Are you using SEO? In today’s economy, search engine optimization is a cost-effective way to increase online awareness and sales… fast. To find out more about this hot topic, I caught up with one of the gurus of SEO, Heather Lloyd-Martin, President and CEO of SuccessWorks Search Marketing,
http://www.seocopywriting.com. Here’s what she had to say:
Tell us about SuccessWorks Search Marketing and the benefits you provide.
SuccessWorks helps companies make more money – and gain higher search engine rankings – through the power of content. We’re considered a “first-generation” search marketing firm, which means that we’ve been doing it longer than anyone else and can easily help any-size client untangle their most pressing issues.
Some companies choose to outsource all their content creation to us, and we create top positioning pages that convert like crazy. Other clients prefer to have us train their staff on how to keep SEO copywriting in-house. Either way, our clients have seen an incredible lift in search positions and conversion goals just through the power of copywriting.
In your opinion, what is SEO?
SEO (which stands for “search engine optimization”) sounds so technical – and it’s true that there are many technical elements behind SEO. But basically, it means making your Web site as good as it can be for both engines and your prospects. There are three elements that go into a SEO campaign:
1. The Website architecture – can the search engines index your content (hint: if your site is all graphics, your architecture isn’t the best for SEO).
2. Hyperlinks – both internal to your site, as well as hyperlinks pointing to your site.
3. Content – how the content is structured for search engine visibility as well as for users.
The good news is, learning how to write for search engines helps you not only get good rankings and convert customers, but if people like your content, they are more apt to link to your site (which also helps increase your site rankings.)
That’s why Seth Godin says that the best SEO is good content. When you have a Web site people love to visit (whether that’s e-commerce, service-oriented or a publisher site,) people will link to that site and recommend it to their readers.
Why do you think many small business owners ignore using SEO on their Web sites?
Most folks I speak with know that they should optimize their sites. It’s because of what call “SEO learned helplessness.” People get into the mindset that learning about how the search engines work and SEO copywriting is so overwhelming that they might as well not even try.
The task becomes too big and too overwhelming in their heads. When actually, learning the fundamentals of SEO is actually pretty easy – you just need someone to teach you in bite-sized chunks to make it easier to learn and assimilate.
Another reason that small business owners ignore search is that they figure that the cost is too prohibitive and they won’t see ROI. They hear horror stories of having to spend tens of thousands of dollars – and the typical small business owner thinks, “I don’t have that kind of cash.” When actually, there are lots of ways to get expert help for less…especially if the small business owner is willing to do some of the SEO work herself.
What’s fun is training small business owners in SEO techniques. You can see the light turn on when they think, “Hey, this isn’t so bad. I can learn how to do this!”
What is the biggest SEO mistake you see on Web sites today?
There are many “common” SEO mistakes, but probably the biggest one I see revolves around the content. I just got back from speaking at the Direct Marketing Association’s ACCM conference, so the audience was made up of retailers and ecommerce site owner/managers.
When I worked with these people one-on-one, I saw that they had beautiful, well-designed sites with fantastic photography. But hardly any content. Or the content they had was the same as the product packaging. Unfortunately, the lack of keyphrase-rich content meant that these beautiful sites weren’t positioning in the search engines and were basically invisible to new users.
What is the best way to fix this issue?
That part is easy – create new, unique content for every product and every service you have. Of course, implementation is a bit tougher than that. You need a strategy (most companies focus on their top pages first, and prioritize the rest from there.) You need the time/budget to create the copy (although you can take baby steps, work on a little area of the site first and expand your efforts from there.)
However, the companies who have taken these steps – and I’ve seen it work with Mom and Pop small business sites as well as large, Fortune 500 retailers – have seen increased search traffic and conversions.
Is it expensive to put SEO practices in place?
Like any marketing initiative, SEO costs something…whether that’s money, time or both. If you outsource, typical prices can be anywhere from $2,500 (for a small, local business) to over six figures a year for a large, e-commerce site.
If you keep your SEO in-house, that means that you’ll have to pay someone to create a strategy and implement the work. It does cost less in the long run to do it in-house…but that also means that you have to have the time to make it happen.
At the same time, I would argue that companies that don’t optimize their Web sites and create compelling keyphrase-rich copy are actually leaving money on the table. To me, it’s like creating a beautiful print brochure that you only hand out to a very few people.
Instead, wouldn’t you rather plaster your messaging everywhere where you know your target audience is looking for the information you offer? THAT’S what putting SEO principals into place offers – a chance for you to expand your market reach and put your messaging in front of more people, more often.
Thanks Heather! That’s great advice.
Check back on Thursday for Heather’s insights on learning and using SEO. In the meantime, you may want to look at Heather’s training service at
http://www.seocopywriting.com/training/small-business-seo-training/ and feel free to write to me with any questions or comments below or at