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.
Google is the most powerful search engine. Think of Google as a toll road. It controls the road and its tollbooth is on it. If you want to benefit using the road, you have to pay the toll.
There are a few ways to pay the toll. The fastest way is to use AdWords, Google’s pay-per-click advertising service. Those ads appear at the top of the search results page and down the right hand side, too, as shown below.
Google’s AdWords is complicated and will cost you a lot of money if you don’t do it right. It takes a lot of understanding to use it efficiently. Even then, it’s continually changing. Things Google used to allow it no long allows. You likely won’t know about it until you try to run your ads.
Another way to pay Google’s toll is with search engine optimization — SEO. This is a fancy term for getting your website to rank high in the search results. The coveted position to rank at is the very top — the number 1 position for a given search term — because that’s where the most traffic is. The top spot is also the hardest to get to.
Using SEO takes longer to get your website seen than using Google’s AdWords, which takes just a few hours. But, again, the cost can be high. Yet, if you can wait a few months to get your site ranking high using SEO techniques, it’s the better way to go.
Hire an SEO Consultant?
Doing SEO for your site isn’t necessarily free; it takes time (yours and your employees) and may require a consultant. But it can cost far less than AdWords. On the other hand, SEO can cost you a bundle if you remain in the dark about it. For example, you can hire someone to manage your SEO and they can promise you the world. But many SEO consultants can’t deliver. They just want your money. Then there are those who say, “Anyone who promises you they get you ranking number 1 is not to be trusted — no one can guarantee that.” When you hear those 2 conflicting statements, you don’t know whom to believe.
If you’re going to pay someone to do your SEO, then get proof he can do it before you hire him. Ask to talk with his clients, for feedback. Don’t let the SEO consultant tell you he ranked, say, 10 sites highly for certain keywords, because about any site can rank highly for an obscure keyword. The real question is, how good is that keyword? In other words, a site may rank highly for a keyword no one is searching for, which means the keyword has little or no competition.
The real test of an SEO professional is how well she ranks keywords that are profitable to her clients. For example, say I’m offering SEO services for a roofing contractor in Denver. The keyword phrase “roofing Denver” is very competitive. The phrase “fix a leak in my roof” isn’t nearly as competitive. The former will yield more business but take longer. The latter won’t take near as long and won’t likely create any business.
What Keywords to Use?
If your site is new, you won’t have the data to know which keywords attracted profitable customers. But there are tools you can use to help you decide. The most popular is the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. It shows you what people are typing in to find various things. It shows the average amount of times a term is searched a month and the average cost advertisers pay when their ad is clicked.
But it’s nothing more than a guideline. I have found repeatedly that it isn’t particularly accurate. For example, Keyword Planner may report that your keyword is being searched 1,000 times per month with an average cost per click of $5.00. Just know, in my experience, that the keyword could actually be searched twice that or half that, at 50 percent more or less expense.
The next tool you can use is Majestic SEO. This is an Australia-based service that can reveal valuable information about websites. You can use Majestic SEO to tell you what other websites are doing to rank as high as they are. Then you can simply do what those sites are doing but do it better and more of it.
But you still don’t know the keywords to focus on. Google Keyword Planner and Majestic SEO will provide a good list. But you won’t know for sure until you have your site up and it’s getting traffic. Then you’ll use Google Analytics to track your traffic and where it’s coming from. That will help understand which keywords to emphasize with your SEO.
Take Control of SEO
Relying on Google for traffic is confusing; it frequently changes. Take control of your SEO; do it yourself. Experiment on websites that you don’t care about at first and make your mistakes there. Then work on your primarily site. If you are busy, hire people to do certain parts for you, while you control the overall logistics of the SEO. If this isn’t possible, you will have to rely on someone to do it for you. It’s expensive and there are many charlatans who will gladly take your money.
In future articles, I’ll provide the basics of how to manage and implement your own search engine optimization. At least you’ll gain enough knowledge to know if the SEO consultant you’re considering is competent and honest.