid wasting space with redundant information.
Even though Prison Break stopped filming a few years back, my wife and I just recently watched the whole series on Netflix for the first time. We don’t have cable anymore so we need to be more creative in finding things to watch now that we don’t have hundreds of channels to surf. Friends told us that Prison Break was a must watch series so we finally decided that now was the time.
We loved the series and as I was watching it I started to think about how it applies to SEO. Yes, that’s right; Prison Break and SEO have a lot in common.
Plan A, B, C, D…
If you’re in the SEO business or have been handling SEO for your company or your clients, change is something that you should be getting used to. In Prison Break, Michael Scofield was consistently having to revise his plans. No matter how foolproof his plans seemed to be, there were still glitches when things didn’t go exactly as planned.
This reminds me of the SEO business. For years the changes to SEO were few and far between and the basic principles worked for years at a time. Directory submissions, reciprocal linking, then on to article submissions and so. These tactics each had their moment in the sun and worked quite well until Google shifted their algorithm to crack down on abuse.
This meant that over the years, SEO got a whole lot more complex. Blasting a few hundred directory submissions and writing a dozen articles was no longer sufficient in the eyes of Google and in fact, may get your website penalized. This has lead to many more ranking factors being considered and strategies having to change depending on the specific website being optimized.
Clear As Mud
With all the ranking factors being considered today, SEO isn’t as simple as it once was, and as I wrote in a previous post, lots of bad SEO companies are still thinking that SEO is straightforward. They’re still implementing Plan A…over and over and over to the detriment of the websites that they work on.
The key to SEO success today relies in your ability to think on your feet, react to changes in Google’s algorithm and constantly adapt. Every day needs to be filled with reading and testing, not getting down to work and ignoring the daily or weekly changes that are taking place.
This is not an industry for people who don’t like learning!
You don’t have to look very hard to find an SEO company to help you improve your rankings. Just Google the term “SEO company”, do a search on Twitter or check out Linkedin and you will be faced with hundreds or thousands of results for SEO companies and independent consultants who claim to all be able to get your website onto the front page of Google.
How do you know which company or consultant to trust? How do you know what they’re telling you is true?
SEO is a field that technically doesn’t have right or wrong answers because there isn’t a formal/official body that oversees the industry. It’s not like doing a safety check on a car or wiring a house where there’s a right way and a wrong way. There’s a standard list of do’s and don’ts.
SEO isn’t like that. There are tactics and strategies that one SEO company will use and another will avoid. Each company has their own way of doing things and it may vary slightly from what another company does. At the end of it all, there isn’t an official body or group that oversees and makes sure that SEO is done right because in one sense, it’s like nailing jello to the wall!
SEO is Evolving
SEO is an ever-changing and evolving field and what worked 12 months ago may not work as well today, or might not work at all. That in itself isn’t a bad thing as it keeps professional SEO consultants and companies on their toes. Daily reading of whats happening in the industry and with Google is just part of understanding the field.
Bad SEO Companies Use Old Methods
With the SEO world changing so rapidly, what sets a good SEO company apart from a bad one is updated information. Good SEO companies are always learning, reading and testing to keep up with the changes and evolving their techniques and strategies as Google rolls out changes to their search algorithm.
SEO Company Tactics to Avoid
If you ever see phrases like this, you might be dealing with a company that “thinks” they know SEO, but they clearly do not.
“We will submit your website to search engines”
“We will submit your website to hundreds of web directories”
“We will submit hundreds of articles to article directories”
“We guarantee #1 rankings”
Other Warning Signs
If an SEO company is secretive about their methods and they aren’t able to answer your questions, you might want to look elsewhere. While every SEO company isn’t going to know everything there is to know, if they can’t or aren’t willing to talk specifics about your SEO campaign, it’s probably time to find another SEO company.
Work with Someone You Can Trust
If you find a good SEO company that you feel that you can trust, settle in for the long haul. Don’t look at it like a one-time transaction, but rather a long-term relationship.
The key to being on page one is complex yet at the same time, quite simple. Many brands and websites are doing “seo” without realizing that they are doing it because it comes naturally to them and their marketing. Getting to the first page of Google might be much easier than you think.
Here’s the Secret:
Be good at what you do, talk about it on your website, talk about it elsewhere on the web, make other people talk about it and then talk about it some more.
That may be a very simplified way to look at it, but it’s true. The old days of marketing are long gone. Gone are the days when you could slap an advertisement in the newspaper every quarter and rely on it to bring you new business. You need to be everywhere, all the time but without being annoying. You need to be blogging about your business, your accomplishments, your product offering and blogging just to give helpful tips and information without self-promotion. In fact, these types of useful pieces of content are the ones that get shared and spread broadly across the internet and help your SEO efforts tremendously.
Blog Your Way to the Top
If you aren’t blogging or writing content on your company website on a fairly regular basis (more than once per week) then you are missing out on tremendous opportunity to get higher rankings. You may not be a great writer and that’s ok, because blogging doesn’t require you to be a prize winning writer; It requires that you have something to say and that your personality comes out in your writing.
Here’s a good method to follow that is sure to get you noticed by the search engines and it’s a great start or a local business with limited funds.
1. Make sure your website includes a blog on the site. If the website is built on WordPress, that’s easy.
2. Write a blog post at least once per week. Make sure it’s not completely promotional, but actual has some value. Give tips, tricks or information about your product or service and take time to educate your readers.
3. Tweet your new blog post out to your Twitter followers and post it to Facebook as well. Make sure people see it.
4. Hopefully you have written something that gets shared, re-tweeted and commented on.
5. Rinse and Repeat. Do this as often as you can to generate discussion and soon enough you have visitors and your search engine rankings will improve.
One Step Down, 20 to Go
As I said before, this is an oversimplified way to improve search engine rankings, but it works. It’s not the ONLY thing you need to concern yourself with though. There are other elements to SEO and each step you take will further improve your rankings.
A sobering reminder for any SEO professional or website owner desperately trying to crack the front page of the search engines.
A staggering 75% of internet users never go past the first page when searching in Google!
The sad reminder of this fact is that if your website isn’t on the first page of Google, your website is only performing at maximum – 25% capacity in terms of it’s search engine traffic capacity. Even scarier is that the coveted page #1 position has only 10 spots available and there are thousands, hundreds of thousands or maybe even millions of websites are competing for that spot. If you don’t bring your A-Game to your SEO efforts, someone else will. When that happens, you end up on page 2, 5, 18, or 72!
You might be happy being on page #2 in a Google search, but all that means is that you’re the first loser.
I’m not trying to be harsh or insensitive, but rather make your realize that “good enough” doesn’t cut it in the SEO world. You need to be on page one for as many search terms as possible and you need to work hard to stay in that position. Every day that you’re not in the number one spot, you’re losing out on potential customers and sales. Your competitor who holds the page #1 spot for your optimum keywords is essentially taking your customers from you.
Don’t just sit back and let your website be a victim of your lack of time, experience, expertise or laziness. Take charge of your SEO efforts, or let someone else take charge of them.
Your website is an investment not an expense. It should have an ROI.
If your website has only ever been an expense, you’ve been doing something wrong. A website costs money to build and maintain, but it should have a fairly tangible ROI. You should be getting leads through your website, and leads that convert to sales or clients and this is something you should be able to measure.
The difference between a poor performing website and one that bring in sales/customers/leads/prospects is a very thin line because quite often it’s not the actual website that’s the problem. It’s the website’s search engine rankings that are preventing the website from reaching out and touching your prospective clients/customers.
An SEO audit and strategy can solve this!