Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
When someone asks me about focusing on search engine optimization, the first thing I think of is that the individual is not familiar with today’s realities, in 2014, of web marketing. When asked, my response is an educational conversation that requires patience and asking the right questions to bring a business owner up to speed.
This occurred recently, when I spoke to a training-related business owner who was looking for SEO help. I started out by learning more about the business, its online presence, and whether it is dependent upon a specific geography for its revenue. Beyond that, I asked what keyword or phrase did this business owner want to show up in the search results.
I’m in the Detroit area and the business is in Denver. To reasonably duplicate the business owner’s search results, I would need to change my location in Google search to Denver, Colo. I can do this by clicking on “Search tools” in the Google results and then clicking the down arrow on the location, to change my location to a specific city and state.
In the Search tools area, I could also change the time frame and the type of results — which I did not need in this case.
Once I changed my location to Denver and searched on the requested key phrase, I found the business listed on the first page for the three major areas:
- Google AdWords advertising;
- Local listings in Google Maps;
- Organic search results.
At this point I asked the business owner where was the problem. He concurred he was seeing similar results. However, he wasn’t the top organic listing or otherwise above his competitor. He wanted to know what else could he do with SEO to consistently be above his competitor.
Personalized Search And Geographic Results
I explained to the business owner that, under the circumstances, he was actually performing well with his business — showing in different search result areas. We continued the conversation by performing the same search for areas north, south, east, and west of Denver. In all cases he showed up differently. He was quite surprised how much the results changed in such a small geographic area around Denver.
The search results on any search engine are dependent upon many factors. If you take four computers, connected to the same Internet connection, performing the exact same search simultaneously, they will all likely have different results. Factors that influence these results are:
- If you are logged in to a search engine account;
- Your search history;
- The location of your Internet connection.
These factors affect the search results whether you are in New York City or Los Angeles. The results are different and this is where personalized search comes into consideration.
While I understand geographic factors affecting the search results, I am dubious about my search history affecting the search results. Take politics, for example. If you only search for topics about one political party over another, chances are you will never learn about the opposing views. The search engines are feeding you what you prefer, meaning you will never get the opposite view in order to grow your perspective.
Can you turn off personalized search? Sure. But, how many people do that or even are aware of their options in their search engine account settings?
Not a One-time Fix
My conversation with the business owner continued. He wanted to know what could he do on his website for SEO.
We started by checking how large of a website he has. Because Google Webmaster Tools was not set up for his site, we had to find out how many pages Google identifies, how recent were his updates, and how frequently he has updated his website.
To do this, I used a search engine operator, to refine the search results — “site:” + “web address”. I further enhanced the search results by modifying the time frame to the past month.
What I learned is he has only a 40-page website and in the past 30 days no new pages were created. I explained to him that having a static website and only performing this work once was no longer going to be effective. Rather he needs to consider increasing the density of his website, which would be an ongoing process with no end.
Rather he needs to consider increasing the density of his website, which would be an ongoing process with no end.
Developing new web pages that were educational, at least 300 words, and at least one per week would be a good starting point for him. As these pages were added to his website, they would have to be optimized for the content related to the new web page. The best way to do this is by having a blog connected to a website, which communicates with social media accounts like Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter automatically.
I explained to the business owner that he needs to set up Google Webmaster Tools to see what issues might exist with his website’s health and performance. Having a blog, I explained, will make it easy to perform social media marketing. He needs to set up his social communities and take them seriously. And, importantly, I explained that web marketing is an ongoing activity, not a one-time fix.
The Web Marketing Process
At this point I felt he understood personalized search, geographic search results, and the never-ending work on his website. So I explained to him that web marketing went beyond his website. I offered three simple items for him to consider. All of these are forms of inbound marketing.
- Content marketing. For some reason this terminology is often confusing. I explained this was about writing editorials, news releases, PowerPoint documents, infographics, and even videos — all about his business. These types of marketing materials are “content” and necessary to get the word out about your business. Once you have created the content you can distribute them through social communities, industry websites, and content sites such as YouTube and SlideShare.
- Social media marketing. I discussed with the business owner the difference between passive and active social media marketing. Sharing blog posts is an example of passive social media marketing. The next step, however, would be active social media marketing by engaging in social communities by increasing connections, commenting on what others are saying, and (depending upon the community) digging deeper into subgroups.
- Local business listings. For a business dependent on the local economy, use local business listings (e.g., Google, Bing, Yelp) that are pin-code verified, followed by updating these listings with business marketing information. Then, use a syndication services (e.g., Neustar, InfoUSA) to help spread the word to more business directories. Pin-code verification provides a higher form of security; each website has its own pin code for you to unlock and manage your local business listing.
The business owner thanked me for my time. By this point we had spent over an hour on the phone. He had quite a bit of information to assimilate.
I tried to summarize by stressing that web marketing is not a technology task. It’s a marketing process. For this reason it was not a technology firm providing an SEO task that he needed. He needed a marketing company that understood how to execute the various processes, including measuring and interpreting the results. It is a process that has no end.