Running a business can at times, feel like a rat race. You’re constantly vying against the competition, looking for a leg up.
In today’s competitive digital world, it’s critical for your business to have an online presence. Gone are the days when plastering your company’s logo on a billboard or buying an ad in the local paper was part of an effective marketing strategy.
Now, your neighbors, kids’ teachers, church parishioners, friends and fellow small business owners turn to the web to find the service they need to solve their problems. In fact, 81% of retail shoppers conduct online research before buying, according to GE Capital Retail Bank’s Second Annual Shopper Study.
If you’re not in a position to be found, you could miss out on business in your community.
If your goal is to increase visibility on the web, local SEO services can help connect you with potential customers and other local businesses. Search engine optimization (SEO) marketing companies are a great resource for helping you get your business noticed and boost your visibility in local search results when someone in your community requires your services or products.
However, if your ultimate goal is to grow your business, you may require more services than what a dedicated SEO marketing agency can offer.
As you develop your marketing goals and plan your company’s direction, it’s important to know what local search engine optimization services can and can’t do for your business to make the best decision for your company.
What Local SEO Services CAN Do For Your Business
Industries like real estate, insurance, consumer retail and food service are notorious for fierce competition. In any given community, local consumers and B2C clients likely have multiple choices they can turn to when they require a product or service (not to mention beyond your local area in surrounding communities).
So how can a marketing agency that focuses on local SEO services help you increase your online presence? An SEO marketing agency will primarily focus on using SEO strategy by engaging in two primary activities:
- On-page optimizations, such as your website design and content
- Off-page optimizations like link building, which is the process of getting external pages to link to your website
Google uses both on-page and off-page optimizations to evaluate your website’s credibility, relevance to a search and the quality of user experience. Local SEO services will typically include these nine areas:
- Researching and analyzing your website, taking a look at how your website is performing currently
- Looking at other competitors of yours to see what’s working for their websites
- Doing a keyword analysis to see what your potential customers may be typing into search engines
- Optimizing items on your website, such as titles, meta descriptions, keywords and themes, to increase the click-through rate, time spent on page and number of pages viewed
- Determining whether the language on your website is clear, targeted and concise
- Analyzing how fast your website is and if it’s secure
- Taking a look at backlinks and whether they are helpful to your website traffic
- Providing you with regular SEO reports
- Determining what results you can expect with the budget that you have
In addition to SEO, the best agencies will evaluate traffic analytics, or where your traffic (and your top competitors’ traffic) currently comes from, how it arrives and how long it stays. Agencies should also incorporate heat maps into their analysis. These allow you to understand what’s drawing visitors’ eyes and where they are spending their time so that you can conversion rate optimize (CRO) each page.
What Local SEO Services SHOULDN’T Do For Your Business
Before we get to what a local SEO company CAN’T do for your business, we want to bring your attention to what they SHOULDN’T do for your business.
While SEO marketing agencies should perform the services we mentioned above, they shouldn’t include “Black Hat” techniques in an effort to get you results faster. While “Black Hat” techniques can give your site some short-term gains, they ultimately will cause tremendous harm to your website’s domain authority.
Black Hat SEO, or spamdexing, is the deliberate manipulation of search engine indexing. Some signs that a marketing agency is using Black Hat techniques are if they offer to:
- Cloak your site, or show a visitor one piece of content and the search engine something else
- Provide multiple redirects, leaving people to think they are going to one place but are instead sent somewhere else
- Create content farms, or thousands of websites willed with inferior content for the sole purpose of creating backlinks
- Use computer-generated content, which often has distracting wording, boring language or numerous typos
- Keyword Stuffing is when an agency fills a page with similar keywords in an effort to rank in multiple search engines. As a general rule of thumb, the main keyword should only be mentioned approximately 1% of the page's total content. So if you have a 1,000-word article, the main keyword should be mentioned around 10 times.
Black Hat SEO is a sure-fire way of giving your website a bad reputation in real life, on social media and with Google.
What Local SEO Services CAN’T Do For Your Business
Now that you know what local SEO services CAN (and SHOULDN’T) do for your business, it’s time to take a look at what they CAN’T do for your business.
While SEO marketing can help get your web pages ranked, this strategy alone doesn’t necessarily generate leads for your sales team. It’s an important step in generating leads, but it is only one successful process component.
So what’s the answer? SEO as part of a complete marketing strategy.
Here’s why. SEO relies primarily on the popularity of Google searches to increase visibility. It doesn’t generate interest in a topic that isn’t already searched for by your target audience. So it can’t increase traffic to your site if that search traffic isn’t already there to begin with.
SEO can’t always get specific keywords ranked on the first page of Google. Let’s say you sell tennis shoes and you want to rank for the keyword, “Nike.” While there is around 5 million searches each month for that keyword, the keyword difficulty is 100%. Meaning it's virtually impossible to rank on the first page of Google for that keyword. So if an SEO company says they can get you ranked for “Nike” ask them, “ranked on page 1 or just ranked in general.” If they say page one, run as fast as you can!
If you aren’t generating traffic through other means as well, search engines do not have enough information to judge your site. And, even if potential customers come to your site, it doesn’t mean you have the tools in place to guide them through the buyer’s journey.
Here’s a look at how SEO fits into the buyer’s journey. This journey, or the process a customer goes through before purchasing a product or service, includes four stages:
- Attract: Attract the ideal customer with the right messaging (content and SEO strategy) at the right time and place.
- Convert: Turn casual content consumption into a more meaningful relationship using a combination of tools (analytics, segmentation, automation, etc.) that acquire contact information and nurture your most qualified leads.
- Close: Turn your most qualified leads into sales qualified leads.
- Delight: Continue to nurture with high-value content to increase loyalty and customer lifetime value.
As you can see, SEO strategy plays a part in attracting the ideal customer. However, SEO is just one part of the entire marketing process that begins with acquiring potential leads and ends with nurturing and closing those leads.
You need a combination of internet marketing strategies to consistently generate leads, which will then help you grow your business. A full service marketing agency that uses an inbound marketing strategy can lead to building trust, positive brand perception and long-term growth.
How SEO Fits Into A Complete Marketing Strategy
SEO is an important tool to attract buyers to your website. However, while an effective SEO strategy may bring potential buyers to your website, if you don’t have the right plan in place to convert them into customers, your efforts will likely go to waste.
A complete marketing strategy uses five fundamentals to achieve results. They are:
- Contacts: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology manages contacts and understands the whole buyer’s journey.
- Buyer Personas: It’s critical to know who your ideal customers are so that you know who you are targeting with your SEO strategy.
- Buyer’s Journey: This involves understanding how people go from being strangers to leads to delighted customers who spend more and tell their friends.
- Content: SEO and content go hand-in-hand. However, content must be well-researched and of high value. Once a SEO strategy brings visitors to your website, you need to be able to offer something of high value to move a potential customer along in the buyer’s journey.
- Goals: To make progress, you must set SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
Digital marketing encompasses your whole online presence and uses various methods, including content marketing, inbound marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, pay per click and SEO.
In other words, digital marketing companies do everything an SEO company does, but as part of a comprehensive strategy. A digital marketing agency also tends to be a larger company and is able to offer you many resources like software … resources that would cost you significantly more if you purchased them individually.
When looking for a marketing agency that offers local SEO services, it’s important to choose a partner that:
- Has a proven process
- Asks the right questions to understand your business and audience
- Has long-term clients because they’re happy with their results
- Is able to meet your goals
- Uses the same process for their own company
- Sets realistic promises with clear expectations
Inbound marketing recognizes that the local audience you are targeting through your SEO strategies are in many different stages of their buyers’ journey. Web pages, content, offers and other effective tools will work together to improve the cost-effectiveness of your marketing and creating a foundation from which to grow.
Samantha, an Inbound and HubSpot Certified Marketer is the Social Media Director for InTouch Marketing.