The economic slowdown resulting from the coronavirus pandemic has made low-cost marketing options more important than ever before. Integrators need new business but have less marketing budget to spend these days.
One of the most important marketing tactics a company can employ is also one that often flies below the radar – search engine optimization (SEO). The term SEO refers to enhancements you make to your website so it appears in organic (unpaid) Google and other search engine results.
A separate but related term is search engine marketing (SEM) when you pay for Google Ads, Bing Ads, etc.
It is said that more than 80% of purchases start with online search. Maybe an IT manager at a company in your area searches for “videoconferencing installation in Dallas, TX” or a school administrator Googles “how to get started with remote learning”.
If this is the type of project your company frequently takes on, you want to make sure your company comes up in the results.
Given that on average 53% of the traffic to a website comes from organic search, it is clear that this is an area where you want your business to shine. One of the best parts about SEO is that once you have your website set up to perform, it will continue delivering results over the long term.
Once upon a time, companies would try to trick the search engines by repeating certain keywords, hiding keywords in the design of the site, etc.
The search engines have all grown up now and are usually smart enough to penalize sites that try these “black hat” tactics. It is by far more effective to learn what the SEO rules are and follow them rather than waste time on workarounds.
Below are five steps for SEO mastery:
- Ease of Access: set up your website so that search engines can easily crawl and index the content
- Compelling Content: write long-form content that addresses customers’ needs
- Keyword Choice: do some research to figure out what words your customers use when they talk about products, projects, etc.
- User Experience is King: make sure your website loads quickly and is easy to use
- Shareable Content: post content that your customers want to share with colleagues to drive the right traffic to your site
#1 Ease of Access
Search engines function by completing three tasks: they crawl the internet to find content, they index that content to create some organization and they rank the content so people can find what best meets their needs.
If you type the following into a search engine, you will see a list of which pages from your site have been indexed: “site:yourdomain.com”.
You can also sign up for a free Google Search Console account for more detailed information. Using this tool, you can submit sitemaps for your website to ensure that all of the pages have been identified.
Another consideration is to use Robots.txt files to indicate any pages you do not want the search engines to find. These could be old pages on your site, special promo pages, etc.
It’s particularly important to make sure you have an XML sitemap which will act as a roadmap to show search engines what content is on your site.
There are tools out there, including the free version of Yoast, that will automatically build a sitemap for you. This is a definite must-have.
More considerations to make sure that search engines can find the right content when they crawl your site:
- Content that sits behind a form is invisible
- Search engines cannot use your site search function
- Non-text content such as images and video cannot be crawled
- Site navigation must be clear for search engines to follow
Once your site is effectively crawled, the search engine stores this information in its index. The next step is for the search engine to rank your site based on how relevant it feels your content would be to searchers.
This is where the famous (or infamous) Google algorithm comes into play. This algorithm is the mathematical formula or blueprint that determines the rules used for ranking.
It changes periodically to better reflect the trends and needs of people conducting web searches. Each of the five steps addressed here are designed to help gain the positive attention of the Google algorithm.
#2 Compelling Content
Google, Bing and other search engines have become so sophisticated that they truly can recognize what content is most useful to human searchers.
That’s why one of your best strategies for good SEO is to just think about your customers’ needs and address those in your site content.
When planning blog posts or other website content, think about what your customer is likely searching for. You then want to fully answer their questions using relevant language.
Other factors that come into play in determining the quality of your content include:
- Depth of content. The search engines are looking for robust content written in natural language. It is no longer productive to have many, short pages of content dedicated to individual keywords.
- Duplicate content. It was once common practice to have multiple pages with the same content or even take content from other sites and place it on your own. Google now ignores multiple versions of the same content, only recognizing the most popular iteration.
- Third party links to your site. The more backlinks the better since they are an indicator of how much your industry values your content.
- Internal links on your site. It is helpful within your own site content to use links to reference related content. This is not considered as beneficial as third party backlinks but still helpful.
- Engagement metrics. The same data that you likely track in Google Analytics to measure the success of your website is also a factor in your SEO ranking including number of clicks from search results, time on page, bounce rate, etc.
- Google My Business Listing. If you have a physical location where you want customers to find you, it’s important to claim your free Google My Business Listing.
- Customer Reviews. Online customer reviews, especially those submitted through Google My Business Listing, help the search engines identify the importance of your company.
These days there is no magic number of how long a blog post should be to gain SEO traction. It is more important that the content you are offering is of real value to your customers.
Some other quick tips to help with SEO include:
1. Add a title on your pages with the most relevant keywords to the left
2. Ensure that you have summaries for every page
3. Leverage excerpts to provide the text that search engines display
4. Intersperse keywords with synonyms in your content for variety
5. Highlight specific products you use in your installations including brand name, model #, etc.
#3 Keyword Choice
Although it is no longer a wise decision to try and “keyword stuff” your website, it is still important to use the same words in your content that customers and prospects are likely using when searching on the internet.
The first step in this process is to think about who your customers are, whether they fit in specific segments, and the needs of each group.
As you talk with customers, pay attention to the exact words they use when describing technology, projects and other requirements.
Once you start to generate a list of likely keywords, you can use a keyword research tool to uncover which would likely work best for SEO.
There are a number of keyword research tools (both free and paid), including:
- Google Keyword Planner (free)
- SEMrush (paid with free trial)
- Moz Keyword Explorer (free or paid levels)
- Plus many, many more you can find online
Once you pick a keyword research tool, you can use it to find out how many searches are currently being conducted for various keywords on your list.
They will also recommend additional keywords similar to those that you searched.
One thing to keep in mind is that the more people are searching for a specific keyword, the more competitive it will be to get a high ranking in search results.
This is why “longtail” keywords are so important in developing an SEO strategy. The diagram below is from moz.com and illustrates the fact that 70% of web searches are for less common, highly unique search terms.
#4 User Experience is King
Beyond creating content that customers and prospects actually want to consume, there are some other user experience considerations that play a role in SEO.
One important note is that Google takes the mobile responsiveness of your site into consideration when ranking it.
This means that you cannot have separate desktop and mobile versions of your website. You need to have a single site that meets all needs.
The term mobile responsiveness means that you site content automatically adjusts to fit the screen size where it is viewed.
Site speed such as the time it takes to load a page also impacts your SEO results since it has significant influence on the overall user experience.
An indirect impact of this is that the graphic design of your site is also important since that affects the site’s speed. One tactic to help with page loading is to check the file size of your images, animations and videos and whether they impact your site speed.
#5 Shareable Content
Developing blog posts, infographics, videos and other web content that is so appealing people want to share it, is a great way to improve SEO.
This type of shareable content helps in a number of ways:
- Building backlinks: Each person who shares your site content and links back to it delivers one more third-party backlink to help with your SEO strategy.
- Growing engagement: This type of popular content will likely result in positive website metrics in terms of clicks, time on site and low bounces.
- Brand awareness: As your name gets out there, you are more likely to see repeat visitors to your site which helps demonstrate the value of your content.
When thinking about what content to add to your site, pay attention to what gets shared in your business social media circles.
Do people like lists? Maybe they like to trade photos of projects? Tracking what is already working in your industry will give you a leg up on creating the next super shareable piece of content.
There are many factors at play in ensuring strong search engine optimization for your website.
Although there are lots of companies you can hire to do much of the SEO work for you, I would highly recommend identifying someone on your team who has some interest in the topic.
The time invested will be well spent since that person can then make adjustments moving forward as you add new services and products or change some of the markets you serve.
Either way – whether your team tackles SEO themselves or you hire an outside expert – search engine optimization is a critical component to any successful marketing strategy.