This is a guest post by Matt Cilderman. He is an SEO Expert and the owner of Cilderman Solutions, a digital marketing agency based in Bergen County, NJ.
Did you know that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day as we upload photos, videos, and practically live-stream our existence online? How are people going to notice you or your business through all the noise?
If you are following Melinda’s journey, you know that your brand’s personality is something that will make you memorable in the minds of your customers or clients.
However, how will people learn about you or your brand’s personality in the first place? The answer: marketing.
There are many different ways to market your business. Today we’re going to talk about search engine optimization or SEO. This is a big term and may seem a little scary...but as you’ll find out, it’s not that scary at all.
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
SEO is a way to design your website so that it ranks highly in Google or Bing search results (so potential customers can find you). Optimization often includes the writing, layout, and more technical “back-end” aspects of your website (page speed, mobile usability, etc.).
Just think of SEO as the best way to help Google understand what your website is about. Then, more advanced optimization includes competing for the top spots in search results because Google considers you an authority on your chosen topics.
5 Reasons You Should Choose SEO Over Social Media
Even though social media is newer and shinier right now, people often choose to invest in SEO (through blogging, or inbound-content marketing) for a number of reasons:
For years, search engines have been the top traffic source to most websites. In 2017, about 35% of website traffic came from search engines, compared to 25% from all the different social media sites.
Search engines help fulfill an immediate need. For instance: someone is searching to hire a designer or brand strategist and you have the opportunity to appear in search results and be hired right away. This is more immediate and direct than social networks. Yes, I purchased Hatchimals for my niece last Christmas, but that doesn’t mean I want to keep seeing ads for them on my social feeds.
Also, social media marketing is most often used to create awareness of your company, build relationships, and convince customers they need your services. This process can often take years. Then they may just end up searching for you by name and visiting your website to hire you anyway.
Actively managing 10 or more social networks (posting, customer service, advertising, etc.) can burn you out. Many small businesses find it easier to focus their effort on optimizing one website since this is where most purchases occur.
Social networks change their rules constantly or even die off. Time and money spent on some of these networks can turn out to be a bad investment. For example: think of all the companies who paid for page likes and followers on Facebook. Now, only about 1% of these followers will be shown the company’s posts. Some would argue this was a huge waste of money.
Now, we aren’t recommending you give up on social media marketing. It is an important part of a balanced marketing strategy. Just pointing out that it may not be as “shiny” as you originally thought.
Further Explaining SEO
At the risk of oversimplification, we’re gonna break down our following SEO discussion into 2 categories. The first one is what is commonly called “branded search,” where someone already knows you and searches for you or the company by name. The second involves competing in search results for higher-value terms to acquire new customers.
Let’s hope you’ve never had to utter the words: “no, our website is not the top search result for our name...see the 6th one down? That’s us. Try that one.” Or, “well, just keep using our website link in my email signature.”
Often branding experts say that every brand “touchpoint” combines to create a potential customer’s perception of the brand. While not everyone is expected to be SEO experts, let me suggest that ranking poorly for your own name can decrease your perceived level of professionalism or success in the eyes of potential clients.
However, SEO doesn’t just help you avoid embarrassment or make it easy for people who already know about you to go to your website, advanced optimization can do much more to bring in customers and make you money.
New Customers Who Are Ready to Buy Can Find You
A fully optimized website is essential because it helps you connect with buyers who are actively searching for your products or services. In marketing terms, it is a “bottom of the sales funnel” activity, meaning that these buyers don’t have to be convinced that they should spend money on your products or services. (which can be hard to do, is expensive, and can take years).
This targeted traffic is so valuable to businesses that SEO has become an on-going contest to beat your competitors and to outrank them in search results. Higher rankings almost always translate into higher sales!
Actionable Insights: Here are Your Next Steps
In a moment, I am going to give you some actionable advice on how to improve your website’s optimization. However, if you follow my steps for basic optimization, this will probably only make it possible for you to show up for “branded search”. For more advanced optimization, skip to the last section.
Google still uses text, specifically called keywords, to understand what a paragraph, image, video, or website is about. Keywords are the words or phrases people use to describe the paragraph, image, etc.
For the purposes of this discussion (basic optimization and how to make sure your website will be found when people search for you or your brand), our keywords are...you guessed it: your brand’s or your own name.
Location, Location, Location
Now, you don’t want to go overboard with this, but make sure to use your name in a few important places throughout your site:
Title Tag or Page Title:
Keep the title to between 50-60 characters long. Google will truncate it depending on the size of the viewer’s device. However, your homepage title should have a different format than most other pages
Homepage: “Brand Name | Location or Descriptive Keywords”. For example: “Cilderman Solutions | SEO & Web Design in Bergen County, NJ”
Other Pages: “Topically Descriptive Keywords | Brand Name”. For Example Brand Strategy & Design in Orange County CA | Marks and Maker”
Your Filename and Alt text are perfect places to use text to let Google know the subject matter of a picture.
Filename: This should be descriptive of your image and separated with dashes.
Don’t use “stop words” like “the, and, etc.” These are filtered out by search engines because they don’t really add descriptive value.
Alt text: Try to make this more descriptive than your filename.
Example: “The Cilderman Solutions Logo - White lettering on a blue background.”
You may also want to use your name in a few of these other locations...but don’t force it.
HTML headings (H1, H2, etc.)
Other, relevant media: staff photos, bio videos, etc.
One of the most direct ways to tell Google your company name and website is to sign up for a Google My Business Page. It has many great benefits, but here 3 of the best.
You will no longer have to worry about your website not being found when people search for your brand on Google.
You will gain the ability to appear on Google Maps and maybe even the local map pack that appears at the top of local search results.
Your customers will be able to leave you reviews. This form of social proof is becoming essential to business success.
Note: If you work from home and would like your home address to not show on your listing, then you are what Google calls a Service Area Business. Make sure to choose this distinction to hide your address.
More Advanced Optimization
Ranking highly in search results for money-making keywords is not achieved through a single optimization the first time you launched your website but requires ongoing optimization as you battle with your competitors for the top spots in search results. If you have mastered the basics and are looking to acquire more customers and revenue through search traffic, I can offer you 3 solutions:
Find a professional to do the work for you. We’ve created another article to help you through this challenging process: “Need SEO Expert Services? 3 Hiring Tips to Save You Time & Money!” It gives you our hiring secrets, the questions we ask to find the right candidate who has the needed skills. With our framework and guidance, you’ll find your own SEO Expert in no time.
If you prefer a more DIY solution, check out the ebook I wrote for The Futur: “Blogging for Creative Entrepreneurs: A Guide to User Experience, Search Engine Optimization, and Content Creation”. Blogging and content marketing are 2 of the most powerful tools to win the search ranking contest and this ebook will teach you how to put your inbound marketing on steroids.
Does all of this seem too overwhelming? Contact me directly and we can talk through more personalized solutions for your business.
Well, that’s probably is enough for now. Hopefully, we’ve been able to help you avoid the embarrassment of clients not being able to find your website...and given you powerful next steps to take when you are ready to get more customers from search engines.
Author: Matt Cilderman
Matt Cilderman is the author of “Blogging for Creative Entrepreneurs: A Guide to User Experience, Search Engine Optimization, and Content Creation”, which was published by The Futur. He is a noted speaker and educator with a Master’s Degree in the science of educational technology.
Matt also owns Cilderman Solutions, a digital marketing agency in Bergen County, NJ, that focuses on helping your customers find you through strategy and inbound marketing.