As search engines get smarter about answering the questions potential customers ask, they can more easily see through low-quality, spammy content. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has finally evolved and moved beyond keyword density stuffing games and mass backlink strategies.
Still, at their base, search engines are really nothing more than question and answer engines – a searcher types in a question (even in the form of a statement) and the engine returns the best answers it has to offer. Increasingly, however, the forms of these answers take on a wide variety – sponsored ads, blog posts, web pages, videos, ratings and reviews from multiple sites, map widgets, your website, your competitors’ websites, listings sites (Houzz, Angie’s List, Yelp, etc.).
The Customer Journey, or Marketing Hourglass, is a very useful and powerful framework for aligning your marketing strategy and programs to how customers actually find you, evaluate you, buy from you, and ideally refer you to other customers. It follows seven very logical steps Know > Like > Trust > Try > Buy > Repeat > Refer.
Let’s talk about your SEO efforts and how they fit into each stage of the
This first step is the obvious one and the crux of probably 80% of the search engine optimization (organic results) and marketing (paid results) industries. Having your business simply show up at the top (or near the top) of the targeted search results your customers are entering is the most foundational aspect of SEO.
This is where you start: Get your site built correctly; get your editorial calendar and content publishing process lined out; know what your customers and prospects search for through effective keyword research; and work consistently over time to expand and improve your search rankings.
Oh yeah, don’t forget long-tail keywords either…especially if you’re in a highly competitive category or location and you’re just getting started. Long-tail emphasis could well be your most profitable path to market.
Social proof in the form of ratings, reviews and positive listings in directory sites can lead to improving search rankings and result in more traffic to your site. Take a look at search results for some of your key terms. There’s a good chance that at least three of the 10 results on page one for your keyword terms are links to “directory” or “listings” sites, such as Yelp or Angie’s List. In many cases, your placement in those lists is largely driven by customer sentiment expressed through ratings and reviews. Yes, some sites seem to be “pay for play” lists, but we’ll leave that tactic for another day.
When building your website, make sure you take full advantage of Schema vocabulary. Improvement efforts will help ensure that your snippets (reviews, about, products, etc.) are optimized for search engine results
Just as new customers need to trust you in order for them to buy from you, Google needs to trust you to show your business in search results. You can improve your ranking by including the following in your site:
Showing off your ability to deliver high value and solve customer problems through content you can work to rank in search engines can be as good as the potential customer demo’ing your product directly. Think about using videos for testimonials, case studies, product demonstrations, post-project recaps, as a way to deliver a trial or demonstration to a searcher via a search engine result.
Providing content above and beyond what’s on your web pages and blog can help spur buying decisions and continue the customer education process. Videos and infographics are two great methods for helping ensure that content that both prompts and reinforces a buying decision is ranked in search engine results. Plus, if you use content upgrades (e.g., offering a cheat sheet or checklist in return for an opt-in), you can expand your list of potential buyers quickly and keep the “just looking” folks nurtured and warmed up for future purchases.
And, while not strictly organic SEO focused, the emergence of capabilities such as Google Home Services Ads (currently only available in select markets) give you an early-stage opportunity to get ahead of your competition in your local market.
There’s a good chance your existing customers search for your site time and again to find you. Be very careful about buying ads against your brand name, as much of the click-throughs could be customers you’re paying to “reacquire” as they use Google to find your hours, menus, products, services, address, etc. It would be a much better ROI to have an optimized organic presence so that customers can find you organically.
Yes, I’m beating the reviews drum here again, but it’s because they are so important to your business. Think of reviews as digitally fueled referrals. Aren’t referrals your highest quality leads? Also, your first impression, even in search results, can fuel searchers’ decisions on whether to click through to your site, so ensuring that your presence is optimized will fuel more referral traffic to your site.
Search Engine Optimization isn’t terribly flashy, but it’s fundamental to successful marketing for small businesses.
You can still find many opportunities to outrank your competition for the keywords that bring you new customers.
But, there’s no easy button.
It takes strategy, focus and a commitment to take full advantage of the capabilities search engines use to evaluate and rank your site.
Through dedicated application of the principles here, and by organizing your content along the Customer Journey Framework, you can get the work done in bite-sized chunks that won’t overwhelm your team while at the same time providing steady results to the business.
Mark Z. Fortune, is founder of Fortune Marketing, LLC, in Little Rock, Arkansas. Mark advises small businesses on marketing strategies and programs to ensure that sales and marketing investments return positive results. He is recently certified as an SEO For Growth Consultant and has launched the https://littlerock.seoforgrowth.com/ site to help businesses across Central Arkansas. Mark is a Master Duct Tape Marketing Consultant who believes small business marketing challenges are not insurmountable; they can be met with a focused approach leveraging the principles of the Duct Tape Marketing System. He is also a co-author of the recent Amazon Bestseller The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Lead Generation. More information is available at www.fortunemarketinginc.com.