Search engines are quickly replacing the yellow pages as a place for consumers to find businesses. People Google everything – from a business name to find the phone number, to product names to find companies that sell a certain model, to types of services to find companies offering them. But when you’re not selling online and you don’t have locations across the country, does it make sense to be found in search engines like Google? Let’s look at offline buying and how location matters.
Search engines are the ultimate channel for pull marketing. Consumers are looking for you and are using the search engines for a variety of reasons depending on where they are in their buying process: reaching out for general information, researching a specific product or service, making a purchase, etc. Being one of the companies they find during this process puts you in a prime place to make a sale.
Use Location to Your Advantage
Some products can be bought online, shipped, and the transaction is complete. But other products and services are location-dependent. Take, for example, lawn care. Hiring a company in another state does not make sense. Type “lawn care service” into Google, and results will include products you can buy for your lawn, tips on how to find a lawn care service, and national companies. If they want their lawn mowed, searchers will quickly modify their search to include their location – be it their state or the nearest city. The good news for marketers is that on a local level, the competition in the search engines is generally less.
Should You Invest in Search Engine Optimization?
This comes down to a simple matter of return on investment. If yours is a type of business that can initiate the selling process online and if there is sufficient search traffic on terms related to your business to justify the effort, then investing in search engine optimization is a must.
If you become serious about the possibility of dedicating marketing resources to driving search engine traffic to your site, you will likely benefit from hiring a professional search marketing firm to conduct an opportunity assessment for you.
Getting the top listing in any of the major search engines (Google, Yahoo and MSN) requires more than just optimizing your site. It requires the ability to design, develop, write and market. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it. Getting a company's name and products, or services, onto the first page of a genuine Google search isn't a trivial piece of work. In fact, there are four distinct skills that a search engine optimizer needs to possess. Most people possess one or maybe two of these skills, very rarely do people posses all four. In truth, to get to all four, people who are good at two of these need to actively develop the other skills. Now, if you are running your own business, do you really have the time to do this? Is this the best use of your time?
Four Ways- A Lot of Work, Energy and Research that will bring organic results:
Web Design – producing a visually attractive page that will engage vistors making they stay longer and click deeper
HTML coding - developing Google-friendly coding that sits behind the web. Using a CMS such as Joomla makes SEO easier and more effective.
Copywriting – producing the actual readable text on the page
Marketing – what are the actual searches that are being used, what key words actually get more business for your company?
Many website designers produce more and more eye-catching designs with animations and clever rollover buttons hoping to entice people onto their sites. This is the first big mistake; using designs like these will actually decrease your chances of a high Google rating. Yes, that's right; all that money you have paid for the website design could be wasted because no-one will ever find your site.
The reason for this is that before you get people to your site you need to get the spiderbots to like your site. Spiderbots are pieces of software used by the search engine companies to trawl the Internet looking at all the websites, and then having reviewed the sites, they use complex algorithms to rank the sites. Some of the complex techniques used by web designers cannot be trawled by spiderbots. They come to your site, look at the HTML code and exit stage right, without even bothering to rank your site. So, you will not be found on any meaningful search.
It is amazing how many websites are truly a waste of money. The trouble is that both the web designers and the company that paid the money really do not want to know this. So, optimizing a website to be Google friendly is often a compromise between a visually attractive site and an easy to find site.
The second skill is that of optimizing the actual HTML code to be spiderbot friendly. This is separate from web design because you really do need to be “down and dirty” in the code rather than using an editor like Frontpage, which is OK for website design. This skill takes a great deal of time and experience to develop, and just when you think you have cracked it, the search engine companies change the algorithms used to calculate how high your site will appear in the search results.
Results need to be constantly monitored, pieces of code added or removed, and a check kept on what the competition is doing. Many people who design their own website feel they will get searched because it looks good, and totally miss this step. Without a strong technical understanding of how spiderbots work, you will always struggle to get your company on the first results page in Google.
Thirdly, copy writing is a skill in its own right. This is the writing of the actual text that people coming to your site will read. The Googlebot and other spiderbots like Inktomi, love text – but only when written well in proper English. Some people try to stuff their site with keywords, while others put white writing on white space (so spiderbots can see it but humans cannot).
Spiderbots are very sophisticated and not only will not fall for these tricks, they may actively penalize your site – in Google terms, this is sand boxing. Google takes new sites and “naughty” sites and effectively sin-bins them for 3-6 months, you can still be found but not until results page 14 – really useful! As well as good English, the spiderbots are also reading the HTML code, so the copywriter also needs an appreciation of the interplay between the two. Stimulus writes well-constructed English sentences that can be read by machine and human alike.
The final skill is marketing, after all this is what we are doing – marketing your site and hence, your company and products/services on the Web. The key here is to set the site up to be accessible to the searches that will provide most business to you. So the marketing skill requires knowledge of a company's business, what they are really trying to sell and an understanding of what actual searches may provide dividends.
We hope you will see that professional Search Engine Optimization companies need more than a bit of web design to improve your business. Make sure anyone you choose for SEO work can cover all the bases.