SEO: Are you getting your money’s worth?

Search Engine Optimization can be one of the most cost-effective ways of marketing your business, but it can also be the biggest budget and time suck if you don’t focus on two things: Your goals and your customers.

Often times clients come to us looking for an easy way to generate leads, but the response often times is, “what value are you providing to the prospect to make them want to do business with you?”. Although Google is constantly changing their algorithms and processes, a big part of optimization is knowing what you want a customer to do once they get to your web site. Download a paper? Set up an appointment? Educate themselves? Without focusing on the customer as a part of your SEO, the customer is likely to leave your website as soon as they get there.
When evaluating an SEO program and the cost required to build an effective one, it is important to address both the technical and the touchy feely part of customer engagement. Let’s look at both:
 
The Technical Part of SEO
Even with such players as Bing and Yahoo on the market, the 300-pound gorilla of search is Google. So, without going to into detail, let’s address at a high level what they do when they update their search algorithms. Google updates their program as often as you change underware. Potentially every day. The main updates are to prevent scams and people trying to cheat the system and get their sites and products to show up on the top of page one. A few ways people try: duplicate content (the same pages with a slight tweak to each), minimal: ads, low-quality link directories, & link exchanges, keyword diversification, and social interaction (Google+, Facebook, low bounce rates, etc addressed by adding reader value).
Don’t get overwhelmed. Start here.
Start with where you are now and decide where you want to be. Start with a 5 minute SEO audit and see where you stand today. Look at inbound links, site structure, traffic, and page rank. If you are happy with the results, move on. If you aren’t, either take some action yourself or outsource it.
Next, go to your website and look at your content. If you don’t have original content that is actually relevant to your website and your customer, it will not only turn off Google, but also but your customers as well. You’ll know this by looking at your Google Analytics and checking the time spent on your site and the bounce rates.
Google’s search engine is built to think like a human. It knows and understands a lot more than you think. Is your site easy to use, does it have helpful information, is the content fresh? All of these things make the site more useful, and thus more likely to get unique and repeat traffic. The more traffic the higher you will start ranking on search results.
The touchy-feely part of SEO
Now comes the part most web development companies miss when developing their client sites. They build a beautiful web site that is initially optimized for search and then forgot to tell clients or help them keep their content interesting and fresh. These days social interaction is a key part of optimization. That means you need blogs, social media, and standard marketing promotion to make the site work long term.
I know it sounds a little funny as a marketing firm to say this, but “No one knows your customer as well as you do”. Use that to your advantage and write about those points. A few ideas:
  • Why do customers call on you?
  • How do you customers take better care of their xxx (product, bodies, relationships)
  • Are there items in the news that you address?
Keep it short, but set a schedule and do it often.
If your goal is to capture contact names or other information, use a form on your site prior to allowing access to content. Make sure though that your form is short and that the content is worth giving you their information. White papers, training videos, presentations, ebooks or technical material are often good offers to attract that type of traffic as it allows you to go into more detail. Just don’t forget to use teasers, email and keywords to assure you gt direct and SEO traffic.
Getting Your Money’s Worth is About Setting Goals
So how do you know that what you are doing works? Remember those goals we talked about earlier in the article? Decide actions make it worthwhile. Conduct the 5 minute audit. Look at
  • Rank reports for key word combinations that your customers would search for…are they moving up or down.
  • Google-ing the company name, offerings, and executive names to assure they are in the top results
  • Look at Google analytics for reduced bounce rates and an increase in visitors, new traffic or converting traffic (people who click certain links)
Since every company/group is different, what is important is that you have some criteria that is important to you so that you evaluate based on that. Are you looking for time spent on the site? Reduced paperwork from the front desk? New Customers? Increases in web site traffic or picking from the above.
The important thing is to be realistic as to your goals based on what you spend and the time spent to keep the site fresh and optimized. You can expect some movement in your criteria in 3 months, but typically 4-6 months are needed to get real numbers, so be patient, be persistent, and experiment.
The bottom line is that Google is getting smarter by the day, and shortcuts are not the answer. Add value to your site that is helpful information for your clients and you will be rewarded.

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