It’s a fact that a search engine—and by that I mean the search engine, Google—is the new Yellow Pages. What the large Yellow Pages ad (or even further back, the alphabetical listing) once did to increase the likelihood of a customer calling has now been replaced by search engine optimization or SEO. Consider that nearly 45 percent of shoppers began researching products and services with a search engine in 2012, according to the blog Interconnected World, and you can see why ranking high in a search isn’t optional.
Right before I discovered inbound marketing and recession-proofed my limousine service in 2007, I paid some professionals to optimize my SEO around several keywords. Their efforts were expensive and ineffective, and I realized soon after that I needed to adopt a strategy that included social media outreach and blogging. It’s important for business owners to understand SEO isn’t a comprehensive approach to modern marketing, though it plays a role.
• Your Ranking Matters
According to research by Marketing Sherpa, 70 percent of links that users click on are organic, not paid. Sixty percent of this organic search traffic goes to one of the top three results. The more keyword-rich, high-quality content you generate, the more Google will love you. HubSpot has found that businesses with 401-1,000 indexed pages get six times more leads than sites with just 51-100. Our own research has indicated the average limousine service’s website has just 12 pages.
Starting a blog on your website is completely free, and it’s one of the best ways to get on Google’s good side. The more often you publish, the more often major search engines will return to your website to rank your content. Companies that blog have an average of 97 percent more inbound links according to HubSpot, a factor that has major influence on your company’s SEO. Write quality content and publish often for best results.
"Starting a blog on your website is completely free, and it’s one of the best ways to get on Google’s good side."• On-Page SEO
While the Google search algorithm is a closely guarded secret, HubSpot has found that on-page SEO efforts have about 25 percent influence over your pages’ rank. Ensure you have a keyword density (the number of times a phrase appears on a page in comparison to the rest of the words) of around 3 percent. Keyword stuffing and filling your content with links can make Google think you’re a spammer. The majority of keywords you’re optimizing for should be long-tail keywords, defined as phrases of three words or more, which better resemble how a person searches.
• Off-Page SEO
Inbound links to your content and social media shares account for 75 percent of the total rank of your pages. While major search engines have gotten pretty adept at identifying links that have been purchased, focus on writing authoritative content that attracts links. Locate your prospects on social media. Brides are likely to be on Pinterest, while prom and homecoming clients will probably be using Facebook and Twitter. Target corporate accounts and clients on LinkedIn. Distribute your content on major social media networks to build relationships, spark engagement, and drive traffic to your website.
SEOmoz research has indicated that the Google search algorithm is updated hundreds of times annually. While most of these updates are minor, the dynamic nature of major search engines reflects the fact that SEO practices based on finding loopholes to rank higher are no longer effective. Shady, “black hat” methods such as keyword stuffing or buying links can cause your business to lose out on traffic and leads as a result of getting caught and punished.
There are no SEO tricks that work overnight, and what I learned from my own experience is to be very cautious of anyone who tells you they can help your website rank number one immediately. Inbound marketing requires blogging and social media to be effective, and you’ve got to invest the time to win Google over to your team.
Bill Faeth is the founder and president of Inbound Marketing Agents in Nashville. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.