Given that 4 out of 5 consumers use search engines to research local businesses, you run the risk of not being found online if you don’t have a strong search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search strategy.
Here’s how to make it work for you.
1 - Own Your Space
With the many different ways consumers can find your brand online, it has never been more important for companies to go through the process of claiming and managing their listings across all channels. This goes beyond merely having a website and a Facebook page. While these channels are important, truly optimized companies own their website, social media channels, maps listings on Google & Bing, and as many relevant directory listings as you can find.
Here are resources to find directory listings:
Citations by City
Citations by Category
Top Citation Sites
The Ultimate List of 50 Local Business Directories
And here are some general rules of thumb when optimizing a listing across these various channels:
- Be a completionist:
- Most directories and social media channels award you for providing as much information as possible with improved presence and higher rankings in internal searches. Go beyond just adding your business name and a brief summary. Include images and video if you have them. Be sure to select as many relevant categories for your business as possible, but be sure to only select relevant categories (otherwise you may be penalized).
- Be consistent:
- Name, address, and phone number (NAP) are used to determine the authenticity of businesses online by major search engines, social media platforms, and major directories. In order to make the most of your online presence it’s important that you use the exact same spelling of your business name (including abbreviations), address, and phone number.
- Be active:
- It isn’t enough to set up your listing and be done with it. Many of these channels, especially social media, allow for consumers to interact with your brand or to leave reviews with other consumers. Negative reviews are as important as, if not more important than, positive reviews. These reviews provide your brand the opportunity to repair a broken relationship, resulting in even stronger advocacy in the end.
2 - Identify Success Metrics
There are generic digital marketing metrics that any marketer is aware of, including click-through rates, average order value, cost-per-click, cost-per-acquisition, time on site, site depth, pages-per-visit, and conversion rate. While these all have their place, it is extremely important to take some time prior to launching a campaign to identify what metrics are going to drive success for your company and how you are going to track them.
Applying a dollar value to metrics that don’t directly result in revenue can be a helpful way of telling a story to executives who want to determine the efficacy of specific channels. Using loan-to-value (LTV) ratio and conversion rates (CR), you can come up with good estimations about the value of a content download, or a twitter follower. It’s important to keep in mind that these revenue values are estimates, and the more empirical data you have to support your estimates, the better.
3 - Do Your Research
This one step should inform your marketing efforts across all channels, and it is not a one-and-done process. Especially in regards to digital channels, research should be a state of mind. Not only should you be doing preliminary research to determine overall campaign strategies (including keyword research, competitive research, etc.), but you should also be following up campaigns by consistently reviewing performance and the efficacy of the various channels involved.
When performing research, keep your user in center focus at all times. Search engine optimization has a tendency to drive marketers to focus on the engine in question more than the potential consumers they are trying to target. At the end of the day, you are targeting users, not robots.
4 - Think Mobile First
Over the past several years, there have been huge changes to the way the Google search algorithm functions, the user interface of Google search, and the way results are served up. At the core of these changes is Google’s overall shift to thinking mobile first. Smart marketers learn to mirror the behavior of Google, not only because it tends to result in better performance in Google search, but also because more often than not it will improve your user experience.
Thinking mobile first goes beyond just having a responsive web design, although this is one of the most important steps in becoming mobile friendly. It also extends to understanding how your emails will look, what types of images and content you are going to share through social media, what type of interactive content you are going to have on your site, and more. In addition, a good mobile-first strategy drives companies to place more focus on developing mobile apps for their users.
5 - Content, Content, Content
81% of consumers research a company online before visiting it in person, and 60% of these users start their research with a question in a search engine prior to visiting a specific website. After Google’s release of the Hummingbird update the search giant became better able to understand content in terms of entities, which goes beyond mere keyword relevance. This shift increased the importance of having content geared toward answering specific questions and made out-dated SEO tactics even more irrelevant than they had been previously.
It’s important to keep in mind that content for the sake of content is not a productive asset. Creating highly relevant, well researched content that’s geared toward answering questions that your account holders and potential account holders have is a step in the right direction. Taking that content and sharing it across social channels, promoting it through content marketing distributors (like Outbrain or Taboola), and repurposing that content into other media types is how you drive true content marketing success.
Acronyms to be aware of:
Return on investment: ROI
Cost per thousand impressions: CPM
Content management system: CMS
Cost per lead: CPL
Service level agreement: SLA
Customer relationship management: CRM
Cascading style sheets: CSS
Call to action: CTA
Search engine optimization: SEO
User interface: UI
User experience: UX
Loan-to-value ratio: LTV
Analytics platforms/tools to be aware of:
- Google Analytics
- The most commonly used analytics platform. Free to use and easy to set up. The platform has a huge community around it too, which provides novice users seemingly unlimited resources to aid in the setup and management of website analytics.
- Google Tag Manager (GTM)
- Tag management platform that allows users to manage all tags from one location. GTM improves site load time, simplifies tag management, and reduces the occurrence of tag duplication.
- Google Webmaster Tools (GWT)
- This platform (also known as Google Search Console) gives webmasters unprecedented insight into how Google views your website. These insights are hugely valuable when optimizing a website for Google search, and should be reviewed frequently. The dashboard provides some high level analytics (queries your site is ranking for, your estimated click-through-rate from Google search, estimated impressions, etc.), links to your site, and site errors.
- Bing Webmaster Tools (BWT)
- Similar to GWT, this platform provides insight into how your site is seen by Bing. Certain demographic groups use Bing over Google, so there is value in visiting this dashboard as well (albeit, not as frequently as GWT).
- This tool allows you to see what queries a website is ranking for on the first two pages of results (top 20 results). This can be a valuable tool for competitive research, as well as for keyword research.
- This tool, part of the Moz suite of tools, is hugely valuable in performing backlink analysis. In-depth analysis, like this tool provides, is not necessary for small websites that aren’t generating a large number of links, but for larger websites it can be a very valuable way of keeping an eye on your backlink profile.
Optimize by Lee Odden
The Art of SEO by Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Jessie Stricchiola, Rand Fishkin
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