In the past week a small business was referred to us asking about search engine optimization (SEO). When someone asks me about “seo” in 2014, the first thing in my mind is they are not familiar with the realities of website marketing and web marketing in today’s world. This was certainly going to be a educational conversation requiring patience and asking the right questions to bring this business owner up to speed.
The conversation started out by finding more about:
- the business,
- their web address,
- whether they are dependent upon a specific geography for their revenue, and
- what keyword or phrase did this business owner want to show up in the search results.
I’m in the Detroit Metropolitan area and the business is in Denver, CO. In order to reasonably duplicate the search results I would need to change my location in my Google search to Denver, CO. You can do this clicking on “Search Tools” in the Google results and then clicking the down arrow on the location. At this point change your location to a specific city and state.
You will notice in this same area you can change the time frame and type of results if you wish to get more creative with your search results.
The purpose for making this change is to search as though I was in Denver, CO. We don’t want to search on keyword + location, rather just the keyword and allow Google to provide us the results in that region as naturally as possible.
Once I changed my location to Denver, CO and searched on the requested key phrase, I found the business listed on the first page for the three major areas:
- Google Adwords Advertising
- Local Listings in Google Maps
- Organic Website Ranking
At this point I had to scratch my head and ask the business owner where did he see the problem. He did concur he was seeing similar results, however, he wasn’t number one or above his competitor. He wanted to know what else could he do with “seo” in order to consistently be above his competitor with his website.
Personalized Search And Geographic Results
I explained to the business owner under the circumstances he was actually performing well with his business showing in different search result areas. We continued the conversation by performing the same search for a areas North, South, East and West of Denver and in all cases he showed up differently. As you can imagine he was quite surprised how much the results changed in such a small geographic area around Denver.
The search results on any search engine now-a-days is dependent upon many factors and if you take four computers, connected to the same Internet connection, performing the exact same search simultaneously, you will find they all have different results.
A few factors influencing the search results include:
- If you are logged into a search engine account
- Your search engine account search history
- The geography of your Internet connection
These factors affect the search results whether you are in New York City or Los Angeles. The results are different and this is where personalized search comes into consideration.
While I understand geographic factors affecting the search results, I am less enthusiastic about my search history affecting the search results. Let’s take politics as an example. If you only search for topics about one political party over another, chances are you will never learn about the opposing views. The search engines are feeding you what you prefer, meaning you will never get the opposite view in order to grow your perspective.
Can you turn off personalized search? Sure. How many people do that or even are aware of their options in their search engine account settings?
The Dawn Of Website Marketing Processes
Our conversation continued with new questions emerging from the business owner wanting to understand what can he do “on” his website for “seo”. He said this only required his time and was less costly if he could focus making changes to his website.
We started by checking how large of a website does he have. Because Google Webmaster Tools was not setup for his website, we had to find out how many pages does Google find in his website, how recently were his updates, as well as how frequently was he been updating his website.
Search engines have operators you can use to refine your search results. In this case the operator we will use is “site:” + “web address”. We further enhanced the search results by modifying the time frame to the past month.
What we learned is he only has a 40 page website and in the past 30 days no new pages existed. I had to explain having a static website and only performing this work once was no longer going to be effective. Rather he needs to consider increasing the density of his website and this would not have an end point.
Developing new web pages which were educational, at least 300 words, and at least one per week would be a good starting point for him. As these pages were added to his website, they would have to be optimized for the content related to the new web page. He needs to avoid optimizing the new web page like other pages on the website as duplicate optimization was not going to help him.
The best way to do this is by having a blog connected to your website, which communicates with your social community accounts like Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter automatically.
Already in this portion of the conversation he learned he cannot get away with one time tasks, rather there are more activities necessary to keep his website’s marketing alive.
- There is no end point to adding pages to his website
- He really needs to setup Google Webmaster Tools in order to see what issues might exist with his website’s health and performance
- Having a Blog will make it easy to perform social media marketing
- He needs to setup his social communities and take them more seriously
Web Marketing Process Becomes Necessary
At this point I felt it was necessary to continue our conversation from his website to what does he have to do outside of his website. At this point he has learned about personalized search, geographic search results and the never ending work on his website. Might was well enlighten him on web marketing beyond his website and give him three simple items to consider. The combination of these items effectively are considered Inbound Marketing.
- Content Marketing
For some reason this terminology seems to get everyone confused. I explained this was about writing editorials, news releases, developing Powerpoints and documents, Infographics and even going as far as creating videos about his business. All of these types of marketing materials are content and necessary to get the word out about your business. Once you have created the content you can distribute them on the web through social communities, industry websites, and content specific websites (e.g. YouTube or Slideshare).
- Social Media Marketing
We did revisit this topic in our conversation in order to discuss the difference between passive social media marketing and active social media marketing. What he would be dong with this blog is an example of passive social media marketing. He posts content on his blog and it automatically pushes the information to his social accounts. The next step is to engage in these social communities by increasing connections, commenting on what others are saying and depending upon the community digging deeper into sub-groups.
- Local Business Listings
For a small business dependent upon the local economy for its revenue, I recommended having the local business listings at 10 major websites pin-code verified, followed by updating these listings with business marketing information, and finally using a syndication services to help spread the word out to more business directories.
The Conversation Comes To A Close
The business owner thanked me for my time and the learning experience. By this point we had spent over an hour on the phone and he had quite a bit of information to assimilate.
I tried to summarize the education to him by putting into perspective that web marketing is no longer a technology task, rather a strategic marketing process. For this reason it was not a technology firm providing a SEO task that he needed, but a marketing company that understood how to execute the various processes including measuring and interpreting the results.
This is a marketing process which has no end point and something you have to keep doing. If you are unable to hire marketing professionals, then the best plan would be to set aside a certain amount of time each day to do some portion of what we had discussed.
Granted you could spend all your money and less labor time on advertising, however, you will find a multi-channel strategy is going to work best instead of putting all your eggs into one basket.