Is SEO Dead?
If you are like most small business owners, you have been working for years on chasing the holy grail of online success. You have probably worked with a number of companies to rebuild your website, do your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or manage your PPC (Google Adwords) campaigns. You have lived through the various Google updates that may have taken you from the top of the search results for your target keywords to the netherlands of anonymity, or perhaps you were fortunate enough to go from the bottom to the top. Either way, you’ve probably spent a decent amount of time, thought and money trying to leverage the internet as a source of business and recognition for your company.
There is no question that getting found on the web is a key component to generating leads and new customers for your business. To Google’s credit, there has been a general movement towards the goal of providing the best and most relevant search results possible. While their frequent updates such as Hummingbird, Penguin and Panda have left many business owners and internet marketing professionals scrambling to rewrite the script on their online presence, the general direction of Google’s changes have been to favor those who provide valuable content and other relevant indicators that distinguish those sites from the crowd.
On the flipside, the SEO tricks that once helped many achieve online success such as keyword stuffing (loading up pages with lots of repetitive terms that one wants to rank for) and excessive link building from weak search directories has turned out to be the very thing that has, in the end, poisoned many sites and sent them tumbling in the search results.
If you still are dealing with the toxic effects of “bad links” from the past, you will have to either deal with those by the painstaking process of contacting Google to have them removed or walk away from your prior domain name and start fresh. Most importantly, you need an honest evaluation of your site and your market to evaluate what are reasonable online goals.
As an example, I have a client who does floor restoration and repair. Theirs is a locally based business and they are not in a highly competitive market, so their chances of getting great search rankings for the main keywords in a reasonable amount of time through SEO is very realistic.
On the flipside, I am speaking with a successful realtor in a localized but fairly affluent market that is hoping to rank in those areas for higher traffic keywords such as “homes for sale”, “realtor” and the like. In this case, even with a great site they are probably never going to get those coveted 1st page organic rankings, and the paid search portion may be too expensive to pursue as well. They are going up against giants like Zillow.com, Realtor.com, Trulia.com and others who have massive websites with unlimited pages, tons of content and a wealth of inbound and internal links that just can’t be matched. So that goal is just unrealistic.
So, what realistic and effective strategy can you pursue today if you want to be successful on the web?
1. Why try to bust down the front door when you can sneak in the side door?
There are a ton of search terms that people use when looking for products, services or doing research on the web. The most obvious and highest traffic terms are often not the ones to pursue nor are they necessarily the best ones from a lead generation standpoint. In the case above, rather than trying to rank for “Fort Lauderdale real estate”, try going after a less competitive keyword such as “best family neighborhoods around Fort Lauderdale”. You may find someone who is in the market and doing serious research towards the goal of buying a home. This is your opportunity to grab their attention, showcase your expertise in their desired market and get them to respond to some call to action you’ve set up on your site.
2. Share freely and be an authority.
The best thing you can do today on the web is to give before receiving and show that you know what you are talking about. Speak to people genuinely, share what you know and have to offer, put your expertise on display. This is not about selling yourself, but sharing yourself...your spirit, your knowledge, your passion for what you do. If you can demonstrate this you will connect with others and they will be inspired to connect with you. This can be done through blogging, social media, email newsletters and online forums. Think about the questions that your clients are asking and speak to those questions. Develop quality content and do it from the heart and you may not get a ton of web traffic, but the traffic you get will be much more likely to turn into business.
3. Be there, be consistent.
Creating quality content is great, but it must be done on a regular basis. Create a content marketing schedule and follow it. Brainstorm on topics and ideas regularly so your content is fresh and provides value without getting too repetitive. If you are creating larger content pieces, look for ways to break the content up and repurpose it. For example, if you are writing an article you can turn that into a series of web blogs, perhaps a video series for YouTube or a stream of newsletters to your email database. You can also publish the same information concurrently on your social media channels with links back to your website for further outreach. Don’t disappear, give people a resource that they will come to know they can regularly turn to for information.
4. It’s not about you, it’s about them.
If you have come to terms with the fact that you probably aren’t going to get quite as much traffic as you’d like--the next goal is to make sure that you’re converting as much of the traffic you are getting as possible into leads and new customers. How do you do that? Speak to them. Get outside of yourself and what you think, what you want or what is important to you. People don’t care about you, they care about themselves. You need to speak to your audience and figure out what questions they are asking, what moves their heart, what motivates them. People buy from an emotional place as much as a logical place. They buy what they like and want, not what they need. Position your messaging to do this well and you will win people over.
One other key point I should add here is the power of testimonials. People want to know what other people think of you and if you’ve done a good job for them. The more realistic and honest your customer testimonials are and the more of them you can showcase, the better off you’ll be.
5. Show them what you want.
OK, now you’ve got them on your site and to the page you want them to see and you’ve captured their attention with great content that is speaking to them. How do you close the deal? The first question you need to be asking is this...what is the action that I want that visitor to take? Is it to pick up the phone, fill out a contact form, exchange their email address for a coupon, offer or some additional content? Do I want them to request a DVD with more information? Do I want them filling out a needs survey? Whatever the thing is that you know is going to get that prospect another step down the required path to becoming a customer, you need to make that the most obvious thing on the page. Do not give people a bunch of choices or leave that decision up to themselves. Many successful web pages will create the same call to action in several places on a page, with some good information sprinkled in between in case they want to keep reading, but everything points back to that desired call to action.
The bad news first, then the good news….
The bad news here is that tricking Google into putting you at the top of the search results for your target keywords is pretty much over. Hiring an SEO company to do a bunch of quick link building and long but poorly written content will not help you grow your business. Lots of long winded and keyword heavy content may get you some rankings and traffic, but will not build trust or help you to convert that traffic into customers. So the primary goal should not be top rankings for your main keywords, but building a reputation as an expert in your field, building a dialogue between you and your audience and building trust. This requires real effort and work and like most good things is not a quick fix solution.
The good news is this...you have an opportunity to outdistance yourself from your competition because very few have the heart, desire, discipline or know how to be successful in today’s online environment. People want honesty and they want to feel they can trust the people they are going to do business with. Establish that you are that person or entity and you will have a customer. Deliver on that promise and you will have both longterm customers and referrals. This is not a big secret, it’s just good business.
If you would like assistance with your website or online marketing strategies, we would love to get you lined up with the real pros who do it right! Please contact SYMBIOTIK for a free consultation today.