As we discuss in our latest podcast, one of the most common things we hear from clients is “What I need to do is get my website to the top of Google…”
Like so many marketing ideas, this seems to make sense yet the reality is so different.
Many digital marketers and agencies promote Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) as a stand-alone service: “…you pay me £xx per month and I will do stuff on your website to make it rank more highly….” The offer sounds plausible yet I rarely meet business owners who say that SEO has had a significant and positive impact on their business. Normally it is the opposite – another marketing service that sounds great but falls short on delivery of real benefit.
The truth is that SEO is simply a marketing tool and no single marketing tool is the answer. Effective marketing comes from a joined-up, holistic approach which considers all aspects of a business, its target market and how it engages with that market.
In simple terms, don’t try and force your marketing – just tell your story and show how people will benefit from doing business with you.
Technology is your friend
As the algorithms that lie behind modern search engines get ever more sophisticated, it becomes pointless to try to beat them. The goal of a search engine (conspiracy theories aside!) is to deliver effective, relevant answers to the queries that searchers put in. For your website, natural content is the best route. If you have good, relevant and engaging content, the search engines will find it. Visitors who then find your site and stay there, interacting with your content, tell the search engines that your content fits with their original search. This process can help make your site rank ever higher – all because you have good content.
SEO is just a tool. A well-written website with relevant content is likely to naturally rank well in all but the most competitive markets. There are some great tools out there to help you, as a business owner, take control of your own SEO. For WordPress users, check out YOAST
Creating engaging content is all very well but a business website should be doing more than just keeping site visitors happy. As a business owner, what’s in it for you?
What is your website for?
Ask most business owners why they have a website and their answer will be something along the lines of…”It’s my shop window“. Any high-street retailer will tell you about the importance of their shop window. On the street or on-line the shop window is a vital part of the business process charged with achieving 3 things for visitors/potential customers:
- Inform the visitor – “I think I am in the right place here to find what I am looking for”
- Engage – “I have confidence that this company can deliver on its proposition.”
- Encourage – “I can see what to do next, I want to take the next step”
Analytics – The unsung hero
One of the real strengths of internet marketing is the ability to measure. If SEO is about ranking, analytics is about monitoring visitors numbers and tracking what they do when they arrive at your site. Analytics is what tells you if your SEO efforts are doing you any good – or not! However, the majority of small business owners rarely, if ever, use analytics to manage their online marketing.
The issue isn’t cost – many powerful analytics tools are free. I believe it is one of understanding. Analytics has the potential to blind you with science. It can look so darned complicated it’s just too challenging to get your head around. Yet, actually, analytics isn’t complicated. The key is deciding what it is that you want to measure. Take this step and the rewards are plenty.
In the famous quote, 19th Century US businessman John Wanamaker said:
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
Effective use of analytics can start to help answer this question. By getting earlier insight into how your market place is engaging with your marketing through your website you can tune your activities more quickly and cost-effectively.
Search marketing is not just about natural search rankings
If you do want to get your site onto the first page of Google, then natural SEO is to the only tool at your disposal. In many cases paid advertising is also well worth consideration. Yes this does have a direct cost, but so does natural optimisation (It takes time to implement, and time is money!). In reality, good marketing costs. One advantage of paid advertising is that this cost is direct and manageable. When combined with a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve and the value of these interactions along side solid analytics, its possible to carefully manage these costs, and ensure that your advertising spend is delivering results..
Whilst not always appropriate, I would suggest that if you want to be found on search pages, then advertising is always worth considering as part of the mix.
Steps on the way
Content-driven SEO helps people find your website. Good, relevant content engages visitors, making them want to explore further. Effective ‘calls to action’ tell how to take the next step. By this stage, the website has done its job. If your site is e-commerce and the next step is to place an order, the business is secured. If the next step is to send an email or pick up the phone to make an enquiry, the process goes on…more steps in your business which need to be equally joined-up.
SEO may be the starting point of the business-development journey but to be truly effective, it needs to be integrated into the rest of your marketing. The whole process must be joined up end-to-end.
Stay in control of your marketing
You can’t sub-contract the marketing of your business. You can buy-in skills and advice but ultimately it is your business and you should be in control. Marketing is one of the core fundamentals in business – you need to be in charge of it.
Keep the plates spinning on all of these elements and manage your business to take it in the direction you want to go – your personal and business goals.
BSA can’t do your marketing for you but we can help you make sure your marketing really works for you and your business. Call us.