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It’s been a busy start of a new year, with a lot of weirdness. I have met a few people that wanted to tell me SEO is dead. What they really mean is SEO is way too much work for them and requires way too many components to do it right. Of course, several of these people were selling impression-based advertising from long dead phone company directories trying to stay afloat, but I digress.

Admittedly for those without a brand, the digital marketing lift is much heavier. Unfortunately, that is usually the small business or the upstart that has a limited budget. SEO, or more holistically and more accurately described by the term digital marketing, need to now be pointed, strategic and have a multi-functional purpose, and it has to serve multiple masters. It’s no longer viable to throw random keywords out in hopes to attract a customer. The visual of throwing birdseed or chum always pops into my head, whenever I say that out loud. Integrated strategies are mandatory now because Google is reading all these signals, deciding what the site is about, and ultimately choosing the winners.

Before I proceed much further, I want to provide a helpful hint:  If you are a business owner and your SEO vendors are not talking in the terms I’m going to layout below, you need to re-evaluate your engagement with them. If you have multiple vendors, they all need to interact with each other. If they are resistant, you need to re-evaluate your engagement with them. And if you have an in-house department, you need make sure there is a dedicated team in place, and the employees on that team are dedicated to just the digital marketing aspects of the business, nothing else.

Anecdotally, organic search is a customer’s first encounter with a company; or the top of a funnel. To hear Google, they say 98% of all searches are informational and only 2% are transactional. And although that is correct, the buying process starts at the top of the funnel.

The best place for business owners to start is with an understanding of who their customers are. Commonly business owners think in terms of what they sell as opposed to the problems they solve. The internet is predicated on this one simple fact, people go there to solve problems. It’s the best way to meet customers where they are and win them over. I find that one of the hardest things for business owners to do is identify the problems they solve, because most think in terms of what they sell.

For this exercise, I am going to use a website that sells Commercial Christmas Trees.

#1: Define the problems the business solves and create a content strategy that is in alignment with that.

In days gone by, web marketers were always talking about keywords and allowed to steer the direction. It was more of a scattershot approach that didn’t always consider what a potential customer needed. The article may have directly referenced something sold on the website, or maybe was just a basic information piece, but often the goals of that article was nothing more than to rank on a particular word. Because there is so much clickbait running around the internet, the end user is now sensitive to this and far less likely to interact with a page just because they have tripped over it, and they are far less likely to buy from or contact a business that is perceived that way.

One of the best sources of what problems a business solves is found in the corporate email box or on the telephones.

So in this case:  Discuss the construction of a commercial Christmas tree vs a typical artificial tree.

It’s easy to see, I have added keywords into my premise so those keywords are going to be present throughout my campaign, but this page of content can be a comprehensive overview of the construction of the two tree types. This is a common question. Provide a good, solid, comprehensive answer. If one person is looking for that, many people are looking for that, rest assured of that.

#2: Create Videos 

It’s 2017, creating a video is not all that hard. Sticking with the our Commercial Tree discussion. A video that highlights the difference in the two tree types would be a great video. It allows you to address clients, and explain how it best benefits the business. Other than providing a customer experience, this also allows the visitor to stay engaged with the page. This teaches Google that the page has value and helps them decide to organically rank the page higher.

If you’re able to, consider starting a video series that can build an audience. With a topic like Christmas, the sky’s the limit. And you can be witty to boot. Twelve Days of Christmas Trees comes to mind. That tells the user you may have a daily video explaining types of Christmas trees. Douglas Fir, Scotch Pine. Oh so much potential!

#3 Create a Graphics that Illustrate The Page: 

Okay stop groaning. It’s not that bad. There are many great programs out there that will anger many-a-parent that put their kid though graphic design school. Our personal favorite is Canva.com. It’s easy to use, and the benefits are far reaching. Not only does your page or post look better, but it increases your click through rate from social platforms. The more appealing the page, the deeper the benefits. In as much as a bad graphics will hurt perceptions, good graphics will make the message and the brand clearer.

#4 Speaking of Graphics….Infographics

Yeah, yeah, I know they were all the rage for a while for link building. And in some circles they can still be used that way. However, their use is not just a link building method. But again, keep in mind we are teaching Google. When we do the infographic for this page it will be on our bullet points on how to support a page, make a strategy, and send the right signals to Google and not about Christmas Trees. An infographic does not have to be created for each page, however, it’s advisable when creating integrated content to consider it. After all the work that has been done there is no reason to minimize its impact by not supporting it properly.

There are many that will have a different opinion and say not every infographic has to be tied to content. In as much as they are right, I am for squeezing every drop out of something that I make an effort to do. So if i can get a larger amount of signals and then get that content shared socially…

#5 Speaking of Social Media

Social Media is a driver, and if used properly can really yield good results. Notice the “if used properly.” That’s where most businesses fail, and fail in the biggest sense.  I always point to Williams-Sonoma as the best example of a well run social campaign. Problem is, most small businesses don’t have that type of budget. But there are many things to learn. And an in-depth post on them would be appropriate.

Let me first say they never post “buy our crock pot” or “order our broth.” Instead, we get quality posts that lead to the blog that have seasonal based recipes. Useful recipes that may or may not be used, but you don’t mind them entering your life daily. They have first and foremost identified why people will follow them, and put out the perfect response. The internet is filled with inane nonsense, there is no reason to add to it so your three friends like your post.

Yes, William Sonoma does have it a little easier than say Houston Mover JTMelia. But tips on how to move are a great way to get followers and be engaging. But in as much as I want the social property engaging, I also want the post to the website to be so well written that it too is shared. I then have traffic moving in both directions. People that like the page will see the post and go to the site. The people on the site like the post and share in the opposite direction. It again sends those signals that Google needs to learn what your site is about, it drives clicks and engagement and helps visitors remain on your site because they are busy reading. A huge score.

I also have been recommending using some of the paid ads inside the search networks. Its cheap, reinforces your brand and best of all teaches Google. How’s that for $5 a day.

#6 Link Building

Yes, it’s still on the table and probably more important than ever. But I never lead with link building because I truly believe if you run a site right, the links will come. Imagine all the effort being put into creating blog networks if these folks just concentrated on putting up good, solid, sharable content. I have picked up multiple links to this site simply through this blog. Admittedly, you have to be an expert on your topic or know how to run a good interview with clients to create this.

Recently I had the chance to visit an old friend who is running a website that makes 8 figures. It was a very impressive operation. But one thing they did not do is ‘link building’ via creating faux links. Their link building consisted of top tier content that was being picked up by universities and journals naturally. It was like a scene out of the movie the Intern with 35 people working to run the website. It is not viable for ‘small business’ to do this, but it is necessary to come as close to this as possible. If you put the effort in, sales will come.

#7 Pay Per Click or SEM

Yes, you read that right. I believe that every company needs a budget for PPC. It does not need to be primary because remember it will only capture less than 7% of all clicks, but if you do all these other things right, this reinforces the brand and makes it easier for people to find you when it comes time that the informational search turns into a transactional one.

Beyond the Google ad is the retargeting, the fancy word for the ads that follow you around the internet. Again, it creates a sense of brand recognition. This is important because the more people are familiar with your brand, the more apt they are to make that purchase at transaction time.

Do you need a huge budget? No. But you do need a budget.

As you can see there is much to do and all parts of the strategy need to be working together. The more effort that is done following this methodology will yield better results. I don’t believe any part of this can be skipped at this juncture.

Beth Guide - ACTWD