By Mark Semmelmayer
Chief Idea Officer
Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications
Undeniably, website marketing has become a necessity in business, whether B2B or B2C. But, unlike “Field of Dreams”, if you build it, they won’t necessarily come. Getting your site “populated” comes down to putting yourself in a position where, when a potential customer uses a search engine like Google, a link to your website appears relatively early in their search. That takes both strategy effort and attention to detail to accomplish.
This is about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as a strategy for small to medium sized business to get your site to show up effectively in searches. This blog won’t teach you how but, hopefully, will explain the basics of SEO. While the process is not simple, it can be executed on a do-it-yourself basis, saving considerable money, compared to Search Engine Marketing (SEM), often referred to as “Pay Per Click”. That’s an expensive proposition, where you bid on/buy keywords from search engines to increase your search visibility.
With SEO, that’s money you can invest in other marketing communications tactics, like print advertising, collateral material, trade shows and the like. That gives you a better chance of executing a full-on Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program.
Search Engines Explained:
Search engines today are very sophisticated in their ability to deliver the search results a user wants. Understanding the abilities and limitations of search engines allows you to build web content in a way that search crawlers can recognize.
Search engines typically interpret popularity as relevance. The more popular a site or page is the more relevant the information must be. In practice, search users’ satisfaction is increased when engines use metrics that interpret popularity.
Popularity and relevance are ranked based on mathematical equations, called algorithms, to sort sites as important in the users search. The trick is to craft your site to “optimize” the way these algorithms read site relevance in a given search. You want to maximize site content so that it rates high in the engines’ “ranking factors.”
Shaking Hands with Search Engines … the Basics of SEO
First, understand there are no guarantees with SEO. Search engine algorithms are always evolving, but there are some basic tactics that can improve your web site search ranking.
Phase 1 – Preparing for SEO
- Keywords are the lifeblood of SEO, a key phrase of 2-3 words people might search to find your type of product or service. Do your keyword research. There are many “tools” to do that, like SERPs Suggest and Ubersuggest…free keyword suggestion tools to research target keywords for SEO. There are also search engine-provided tools like Google Suggest and Bing Suggest. Some very good keyword tactics include “localizing” content and keywords and understanding what keywords will help your overall website and business goals (and which won’t)
- Research your competitors. Find out what key words they are using and poke around on their site to see if you can identify what they’re doing well, especially if they consistently rank high for the keywords you also wish to target. Also, to determine what gaps exist that you can fill
- Ensure your site is as technically optimal as possible. Remember that a sophisticated robot needs to come crawl the back end of your site in order to determine how you rank. And if your site is slow to load, has multiple versions of the same page, or doesn’t play nice with mobile, your efforts can be doomed from the start.
Phase 2 – Optimizing your website
- On-page optimization: Your goal is to make every page on your site search-engine-friendly. For optimization, you should have one, or at most, two target keywords per page to ensure your page is focused and not diluted. For 3, 4 or more keywords, salt them into other pages.
- Understand SEO copywriting best practices: SEO copywriting is an art and a science. You want to weave your keywords in seamlessly while also focusing on the layout of the page with bullets and sub-heads, as well as good SEO and user best practices like internal linking and having a CTA (call to action) on every page
- Use Google Analytics: You'll need to implement a code on your website. Use this link for an explanation; Google Analytics account. After you connect your site, click "View Report" on the initial screen to bring up a dashboard that will let you see the data Google Analytics provides. Keeping track of your results is a big key to continually improving your site’s SEO characteristics and search results.
- Commit to blogging: Blogs are a powerful tool for SEO, because every blog you write becomes another web page, and another opportunity to rank well for a specific search. Google also tends to reward sites that add fresh, unique, and valuable content consistently.
Phase 3 –Some advanced strategies
- Create content: Add galleries, slideshows, videos and images to posts and pages.
- Backlinking: Search algorithms place a heavy weighting on the websites that are referencing (or linking back to) your website. Keep in mind that in this day and age it’s all about quality – and not quantity - of the links that matter. Google sees the sites that link to you (and vice versa) as the company you keep. So keep it relevant and ensure you’re doing your linkbuilding on the up and up to avoid a penalty.
- Create linkbait: In the world of SEO and website marketing, you want to make news or make friends. Creating “link bait” content on your site is a great way to make friends. This tactic is a bit complicated. The best reference I can give you is a link: http://www.lunametrics.com/website-traffic/seo/link-bait
So, By Now, Your Head is Spinning, Right?
So was mine, when I first tried SEO for my own website (which isn’t completely up yet, due to lack of content…the cobblers kids have no shoes!), as well as a couple of other sites I’m writing for or helping guide content. Fortunately, there is a wealth of information about SEO on the web. I’m a true DIYer.
The other options are to hire a Search Engine Optimizer, who will perform SEO surgery on your site, or an SEO consultant ,like my friend and fellow Atlanta BMA Board member, Jenny Munn, who can come in and teach you or your staff about SEO, how to do it and manage it on an ongoing basis.
Speaking of Jenny (www.jennymunn.com), many thanks to her for helping me structure and get this blog to the point where it is both correct and at least minimally accessible for readers out there who are not web geeks.
MARK SEMMELMAYER is a former Chairman of the Business Marketing Association (BMA) and the current President of BMA’s Atlanta Chapter. He recently retired from corporate life after 32-years with Kimberly-Clark Corporation in their Health Care business. He is the founder and Chief Idea Officer of Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications, a consultancy in Atlanta, GA.