Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising can be an important part of any company’s marketing mix. One of the limitations of PPC is that only about 20 percent of web users click on paid advertising. Complete dependence upon pay per click advertising as the primary means of driving traffic misses approximately 80 percent of potential clients. Because of this, paid advertising should be just one segment of a broader internet marketing strategy.
At Mobile & Local (www.mobileandlocal.com) we often talk to business owners who feel that they have essentially been ‘held hostage’ by their paid advertising. They have tried PPC on Google, Yellow Book or some other platform and have gotten poor results. The comments we hear are things like “we spent a ton of money and got nothing”.
The problem with many paid advertising campaigns is that the business owner has been told what they MUST spend per month. When we create PPC campaigns for clients, it’s the business owner who decides how much to spend. If you have feel like you have been held hostage by your paid advertising give us a call.
Google advertising is like a faucet. As a business owner you are in control of the faucet. You turn it up or down or off as your business needs dictate. It’s never about your monthly budget its always about the amount of business activity you need and the amount of money that you’re willing to spend. The amount that you spend on your paid advertising campaign should never be dictated by Google or anyone else.
Recently, I’ve seen several online discussions and comments that left me wondering if perhaps I had slowly slipped into a parallel universe.
The two recent comments that left me dazed and confused were:
- I don’t see any value in SEO
- Why would a small business owner care about registering with (Google+) a failed social network?
Today, I’d like to address bullet point one. The second bullet point deserves an article of it’s own.
SEO, like innocence, has died a million times. On a daily basis you can find new articles and commentary declaring that SEO is dead, near dead or dying. Other technologies and services are often declared dead as well, so SEO is not alone in this, but SEO has been declared dead on a regular basis for at least a decade.
Our commenter though, questioned the value of SEO. So let’s discuss that aspect.
What is SEO in 2015?
First, let’s create a working definition of SEO. For many, the definition of SEO is unclear. In the ever shifting landscape of search marketing there is a certain fluidity. I would define SEO as:
Non-paid online strategies and tactics that produce increased visibility across multiple points of presence.
The Process of SEO
What you read here may not match up to what you have heard from other sources. I have been developing online marketing strategies and SEO planning for companies for over a decade. My views on SEO have often been in sharp disagreement with many of the search ‘experts’. For instance, I’ve never believed in the value of artificial link building and argued against those that sell link building services, site submission services, commenting and other spam techniques.
We believe in a research and analysis driven SEO process. While some companies might ask you what you think your keywords should be (run if that happens), we depend on keyword research to uncover how people actually search for products and services.
How you want to talk about a business is far less important than how people search for the products and services the company provides. Choosing the keywords that are the most highly searched AND most applicable to a businesses marketing objectives is the key to successful online marketing.
This research process is made up of three vital components:
- Keyword Research
- Identification of Competition
- Analysis of Competition
Here are just a few examples of the value of keyword research:
Keyword Monthly Search Counts
T shirts 1,830,000
air conditioning 110,000
car sales 550,000
auto sales 27,100
Understanding how people actually search for products and services allows you to optimize for the correct terms. Note how small variations in keyword terms can make huge differences in search count. Each search is an opportunity for visibility. Search engines do not see these terms as being the same thing, otherwise they would not report different search totals.
Once the most highly searched and applicable keywords have been identified, the next task is to understand who currently holds the top position on Google for the targeted term. Since Google provides 80% of US search, 90% of global search and 86% of all mobile search, it should be the primary focus on any serious online marketing effort.
Once the top competitive sites are identified, each one is broken down and viewed as the search engines see it. This analysis allows us to identify how a site achieved top rank and the gaps that may exist in the optimization. Now that we have these three pieces of information, we have the elements needed to craft a successful online optimization plan.
How Do You Get Value From SEO
Keyword research provides insight into consumer behavior. When you provide content that is reflective of consumer search behavior, your content is likely to produce greater levels of engagement.
The information uncovered in the keyword research should be used to improve the relevance of the following aspects of your website:
- domain name
Improved visibility through increased relevance – in the final analysis, all SEO efforts are about improving visibility. Many of our clients start with absolutely no online visibility for their most important keywords, giving them 0% opportunity to convert non-branded traffic to sales.
Many companies have websites that are like a beautiful billboard on a closed road. They look nice but no one ever sees them. The impact on the business? None.
SEO allows companies to gain value from their website investment, so that it has a positive impact on their business. Having a website move from invisible to visible carries tremendous value.
The Impact of SEO
There are three foundational elements that every business should be concerned about:
- How does my business show up for branded terms when people search specifically for it?
- How does my business show up when people search for the products and services we provide in the geo-markets we serve?
- How does my company appear in the mobile and local results?
SEO greatly impacts all three of these foundational areas.
Is there value in keyword research? Is there value in understanding your online competition and how they achieved top rank? Is there value in visibility? Is there value in moving a business website from invisible to visible?
Is SEO alive? Yup, still breathing.
Is it valuable? Yes and growing in value every day.
Google+ continues to grow it’s reputation as the Rubik’s Cube of online marketing. Baffling to most, understood by few and ever, ever, ever changing.
Either purposefully or organically Google+ is unlike other social networks and because of that, Google+ is the single most important thing a small business can do to succeed online.
In the last several weeks I have been asked two related questions regarding Google+
- “Why would a small business care about a failed social network?”
- In the context of the removal of Google+ links from organic results – “What bothers you about the absence of G+ (links). Isn’t that actually a good thing? After all you control your website but not G+. “
According to the most recent statistics – Google+ is the #3 social network with over 540 million active users. You Tube has 1 billion users. Facebook has 1.5 billion users. Failed social network?
The bigger question is why a small business should care about Google+. Let’s start with some very basic statistics.
- 90% of US adults use the internet
- Nearly 2/3rds of Americans have a smart phone
- Google drives approximately 80% of organic search, 86% of mobile search and 90% of global search
- Bing and Yahoo are essentially the same search engine and combined make up about 17% of search
- All remaining search providers fall into the remaining 3%
- 90% of consumers use search to find local products and services
Based on these numbers, Google clearly provides the greatest potential value for a small business. Google+ heavily influences how a small business appears in Google.
There are three things a small business should worry about in regard the their on-line visibility:
- How does the business appear when customer searches specifically for it? Branded visibility is key to reputation management and customer retention. A search for a local business by name is strong buying signal – over 80% of local mobile searches convert to sales. Google+ data drives nearly all of the information that shows up when someone searches for a business specific term such as ‘ABC Catering St Louis’ including the Knowledge Graph results that appear to the right of the organic search results.
- How does the business appear when customers search for applicable competitive terms? Competitive visibility is key to customer acquisition. Within a typical search page there are multiple types of results – a search for ‘catering St Louis’ returns the results in the image below. Competitive visibility can be gained in the Google Places/local/map/ Google+/Google My Business results, in the organic results and in the paid advertising.
- How does the business appear in mobile results? Mobile visibility is the key to growth. While this is partially covered above, it’s important to recognize that mobile and voice generated search will continue to grow in value. Google+ / GMB information that is claimed and validated as being provided by the business owner is the ‘gold standard’ for local business information. Google is putting processes in place that will devalue local data that is not managed by the business owner. Devalued local data will have great difficulty gaining any visibility in mobile and voice search results.
Google+ influences search results.
Reviews from Google+ can be connected to paid advertising on Google Adwords.
Google+ is the primary source of verified business information that appears in the local and map results. Claiming, validating, building and managing a Google+ page dramatically improves local search visibility.
One of the least understood values of Google+ is it’s impact on personalized search results. When a user searches in Google, the results are personalized based on location, search history and other factors. One factor is Google+. A business that is connected to a user via Google+ will be far more likely to appear in that users organic (middle of the page) search results. This is true for the initial user, everyone that they are connected to and everyone they are connected to. This ‘organic network effect’ can be tremendously valuable.
As you can see in the example above, Google has once again changed the look and content of the local search results. It’s a step in the right direction, reintroducing the physical address, hours and phone number to the results.
Why are these links to Google+ important?
Because the information that appears in these local results all comes from Google+ and a direct link provides users with access to the next level of information they need to make a buying decision. Regardless of whatever tweaks Google may make to the interface, UX should always take precedence. In fact most SEO is directly related to improving the UX.
Put another way, Google uses the data from Google+ to present the initial view of a business to searchers but does not make it easy for the user to directly access that source information. That seems to defy user expectation. Users want as much information as possible within the initial view – the fewer clicks the better.
To have a local business result with no phone number or address, with the only pathway to that data being through Google Maps is nonsensical. Nor does it make sense to show a few pictures of a business in the Knowledge Graph but not allow easy access to the rest. The same applies to reviews and other content.
The unfortunate part is that we have absolutely no idea what Google+ local results will look like tomorrow . They continuously tweak functionality with no seeming rationale. The frustration of people within the social / search marketing world and among small business users is understandable.
We can not control Google+, but we can influence what appears there. In reality, we don’t control a websites visibility either. Penguins and Pandas prove that.
Why should a small business care about a failed social network? Why does visibility and access to Google+ data matter?
A small businesses Google+ presence is the single most powerful way to influence visibility on Google. The content of Google+ drives small business visibility in the worlds largest search engine.
Unlike any other social network, Google+ pays huge dividends whether a businesses customers ever use it as a social network or not. Unlike other social networks, the value of Google+ extends far beyond the social layer.
For a small business, it is critical to influence Google+ as much as possible. Claim, validate and optimize your listing. Claim and delete old or duplicate listings. Integrate Google+ to your site, Engage with upstream influencers to help Google+ understand your business.
Google+ is a repository of business content connected to communications tools that enable upstream and down steam communications. It is the defacto small business directory for 90% of the worlds searches but remains Rubik’s-like for so many
Your core business information, sometimes called NAP data, is key to your local and map visibility. Consistency of NAP (name, address, phone number) data across multiple sources makes your business information more valuable to Google and other search engines, gaining you visibility. In order to create these ‘citations’ that support your local visibility, we submit the same NAP data to over 300 additional directories, destinations sites, GPS and map providers.
Do you have multiple listings? Closed locations? Listings with incorrect phone numbers? Have you lost access to your Google business data? We clean up all of your information, making it more valuable to Google and gaining you more visibility.