What is SEO?
And what the heck does SEO have to do with a mountain?
At its most basic, SEO is easy to understand. Your clients want to find you. You go to Google and set up your website and bam, you can be found. With so many other voices trying to be heard, you want a way to be found first. Search Engine Optimization is the method by which you can be found easier, and optimally first.
Unfortunately, that’s where SEO stops being easy. There are elements that are simple enough to understand, but then much of it gets lost in gobbledygook; tags, links, backlinks, etc. etc.
When discussing a client’s position, businesses go through four stages of SEO.
Imagine a business is a person looking to climb a mountain.
The four Stages
A new business that has no SEO and likely can’t be found on Google or Bing. These clients have no position to start with and often don’t understand SEO.
- Nowhere to somewhere
The business has been operating for awhile and has some SEO. You can find them by keyword search, but they aren’t likely on the first page. Their SEO may be done on purpose or it may be just a coincidence because of the things they’ve naturally done with their website. On the other hand, a business with good SEO may be found here during their climb.
- Somewhere to first page
The business that has been operating for awhile and can be found on the first page at the bottom. They have been using SEO to get to this point whether on their own or with an agency.
- King of the castle
A business that has made it to the top. Now try to stay there.
SEO and the mountain
Let’s go back to our mountain for a moment. Imagine the first client as one starting out in the rolling hills. It’s easy to move forward. In fact, they can walk up the hills without much trouble. There is very little climbing and the weather is fairly calm. Because there is so much space, even if they have someone walking nearby, there is enough room for everyone to move forward on their own path without much competition.
As you get further up the hill however, things get more difficult to traverse. Eventually you have to start using your hands to climb and the neighbours you saw in the distance seem to be getting closer, sometimes butting ahead or squeezing you into a small confines as you compete for space.
Eventually you will come to a point where you need to be an experienced climber to travel the last length of the trek. You need to have the proper gear and be ready to fight for your position with the other climbers and with the winds that are buffeting you around. Every once in awhile a rock may break loose and send you tumbling down the mountain until you can recover and start over again.
SEO is the mountain
As you get closer to the summit, it becomes more difficult to make those small advances. It’s not that you aren’t doing a good job with your SEO. In fact, if you get this far, you’re using every SEO tool in your toolshed just so you don’t tumble back down the rankings.
As a matter of course, Google, the owner of the mountain has a strange sense of humour. What may be legal today for SEO purposes, may not be usable tomorrow. That means there will be times that you will fall flat on your face and not know why. Your efforts will seem to be for nothing until you can reset and reengage. To be fair, it isn’t for the sake of change that Google does what they do. It’s goal is to give the client the best experience possible. Sometimes it requires small changes to their algorithm to give the best experience to the most people.
Once you gain the summit, there are others vying to be king of the castle. You have to continue to work just to stay relevant and on top. The work you do at that level is harder and more technical and all for little or no change in position.
What to do about it
The best way to achieve your SEO, especially in the beginning, is to do the right thing for the client. Sure there are some technical things you can do to achieve that last few steps, but to get you there, the best thing is to be supportive to your audience. Not just supportive, but educational. Sometimes you can tell them a joke. And sometimes you have to pat their back and say it’s okay, or for that matter allow them to pat yours in the same manner.
What do I mean by all that sentimentality?
Social, social marketing, blogging, SEO, and even Google adwords.
The best strategy to increase your SEO is literally be engaged with a full onslaught of marketing channels. You need everything firing on all cylinders to ensure your position inches upwards on those rankings. The more people coming to your site, the happier Google is and you rank higher so more people searching find you.
Focusing on SEO alone is a dangerous gamble for most businesses. Sure, if you’re in a market that no one is doing SEO then you can get away with it. Unfortunately, times have changed and many businesses are seeing the benefit of a digital marketing presence. As more voices start to orate then the job of doing your SEO becomes that much harder. You are trying to hit a moving target while on horseback and being blindfolded.
By reaching out with multiple channels then invariably your SEO will naturally feel the boost. Blogging will increase your site size and relevance. That means your summit becomes bigger as you start to rank well with other keywords. Traffic from social platforms will affect your traffic. A well placed Google ad will help now and then as well.
Before you fire your SEO agency, remember there is a lot that goes into building your SEO. Remember to do your research from a non-tainted browser. (See here.)
With this in mind, if they aren’t producing then move on. Just be careful that you aren’t leaving for greener pastures only to find a snow filled mountain.
Is marketing the solution to a sagging business?
Everything seemed to be going so well.
The phone was ringing off the hook. Business was booming. You were destined to beat the statistics for a new startup.
But then something happened. The calls started to fade. Business slipped a little. Determine, I’m sure you checked out every way to increase sales. You’re active on every digital channel; Facebook, Twitter, Google.
SEO must have seemed like a Godsend. You pay a company x amount of dollars and you’re phone number comes up first. Who wouldn’t want that.
Of course you want to check their progress. Who wouldn’t?
So what did you do? You checked your ranking, right? They’ve been working on your SEO for months so you must be top of the pile by now. So what do you see? Second page? Or worse, third page. THIRD PAGE!
Whether you have someone else doing the work or you’re doing it yourself, there is no mistaking that frustration. There’s a lot of work that goes into search engine optimization; link building, tag editing, blogging, monitoring. The list can and does go on.
What does your SEO progress look like?
Only recently I had a friend express his frustration about his own efforts. He’d purchased a business about a year ago and changed the name so he had to go through the long process of building his online presence so he chose SEO. It was a good play. I had suggested it at the time.
But just for curiosity I looked up his business using the keywords he was using. It’s kind of like saying, it’s not you, it’s me, or rather my browser. I don’t have a magical browser that makes your position look better than it really is. It isn’t even luck that things look different on my computer.
No, the reality is something a little more mundane.
I’m a ninja. I work in the dead of night and leave no trace of my passing.
Well, I’m not really, but when I’m verifying SEO terms, I do act like one.
I realize you’re obviously asking what I’m talking about so at the risk of doing away with a bit of the mystery, I’m going to tell you my little secret. I use private mode. That’s it. I search for companies using incognito mode.
Imagine it like this. Think of your search like a physical path. You’re walking through the tall grass in search of something. Now, if you search today and tomorrow and the day after then you’re tramping the grass down, creating a well-worn path towards your destination.
When it comes to your SEO work, your well-worn path leads you to the destination you’ve already explored. Every time you search again, you’re only taking that same path.
When you use private mode, Google or Bing don’t take that previous path into consideration.
Suddenly, my friend wasn’t on third page, but on first and half way up the page. His new perspective made his eyes light up like a Christmas tree. FIRST PAGE. The holy grail.
There was a time when the only way you could do the private search was by erasing your entire browser history, something that I’m sure some people revel in, but just the same, I’ll pass. I like the path I’ve taken for many things, just not for monitoring my clients progress.
Of course, there is another way to show off your ninja-like skills however. You can just borrow someone else’s phone who hasn’t been searching your terms every day for the last six months. Voila, a fresh look.
SEO isn’t easy and it can become very tedious and frustrating when you don’t see a marked difference in your rankings. Rather than rail at the heavens however, make sure you aren’t leaving a trail.
Now that said, if you’re the kind of person who wants to see what’s making the difference, then there are a few things you should have.
Hint, you should always be the kind of person who wants to know your SEO progress.
If you are trying to do SEO without measuring where your audience comes from then you’re only doing have the job. You need an Analytics plug in for your site and then you or your SEO company can delve into the metrics that are derived. Once you know how people are coming through the door, you can double down on that marketing avenue to invite more people in.
The next time you’re talking to your SEO company ask them where you stand, better yet, ask them to show you. Progress takes time, but if they can’t show you any improvement, then they aren’t working for your best interest.
Why is the map so important?
Not every industry can benefit from the map, but if you look up some, such as “SEO Kingston”, or “Doctor Kingston”, you will see that Google automatically populates a map. It’s called Google Places and as a business, it’s one of the first places you should populate with information. All you have to do is set up your free Google my Business account.
The map has become a great tool for people. The list is perfect so people can choose the best location based on Google’s recommendations. Many people don’t realize that it isn’t the same thing as Google’s search list. You may not rank well on one, while you come first on the other.
But how can a business take advantage of the map? How can you increase your position?
1. Business information
- Your Business Information has to be on your Google business page and across the internet. Once Google can confirm your information is accurate, it will determine that you are a real company and that you’re local. Make sure you add your company information to as many listings as possible.
This section is really broken down into a few smaller points. Make sure your name, phone number, and address are correct and consistent and local. You will also want to make sure your category is correct. You don’t want to compete with Walmart if you aren’t in the same industry.
2. Google Business Page Photos
- Adding photos to your business page will help prove to Google that you’re real as well. Not only that, but people looking at your business page will be able to see what your facility is like. If you are show-worthy then people will be more inclined to show up.
3. Google Map
- Embedding a Google Map on your website may seem like a you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours situation, but it isn’t. It’s more that Google can verify your location if you have their map on your page proving it.
4. Google Reviews
- Google believes in the power of social proof. It’s why they have Google+ and why they have a review system. In fact, having more reviews will overweight everything. It’s arguably one of the most important things you go do to make sure people not only see your flag on the map first, but explore yours if you aren’t first. People will tend to gloss over a business that has fewer or no reviews. Making sure your reviews are populated with write-ups is very important too. According to Search Engine Land, 88% of consumers see reviews as powerful as personal recommendations.
Aside from item three, you don’t have to be a web developer to accomplish these items. You want to make a habit of getting them right however so you can ensure people are choosing you over your competition.
Get into the habit of searching for your company to see where you show up. Add your contact info to every new directory that you find, but make sure it’s consistent.
When it comes to reviews, it can never hurt to ask. I’m sure you’re already doing a super fantastic job for them so everyone will want to shout your praises. Saying it, and writing it down or having the time to think about it are two different things however. The best thing you can do is send them an email asking for a review. Be honest with them, you need the reviews to spread the word.
5 Great Ways To Determine The Quality Of A Company
There was a time when the yellow pages ruled the world. It’s not like they had a death grip like a character from A Game of Thrones, more like there weren’t many options to choose from. If you had a business and didn’t use the yellow pages, you better hope that word of mouth was exceptional in your hometown.
Like Kodak, however, the digital age is quickly pulling the company apart as it tries to reinvent itself. Daily, the company touts itself now as an authority, telling its clients that it knows what it means to secure them a digital presence.
But does it?
Anyone can SAY they know what they are talking about. I could start up a company and create a page tomorrow for dentistry. That doesn’t mean I’m qualified however. And because industries such as web design or window installation don’t require credentials to operate, you are left wondering how to choose from the plethora of companies.
What should you be looking for? What proof can a company offer in their digital presence to prove they are as qualified as they promise?
Does the company have a website?
- A website with an easy explanation of what you do. If I have to search for what you do down in the far reaches of your website, then you haven’t accomplished your goal. You have about thirty seconds to prove your value.
Do they blog?
- Not just a blog, but an active one. Of course, this isn’t the be all end all. Some people are busy. But for some companies such as ours, it’s an absolute must. It doesn’t matter if we are posting daily, weekly, or monthly. What matters, is that you have a reason to come back periodically to learn something from us.
- Additionally, the blog has to be educational, not promotional. Your audience can tell.
Are there Google reviews and are they on the map?
- Go ahead. Look up SEO Kingston. Right now, ClickHelp has about 20 reviews. As a company telling you the importance of reviews, we better have them. Those reviews need to be real and have comments. A blank review with a bunch of stars can come from anywhere. It’s harder to fake a review with a write up.
What is their position on Google?
- Some industries are hard to rank well. There are a lot of players vying for top spot. If your SEO is working then you should rank well. Of course, SEO is a long game.There are companies that pay for Google Ad space in hopes of getting people to unwittingly click on their ads not knowing they aren’t a ranked page, but an ad. Just look for the little green box next time. [Ad]
Are there Facebook reviews?
- It isn’t just Google that has reviews. Facebook has a lot of great content and social proof in the form of reviews to show you which companies are worth working with.
Yellow pages knows it. Gone are the days of just choosing the first person in the phone book so the company is trying to redefine itself as a digital player.
Your potential clients are doing more research before making that call. They know what they’re getting into. And that means you need to do more to stay relevant.
5 Important Steps To Make Blogging Simple
Even the word makes some people groan in agony. They likely remember the drivel that the internet produced in the 90’s. Fan-fiction and character homage pages. Why did I like Dana Scully so much?
In a word, they were terrible.
But that was before SEO. We all know what Search Engine Optimization is for; to get you in front of more eyeballs. And blogging is SEO’s little cousin. Not only will it help you index more pages and establish a “bigger” presence, but it will show your audience that you have something important to say. You do have something important to say, don’t you?
At ClickHelp, we blog. At first, it was a little scary, but now, it flows like a conversation. Just as you would when sitting down with us over a cup of tea, we impart information out in little tidbits and how-to’s. What? You didn’t know that Facebook is one of the best ways to get business? Click Here. And oh my God, you aren’t serious that you didn’t know there was an APP for that?!? There is, and a whole lot more.
Blogging is a great way to explore without being inundated with sales pitches. But that’s the point. You can’t turn every blog article into a sales pitch, trying to convert every reader into your best customer, ready to spend thousands of dollars the second you snap your fingers. Blogging is a long game. Not just for SEO, but for your audience as well. There are a few things you need to remember about blogging to make your experience easier.
1. You need a plan
You always need a plan. A blogging plan however will make things easier when you sit down to write. You won’t spend nearly as much time coming up with topics if you have a plan to follow.
2. Have high quality pictures
I recognize that you’re blogging not taking photos, but there are two sayings that quickly come to mind: A picture is worth a thousand words and people really do judge a book by its cover. When you have relevant pictures of decent quality, people are more likely to click on the link or the social share post. Who knows, those pictures may inspire your next article.
3. Remember that it’s a conversation
Just like you would speak to me about your widgets or how to use them best, you write it down. Once it’s on paper, or digital paper, you can have someone edit or help you post it. What matters is that you actually write it down. The rest? That’s what editors are for.
4. Set time aside for writing
We get it. You’re busy. That doesn’t mean you should forget the small things. Set time aside weekly to put your thoughts down. It doesn’t have to be much; it just has to be consistent. Skipping a week or two now and then is one thing, but if you find yourself spending more time researching with your eyes closed then you’ve lost all interest.
5. Get Help
I left this until last, because it’s a good idea for you to have a hand in the blogging, even if it’s only a small part. Once you know what the idea is then you can farm it out to an agency or freelancer. There are other ways to get help though. You can get a foil. Just like Sherlock had Dr. Watson, you can have someone question you so you are forced to speak about something. Then all you have to do is record the conversation and you have the basis for a post, maybe even three.
There are many reasons to blog, but don’t let fear or apathy get in your way from getting it done. Get out there and blog. You can do it, even if you don’t think it’s possible. Know what you want before getting help so it becomes all the easier in the end.
If you are looking for help however, check out this article about how to choose the best freelancer.
Does My Website Need SEO?
It’s pretty absurd how often I hear this simple statement, “Thomas I have a website, now what?” The answer is actually pretty drop dead simple when you go back as to the WHY you have a website. The truth behind it all is that you have it because of business. You want more business and so ultimately you want to get more eyeballs on your website because you want to generate more revenue. SEO is the basis of this. Search engine optimization is the key to getting your website found. But the real question is should every website focus on SEO as their next marketing endeavour? The answer is a resounding, “No!”
The simple truth is that there are some businesses I work with that are so raw and immature in their own business development that dumping money into SEO right at the beginning is just not good money spent. That might be great for some SEO companies, but that would be really bad Karma for me, and bad marketing advice. Balancing and juggling your marketing dollars is often really hard when you’re starting out because often your marketing budget doesn’t exist. The key here is knowing what you are about as the business owner you are. Are you able to survive in this type of landscape? Does dumping resources into SEO translate if: 1) It takes time to organically rank (and if anyone tells you otherwise, they’re lying) 2) You need clients now because you need to generate revenue.
It takes time to organically rank (and if anyone tells you otherwise, they’re lying)
So here’s the thing you need to figure out: Figure out how much money you have to spend on your marketing dollars. Weather it’s $100, $1000, $10000, come up with a figure. Then next is look at what the expectation as to what that number is supposed to is to generate. So if you want 2 new clients based off your $100 expectation then you know that each client acquisition going to cost you $50. Now you can reverse engineer how to find a new client for $50. Does that mean then we advise that you should be doing SEO? Does that mean you should be doing Google Adwords or Facebook Ads? Or does it mean if you’re a plumbing business that I tell you to go to a residential area and shake every home owners hand because $50 just isn’t enough to get the type of ROI you’re expecting. You see, web companies are usually great at design, but they don’t take into account the digital marketing funnel. That’s something that’s really important and it helps us execute on the behalf of our clients.
Sometimes it means we just can’t SEO a client because they’re frankly speaking doing bad business. SEO can’t fix bad business. The next time someone mentions that they’re an SEO guru think about what they’re trying to sell you. And think about if it’s really in your best interest. It’ll shock you when actually look at the type of things they’re doing and how it is not executing for their clients.
We’re straight practitioners, period.