Entrepreneurial companies today can’t be ignorant of the acronym SEO any more than they can P&L.
Search engine optimization has become a necessity for companies to be found online and to secure new customers. It’s also a moving target, with Google engineers changing the rules of the game (a.k.a. “search algorithms”) to stay a step ahead of the millions of people and companies trying to game their system. Mike Mothner, founder and CEO of Wpromote, which helps small firms as well as large brands with online marketing and search optimization, gave us his perspective on the ever-changing world of search and what small businesses need to know to stay competitive.
What are the trends in SEO that make a difference right now for small businesses, compared with a year ago?
We are currently seeing an explosion in both the reach and importance of local search, or search queries that have the intent of returning localized content. A significant portion of search queries have always contained local intent, but recently the number has been significantly rising, much in part due to the explosion of mobile search onsmartphones with desktop-like browser speed and quality. Because of this, we’re seeing Google allocate significantly more search results real estate to localized content such as to map listings. Because of this, it is absolutely integral to have detailed, fleshed-out local business listings, such as Google Places listings, as well as Yelp, Citysearch and others, that will help populate these results but also directly drive users to your site — online and offline alike. Encourage customers to leave reviews for you.
How is social media — Facebook and Twitter especially — playing a role in small business search results?
Google and friends have taken note that their traditional method of gauging a web site’s worth or authority by tallying and weighting traditional links from other websites into your site needed to adapt to reflect the new ways that sharing is occurring: namely tweets and Facebook posts. If instead of blogging about a site that I like, I tweet it out, Google’s rankings will lose relevance if they do not start to find intelligent ways to integrate those indicators into their search results. As with all major overhauls to the infamous algorithm, it will be a slow process, but without a doubt it is a trend that will continue to move this direction for the foreseeable future, and the takeaway is to make sure that your companies social media profiles, messaging, and two-way engagement is timely, relevant, and reflective of your organization and it’s overall online marketing goals.
How does a business know that it’s time to hire an outside firm to manage its SEO?
If online marketing — be it with the purpose of driving online sales, creating leads to generate offline sales, or overall awareness — is integral to your overall business, chances are there are advantages to having an outside firm help maximize that value. In the case of Wpromote, for some clients we act as essentially the entire marketing department so they can focus on their core business. For others, we act as high-level strategy consultant to help dedicated in-house SEO resources be efficient, effective and help to drive the overall strategy in the constantly evolving world that is SEO.
What’s the ROI model for hiring a search-oriented marketing agency?
We believe in evaluating the progress and results as holistically as possible, since there are a number of direct and indirect benefits of great SEO work. Tracking keyword rankings, and the traffic and results that result from those increased rankings are the most obvious starting point. But great SEO implies improving the user experience on your site, which in turn increases the value of all traffic to your site. Our philosophy around SEO also includes the creation and syndication of content to other influential sites online, which can drive non-search-engine traffic, brand equity and overall awareness of your company, which can be an enormous, though indirect, benefit of your SEO efforts. We try to identify, track and report on all of these benefits of SEO with the goal of articulating the larger value to your business.