Adding Search to Your Marketing Mix, Part IIAchieving internal buy-in, leveraging your existing assets, and understanding the unique challenges of outsourcing to a search engine optimization company
This is part two of the article Adding Search to Your Marketing Mix. Read Part 1.
Leveraging Your Assets
Search engine optimization is not something that should be done in a vacuum if you wish to achieve optimal results, nor is it a discipline in which it is necessary to start from scratch. Many of the pieces necessary for a successful SEO campaign are already in place - it is simply a matter of identifying them and using them (and your search engine optimization company) to their full potential.
While your search engine optimization company should take the time to understand everything that it possibly can about your business before embarking on your SEO campaign, nobody will ever understand your business better than you and your colleagues. This is why it is important for your search engine optimization company to help you to utilize key people that are vital to the success of the initiative, including people outside the marketing department.
Salespeople are the front line of your organization - the people who know how to talk to your prospects and understand what is involved in their decision making processes. When it comes to collaborating with your search engine optimization company on keyphrase selection (finding the phrases that will bring highly-motivated prospects to your site), your sales staff can be invaluable. Many companies have names for products or services that are very popular internally but very rarely used on the street, so targeting these phrases during your SEO campaign will not bring you the type of traffic that you seek. Your salespeople (at least the good ones) know how your prospects speak in the real world. A good search engine optimization company will help you to utilize your sales staff - and ensure they feel involved and enthusiastic about the SEO campaign in the process.
Customers can also be invaluable when it comes to selecting the keyphrases to target for your SEO campaign. Many companies are surprised when they enlist the help of a search engine optimization company to begin a campaign only to discover that their customers do not speak the same language that they do. This is common across just about every industry - most people are very intimately involved in their industries and use proprietary names, acronyms, and other verbiage that is, at the least, confusing to an outsider. Anyone who has ever been dragged along to a work function by a spouse can attest to this - it often sounds as though the employees are speaking animatedly in a foreign language, leaving the reluctant spouse to fend for him or herself. In short, talk to your best customers. Ask them what they would type into a search engine if they were looking for a company that provided what you offer. You will almost certainly be surprised by the responses.
Almost every company can boast that it has industry experts on staff - the ones who design products and services, the ones who implement them, etc. Yet very few companies take advantage of these experts to promote the company as a leader in their respective fields. Since search engines place a premium on valuable, educational content, leveraging your company experts to create articles and whitepapers for your SEO campaign is an excellent way to attain search engine rankings while also providing something of value to your site visitors. Adding this type of content throughout your SEO campaign also allows you the luxury of educating your prospects online so that they will be further down the line in the sales cycle when they eventually decide to make contact.
Now that you have learned how to effectively make the best use out of your colleagues, it's time to take an inventory of the content that is available to you for your SEO campaign initiatives. As mentioned previously, valuable content is held in high regard by engines and visitors alike. Often, however, much of this content never finds its way to the company website for whatever reason. Your search engine optimization company should help you to identify this content, which can include the following:
Does your company have whitepapers that are used during presentations, at tradeshows, and in other areas but that are not available on your website? If so, you are missing out on a great opportunity to promote your expertise, educate your prospects, and impress the search engines. Most of these whitepapers can be optimized during the SEO campaign for maximum search engine benefit with minimal changes. Even older whitepapers can usually be dusted off by your search engine optimization company and brought up to date at a fraction of the effort that would be involved in creating a new one.
Similar to whitepapers but typically shorter, articles written by your company experts can be just as beneficial as whitepapers when added to the company site and for the same reason. Unless you have signed away the rights to any articles to the original publishing entity, there is no reason why your search engine optimization company cannot use them on your website for marketing purposes. Older articles, like older whitepapers, can typically be updated with minimal effort.
Your company press releases can also be optimized and utilized on your website. In fact, optimizing press releases prior to their distribution on the newswires is also a good idea. Unlike whitepapers and expert articles, it is usually unnecessary for your search engine optimization company to go back and update press releases during the SEO campaign, since they are historical in nature.
Almost every organization has offline marketing materials that are used at trade shows, in sales presentations, or in direct mail. Since this material has (usually) already been vetted by the marketing department, it is usually fit for consumption by the general public. Often, however, these materials are left to rot once they have served their offline purpose, when they could easily be repurposed by your search engine optimization company and used to great effect on the website. Of course, there may be good reasons for this - you may not want to give away your best sales pitch to your competitors by making it public.
Although it is wise to make the most out of your existing assets when you are launching an SEO campaign, you should also be aware of some of the unique challenges that are inherent to the online arena. Keeping these challenges in mind as you begin your SEO campaign can make a large difference in your results down the road.
Understanding Searcher Behavior
In marketing, it is accepted that one must grab the prospect's attention with a compelling message in order to maintain his or her interest. On the Internet, this is paramount. People who are using search engines are, by definition, in a "searching" mode. While this is of course obvious, it is also important to remember that in no other form of marketing is it easier for the searcher to abandon your attempts to attract his or her attention and look elsewhere. Your competitors are a simple click of the 'back' button away. In fact, a recent study shows that the average visitor to a website stays for less than three minutes - hardly enough time for him or her to be sold. Searchers have been conditioned, by the sheer amount of information available, to be impatient when they do not immediately find what it is they are seeking. What does this mean? It means that your pages should offer immediate insight on the common problems that your customers face. If you cannot communicate, within a few seconds, how you understand your prospect and how you are different from the myriad of other firms out there, you have lost them, perhaps forever. With help from your search engine optimization company, take a close look at every page of your website. Do you focus on the user, or do you focus on your company? Do you immediately engage your prospects with your knowledge of what particular business challenges they are facing? If not, it may be time to rethink the most prominent marketing message on your individual pages and devise a new action plan for your SEO campaign.
Almost every company has a list of four or five companies that it considers to be its primary competitors. These are generally the companies that it believes offer products and services most similar to its own. Often these companies steal employees from one another, and they seem forever concerned with what the other is doing.
On a search engine, however, your definition of competition should be broader. It should include any company that offers the same products or services as your company that outranks you for important terms. Whether or not these companies are on your immediate radar is immaterial - a searcher will not know the difference, nor will he or she care. The Internet is, by and large, a vast and level playing field. There are quite possibly companies that you have never heard of who are using the Internet almost exclusively to promote their brands. It is important to watch out for these competitors as well as the ones you and your search engine optimization company currently track.
Similarly, SEMPO found that the number of respondents in a 2008 survey who viewed online marketing efforts as their strongest tactic or best ROI was increasing over past years. 63% of respondents saw paid search as the best return on investment in terms of marketing or advertising efforts; 49% for organic SEO; 43% for email marketing; 12% for conferences and exhibitions; 11% for public relations; and 6% for print magazines. It's apparent that profitable marketing ventures of the past are now being replaced by online initiatives at a much more rapid rate.
The Role of Patience
Unlike with most marketing channels, search engine optimization has many variables that will be outside of your control and the benefits will not be immediate. Simply put, it takes time to properly optimize a website for optimal search engine performance, and there are no guarantees as to when the engines will re-visit your site and reward you for the efforts of your SEO campaign (although, if you select the right search engine optimization company and play your cards right, it will happen).
The obvious downside is that an SEO campaign can take time before you begin to see your ROI, and unlike most other forms of traditional marketing, the timing can vary greatly. The upside, which people who successfully engage in an SEO campaign realize, is that the ROI is typically much greater than other forms of marketing (refer to the statistics above). It is also important to remember that working with a search engine optimization company is a longer-term investment, which, like other longer-term investments, takes time to mature. If you spend marketing dollars on a print ad, that ad will only be effective for as long as the publication is in the public eye. If you buy banner ads or use pay-per-click advertising, your presence will decline once you stop paying. But a website that's been properly optimized by a competent, knowledgeable search engine optimization company will likely bring you traffic for years to come.
(C) Medium Blue 2009
About the Author
Scott Buresh is the founder and CEO of Medium Blue, which was named the number one organic search engine optimization company in the world by PromotionWorld in 2006 and 2007. Scott's articles have appeared in numerous publications, including ZDNet, WebProNews, MarketingProfs, DarwinMag, SiteProNews, ISEDB.com, and Search Engine Guide. He was also a contributor to The Complete Guide to Google Advertising (Atlantic, 2008) and Building Your Business with Google for Dummies (Wiley, 2004). Medium Blue is an Atlanta search engine optimization company with local and national clients, including Cbeyond, Boston Scientific, and DeKalb Medical. To see how we can help you achieve your online marketing goals, please contact us.