Here’s something most marketing folks don’t want you to know:
SEO isn’t magic. There is no button to press to put you at the top of search results. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not worth your time, or your money.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the amount and quality of user traffic to your website through organic search engine results. The goal of SEO is that when someone does a web search for a service or product that you provide, your company is at the top of the list. Think of the last time you searched online for a product or service. Perhaps you searched for an electrician nearby. When you type in “electrician near me,” the search engine provides you with the most relevant results it can find. For example, the top results may include the electrician around the block from you, a handyman service that does electrical work, and a rating site like Yelp or Angie’s List. These results are designed to help you find what you are looking for. Chances are, you are not going to see an electrical company that started business last week or the utility company that services your home; these results have been deemed irrelevant to your search and are omitted.
So how does the search engine know which results to show? That’s where SEO comes in. These results are based on several variables including distance from your search, user reviews, and relevance. For the purposes of this article, we are going to forget about location data since this information is collected automatically based on your published business address. That leaves user reviews and relevance as the determining factors for your search engine results.
When your company is providing goods or services, the feedback from your customers is crucial. Were they satisfied with your product? Did they have a hard time reaching you to resolve a complaint? This feedback from actual customers in the form of internet reviews can drastically impact your company’s performance online. If your company has no reviews, or mostly negative reviews, a search engine most likely will not give you first preference. Instead, the search engine will present a competitor with higher ratings, since other people have recommended that service or product.
What You Can Do
Ask your customers for their feedback! Ask for a review on Google, Amazon, Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor, or whatever platform is relevant to your industry. If you receive positive feedback, great! If you receive negative feedback, reach out to the customer. Can you make it right and win them back? Often a negative review can turn into a positive review by simply addressing the concern and making it right for the customer. Do your best to get feedback from as many customers as you can, as often as you can. Remember, one bad review out of two can sting, but one bad review out of 100 isn’t nearly as bad!
Why do we need to worry about relevance? Of course we’re relevant, we sell the product!
Not so fast. In today’s age, it takes about ten minutes to create a new website and list a product for sale. Search engines are looking for the products that other people are looking for, on websites that receive regular traffic from many users. When you search online for a book, which appears first –– a link for the book on Amazon, or a link to the local bookstore down the street? Typically, Amazon would be the first result (or even the first page of results!). That’s because the search engine recognizes Amazon as a major source of internet traffic, with plenty of links to and from other websites.
What You Can Do
Start with content. Posting regular content in the form of a blog, video, podcast, product how-to, etc. is a great reason for current and new customers to visit your website on a regular basis. Better yet, you can use social media to promote and link to your new content, creating inbound links to your site. As you create more content, search engines will have more relevant content to look through and your rankings will improve over time.
You can also drive people to your content and your website using a regularly scheduled email newsletter. We prefer MailChimp, but there are many different options available to you. Start by asking your customers for their email addresses so they can stay up to date on your company and your services. As you post new content, send out a newsletter with a brief description and a link to the content on your website. Most email newsletter services will provide you with analytics about who opened your message and what links they clicked. You can then use this information to see what types of content are most important to your customers.
Now wait! I received a sales call saying they could make me the number one result on Google!
Most of the time in marketing if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Chances are, the strategy from these companies is to place your website link on a bunch of other websites. Since all these other websites are now linking to you, your search ranking should go up, right? While the inbound linking can certainly help, it is no replacement for a solid content strategy and positive customer reviews.
It’s also important to note that a good content strategy and obtaining user reviews doesn’t cost you anything. How much did that sales caller want to charge you for results that aren’t guaranteed?