There are so many acronyms used today in marketing that it can be confusing for the business owner. When it comes to showing up on Google or Bing search results, the three important acronyms to know are SEO, PPC, and Local SEO. Here is an explanation of these three marketing techniques, how to implement them, the advantages and disadvantages, and an overall strategy to using them.
Although there are many search engines available, for this discussion I am going to focus on Google and Bing, where over 90% of the search traffic occurs on the internet. The reason a business needs to show up in these search results is that is how people who don’t know you find your business. Think of it as the modern day phone book, but on a global scale. Just about every business has a website and that is the digital hub of a business’ online presence, but the greatest website is worthless if no one finds it.
Here is a graphic that shows a typical search results page. As you can see, there are three sections of the search results. The more times that a business shows up on this page, the greater chance that the person searching will select the business. Not showing up at all means a zero chance that a business will be selected by the searcher. This is prime real estate on the internet and it takes time, money, and effort to be there.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is a long term strategy of improving the quality and quantity of traffic to a website from search engines. SEO is often referred to as “organic search”. Search engines use “bots” to search and index sites on the internet. These bots may visit a site daily or multiple times per day, so having good SEO helps them find it. This is accomplished by adding elements to the website that helps the search engines to find it. The reason that it is such a good strategy is searchers trust organic results over advertisements. People are bombarded with advertisements constantly, on all media channels, so there is an unconscious choice people make to gravitate to organic search results.
SEO is almost a science as search engines adjust their algorithms to improve the searching experience for the user. The knowledge base is vast, so for this blog, I will stick to the basics. There is more information on this past blog post. Here are some things that can be done to start improving a website’s SEO. Most web editing software has the ability to add these features.
- Create page titles, meta tags, and meta descriptions on each page of the website. This information should contain information about what is on the page and should include some keywords that people are using to search for your type of business.
- Rename file names of photos used on the site with meaningful keywords and add photo descriptions and captions.
- Go through all text content on the site and make sure it is easily readable and uses keywords to describe the business and the products and services offered.
- Add fresh content on a regular basis. If the search engines sees a website that has stagnant information, it may think that the website is abandoned or not active. This can hurt the site’s ranking. Writing a weekly blog, adding new events, adding new photos, or changing/adding products and services regularly can keep fresh content.
- Add a site map to the site. The site map is what the bots use to navigate the site and identifies new content.
- Make sure the site is mobile friendly. Search engines rank sites higher if they load quickly and resize to fit a cell phone screen. Check you site using this tool. If it takes more than 3 seconds to load, then it will hurt search rankings. Simplifying backgrounds and compressing videos and photos will help with load speed.
- Index the site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. This tells the search engines that website exists, gives the site owner some great statistics about site traffic, and identifies problems with the site.
- Build backlinks to the website. Backlinks are links from other sites to your website. Backlinks is another way that the search bots find your website. There are some easy ways to do this. Make sure all of your social media pages have links to the site. Also, create business listing on sites such as Yelp, Google My Business, Bing for Business, Yellow Pages, etc. Yext is a tool that is relatively inexpensive and can create and manage many business listings in one place.
SEO is a long term strategy that can take months or years to improve rankings. The advantages are that it is inexpensive (if you do it yourself) and as long as it is ongoing, your site will remain high ranking. Unlike ads, it isn’t based on an ad budget, so your website will show all of the time. The disadvantages are that it takes a long time, it is not a sure thing, and requires a lot of effort.
Pay Per Click Ads (PPC)
PPC ads are paid ads that show at the top and bottom of any search results page. As the name says, you create an account with the search engine and pay each time someone clicks on the ad and goes to your website. PPC ads are a quick and easy way to get a website listed on the first page of search rankings. The cost per click is determined by an auction system. Other businesses are competing with you to show up on the results for keywords. Ad campaigns use keywords, geographic area, and even time of day to determine when ads are shown. The more businesses competing for that space, the higher the cost per click. This can vary from less than one dollar to hundreds of dollars per click. You have to determine the value of a click to your business to determine a budget and bidding strategy.
Here are some points to consider and suggestions with PPC ads:
- How valuable is visitor to your website and how often do they convert to customers? If your products or services are more expensive such as cars, real estate, or professional services (attorneys, accountants), then there may be a high value for each customer.
- If the budget is tight, consider less competitive keywords or locations. Here in the Hill Country, it is less competitive to advertise compared to San Antonio or Austin.
- Use Google’s Keyword Planner tool to be strategic in which keywords to use to maximize your budget.
- Regularly monitor the statistics on Google Ads and make adjustments. It is easy to burn through a lot of money and not have results if not monitoring it.
- Try multiple ad campaigns to find out what works and which keywords result in purchases (conversions).
PPC is a good technique to get quick results. Most people searching on the internet have the “intent” to buy, so they are searching for products, brands, businesses, and services that fit their needs. This is what makes search engines such a powerful marketing tool. As I said earlier, if your website isn’t an option, they will choose another business.
The advantages of PPC ads are they quickly get your website listed at the top of search results and are a sure thing. The disadvantages are they can be expensive and when the budget runs out, the ads don’t show, leaving missed opportunities.
Local Search Engine Optimization
Local SEO is a technique that utilizes the Google My Business (GMB) feature on Google and the Bing Places for Business on Bing. Search results show up just below the Google Ads section where the map shows.
46% of all Google searches have local intent, meaning the person searching is looking for a business, product, or service and adding a geographic qualifier. For example, “mexican restaurants in Boerne” or “mexican restaurants near me”. The maps section only shows on the search results page when a geographic qualifier is used as a keyword.
The GMB page is like a second website that provides the user much of the same information as your website. Just like SEO, the more information and keywords put into the GMB page, the more likely it will rank higher. The GMB page allows product listings, contact information, services, industry category, menus (for restaurants), hotel booking link, photos, videos, postings (like social media), and much more. And it is free!! Here are some things to do to improve Local SEO:
- Create Google My Business page and Bing for Business page and put as much information as possible. There is a verification process that can take some time. You must have a physical address, no P.O. boxes. If you work from home or a vehicle, you can use your home address, mask it from viewers, and create a service area.
- Add new content on a regular basis, such as new photos, videos, or products.
- Post regularly about events, new products, or anything else happening in the business. Use the posting feature like your social media pages.
- Customer reviews are a big part of local SEO rankings. Ask customers to leave you a review or email them a link to the GMB page to give you a review.
- Just like SEO, create business listings on other sites. It is important that the listings match the information on your GMB page. Any differences could confuse the Google bots and lower your local SEO ranking.
The main differences between Local SEO and SEO is geography and customer reviews. Your GMB page will only rank high if it has close proximity to the geographic keyword qualifier. If your business relies on local customers or visitors to your location, having a strong SEO is important. Poor customer reviews can lower local rankings. There is some more detailed information about Local SEO on this blog post.
Overall Strategy of Using PPC, SEO, and Local SEO
So know we have some knowledge about these three marketing techniques. How do we come up with an overall strategy using them to take advantage of the strengths and weaknesses? Keep in mind that people are searching for things online because they have intent to discover, research, and eventually make a buying decision. Not showing on search results means missed opportunities.
So the best strategy is to use a combination of all three techniques. If your business is new or just starting to build its online presence:
- Build a website with strong SEO or update the existing website with strong SEO. Monitor the ranking and organic keywords clicks with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
- Create strong local SEO with Google My Business and Bing Places for Business pages. Continue adding new content over time and monitor results.
- Use heavy PPC ad campaigns in the beginning to create traffic then over time scale back. As the SEO and Local SEO rankings improve, use PPC to reach new keywords (or keywords that ranks low with SEO) and new geographic areas. You can experiment with ad campaigns to judge customer demand for new products or a new area, like a second location. It is a great planning tool as your business expands.
It is a competitive world and customer acquisition is not easy or cheap. Arming yourself with knowledge, combining that with effort, and wisely using an adequate marketing budget will put you ahead of the competition. If you don’t have the time or the expertise to implement a solid marketing strategy, let us know. We are here to help.