November 18

Episode 89 – Does Your Small Business Need an SEO Strategy

Over 50% of small businesses don’t have an SEO strategy. Here’s what you need to know.

Paul: All right, hello. Welcome everyone. This week we are gonna talk about Search Engine Optimization strategy. I came across a study, UpCity commissioned a survey or a study, that found that as many as 50% of North America Businesses, small and medium sized businesses, don’t have an SEO strategy, which I found surprising cuz even though the services have become more competitive and search data shows an increase in search for SEO services, I thought this would be a really interesting topic to talk about. While I’m joined by Jen and Ian, Ken’s in a training session, so he sent his answers via video. So my question for Ken, we’ve talked about this in previous episodes. I wanted Ken to give us a quick overview of what an SEO strategy is. So here’s his answer to this. 

Ken: So SEO really is made up of a couple of different components.

One is on-page optimization and the other’s off-page optimization. So on-page optimization really are those things that you can do to your website and the way that you have the metadata and the actual written words on the page, the way you hyperlink between pages or to external pages, all of the things that you really have that are under your control. Including how fast your page loads, your website loads, all of those different things. We refer to that as on-page SEO, and there are a lot of different things that you can do there. Like I said, you want to have your header tags set up properly. You want to use all tags for your pictures to tell Google what the picture is.

Those are also important for ADA compliance reasons. When you’re writing the copy, you want to try to make sure that each page has 500 or more words so that Google has enough content to index it for search. And ideally you’re organizing that around a content theme. We used to talk about keywords in this concept of focus keywords, you can still consider that, but it’s really more of a theme now.

And ideally, what I think is the page title that you have, your H1 tag, the main title of your page really is probably the main theme, although Google may see it differently and you need to realize that. That’s why it’s important to also factor in content in building out more pages rather than fewer, because the more pages you have, the greater opportunity it gives for you to be found for different search phrases.

Now, let’s talk about the off-page SEO, so that’s typically referred to commonly as link building. Link building was where an external website links to your website. There is also the notion of citations and citations are also very important, so I’m gonna talk about links and citations. So links. You want to try to get authoritative websites that rank well with Google, that Google trusts.

Every website has this concept called the domain authority, and you want to get these strong domain authority websites linking back to your website. You can link out to their websites, but really the value for you from an SEO perspective mostly is when you are getting high quality links from external websites linking back to your website. Because what’s that doing is, it’s sending Google trust signals to say, Here’s a website that we already have a lot of confidence in, and think that it’s fairly authoritative. And they care enough to link back to content that you happen to put on your website. So that’s huge.

Now the other thing is this notion of citations. So citations are built from directory sites that are out there where you can have consistent name, address, phone number information, and be listed on a lot of these important citation sites. Those all send signals, they are not true links per se, but they are sending signals to Google about your website.

Likewise mentions. If Google sees that you’re mentioned, it can send social signals or it can send signals from things like press releases or news articles that might be published out there. All of those things factor into SEO. So you need to have a strategy. How are you going to accomplish that? 

On-page SEO. Obviously that’s pretty straightforward. You just need to know the right set of tasks to work on to improve mobile page load speeds is a huge deal right now. The way you construct and build your website, big deal. How much content you have, big deal. Then you need to have a strategy on how you’re gonna get other websites to link to your website.

Paul: One thing, Ken didn’t mention when he was talking about links is internal linking is extremely important as well. Because first of all, when any search bot, Google bot crawl s your website they try to simulate how a real person would navigate your website, which means they follow internal links. And if you have just random pages out there that aren’t linked in any way that’s known as orphan pages. Google may not be able to find them.

Now, yes, you can submit a site map to Google, but that doesn’t necessarily index those pages. So internal linking is also a very important part of an SEO strategy. Did anyone else have anything to add to that? 

Ian: I do, actually. One of the things I feel really strongly about is there’s a lot of businesses that see SEO as this part of your marketing or I can just farm it out.

It’s that SEO component to bolt onto my business. And I actually see your SEO strategy nowadays. And there was a time where perhaps you could do that, a long time ago in the SEO timeline, you can’t do that. It’s gotta be integrated into your larger marketing plan. And part of that is you talked about content, Paul. Ken talked about a lot of offsite and onsite elements.

But even things like how you proactively get reviews, optimizing your Google Business Profile and sending content there continuously. Your content plan and how you’re going to, yes, leverage it on your website, but leverage it outside of that as well. I think your SEO is now, I don’t know a good analogy for it, but like a vine that kind of grows and touches every part of your marketing process, your sales process, and I think it’s so vital that people understand that.

So what I’m trying to encourage people to think about is don’t just look at SEO as SEO. Look at it as part of your overall marketing strategy, and you will be leaps and bounds ahead of the competitor that just looks at it as, that’s my SEO. 

Paul: Jen. The survey also found about 34% of businesses have made it a priority in 2022. But 23% have absolutely no plans to create any kind of SEO strategy. And that kind of surprised me. Given the current environment that we live in where everything has really been pushed online. And it’s not because business owners aren’t aware of SEO, it’s just the opposite. They know what it is. The search results show that. So why do you think so many small businesses have no plans, nothing in place?

Jen: If we put ourselves in the shoes of these small business owners that we’re looking to serve, listen to Ken’s answer. There’s so much involved there that you gotta be thinking about. It just feels, okay perhaps can’t even think about it.

The other thing is, this is from our personal experience. We come up against, I don’t know if it’s a mindset or a bit of a fear and a business will have called their products or services something else than what a common name for it is. They think they’re branding it without a branding strategy behind it.

So that’s a whole other thing. If you dig in, they feel like our product or service isn’t comparable to the one of the mill website staffing center. Whatever it is, ours is so much more better, and we do so much more than just the basic that our industry does. Or they have these solutions that they package around some kind of fancy business automation, blah, blah, blah.

The funny thing is, I just went through this actually. There’s all these crazy terms that a business may use to talk about what they do and you run ’em through the search results and nobody’s searching for that kind of term cause they don’t even know about it. So the problem seems to be a couple of different things.

One, it just feels like there’s just so much involved. Oh, we said we’re gonna do a marketing strategy, now we gotta do this SEO thing. And then now we have to call all our stuff a very plain word when we do so much more than say, just websites. So if we use all of our businesses, for example, right?

We do so much more than that. But if people are searching for that, why don’t you meet them where they’re at and then educate them along to what else they need or what else you can do for them. It’s a long rant to your question, but I really think it comes in two different camps. One is there’s just feels like there’s just so much to do with it, and the other feels like we don’t wanna be called the plain old word that our products and services are called.

We wanna call ’em something different. Trying to get them to change and to see that, and then to build content around those. Those basic words, those basic phrases, those basic problems, which is what their ideal client is searching for or is having trouble with that kind of education sometimes it takes a lot longer to sink in or to have them really buy into than perhaps, us marketers would like. 

Paul: That’s a really good point. We’ve talked about it in the past, that a lot of times a business owner, if you say, what do you think people use when they’re searching for your business?

And they tend to use industry jargon. It’s like your customers aren’t using those search terms, and like you said, you have to meet ’em where they’re at because they’re probably going to use those generic plain phrases because they have a problem, they need a solution. And they may not know what that solution is. They don’t know your industry speak. You have to be found for what your customers are gonna be searching for. 

Jen: Yeah. Absolutely. And that could be, I guess that’s our number one hurdle in our years of experience. The fear or the apprehension of the business owner, business being, we’re so much more than that basic term. We’re so much more involved. They’re better service or this or that, and nine times outta ten they really are. You gotta have that first conversation to let someone know how great you are. It can be tough. 

Ian: I think one of the reasons too, that small businesses don’t have an SEO plan is quite, this gonna sound horrible to our listeners, but it’s true, is that a lot of the people they’re farming out their SEO work to, do not have an SEO plan for them.

As simple as that. To me, that’s a really good question for the small business owner that’s listening to this and wants to engage SEO to attract and convert more qualified buyers. Ask the people you’re talking to about SEO, what their plan of action is for you and how they integrate that plan into your broader marketing plan.

I would venture to say most small businesses farm out the SEO. They don’t do it in house because of the expertise required, but if the people you’re farming it out aren’t building a plan for you, that’s a problem. 

Paul: There are a lot of companies out there that in the past, their sole focus has really been social media and because of the issues that have surfaced recently around social media, they’ve basically slapped together a thinly disguised SEO program, so they call it. So they sell this at super cheap bottom rates. And at the prices are charging they can’t really do much and their main focus is still social, but they say, Oh, but we do SEO along with that. And it’s no, you really don’t. But that’s how they’re selling it.

Ian: Yeah. I know a business that we’ve been in talks with about helping them with their SEO and other aspects of their marketing. In our audit of their business, we uncovered that one of the things that happened was their web design agency said they would throw in a year’s worth of SEO for free. And this is a big business.

As the business owner, they thought, fantastic. Like, check it off my box. We’re doing SEO. When we actually dug into what has been done over the last year for them from an SEO standpoint, it’s a big zero. Worse than zero. Because you think you’re getting momentum and you’re not. So you were talking about how it’s the sexy trend to add on SEO to whatever services you offer in the marketing world.

But as a business owner, you gotta ask some pretty qualifying questions and results are a good question to ask. Give us some real statistics. Let us talk to some of your customers and find out what their organic return on investment is, that kind of stuff. 

Paul: Part of it is just knowing what questions to ask. I think that’s another issue. 

SEO does work and there’s a lot of studies that suggest that business owners do know that SEO works, but should they be combining SEO with some kind of PPC paper click strategy to create a synergy between those two things? And if so, how does that work? How does it happen?

Ian: First of all I want to confirm what you’ve just said because one of the cool things as a marketing agency for businesses is we’re constantly looking at return on investment for our customers, because that’s how we create long term relationships. We’re able to say, this is how much you spent in this area of your marketing, whether it’s Google Ads or SEO, and this was your return on investment.

SEO almost always outperforms Google Ads. Any ads by a factor of three that we’ve seen. Three times the amount of ROI and it’s simply because when you do SEO it just keeps performing well. You just have to keep nurturing it and optimizing it and building out over time. You can’t leave it alone. You can’t abandon it, but it just keeps growing. Whereas paid ads, you keep paying for every single thing that happens on that platform. So it’s the equivalent of SEO is like eating a steak. And advertising is like high sugar, having candy. You get a jolt, but it’s gone in 10 minutes kind of thing, and then you feel worse than you did before. But that’s not to disparage ads at all. 

In answer to your question. Yeah, when you combine those two things, I’m gonna talk from a Google Ads and an SEO standpoint, because Google’s your biggest search platform for organic and local. Google’s also your biggest ad platform, and the beauty of it is that you’re attracting qualified buyers because they’re entering a search term like plumber near me, leaky sink, need orthodontist, whatever it is.

Right there. They’re pre-qualifying themselves by what they search for, and you can wrap your SEO or your Google Ads with those search terms in order to attract those people. And obviously there’s other steps to that process as far as your ad copy, your landing page, how you convert people, all of that.

But you can learn. Both ways from SEO to Google Ads, and you can learn from Google Ads to SEO. For instance, say you’ve been investing in SEO for a year and you’re now thinking about investing in Google Ads. All the keyword research you did in SEO, you’ve actually been tracking the results for a year, so you know which are the highest performing keywords that are attracting good qualified leads.

Fantastic. Why wouldn’t you use that in your Google Ads campaign? And the exact same is true from Google Ads, is that if you’ve been using Google Ads for a while, you’ve ascertained a whole bunch of data related to, hey, which ads and keywords are people clicking on to come to our landing pages and which ones are converting the most?

So you can share data between those two, and it makes both platforms and campaigns much stronger. It’s like a one two punch. 

Paul: Yeah, it is. And there’s a PPC agency, big company. If you’re not spending about, I don’t know, 5,000 a month, they’re not gonna work with you. But they do like a video or two every week.

Really good information. He released a video a few days ago, I think it was, that I watched, and he said, the title of video was Prepare for Google Ads Failure. He said, At some point in time your Google Ads campaigns will fail. And he said, now you’re probably asking yourself, why am I saying I’m a Google Ads guy and he’s telling me my Google Ads campaign is gonna fail?

He said, the point is, you cannot, because a lot of companies do this, whether it’s Facebook or Google Ads, they put all their eggs, in baskets, so to speak, that all their traffic comes from Facebook. And we’ve seen the results of that recently, or all their traffic comes from Google Ads and he said, these PPC platforms are great, but he said if that’s where your traffic is coming from, you don’t control that.

And if something happens, your business can fail. Google can change your algorithm. Things can happen. And he said, you can fire me and go to another agency, but you’re still dependent on Google Ads if that’s where your traffic is coming from. And the one thing you control is your website.

Organic SEO is a long term play, yes. So you have to have that strategy, that plan in place. But your website is the only thing that you actually can control. It’s really important to have that strategy in place. And I thought it was really interesting that a PPC agency, that’s all they do. Or he’s saying, hey, look, if this is your only source of traffic, you got a problem.

Jen: Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s actually honorable, right? You wanna be working with an agency like that. Here’s the good, here’s the bad, here’s how we can help you. 

Paul: Yeah, they definitely have some really good insight cuz that’s all they do is Google ads. 

Jen: Oh wow. 

Ian: What’s interesting too is just thinking through that, your question was framed like how can you use the two jointly?

And it does bring us back to what I was talking about earlier, about choosing your vendor, your marketing partner, really wisely. Cuz again, if a lot of people throw their adds out to one vendor, their SEO out to another vendor. Right there you’ve crippled yourself strategically, which is not a good thing to do.

The other thing I wanted to mention too, you were talking about how you’re at the mercy of the platforms. Another thing that a lot of people forget about is you’re actually at the mercy of the market. So what I mean by that is during Covid, so when Covid hit with a lot of clients, we track how are we performing competitively from an SEO standpoint of pay per click standpoint, whatever it is.

And what I can say very clearly was when Covid hit, everybody woke up. Crap, I need to get my digital marketing [00:19:00] house in order. And so we saw some really dramatic increases in the investment from competitors in SEO, in pay per click, because they had to move how they were thinking about getting in front of customers in a radically different way. Which wasn’t radically different to us with our competitors. But what it does mean is don’t forget you don’t exist in a bubble. You exist in a marketplace. And if you’re going to attract and convert people to become customers, you need to remember that. And you need to keep an eye on what’s happening in the marketplace and don’t not be competitive. That’s a lot of negatives, but, yeah. 

Paul: Yeah. And everything has become more competitive because of what has happened in the digital space as a whole, and especially, in paid advertising, whether it’s search ads like Google and Bing or social media. It’s become more competitive and that competition has driven up cost.

Your cost per click has gone up. Your cost per impression, our thousand impressions has gone up, and that goes back to SEO. Even though it’s a long term play, it’s basically free traffic. Yeah, you’re gonna pay an agency to put that strategy in place and do the SEO work, but you’re not paying every time someone clicks on an ad, if they click on an organic search result and go to your website, that’s free traffic.

You don’t pay for that. 

Ian: And that’s why it gets a better ROI in the long run. 

Paul: Yes, In the long run. Definitely. 

So my, my second question for Ken was that the study also found that about 74% of the businesses that do currently have an SEO strategy in place are either maintaining their budget or they’re increasing it.

So what does this mean for the ones that don’t have a strategy in place and are they at a competitive disadvantage? So this is what he said about that. 

Ken: In regard to whether businesses who have put an SEO strategy in place, or either keep maintaining their budget or increasing it. Let me say this about that.

So first of all, the world of online has accelerated even faster now that we are two years into covid. Behaviors have changed. People are using internet searches more than ever, and so yeah, I think increasing an SEO budget is probably really a strong consideration for most businesses who are doing an SEO strategy.

Look, just because you attain the position that you want to. Maybe you are fortunate enough to be in the top three of Google search results organically and maybe on Google Maps. Or both ideally. That doesn’t mean you’re gonna stay there. The algorithms change, your competitors change their investment levels and what they’re doing changes. New competitors come along. All of these things, stuff breaks on your website. You just can’t set it and forget it. You have to keep doing things. Part of SEO is just making sure that you’re doing the care and feeding you need to do for your website to keep it as strong and vibrant as possible in all of the criteria that the search engines are looking for.

But you also have to be paying attention to what competitors are doing, what the trends are, if people are starting to use different search phrases. Again, driven maybe more by mobile searches now than ever, and even specifically when somebody asks a device a question using a voice search that is driving changes, and so you can’t just rest on your laurels and think, Okay, I’ve invested X amount for X period of time and I got where I wanted. It doesn’t mean you’re gonna stay there. Now, for businesses that don’t have an SEO strategy, are they at a serious competitive disadvantage? That’s a tougher question because not every business can afford SEO, nor do they need SEO.

Sometimes a business literally needs a professional web presence. Probably Google My Business. Definitely the website and then, maybe a great paid lead strategy or a referral marketing strategy is all they need. Now, if they’re trying to rank, then yes, they are at a serious disadvantage because they are starting at ground zero.

They may be low on the first page, probably on the second page, or worse. That definitely hurts. Statistics show that the majority of people first, they’re gonna select the business that they’re gonna find first on Google, because one, that’s a signal that website and that business is probably very trustworthy.

Two, when they’re going down the list of high ranking results and contacting businesses, they’re gonna do business with a business that gets back to them the fastest. Typically, again, statistics show overwhelmingly that the business that responds first has the greatest opportunity for that business. So are you gonna get those opportunities if you are on the second page of Google?

I don’t think so, not nearly as many as you want. You may periodically get some of those, and you may periodically show up on the first page of search results for a particular search phrase, but the volume of traffic and leads that you get to your website is gonna be seriously impacted. So the way you address that is you have to have some other strategy, lead generation, paid ads.

Google Pay per click ads are a great way to address this. Display ads can help. Facebook Ads can help. If you are, again, you need to look at your budget, how much you have willing to spend, what type of business you’re at. If you’re in a lifestyle type of a business related to food, health and wellness, beauty, things like that, then you might be okay with Facebook Ads over Google Ads.

But Google Ads are like building a super highway to your business for a particular search phrase. It’s usually a really good strategy to look at that, if you don’t have money for the SEO budget. 

Don’t be fooled. SEO’s not cheap. You’re talking about thousands of dollars a month. It depends on your niche. It depends on the competition levels. If you’re in a decent sized market, you are gonna need to be prepared to spend a considerable amount of money for a considerable amount of time. Basically, you’re doing the equivalent even though you own your website. You’re building the foundation of that in a way that is not too dissimilar for if you own a business and you pay rent for that building, even if you buy your building, you’re still having to incur costs to pay it off and all those things.

So SEO is something that every business should consider, but they need to have honest answers about what they can afford, and is it really the best way for them to spend their money. 

Ian: Can I argue with Ken? 

Paul: Sure. He’s not here to defend himself. 

Ian: No, I support almost everything he said. I was chuckling because I know for some businesses, SEO isn’t as big a payoff as others.

I don’t disagree with that. But the bottom line, and I think he got to it, is that if you wanna be where people are searching for your service or product, you have to do SEO because that’s where people are searching for you. Are there businesses where you could probably skimp by and maybe not do it? Yeah.

Would you always benefit from SEO if you did it? The answers clearly yes. I also wanted to comment too on the investment. There are different levels of investment for SEO. There’s also different levels of investment for ads. Most businesses that are running ads are spending at least a thousand dollars a month on them to see any real good return on investment.

That’s low. Some businesses we work with are up to 15,000 a month because they get a good return on investment from them, but it usually, it’s paired with an SEO strategy because they pay far less overall for the SEO. Can you do an SEO strategy for a thousand dollars? Absolutely. Can you do it for less? Absolutely. But again, usually I relate it to, it’s like having a Smart car with a very small engine versus something that’s gonna get you zero to 60 in a couple seconds. So the more you invest wisely in SEO, the faster your results will be. So it is based on budget, but I wanted to clarify that cuz I think that’s an important differentiation.

Paul: Yeah. I think he was referring to the solo entrepreneur, small businesses where a lot of their business comes from referrals. A lot of it comes back to what is your capacity to take on new business as well. So if you’re a solo entrepreneur, you can only handle, let’s say you’re, I don’t know, carpet cleaner and you have a carpet cleaning machine, and you can only clean so many carpets per day. What’s your capacity to take on new business? And I think that’s where he was going with that. I agree with what you said there, there’s different levels of SEO investment. 

Ian: And if you wanna be a solo entrepreneur for ever, like if it’s a lifestyle business, that’s fine.

But if you have growth goals where you wanna be a carpet cleaner, that tacks on five new trucks in the next three years, you’re gonna have to think strategically about that. 

Paul: And you’re definitely gonna have to have an SEO strategy in place. Jen, according to the surveys, some of the top goals for businesses were to, among others, but were to increase organic traffic, strengthen their domain authority, increase brand awareness.

And yet, 23% of businesses have no plans for any kind SEO strategy. How are they gonna accomplish this? Can they accomplish it? 

Jen: I don’t think they are. Going back to our small business owner who doesn’t live and breathe marketing every single day, I think in the best possible scenario they’re thinking, I need a website. I’ll blog, I’ll do videos, whatever. We’ll get stuff up there, we’ll post on social. It’ll be relevant, we’re doing it, we’re doing some activity, we’re getting out there. And it goes back. I just think, and this is what I start to tell them, is that you gotta think if you’re gonna play seriously online, and this is what I mean about it. Every piece of content is going out there as a member of your salesforce helping your business either answer questions or give a tip or share some information, and that little salesforce is working 24/7 for you.

You have to understand that part of your audience is not just your potential customer. Part of your audience is now Google and Google has different ways of deciding whether you’re worthy or not. And in order to have Google help you, you have to play by Google’s rules or you have to make sure Google can trust you and the way that Google trusts you is, someone is typing in this phrase and your business answers or helps someone with that problem. How do I know I can bring you up in the search results? Obviously Google’s not a person, but I try to put it in cuz we can all relate to more of a personal kind of interaction. If you got a vouch for a friend or something like that, or you gotta give a recommendation for a person.

It’s part of your reputation that kind of goes with that recommendation or that advice or that introduction. It’s the same way Google is, right? Google doesn’t want to give you a bad search result, so you gotta make sure Google trusts what you’re doing online. This question, this problem, this term, I know I can send it over to Ian’s website.

He’s got it covered there. It’s gonna make me look good. It’s gonna satisfy the search results, It’s gonna satisfy the person who’s looking for that information and we’re all happy. Increasing organic traffic. So that’s the non-paid, so it’s like you have to back into it with the business owners.

So how are people gonna find you? If you don’t know what they’re using to search for you, forget about all the technical stuff. It’s just like that. So do they even have a chance to accomplish those things? I think they’re gonna be doing a lot of activity. I think they’re gonna feel really good until they start to wonder why isn’t my marketing working?

And then it goes back to we’re all singing the same song is, marketing is a system. Everything’s gotta be working together, including SEO has to be working for you if you’re gonna play and succeed online. 

Paul: Ian, something you mentioned about Google trusting you, it goes back, we talked about this in the past about the expertise, authority, and trust, and you have to build that in Google’s eyes.

And if you don’t have that, you’re not gonna rank well. 

Jen: As we’re talking, cause it depends. Some business owners are more savvy than others about SEO and we do have some saying, I can still find my website online. Yes you can. And someone can find you if they already know about your company.

No problem. Type in your company name, up comes your website, probably. But what about all those other people that don’t yet know about you do. You’re looking for more customers? Do you have all the customers you need right now? So that’s where this is very important. For those that don’t yet know about you, how are they gonna find out about you?

That’s where SEO can be a little bit of a mystery, to be quite honest. 

Paul: It certainly can be because there’s no formula for it. There are best practices. 

Jen: But then it’s always changing too. One thing I wanted to ask, and maybe we can leave this for the end or maybe this will be a different podcast, but we get it so. Your clients, and they’ve created this term that they call their products or services.

And as it stands right now, nobody’s searching for it cause nobody knows about it but them. So last thing you wanna do is be on a first position for something no one’s searching for. So how would one go about inventing a new term or a new way of describing their product or service, then putting in the effort to get that term to really mean something in the industry? You’re talking a lot of work. 

Paul: Yeah. That goes back to brand awareness, because you’re creating this term to associate with your brand. What you just said, that’s also how a lot of these scam artists, they send out these spam emails about, we’ll get you on page one of Google. Yeah, they will. But it’s for some term that no one’s searching for.

It goes back to search volume. If no one is searching for a term, then Google doesn’t care. Google cares about search volume and they care about click-through rate. That’s how I think, can’t think of who was off the top of my head, Ian might know. But he basically sent out an email cause he had thousands of subscribers and said, Hey, search for this term and click on the second result.

Within about four or five hours, that second result moved up to number one because of the click-through rate related to the search term and it was really interesting. Everything with Google is driven by algorithms. Yes, they have a lot of people. They employ a lot of people, but they don’t have people scrutinizing every search result saying, Oh, these people clicked on this, so let’s move that up.

It’s all driven by all algorithms and you have to understand that. 

Ian: And if I could add a little bit to that. I think it’s an interesting question, Jen, because what you’re talking about is subject matter expertise, creating a term that then becomes synonymous with either your solution or a general industry concept.

Paul: Cleaners come to mind.

Ian: Yeah, but we’re even talking, I think probably from a business to business standpoint. 

Jen: Yeah. More service. A service solution and what do you call it? 

Ian: Yeah. I think you’re talking about one behavior change, right? So you’re talking about how do we get people to search for this term or to even understand that this term is relevant to their life. The first thing that comes to mind is wrapping your marketing in authority type building stuff. So I wouldn’t even suggest this. It’s a very long term play. Because what you’re doing is building out TED Talks, presenting at associations. Because you’re trying to get your main buyers in those associations, in those industries to start to think differently.

That’s a huge you’re turning the Titanic, right? You’re not. It’s not a powerboat that you’re like, zip, oh, they’re searching for this, zip. Let’s get in front of them. So I think that’s a big task because it’s wrapped in this SEO. It won’t matter at all from an SEO standpoint until people search for it.

You can build the authority on your website, and I think you should if a company is that committed to the idea that this is our beach head or our, one of our pillars of our business. And this will become synonymous sometime with this type of service, but I think that’s, again, a very long term play and you can still talk about it on your website, so you’re indoctrinating people in a nice way about that. But yeah, from my viewpoint anyways, I don’t know how you speed up that process. Or if it’s that relevant to SEO yet. 

Jen: And that’s interesting to you cuz you’re putting another hurdle in your way. First of all, you want the customer for your product or services. Before they get there, they have to call it this. Come on? Do you wanna do business or do you wanna research term? 

Ian: Donald Miller, who wrote StoryBrand, he has a great term, if you confuse, you lose as a business. I think that’s a really good term because he wraps it in studies and data about how if you actually make people use too much brain power, they go somewhere else.

Cuz this is taking too much of my mental energy. So I think that’s a concept a business like that needs to think about is, we need to be where people are searching for us now, and can we build up that term over time? Probably. But will it become synonymous in the industry like Kleenex as Paul mentioned? Time will tell. 

Jen: Time will tell. Time will tell. 

Paul: Yeah. Back to what you said, Ian, about too much mental energy. I see that all the time. If you have a long, complicated contact form on your website. With all these required fields, people say, Screw this, and they don’t bother. That is why if you look at opt-in forms, generally, what is it?

Name, email, that’s it. Because people are more likely to fill that out than if you’re asking ’em 15 questions. Now, if it’s a survey or a quiz, that’s one thing. But if someone has to fill out 30 fields on a contact form to get in touch with you. They’re not gonna do it. It’s just not gonna happen. 

Jen: I agree.

Ian: Yeah. Unless they’re so committed, like if they’re far enough through the buyer’s journey that they’re now at the I, I know these guys, I like these guys, I trust these guys. I’m trying them and in order to go the next step, I’m that committed. Now that these guys are in my decision set, I think that’s when you can ask the more longer form questions, because the value exchange is that much greater.

They see that, Oh, if I do this, form because the data I’m providing this company is actually gonna be fed back to me in valued recommendations or something like that. It’s gonna make my meeting more valuable with this company, then they’ll do that. But yeah, if you jump the gun and try to marry someone on your first date, that’s a recipe for disaster, right?

Paul: One of the places we have seen the long forms work is, we have painters for clients, and a lot of times people want virtual estimates. They need certain information to give you that virtual estimate, and people will fill that out. If they want a virtual estimate, they will fill that form out. But goes back to what you said they’re  committed to that.

They’re like, I don’t want them coming out here to gimme an estimate. I want it virtually. And in order to do that, this is the information they need. So in that case I have seen it work, but that’s beyond a simple contact form in that instance. 

Jen: Yeah, that’s fair. 

Paul: So Ian, I’ve read that one of the reasons among others that small businesses don’t have an SEO strategies, they basically don’t realize they need one.

They might be doing some things randomly from an SEO perspective, and they might think it’s a strategy, but obviously it’s not how would a strategy help them strengthen what they’re doing? And is technical SEO a part of an SEO strategy? 

Ian: Yeah. Yeah. There’s a few questions in there. First of all, I almost feel compelled to say how disappointed I am in our industry as a whole, because if business owners don’t understand a strategy is required. That’s because the people in the industry who do SEO aren’t talking enough about that, and it’s become almost, in a sense, commoditized, right?

Oh, I just need SEO, so I just pay someone. SEO happens magically, I don’t need a strategy. I talked a little bit about that previously, but I think that’s an important thing that we need to own as an industry. We need to talk about strategy. I actually answer your last question first, and that was about is technical SEO, should it be part of SEO strategy?

Absolutely. It has to be. And that’s actually a really key place that a lot of SEO falls apart because the people that are dabbling in SEO they’ve got all the right bullet points on their website about, yes, we do SEO. If they don’t have the technical expertise, they’re gonna fall short and it’s gonna negatively impact your search results, which negatively impacts your business because you want qualified buyers to come to your site to buy from you.

But there’s technical aspects of SEO that have to be done properly. And I think Google’s really pressured the industry to understand this now with their Google Core Web Vitals algorithm change that they put in place June and July of last year. Because it’s telling you as a business, and you can run these reports straight from Google Page Speed that say, there are these three aspects of your website technically that are not meeting what they should meet in order to give a good experience to visitors to your website.

And those are very technical. Like you cannot solve these problems if you don’t understand how to technically. But then there’s lots of other things on your website as far as how to technically do SEO with meta descriptions and title tags and schema. And there’s all these things that as you layer them into your SEO strategy, they give you more and more return on investment.

And if you just do the minimum of SEO, you will not see the great results, especially again, your business doesn’t live in a bubble. So if your competitor is doing the technical side of it, and you’re not, you’re gonna lose. I would even say keyword research, even though that’s not really classified as a technical part, it’s a place that a lot of SEO falls apart.

Somebody alluded to it earlier, I think it was you, Paul, where SEO companies will send out a report and it’s 30 keywords that you rank for number one spot on. But nobody searches for them. So great, I’m number one for something that gets no traffic. What’s the point of that? I think you have to be strategically minded and technically relevant in order to really win at it.

The other question you asked was, how will an SEO strategy help your business? Simply put, you create an SEO strategy. You integrate it fully into your marketing plan. You’re creating a powerhouse in your overall marketing in your business. You’ll show up higher in Google search results. You’ll attract more qualified leads, you’ll attract more leads that want to buy. You’ll optimize your website properly so it will perform better. You’ll create content that Google loves and people devour. That was actually the subtitle of the book we wrote on content marketing. Just slipping it in there and the content you’ll be creating will be leveraged throughout your sales and your marketing processes to increase conversions and retention.

So not only are you creating content that’s great for SEO because Google loves it, people love it, they stay on your website that they devour. You’re actually creating the gas that you’ll use throughout the rest of your engines, your marketing engines, with that content. And having an SEO strategy will empower you to measure your SEO, your organic results, to make it better to continually optimize it and to watch how the competition is performing and beat them.

So I think the key to developing and implementing a great SEO strategy that will attract and convert customers is really to hire somebody with expertise or hire them internally if they’re an SEO fantastic. But then have a bigger plan, make sure it fits within the bigger plan strategically, but whether they’re internally or externally hired, make sure that they’re strategic and that they have a SEO plan, but then also that it fits into the bigger strategic marketing plan.

And, I think as a business owner, you’ll achieve all those things I was talking about what an SEO strategy can do for you. 

Paul: Yeah. And going back to what you said about the technical part. About Google kind of forcing awareness. And I think that’s definitely a good point. And I think part of the reason that it gets overlooked, and we’ve actually had this happen because humans by nature are visual creatures.

We do the schema and the technical aspects and we’ve actually had customers ask, What did you do? We can’t see that? No you can’t. But Google definitely sees it. Okay. And I think that’s part of the issue is that they can’t see it. Technical SEO is not part of a pretty website. Yes, you need a good looking functional website, but you have to have those technical aspects in place. But that’s not something you can see. Google sees it, search engine see it from a technical perspective, but the business owner can’t see it, so they’re like what have you done? How much time do you have, so I can explain it to you?

Ian: Yeah, and I think that’s where the measurement and reporting can be very powerful because with a car, you’re not looking at the engine of your car every day. Even when you take it into the mechanic, you actually don’t look at the engine of your car, usually. Or whatever part they replaced. It’s driving great. Everything feels good. It’s taking me where I want to go, and I think that’s where you’re tracking and you’re reporting and your measurement of ROI is. It’s taking me where I want to go. I actually don’t care about how it’s doing it as long as incrementally the results are getting better and better, and I’m beating my competition. 

Paul: Well, I think that’s probably a good place to wrap up. It’s been almost an hour, right at an hour. I hope this was helpful to everyone. Hope you learned something and we will see you next week. 


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