If you’re like most business owners, you get at least 10 calls/emails per day from companies offering to get you on the first page of Google (Bing, Yahoo, etc.). I know that sales calls are a pain in the butt; however, you shouldn’t ignore all of them. Approximately 80% of the websites I visited this past week could benefit from some level of search engine optimization (SEO). These were primarily websites belonging to small to medium-sized businesses in markets across North America. While there are certain optimization tactics you can (and should) implement yourself, other SEO tactics are best implemented by a reputable SEO company.
But before you go out and hire an SEO company, you need to do a little homework (or pay an analytics company to do it for you!).
First things first – How do you know if you need SEO?
Far too often business owners pick keywords they think a prospective customer would use and search for them on Google. The first problem with this approach is that if you’ve worked in a particular business for any length of time, chances are you don’t lack the ability to think like your prospective customers. Read: you probably don’t know the best keyword phrases for which you should rank.
Another problem is that the search results you’re seeing are often not representative of what other consumers are seeing. They’re skewed by your IP address, past search queries and a myriad of other factors. Just because you see your business on page one of Google, doesn’t mean customers do!
What’s the solution?
Use a tool like Google Analytics to decide whether you need SEO (and if so, how much).
Here’s one way (I emphasize “one” – there are dozens of great SEO reports available from tools like Google Analytics):
Set-up goals for things like – online form completions, phone calls inquiries, email newsletter subscriptions, etc.
Make sure you filter your employees and vendors out of the data
Create and launch a pay-per-click campaign
Let the PPC campaign run for 1 week to 30 days – depending on your traffic volumes – e.g. you need a decent amount of results to make any meaningful decisions
Segment your traffic in Google Analytics so that you can compare visits from Google CPC (pay-per-click) to Google Organic
[insert the resulting epiphany here]
If you’re like most small to medium-sized businesses, you’ll probably find that most of your organic search traffic came to your website via a branded keyword (i.e. they searched your company name) while most of your pay-per-click traffic came in on non-branded keywords.
Top 5 keywords from Google Organic:
Joe’s Print Shop
Joe Smith Printer Maryland
printing company in Gaithersburg, Maryland
Joe Smith 19200 Air Park Road
Top 5 keywords from Google AdWords:
printing company near DC
Direct mail printers
Bindery services MD
It’s great to have people who already know you (visitors from branded search terms) find your website, but what growth seeking businesses really want is for new people currently in the market for a particular product/service to find them.
What you will probably also find after you run the pay-per-click campaign is that at least some of the visitors that found you via non-branded terms did something of value once on your website – they called (a phone inquiry), filled out an online form (an online lead), etc.
This whole recommended process should clearly show you that there is a sea of people looking for your product/service that do not know you by name. The PPC campaign has the potential to show you how big the market is. Google Analytics can determine what % of your organic traffic is branded vs. non-branded. When compared to your PPC campaign, this will be a good indicator of how much SEO you need.
Determining the value of improving your SEO rankings is also pretty easy:
Search on some of the keywords that visitors used to find you via pay-per-click. Where do you see your site organically? Some research reports show that as much as 65% of all search traffic goes to a listing on the first page.
– 10 of those 50 visitors turn into leads and 5 of the 10 become new customers
– You search Google to see where your business appears organically for the same keyword phrase and you find that you’re 6 pages back from page 1
– Next you look at Google Analytics – top keywords from Google Organic search – and you see that being 6 pages from the front result in zero visitors for this keyword phrase organically
Armed with this info, determine the approximate value of getting on page one in the organic listings for the keyword phrase given in the example above. Additionally, you’ll have some great benchmarks and metrics to use to evaluate your future SEO efforts.
Don’t ignore all SEO solicitations – working with an SEO company might make 2010 your best year yet
Use Google Analytics and pay-per-click to decide if you need SEO, how much you SEO you need, and to develop benchmarks to keep your SEO vendors accountable for what really matters – results
When your top keywords from organic search are branded and your top pay-per-click keywords are from non-branded terms, you need SEO
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
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