I apologise for the dramatic title, I was having one of those moments.
I’m fed up with hearing about companies offering number one spots or front page listings in Google and can only assume they are only interested in fleecing clients without giving a damn about the results.
SEO is a moving target, as is the method (and usefulness) of getting your website on the front page of Google. It’s not 2005 anymore! The way people interact with the web, using a range of Apps and devices, has changed things.
And, there is no single Google front page anymore…
- People use multiple devices, some of which are mobile and use geographically targeting which Google can deliver.
- Social interaction plays a part – as much as it can in B2B but especially in B2C. What other people say about you affects your rankings (and how many companies are worth talking about?)
- Your Google is different to my Google which is different to their Google – we all have a very personalised experience.
- On a computer screen Google is grabbing more and more screen space for advertising meaning that the natural listings have less impact.
- Last but not least (but possibly most ground shifting) is Google itself, changing the rules of ranking. 2011 and 2012 has seen some massive, impact-ful changes for many companies, and not for good reasons.
Yes, we have Bing and we have Yahoo but are they even worth it? I rank highly in these search engines across various sites and rarely get a sniff. In fact, I see more from search on sites like BBC, Sky and BT.
Life After Google
More and more it’s about a complete digital marketing approach, not just a Google focused search optimisation programme. I recently read an interview on EConsultancy the other day about the future of SEO and the Technical Director of 3 Door Digital mentioned…
Notice we don’t call ourselves an SEO agency (we used to), we are a Digital Marketing Agency offering more than just search engine optimisation.
I don’t know this company and assume they are bigger than Click 71 (what with it being just me) but their ethos looks very similar – results driven digital marketing.
You Still Need SEO
Optimising your website for search engines is a given these days, it’s no longer anything special. Keyword research and specific content delivered through a technically sound website with the addition of interesting and relevant content / tools over time creates awareness and online profile.
I still think my SEO book from 2008 is relevant four years later when it comes to the basics of search engine optimisation.
But, with all the content in the world, there is one vital thing to remember…
Your Business Is Boring
There is a very high probability that what you do, especially if you sell to other businesses, is actually quite boring.
Above and beyond building a website that talks about what your boring business does, is there much point in wondering how to get to “number one in Google” by telling people what you do if it doesn’t engage people?
Does your audience even care?
There are ways to make your boring business more interesting by adding content but it needs to be something that matters to people who may well spend money with you. Contextualised case studies is a good example. The added benefit being that you have sales and marketing material to leverage in other ways using a cohesive digital marketing mix.
The Digital Marketing Mix
Business content on the web is often pretty lame with more “bespoke commercial solutions” than you can throw a Google search at.
But, by taking your boring services pages and making them specific, and by adding in some relevant news content – along with some relevant white papers and case studies that mean something to your customer-base – you can create authority online and build assets you can leverage. Examples…
- Email Marketing – Point people to content additions on your websites, registering what is the content that people are interested in and developing lead nurturing campaigns.
- Social Media – Focus your time and effort into the social spaces where your customers are. Social media works best when it is people – do your sales team get stuck in? Even better, do your support team? They will garner more trust than a corporate social media profile. Share your content in the right social spaces and make sure your website allows people to easily share it to their social networks.
- Advertising – Advertising online can be incredibly focused. Why not make the most of that and work to generate multiple sales pipelines (using your quality web content) with fast / slow burn campaigns and specific purposes for lead generation and customer retention.
Tools Need A Purpose
The digital marketing toolbox you have available to you is abundant and the costs are low. But, like any tools…
- Can you use them well to craft something worthwhile?
- Do you even know what you are trying to build?
Digital marketing needs strategy, based on a realistic approach of what is achievable, otherwise you are sailing somewhat rudderless. You can’t necessarily force specific results, but you can see if you are heading in the right direction.
The problem is, there are a million and one rudderless digital marketing campaigns being delivered by people who can’t sail a marketing rowing boat, let alone a ship. Which brings me to my last point.
What’s So Special About You?
You don’t need to come up with the next big digital viral campaign that gets people across the world talking about your brand – you just need to be better than your competitors – whether that’s sector driven or location driven.
If you focus your digital marketing strategy towards your specific market you will get better traction and also build a platform which can grow outwards. That doesn’t necessarily work the other way.
But, you need to offer something that people (your customers) notice; something that makes you different and stand out from the crowd.
The good news is that it’s not as hard as you’d think; partly because not many people put the effort into understanding their online brand proposition and how to engage their customers in the way that they want.
My digital marketing speciality is working with smaller service businesses (£0 – £10 million), I don’t pretend otherwise, and my experience is geared in that direction.
It amazes me how many agencies (of all sizes) do not get how the pieces go together, or even how to see the finished picture when it comes to marketing online.
My advice for small businesses looking for a digital agency I would suggest:
- Ignore anyone who talks just about search engines, no matter how convincing they sound – they are building your marketing strategy on shifting sands.
- Avoid anyone who suggests social media is ‘where it’s at’ as well. Social media is just one part of the mix.
- Understand what your dream scenario would be in terms of measurable results (KPIs). They may not be realistic and expect your digital marketing agency to challenge them in an authoritative manner.
- All the information (and tools) to market your business online is freely available. But, it doesn’t make you an expert. It also doesn’t mean the companies offering these services are either.
Have a budget, have a set of goals, and set some expectations. Don’t get anyone to tie you in to an annual contract, that’s a life time online. A good digital marketing agency needs time to deliver but they should also offer a pathway of achievable goals with time-related goalposts in place.