In an industry that is constantly changing, retargeters (and their clients) need to understand the difference between search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM).
Stathis Edel, the president of Austin, Texas-based FindMyCompany.com, addressed this issue with a presentation that you can watch here via the links below. Some of the main points are summarized here.
Edel founded FindMyCompany.com in 2006. With a background in IT management and software integration deployment, he built his company’s reputation by combining website development and SEO services into long-range SEM strategies.
“We focus on ‘conversion science,’ the art of converting a visitor into a client,” Edel said in the presentation.
In the old days, people would just cram their sites with keywords and call it a day. These so-called black-hat SEO techniques don’t cut it these days; in fact, they’ll hurt you more than they’ll help.
Ninety percent of people searching on Google aren’t going to look past what comes up on the first page of search results. These days you need some “link juice,” a phrase that refers to the stuff that will get your ranking to the top of the list.
Backlinks, or links from other websites, are a big part of it.
“The main responsibility of an SEO company is to accumulate and collect more quality backlinks,” Edel said. Backend link development is part of what FindMyCompany offers clients.
“As an SEO company, we are a member of link exchange networks,” Edel said. “We know how to exchange with other websites out there, to accumulate more links and manually place more links out there on business directories, forums, social networks, thematically-related websites, and so forth.”
Another thing that counts big is engaging, informative content. For your overall search strength, content counts for about 40 percent of your ranking on Google.
“If your content doesn’t get updated, you’ll notice your ranking slip, no matter how much back-end development there is,” Edel said. So a huge “backbone” of backlinks is great, but it won’t help much if the front end (up-to-date, quality content) isn’t there.
Edel says you have to be mindful of what he calls the “two-second rule.” That’s the rule that basically states that someone will decide within two seconds if they’re going to look more closely at what you have to offer or if they’re going to hit the “back” button and go check out what your competitors have to offer.
“We include content authoring in our campaigns. Most importantly for the home page, of course.”
You should optimize different pages for different keywords, with no more than four or five keywords per page. The home page will focus on your top two or three keywords; your sub-pages should focus on your “long-tail terms.”
In addition, Copyscape can be used to sniff out duplicate content on your pages (another thing Google doesn’t like).
Reputation monitoring is another aspect of SEM. What are people saying about your company online? With the merger of Bing and Yahoo, local reviews have become more and more important. Have your clients incentivize reviews—i.e., have them ask their customers for testimonials and positive reviews on Yelp and Google Places.
There are some tools that you’ll need to use when developing a SEM campaign. Compete.com will help you compare your traffic with that of your competitors. You can self-audit with the Google Adwords Keyword Tool or a comparable keyword research product. Check your backlinks (and your competitors’) by going to Link Diagnosis (works in Firefox).
Once you have a full report based on your self-audit, you’re ready to identify your ROI and develop a good SEM strategy that takes into account the search terms people are using to find your service.
A thing to remember about PPC: One of the top mistakes people make in pay-per-click marketing includes not disabling ads and keywords that aren’t doing well. A managed PPC campaign is important. You have to be aware of the quality score for your keywords and your ads.
“If you’re not testing ads to see which ones are performing better, your cost per click is going to skyrocket,” Edel said.
Budget for your search network and your content network. Create a Google sitemap file to help you get off on the right foot with Google by telling it how to weigh different parts of your website.
A lot of sites start with a PageRank score of PR3 or PR4, but they still don’t show up in a Google search. Google knows you’re there; you’re not optimized and you don’t have backlinks that are targeting to your keyword focus.
“So as soon as we do the work, we start to see traction,” Edel said. “We love those sites.”
“If you’re starting out at ground zero, usually we get really good traction between months three and four. At that point you will begin to feel the difference. You’re getting enough traction into your website where you’re noticing the phone calls and the form submissions.”
As you embark on the journey to go beyond SEO and develop a comprehensive SEM strategy, here are some things to consider:
Is everyone on the same team? Make sure your developers and your SEO staff are working together, not against one another. Developers, for example, sometimes aren’t aware of a bit of code written by SEO staff (or they don’t understand the need for it), and they’ll overwrite it without telling anyone. That can create a lot of problems down the line, and no one will even know why.
Is your site local? Google is taking sites seriously that have at least three or four Google Places reviews, for example. This gives you authority, in Google’s eyes. It tells them you’re an actual company, not a fly-by-night operation.
“Even if your geotarget is national or international, your authority (as determined by Google), can also help you with local results.”
Is your site smartphone compatible? Mobile phones are the number-one access point for local information. In other words, if someone is looking for a local service, they’re more likely to search on their phone than anywhere else.
Is your site consistent? Adding fresh content will help you, but did you know that Google also awards for consistency? You can get dinged for constantly changing your site in drastic ways. So update your site, but leave most of the content the same.
Can you afford not to incorporate social media into your SEM campaign? You know the answer to this one. In a word, no.
To learn more about these topics, you can see Edel’s full presentation via the links below:
Google Seminar (Part 1) - When did you first start using Google? WHY?
Google Seminar (Part 2) – What is SEO? What is SEM? What’s the Difference?
Google Seminar (Part 3) – Search Engine Marketing Mistakes – AVOID!
Google Seminar (Part 4) – BIGGEST Changes to Google & Bing
Google Seminar (Part 5) – SEO Bootcamp and How to Audit your Website
Google Seminar (Part 6) - How to Evaluate an SEO Provider
Google Seminar (Part 7) – Make Money on Google Adwords