At the end of every year I put together a list of goals. Not a list of resolutions, but goals I want to accomplish during the upcoming year. (great article on those differences here and why resolutions tend to be forgotten here). One of my goals for 2012 is to improve the ROI of various Internet marketing efforts.
My first step towards accomplishing this goal was to establish benchmarks of where we are currently as well as document what helped me achieve that success. From there it was on to numbers crunching so I could establish a budget for 2012, then on to growth projections and finally planning some new strategies.
It was at this point in the process that I remembered an article I had written in 2009 about getting found online. As often as Google keeps changing the game when it comes to businesses getting found online, keeping first page rankings and determining what they feel is most relevant to your search much of the meat of this article still rings true when establishing best practices and strategies for SEO/SEM (Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing) for business.
I’ve made some tweaks here and there to any outdated practices and also added a few new ideas to help keep the content current. So here goes, my “Are You Getting Found Redux”:
Tech awareness is rising. Business owners are becoming more hands on with social media, web analytics, SEO/SEM and have a better understanding of Internet marketing. Even small home-based businesses are becoming aware of the need for an online presence and realizing the effectiveness of online advertising. As technology grows, we as business leaders need to either learn how to embrace and harness it to become more productive and more efficient or get out of the way. So how do we start the embracing process when it comes to Internet marketing strategies?
First things first, get a website
It’s been said more times than I care to count, “The Internet is the new phone book.” People are looking for you, are you being found? If you don’t have a website for your business, people searching online for “Detroit heater repair” will never know you exist. In today’s instant information age, it’s more important than ever to have an online storefront.
Let’s take this scenario: It’s January and Suzy just put the kids down for a nap. The house is starting to get a little more chilly than normal so she goes to adjust the thermostat. Twenty minutes later she’s shivering. She picks up the phone to call hubby at work to tell him how cold it is in the house. He clicks over to Google and searches for “Detroit heater repair.” Does he find your HVAC business?
If the answer is “No,” how can you ever expect to get that job? If he did find your site but bounces out to the next site before calling because of an outdated looking site or lackluster information, he still may as well not have found you. You need a site and it should be optimized for both search engines and humans alike. This means strategically using keywords you want search engines to find you for as well as having the content on your landing pages that’s relevant to what the visitor (aka, prospect) is looking for.
Work with a developer who has knowledge of your industry. There are quite a few industry specific offerings available. Be sure to do a portfolio review before signing any agreements to make sure the developer has a design style that suits your needs.
Next, get listed.
The first priority with most new service-related businesses after having set up shop is getting an ad in the local phone book. Think of the first step in your online success after building your shiny new website is getting your business listed with the search engines. Most major searching engines now have a listing section specifically for businesses. Just like with their printed counterpart, the basic business listings are free, but if you’d like to add a few bells and whistles to your listing in hopes of pumping up your reach and ROI there are a few pay services that promise more traffic and better conversions.
Start with Google Business Listing (www.google.com/local/add). To do this you’ll first need to set up an account with Google, but that’s easy and free (and you’ll find you’ll be using it a great deal down the road in your online marketing campaign). With your Google Business Listing, you can also incentive customers for their business by using coupons in your business listing.
Once you’ve built your website and set up your business in Google, check the other major search engines for similar business directories, currently the top five search engines are Google, Yahoo!, Ask, Bing and (gasp, still) AOL. All have similar offerings for businesses, but for this article, I’m going to focus on Google because in my opinion they have the most comprehensive options and are the most user-friendly.
Metatags: Some say they’re dead… but I still love them!
When you’re working with this industry-knowledgeable web developer professional make sure they’re including metatags on each and every page for your site. If there’s the slightest inkling that he’s unsure what you’re talking about, run. Metatags are the descriptions, keywords and key phrases that work behind the scenes of your website to help search engines identify what your pages are about.
Many SEO professionals claim that metatags are unimportant now. While search engines have changed their ranking algorithms to focus more on page content than metatags now, these hidden page identifiers still play a big part in how your site is found and listed.
For instance, the title tag of each page controls the text that’s displayed in the very top of a visitor’s browser and can differ (read: should be different and relevant to the page, giving the visitor a high level overview of the page’s content) for every page on your site.
The description metatag for your page will be what’s displayed in Google’s search results under your link when you pop up there. So if your site came up in as a result you’d see a link to your site at the top of your listing followed by your description. Generally, you want to keep this description around 80-100 words. Many search engines use this description in their search results.
Keywords or Key phrases should be your next metatag project. Keywords help to further drill down the relevancy of your site to a user’s searches. Include unique keywords for each page and make sure they are relevant to the content on the page. If you want a certain page in your site to be listed when a user searches for “new construction plumbing contractors,” make sure those keywords are in your tags and on your page!
Keywords are a good starting point identifying what the content of your page is about, but a well laid out key phrase may help bring more qualified traffic to your site. For instance, the keyword “contractor” is extremely broad and probably in use by hundreds of thousands of competing sites. However, if you drill it down a little more by including the key phrase “Atlanta Georgia flat rate plumbing contractor,” you’re likely to see much more targeted results. It’s generally a good rule of thumb to include seven to 15 keywords and key phrases per page.
The Internet is content-driven, meaning that people are actively searching for specific content and they are returned the most relevant results search engines can find for their inquiries. It’s up to you to provide the most relevant content about your business as it would relate to your prospects and customers. Posting an article to your website on what you ate for lunch won’t help at all when it comes to finding prospects looking for someone who can install a water main. It may make for an interesting post and help people choose where to go for a good hoagie, but other than that – there’s no real benefit.
Use a section of your site to frequently post relevant industry-related news, press releases about your company, tips for consumers, etc. This helps establish you as an industry expert, increases your keyword density (the number of times a desired search term appears on your page), and gives your current customer base a reason to come back to your site.
This rounds out part one of this online primer. Next issue we’ll look at ways to expand your Internet presence beyond your website. We’ll cover PPC (Pay Per Click) ads, social media and more!