Why is SEO so Important for Your Business?
After a spirited discussion about search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising and social media marketing last season, Amanda Benson-Tilch, host of The Ask Amanda Show, recently invited Valencia digital marketing expert Alison Lindemann of WSI Internet Consulting back for a deeper dive. If you’re ready to develop and launch a digital marketing strategy for a small business in SCV or beyond, you can gain a leg up on your competition with these tips and tools to increase your brand’s exposure. To achieve that goal your website needs to show up as high as possible on Google when someone enters search terms for a business like yours.
The Difference Between SEM and SEO
Digital marketing terms SEM and SEO are easily misunderstood because they sound similar, but they’re two different aspects of a successful business growth plan.
Search engine marketing, or SEM, refers to the results from a search on Google or any other search engine. This kind of visibility for a business typically refers to exposure gained from paid advertising.
Search engine optimization, or SEO, refers to Google’s algorithm which chooses which websites to feature at the top of the search results. SEO is a long-term strategy where you gain organic exposure based on the targeted content you integrate into your website pages.
There are various methods to drive your website to appear at the top of a web search:
- Paid Advertising – A paid ad from Google to show up on the first page when someone enters specific search terms
- Organic Results – Gaining free exposure from search engine marketing strategies
- FAQ Answers – Content you provide Google which leads to greater visibility for your business
It takes time to build credibility with Google organically, so if you want to boost your exposure quickly you need to buy ads.
You can employ all of these methods, blending paid advertising with keyword placement, to maximize your impact, but SEO is a long-term strategy. If you hire a marketing strategist who assures you an organic spot at the top of Google within days, you will be disappointed. A knowledgeable marketing consultant will advise you to let your SEO strategy continue and give it time to move your website up the ranks until Google places it at or near the top.
Developing an SEO Strategy
It’s important to validate that when a person uses a search phrase or types in a question to search for products or services, it gets you in front of your potential clients or customers. SEO aims to do that. There are tremendous advantages to the process because when someone enters a search with specific words, they’re already somewhat interested in what your business has to offer. Those people already have a desire to learn more about your products or services.
The formula for gaining exposure by posting content that Google wants to promote on page one is data-driven and strategically based. Before you invest time and money into expanding your SEO practices, examine available data from Google. Find out how many people are conducting searches using keywords and phrases related to your business. Find out the volume of traffic and if it’s a good fit for your type of industry. See if your competitors are showing up on searches with those terms to see if your strategy has promise.
If you’re a business owner who is not tech savvy you probably won’t invest in sophisticated software, but there are some free versions of tools to use. You can also simply type in the search terms and see if the companies that come up are comparable to yours. If they’re just informational sites, for instance, which are not selling or offering what you offer, that SEO strategy may not be the right match for you. If similar companies have been riding the top of Google for 10 years and you’re just starting, an honest assessment needs to be made about whether or not a plan could be formed to beat and exceed your competition.
If you’ve heard people suggesting that including SEO content on your website is a thing of the past, they’re wrong – in fact, SEO is really kind of a hot commodity, especially coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s never been dead, but it’s evolved and changed. As Google gets more sophisticated it’s their job to try to pick naturally the very best websites for a given search or a particular question and to not give in to the scammers or the spammers and not pick the sites that have just gamed the system.
The strategic research at Alison’s company, WSI, begins with a comprehensive questionnaire for clients before contracting with them. She can create a personalized marketing plan that fits the unique needs of your company.
Though it’s a technical process that can be overwhelming, domain authority, which is represented by a search engine ranking score, is important because it helps you determine if your SEO efforts are working.
Digital marketing experts need to stay updated on the methods Google uses to choose which websites get on the first page. It’s a sophisticated algorithm with hundreds of factors, and it’s private to Google. Engineers and other experts come up with these algorithms and they don’t tell you what they are so they can’t be easily replicated.
The day you buy a domain name and launch your website, Google is scoring the popularity and viability of your business. Scores range from zero to 100 and the age of your domain plays a part in your authority ranking. The search engine evaluates how popular your domain is and the most popular websites are given scores in the 50s and 60s.
One feature that Google examines is how many websites link to your website. When websites with a high domain authority link to your site it raises your score, passing some of their prestige to you. It’s a vote of confidence to link to you which is why, as a business owner, you want to develop relationships with other websites, particularly those with greater domain authority.
Marketing experts educate their clients about the process, and they know which websites are most reputable and have resources such as online directories to expand those relationships. There are numerous opportunities to share a link from your website including the Chamber of Commerce, a trade show, or a non-profit organization.
For a sizable domain authority score, Alison has advice for marketing small businesses:
- Technically sound website – Get a good webmaster. Google just implemented a performance part of the algorithm, which assesses how quickly a website loads, for instance. They gauge the length of time between clicks on people’s phones, and if your site has issues with its mobile performance, Google won’t rank you very high.
- Targeted areas of service – Choose the number of products or services you’re focusing on and create a page of content for each of those services, not one page for all services. To rank on SEO there needs to be content about each product or service and you need to build links to them.
- Publicizing consistently – If you’re a locally oriented company such as a restaurant or a dry cleaner, Google is seeing if your name, address, and phone number match your website and other online references to your business. It communicates to Google that you’re a credible, reputable company when it looks at business citations, your Yelp listing, directories, a Chamber of Commerce listing, and networking group online listings. Don’t use your 1-800 number or use an acronym.
- Google My Business – Sometimes referred to as GMB, it is a valuable citation offering organic exposure. When someone conducts a search for a local listing, Google My Business responds with a map, and it usually will feature only 3 businesses. You can pay to get your name to come up, but most results are found through an algorithm. Every business owner should input their business name and their city/state so potential clients and customers can find them. There’s a huge margin for targeted traffic – the number 1 listing gets almost one-third of all the clicks. If you’re number 10 you’re getting about 2.5 percent of the clicks.
- If in doubt, fill it out – Add everything Google asks you to put in your business profile. You may be able to include a photo, a video, a business description as well as your address. “Percent completed” is a factor in the algorithm.
- Five-Star Reviews – There’s also a place in GMB with FAQ’s which you don’t want to ignore. It’s a place where clients can review you, and when you get 5-star reviews it trips another algorithm plus. If you have reviews with 3 stars or less, however, you’re going to be negatively impacted.
- Turn in cheaters – If you’ve fallen to a lower position on Google Maps and you suspect one of the highest-ranking companies is bogus, report them. Sometimes a business whittles down the competition by creating another listing and calling it something like “best dry cleaner.” In the short term, Google rewards them. Sometimes it requires little time to turn in a spammer, but Alison has gone so far as to drive to the fake address and take a picture proving why the business should be removed.
Meet the Experts
Alison Lindemann – Digital Marketing
After 17 years in the corporate management world, Alison joined WSI Internet Consulting in 2004. She has a strong business background including 17 years with Farmers Insurance as the Director of Service Operations as well as Director of Sales in their corporate office in Los Angeles. She completed the Farmers Executive Training Program and was the recipient of their Management Excellence Award. Alison has expertise in both traditional and digital media, as well as strategic planning, competitor analysis, persona development, social media, customer experience, conversion optimization and particularly search engine optimization. Alison holds a BSBA degree from Washington University in St. Louis Olin Business School, and she holds the CPCU Designation, ARP Designation, and numerous digital marketing certifications. She has co-authored two books, one that was published in October 2019 and includes chapters from digital marketing experts worldwide. She is also the recipient of three Web Marketing Association Awards in 2019. She speaks regularly on digital marketing best practices and strategies.
Need a digital marketing consultant who can help you design and execute an effective new strategy? Contact Alison at WSI Internet Consulting for a consultation.
Amanda Benson-Tilch – Small Business Consulting
While you may notice her first by her wit and second by her infectious sense of humor, the next thing you’ll learn about Amanda Benson-Tilch is: She’s a problem-solver. Owner and Growth Strategist of Ask Amanda Consulting, she offers the skills, tools, and network it takes to get the job done — no matter the task.
Working with each client differently, she helps identify blocks, present solutions, implement them, and execute. And if she can’t execute, she’ll connect you to someone who can. She’s helped past clients improve their branding, operations, customer service, marketing, company culture, and more. She’s organized a company-wide rebranding and restructuring after it was bought out. And she’s helped local small businesses increase their growth without increasing the headache. From consulting to full-scale project management, Amanda steps in to help your business level up with ease.
In addition to her work with Ask Amanda, she’s also the Director of Business Development for Thomas Realty Co., a property management company in Burbank, where she oversees the growth of select tenants. Currently, she’s serving as the Managing Director of both Burbank Fitness Club and Burbank Center Apartments. Over the last year, she helped completely rebrand, renovate, and rebuild the gym, and she recently started the same process with their luxury apartments.
About The Ask Amanda Show
On any given day, small business owners and entrepreneurs spend most of their time putting out fires, solving problems and asking themselves questions like: “How do I brand this? How do I reach more people online? Why can’t I break through my revenue ceiling and reach the next level of business?” They often feel like an island – holding it all together without support, clarity, or feedback they need to finally achieve their vision. That’s exactly why Amanda Benson-Tilch created The Ask Amanda Show. As a small business consultant, not only does she have the answers to the questions you keep asking, but she’s also created a podcast community that reminds you: You’re not alone in this journey.
Tune in once a month to get access to small business experts, nuggets of inspiration and answers to those burning questions preventing you from growth. Enjoy powerful guest interviews as Santa Clarita small business experts share their stories and provide actionable steps to help you grow your business. Whether you’re a business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, or someone looking to get more involved in your community, this is your show!