SEO techniques by Greig McCallum, Strategic Managing Partner at balloon dog
Searching for better marketing results? Lots of SME businesses are reaping the benefits of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO); it’s highly targeted, quickly updated and allows you to engage with customers directly at very low cost. You can immediately see results and quickly adapt your tactics to maximise your return on investment – perfect for today’s tough trading conditions.
But many are still missing this opportunity because they believe it’s too complex, costly or advanced for them. While it’s true that you can develop very sophisticated SEM strategies, there are some basics that almost anyone with a website can adopt to help improve their results.
1. Start small and try to think like your customer.
What words or phrases would your customer use to search for businesses like yours online? So many businesses buy only their own Google adwords (i.e. their business name) and then find nothing happens. That’s because nobody knows their brand name – or at least only local customers. So unless you already enjoy strong brand recall, focus on what people are searching for – the more generic terms for your products or services – and tap into the customer pool beyond your shopfront. Ask those around you – friends, family, customers - what they would type into Google. And Google itself can help you find out what’s popular in your sector using Google Trends.
2. Natural search optimisation.
Build your own site with these powerful keywords and phrases already locked in – so easy to do but also easy to miss. Optimising a website involves seeding its content and coding with the search phrases you want, increasing its visibility to the search engines. Ask your web designer/developer to do this – not all of them do it automatically. Bear in mind that 80% of all clicks on Google are for the top three results listings so if you rank below this, you’ll have much less traffic to your site.
3. Choose your URLs wisely.
Your web address can generate traffic by itself. Clearly you want existing customers to find you so owning your own business name is a must. But URLs are cheap and easy to own. So buy the generic terms too - www.speedycleaning.co.uk – then simply point that address at your current website: you don’t need a whole new website. Simply think of these as different doors into your existing site. But don’t buy too many as they can dilute your rankings on the search engines.
4. Use paid-for search advertising.
It often takes a while for your site to register with the search engines, but you can pay them to list your site for certain keyword searches (this shows on the right hand side of the page and across the top). This is typically referred to as PPC (Pay Per Click) because that is the basis on which you pay for the traffic – only for those who click through to your site.
Again, here you need to pick the phrases you most want to appear for. It’s an auction bidding system, so if you want the prime spot you have to outbid competitors for that term. But it can be very effective; you know that your website will be shown to people specifically searching for your keyword/term so it’s a very warm audience for your product or service meaning a high chance of sale.
Consider carefully the text you show alongside your site name; try to make it relevant to the keyword search term e.g. if they search using ‘speedy’ then stress your speed. If they search on ‘cheap’ then highlight your excellent value. Simple things but the web magnifies everything a hundredfold; get it right and it’s a huge success. Get it wrong and it bombs.
5. Don’t buy every search term or keyword you can in one go.
Test a few phrases and keywords, and see what works for you. Use a web stats service like Hitwise to understand where your traffic is coming from. Build up your knowledge and techniques, and look at what your competitors are buying – and what they’re NOT buying! Remember it’s a bidding war so if you want something others haven’t thought of, then you’re ahead of the game (until they wise up).
6. Encourage people to link to your site from others
I.e. facebook, myspace, blogs, etc. Search engines take into account how often your site is linked to by other sites (i.e. referenced or recommended) so ensure you build links to your site wherever you can. Put those teens at home to good use getting them to build links to your site for extra pocket money – it could be the best £20 you spend on your marketing.
7. You can also ‘buy’ such links – called Affiliate marketing – to help drive traffic.
These are typically on a cost per sale (CPS) or cost per action (CPA) basis so you only pay for those that turn into customers. This can be highly efficient and ensures you’re not wasting money. The best examples of this are sites like Kelkoo or GoCompare. And you can set aside a budget for it – say a couple of thousand pounds. When that runs out, so does the traffic so it’s very controllable.
8. Depending on your type of business, consider the type of search portal most appropriate to you.
SEO can target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, and industry-specific vertical search engines. Google isn’t the only game in town - only the biggest. If you suspect your customers are using something else – e.g. upmystreet - then consider these too but be aware that they can struggle to beat Google, simply because it is so big and so powerful. Its horses for courses.
9. Duh! Make sure your site is decent.
It may sound so obvious but there’s no point in driving lots of new customers to a site that’s old, drab or just plain difficult to use. It won’t create a good impression of your brand and those new customers are unlikely to visit again. So get your ducks in a row before you start any SEM or it could backfire. A little investment here can pay dividends.
10. Think about the Management information you’ll want at the outset and design it in as part of your SEM strategy.
There are lots of software tools to help you monitor how your site is performing – Hitwise is just one – and most give you results in real time via web interface. You can literally see what’s working and what’s not, and you can make fast decisions to divert funds to the things that ARE working for you, almost instantaneously.
11. Stay open to new things.
The Internet continues to develop at a staggering rate with new platforms and technologies breaking through almost daily. Don’t be daunted by this. Just keep learning as you go and dip a toe into things cautiously. Many people put aside a finite pot of funds as testing money precisely to try new things. After all, Google was once just a new kid on the block and look how that turned out. So, explore and try out things that sound right for your business – just don’t bet the shop on them.
Hopefully the above points show you that it’s not so daunting to tap into the power of the web. And no business is too small to benefit from it. Online marketing shouldn’t replace all your other marketing efforts – doordrops, local ads etc – until its proven more effective than them. But the beauty is you can take it at your own pace and go gently into that big World Wide Web. A few simple steps could turbocharge your business and bring you a whole new world of opportunity.
For SEO training, contact the experts at The Knowledge Engineers who can help you to achieve SEO success.
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