When was the last time you searched for a product or service on Google and clicked past the first page? Hardly ever? Well, you’re not alone. About 91 percent of search engine users never search past the first page and believe that companies whose websites appear at the top of the search results are the top companies in that field. It’s not surprising then, that it is crucial that your website show up on the first page when people search using terms related to what you offer.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become perhaps the most important marketing tool in modern times. According to TMP Directional Marketing/comScore, 60 percent of all local business searches now happen online (only 33 percent happen in print yellow pages) and 82 percent of the people using local search sites follow up their research with offline action. Over 60 million people use search engines like Google daily to find the products and services they need, focusing on businesses listed on the first page. Increasing your website ranking on the major search engines through search engine marketing maximizes your opportunity to reach the local and global marketplace with your products and services, and hence your sales potential.
Author and SEO guru Peter Kent said that a client of his, “selling construction equipment to the tune of $10,000 a month, rebuilt his site and began a combined organic-search and paid-search campaign, boosting sales to $700,000 a month in less than two years. It’s hard to imagine how he could have grown his company, with relatively little investment, so quickly without the search engines!”
BUT, WHAT IS SEO?
Search engines assign weight to a web page based on several factors, including keywords (words people use to search for what they are looking for, not your company name!), content and links. SEO focuses on “organic searches,” or the results of searches that a search engine pulls up. SEO is not the same as “pay-per-click.” Some companies pay top dollar for “pay-per-click” ads that place them in the “sponsored links” portions of a page. Since 85 percent of search engine users click on organic search results versus pay-per-click, a good organic SEO program is generally a better place to start, and a lot more cost-effective.
A well-designed website with strategic messaging combined with SEO is crucial for reaching your audience when they are ready to buy. SEO improves volume and quality of traffic to your web site from the major search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing via organic search results. Be careful though, as there are a lot of scams and empty promises out there. One-shot strategies and quick fixes may temporarily put you on the map, but typically can’t keep you there. A good SEO firm will place and keep your website in the upper rankings of search engine results when selected keyword phrases are queried. Incyte Marketing starts by analyzing the keywords of a client’s site and how highly their site ranks when frequently-searched terms are entered into the search engines.
SEO can be very labor intensive and requires consistent maintenance, as the search engines are constantly changing their search algorithms. Additionally SEO is competitive depending on the competitiveness of the keywords—other companies, jockeying for position can knock you off the first page. Staying at the top requires a long-term commitment, but you should be able to work SEO maintenance into your budget if you re-allocate funds you’re spending on less productive strategies. Links from social media sites drive even more people to your website and get relevant communities talking about your brand. We will discuss Social Media Marketing in a forthcoming article.
Traditional marketing has long relied on “push” advertising such as radio and TV ads that people are not looking for, taking advantage of a more or less captive audience. Push advertising depends on consistently spending a lot of money to keep your brand in the “top of awareness” realm. Advertisers are spending a lot of money with an ineffective shotgun strategy, hoping to hit a few people who “happen” to hear a TV or radio ad when they are ready to buy, though even the most clever ads don’t usually lead to direct sales. This is an outdated paradigm. The reality is that most people these days go to the Internet and search for what they want when they are ready to buy.
“On-demand” marketing, such as SEO and Social Media Marketing puts you in front of buyers when they are looking for you. On demand advertising ensures that you stay at the top of the collective mind we call the Internet—specifically search engines—mainly Google,often leading to increased sales. Granted, a balanced marketing plan will include focused traditional media in its portfolio to complement your SEO strategies. Publications like Cascade Business News effectively target local business and help to build and maintain your brand in your community. But if you don’t have a good SEO strategy in place, you are most likely missing out on a lot of “ready-to-buy” traffic.
Peter Drucker said that “the entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.” SEO takes advantage of Internet opportunities and is equivalent to having a sales team working 24/7 at a far less cost. Ensuring that your business comes up on that first page is crucial in today’s fast-paced marketplace. Put SEO at the top of your marketing plan and start realizing the benefits!
Kelly Walker is president of Incyte Marketing of Bend. He can be reached at 541-419-9976