Putting Your Offline Business Online

When it comes to marketing a business online there are two approaches. The first is paying for online advertising.

We highly discourage all forms of paid advertising when getting started online. Why? Because paid advertising is expensive. And risky. Sure, the risks can be minimized with constant tracking and management of the ads. But the risk is still there.

The one and only advantage to online paid advertising is that paid advertising can be instantaneous. Soon as you start paying for online ads the sooner potential web surfers see your ads and the sooner they (potentially) visit your site with the hope that they become clients and customers along the way.

Having your ads displayed right away in the hopes someone clicks the ads and come to your site is what we believe is the only advantage to online advertising. What is online advertising? Online advertising involves things like Google Adwords, paid banner ads, cost-per-action ads, and the like. For small business owners the risks of paid ads often outweigh the potential rewards. There is another option. An option we recommend for all online businesses regardless of whether they ae starting out or have been online for quite some time.

The second option to growing a business online –the one we highly recommend– is to take advantage of “free” local search marketing opportunities.

For most companies 80% of business comes from clients and customers within 20 miles of the business. So when handled correctly local search marketing will build greater trust with your market than paid ads. And we believe will build better long term relationships than paid ads.

So what is local search marketing?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an area of internet marketing that involves improving the quality or quantity of traffic to a website –or both– so you get top attention from the most prominent online search engines and online traffic sources, like Google, Yahoo, Bing, and others.

In practical terms SEO means making more money for your company from “free” internet advertising.

Besides essentially being free and having the potential to develop better relationships with potential clients and customers, local search marketing can also be fast. Though we recommend clients allow 4-6 weeks to get ‘spidered’ by the search engines, a properly implemented SEO plan can get a business ranked high in local search results in only one day of implementation.

This isn’t always the case but it can and does happen. Every day. But only if your SEO plans provide the search engines with exactly what the engines are searching for and want.

Why SEO Matters

Almost everyone new to Internet marketing imagines it’s easy to build a site for their company and then just sit back and wait for visitors to show up.

“If you build it they will come” is a lie that has been perpetuated since the internet’s founding. Most people buy into that myth at first. But the myth is quickly shattered when months down the road the business owners realize that visitors are not automatically showing up to the site. Embarrassment and frustration usually follows.

Clearly more is required to draw visitors to a site than putting a site online and waiting for something to happen.

No matter how beautiful a site may be, no matter how clearly products are displayed, and no matter how well-written the company’s vision statement, the site probably will not turn up in the first few pages of any search engine for any search results.

This is critical. Sites that fail to show on the first page of search results is the same as not being in the search engines at all. That’s because Google has proven that 98% of web surfers never scroll past the first page of search results. Ever. SEO definitely matters.

What Your Site Must Contain

Your site must be web friendly to the search engine “bots.”

The automated search engine bots travel the entire internet looking for new sites to add to the search engines. These mechanical seekers don’t care if images on your site are pretty and they do not value self-serving promotional content.

From an onsite perspective, the search engines are looking for specific keywords, key phrases, and back end code within your site so the search engine can rank the site within the search engine’s own index.

The more SEO friendly the search engine perceive your site to be, the higher up in search result listings the search engines will rank your site. And as we said, if you are not on page one it is the same thing as not being in the search engines at all.

So what?

Google alone sees about 528 million unique visitors each month. The closer to the top of the ‘food chain’ your site ranks, the more visitors and potential clients and customers you will see.

How Do You Profit Locally From Internet Marketing?

Most people imagine the phrase internet marketing means spending money on internet ads. It doesn’t mean that at all.

Somehow, some way Google has made people think the only way to make money online is to spend money on online ads. Well, that’s untrue. That’s why we don’t waste our breath trying to talk local businesses into spending money on online ads.

Online ads may have their place. But they are not the area we recommend local businesses give greatest attention.

That’s because you can gain greater competitive advantage and greater profits for your local business from non-advertising sources online.

Local search engine optimization (SEO) provides that solution.

So why do so many consultants and other internet marketing firms stress Adwords so vehemently? Because a lot of those companies earn commissions by talking businesses into spending money on ads. The more you spend, the more they make.

We feel SEO is a better way to build your company and develop strong relations with your clients and customers and vendors and suppliers online — without the need to spend money on ads.

But not all SEO activities are ethical. Or even useful for that matter.

To prove it lets take a walk down…

SEO Memory Lane

In the old days of online marketing, SEO simply involved identifying a few essential keywords or key phrases people most likely used when searching online for what you sell or do. Then after identifying those keywords you’d create web pages that strategically repeated those words and phrases throughout your page and your site. Over and over and over again…

Today that’s not enough.

Search engines algorithms are now much more complex and exacting. The goal of the search engines is to eliminate such ‘spammy’ trash sites and deliver the best visitor experience possible for web surfers.

In the old days of online marketing, that ‘spammy’ approach to online marketing optimization was good enough. It used to work.

But if you’ve been online any amount of time you know how frustrating it is to type in one set of search inquiries and get back pages of content that isn’t a match for what you actually searched for. Often it is because of spammers littering the search engines just to get you to visit their sites.

Fortunately, soon as a Google employee visits those sites Google quickly blackballs and bans those sites from ever again showing in Google listings.

So as you can see, sometimes that spammy approach to internet marketing can still work at getting people to your site. Especially when competition is low or non-existent. But why risk having your site permanently blackballed from the internet search engines?

That can only hurt you. Trying to trick the search engines with fake content that fails to deliver a valuable visitor experience for actual users of the internet isn’t worth the risk of permanent banning.

So how does a company ethically go about getting high search engine positioning while also delivering valuable user experience to search engine users?

How To Get Top Ranking Today

There are three critical areas you must focus on:

  • on-site content
  • off-site content
  • and visitor conversion

On-site content refers to things like your Home page, your About Us page, your privacy policy, articles and posts within your site, the meta tags and index tags and other relevant html tags the search engines are looking for.

If you are unfamiliar with html that’s ok. It is the job of your search specialist to know these things and make the adjustments for you.

But you should know that not just any content added to your site would work. It must be content the search engines feel is relevant and a match for what your visitors are searching for.

Obviously the content you place on your site varies according to your industry and the purpose of your site. Some sites are catalog sites. A place for visitors to browse and place orders online. Other sites are relationship sites. The purpose is to identify potential clients online, and encourage visitors to take the steps necessary to enter the company’s marketing funnel. Those are just a couple of the more common type of sites.

The Onsite SEO Holy Grail

There’s a better way to gain top SEO ranking than “spamming” the search engines with a ton of useless keywords in hopes some of it might “stick”.

Primary keyword attention should instead be given to the buying cycle of the keywords. Not to spammy keyword approaches. Let me explain…

Basically the human mind works this way:

  • first order of business is to gain knowledge of a topic
  • second is to decide on the relevance and implementation value of the topic
  • third is to take action

Web surfers follow this same path when searching for whatever it is that you sell or do. Depending on what stage they are at in the buying process will determine which set of keywords they will use when searching.

So your on-site content must reflect this same process when selecting a keyword approach for your site. Otherwise you miss visitors who may be searching at a different level than your site is presenting.

Your site content must be ‘staggered’ in such a way as to attract all three levels of surfer-awareness:

  • information gathering keywords
  • relevance keywords
  • implementation keywords

How To Structure Your Onsite Content

The best SEO approach for structuring your site without missing potential visitors involves building your content upward from a foundation of education-based content, to keywords revolving around use and implementation or the ‘technical’ aspects of your product or service, on into direct response or ‘action’ oriented content.

In other words, the last step addresses keywords revolving around how to get the benefits of what you are selling. So for example, if someone wanted to buy a pair buy red cowboy boots, they might enter in their search:

  • buy red cowboy boots
  • buy red Ariat Heritage Western boots
  • buy red Laredo cowboy boots

These are the types of keywords a person might use once they’ve made the decision to buy.

But what if the buyers need wide width boots? Or large custom calf sizes before ever getting to the ‘buy’
stage? Well, they’d use a different set of keywords to find out if the shoes will be a fit for them.

This process of using a range of keywords depending upon buying stage is the same for all industries.

The keywords best suited for your SEO marketing plan must account for the various stages of the buying process your potential web visitors might be at at any given moment in the buying process.

Does your SEO marketing plan take into consideration the buying cycle of the keywords in your industry and market? Most do not.

This clearly is a lot of work compared to more common ‘snake oil’ practice of spamming the search engines with useless repetitive keywords.

But this extra work is worth it. You can rank higher with fewer inbound links (offsite SEO) than competitors who are focused primarily on offsite SEO tactics or even onsite scam tactics.

We recommend every business serious about gaining top SEO advantage focus attention on onsite SEO and offsite SEO approaches. Both. Not just one or the other.

What Content To Create To Get Top SEO Positioning

Your content may involve onsite and offsite article and blog content, forum postings, video promotion, social networking, publicity, offsite publishing in relevant offsite publications, and more. The approach varies depending upon individual company needs and circumstances.

Simply ‘tweaking’ meta tags, title tags, and the old school efforts of hammering out a bunch of senseless computer-generated keyword weighted content will not help a site survive or thrive in highly competitive markets.

I tell you this because I’ve seen so called SEO companies charge high four-figure to low five-figure fees to do just those simple things.

Such content gets ‘nixed’ from the search engines. And often the sites trying those approaches get banned. Don’t fall for it.

Why SEO?

Is all this talk of local search marketing really necessary to consider? Yes.

Studies have shown that 87% of businesses use the internet before selecting new vendors and according to the US Department of Commerce, by the year 2012, 43% of consumers will make purchases influenced by the internet if not directly transacted online. Businesses not properly positioned online will be left behind.

Each company needs to pursue SEO differently. The “best” approach for pursing local SEO domination depends upon overall marketing objectives and the level of online competition that may or may not exist.

But there are no hard and fast rules to absolutely guarantee top search engine placement. That’s because search engines are constantly changing their methods of ranking and scoring sites and individual pages.

That’s why Search Engine Optimization should be viewed as on ongoing marketing process. SEO has never been nor never will be a case of ‘once ranked always ranked’.

But this does not require hiring a full-time staff and doesn’t require spending hundreds of thousands of dollars or even tens of thousands of dollars to compete locally.

So How Does SEO Work?

Despite what some people may preach, there is no single right way to rank high in the search engines.

If you asked ten carpenters how to build the perfect house you’d get varied responses on what materials to use, how to lay a foundation based on the particular terrain, how to design the house and each room for long-term stability and beauty, and so on.

Just as there are literally hundreds of ways to design a house, there are hundreds of ways to approach Search Engine Optimization. The approach that works best for you varies according to your circumstances and overall marketing objectives.

Still though, like building a literal structure there are common ‘materials’ and ‘tools’ that are essential for building your Search Engine Optimization strategy.

I’ve been online since before the world wide web existed. And began charging for consulting and ecommerce consulting in 1994. Over the years I’ve seen a few consistent methods for improving search ranking results…

Successful SEO Principles

When it comes to SEO best practices, content is king… usually. But not always.

The words and pages within your site are critical in two main areas. The first is for gaining 3rd-party endorsement. When you present quality content 3rd party sites are more apt to link to you and endorse your site to their visitors.

A second area on-site content is effective is when marketing in less competitive ‘waters’. Getting to the top of search engine results using nothing more than the words on your page is easy when competition is low.

And a third ‘hidden’ area few search professionals speak of publicly is structuring a site to take advantage of the buying cycle of keywords.

The easiest area of SEO dominance now are local or regional ‘organic’ listings. Few businesses target local SEO. For an explanation of why read my blog posting: Local SEO Gets Sexy

When Competitors Are Clueless… or Lazy

For the most part gaining high positioning in local listings requires a few basic SEO approaches. On-page factors contribute to high positioning simply because fewer competitors exist at the local and regional level.

Where competition is fierce, especially on national and international levels, off-page factors carry a greater weight in gaining high position.

The greater number, relevance, and quality of inbound links, the higher your site is positioned in the search engines.

And now you should be content knowing your site is ranked well. Right? No. The next step is to assure your site is converting the maximum number of visitors into buyers as quickly and efficiently as possible. After all, of what value is it to have a high rank but few visitors become clients or customers? None.

Getting People To Your Site Doesn’t Matter If They Don’t Buy Once They Get There

Attention must be given to the one most neglected area of SEO: visitor conversion.

Visitor conversion involves tracking visitor path throughout your site, abandonment, and visitor action. The process may involve a broad scope view of tracking every page of your site (recommended) to tracking the conversion rate of individual offers within your site (also recommended). This is a task best suited for a variety of onsite real-time tracking applications. The best approach varies according to your objectives and your web hosts capabilities. No single solution is best for every company. So I can’t give a recommendation here.

Nonetheless, this explanation of the SEO process is simplified to make the process easier to understand. The algorithms change constantly. And authority values constantly change too. This is why SEO is an ongoing process and should never be viewed as once ranked always ranked.

SEO Isn’t The End-All, Be-All Of Online Marketing

What?!?!

I know this may sound surprising coming from an SEO expert specializing in local search marketing. But it’s true. SEO should be considered just one part of your online marketing strategy.

As much as 76% of all online traffic is generated by a source other than the search engines. That’s more than from Google and Yahoo – combined!

This additional traffic source requires a significant investment in time and effort if a company chooses to pursue it on their own. An entire staff member, in some cases multiple staff members are being dedicated to this one area alone. Costly yes. Yet it is very rewarding when done right — more than pays for itself many times over. But only if a company branches out beyond focusing marketing efforts solely on SEO activities.

Want to know more?

Attend our Search Engine Optimization Webinar online. Our 18-minute in-brief SEO Webinar is now playing and is currently free to participate in online.

I must warn you though, this is a no fluff technical explanation of what is really involved behind the scenes of local search marketing optimization. Don’t watch if you are seeking to be entertained or manipulated. And there’s no pandering. Just real ‘insider’ SEO secrets most companies don’t want to do in-house or don’t currently have the in-house resources to handle — even if they wanted to.

 

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