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I’ve been having the same conversation for a while now, with every new client I meet and at every mentoring session, I seem to have. The repetition of the message has made me think that we might need to reconsider that its time to consider an evolution in our marketing education for small business.

For the past few weeks, it has been my mission to build some new connections for my own business so I work smarter not harder, which has meant that I am having big conversations with advisors and consultants who could potential refer me to their industrial contacts and clients (because that is where I play). It’s pretty much meant that I’ve been divulging the way I work and what I believe in when it comes to marketing. The general consensus is that for the most part, other consultants, advisors, and business owners all agree with me and see that what is required from a marketing perspective is missing from our collective to-do lists.

One of the things that is glaringly obvious to me is that small business is being educated that “digital” is the way to go when it comes to promoting your business and I’d be a fool with my head stuck in the sand if I did not in some part, agree. From the perspective of a marketing consultant who goes out to meet with small business every week to help them to improve their profit through effective sales and marketing practice, it is clear that they are getting the message that digital is critical. However, what is also clear is that they are being bamboozled by SEO and Google Adwords companies who sound like they know what they are talking about but want their first born child in terms of payment to complete any level of work that is worth anything. What I see happening is that these companies cannot afford the huge fees to make their business digitally neon and end up signing up for the more basic package and get pretty much sweet FA (a crappy generic report) for a slightly smaller fortune. In fact, some of these reports that I’m seeing can be pulled from your own Google Analytics platform and if they are delivered without context or suggestion, they are quite frankly useless.

The problem is that small businesses are getting stuck in this mindset of “I have to be in the digital space and someone said the word SEO, so I’m getting this guy to do my SEO, and by way what does SEO stand for?”  So small business owners are passing the buck to some idiot who is likely not even in Australia and doesn’t understand (or even try to understand) their business, the problems they solve or the culture we work within. They don’t get the words we use to describe what we do and even if they do – they don’t care because the likelihood is that you are one of a number of clients and they really just want your dollars for doing absolutely nothing apart from plugging your data into their system once then emailing you a generic report (that you could pull yourself) and popping it onto their letterhead with some generic bullshit about keywords at the end of their pretty graphs. Its rubbish and its not working.

Have we all gone mad? Google is here – yes and we need to make Google work for us, but relationships are still more important than any bloody algorithm. Don’t spend all of your marketing budget chasing the ever elusive “page one” position because as soon as you get it, your competitors rear their ugly heads, Google changes its algorithm or the market changes and you end up plunging more money into your paid advertising campaigns, when you could be making more sales from your existing database anyway. Looking after your existing customers and past customers will yield you great results, so do that first. Use your own content that you create and deliver that using email marketing platforms and build on the relationships you already have before you start trawling the market for new contacts.

Newsflash – Traditional marketing still has its place, especially in the market I play in – which is the industrial side of business in Australia. I personally specialise in manufacturing, distribution and engineering style businesses, however, we use the same theories to market them as we do for professional services and construction services and the providers to this industry.

Australia is the land of the handshake, it’s still the way things get done, so your $25K – $40K investment in SEO isn’t going to improve that. What will improve it, is if you have the ability to connect with the humans who might buy from you and build a decent longstanding relationship with them that stands the test of time and beats any flipping digital campaigns hands down. We are Australian, we buy from people we trust, we accept referrals like gifts and we prefer to do something when that thing has already been done by someone we know, first.

I believe and I’m firm on this, that the digital activity that is being suggested should dovetail with the traditional marketing that STILL needs to happen. Digital is NOT a replacement for traditional marketing methods, they go hand in hand.

I still believe in going to meet with a client face to face and handing over something printed to them (I know – shock horror right?). The power of leaving something printed is huge. That person then has to decide if they physically throw away your marketing or not. Its a bigger decision than jumping off of your website or deleting your email. It still works, especially for us here in Australia.

You can improve your digital footprint by creating a sales toolkit that is utilised in the traditional space so you can market both traditionally and digitally properly.

So let’s discuss what can you do to improve your digital marketing by using traditional marketing methods that you do understand, without having to hand over your first born to some idiot tapping at a keyboard to make it give you a return on your investment?

Website overhaul

First up, even though we are talking about “traditional” marketing the fact is, you still need a decent website because your prospects are going to go there first to check you out, even if they met you offline.

If your website is archaic – update it, make sure it is responsive because more and more of us are using tablets and phones to look at businesses (mostly because, we are time poor)

Things to think about when you invest time into your website update

Who buys from you? Really establish exactly who the person is who gives you their money in return for your product or service and then think about why they do that, what problem do you solve for them? Make this your key message and make sure your images talk to them – exactly them. If you have more than one target market then create Industry pages so each market has its own key message and images that apply to them. Make sure your printed marketing has the same consistent message, branding and imagery too.

This information should form the crux of your marketing message and will be FILLED with these keywords that SEO companies proclaim to be able to make your site magically rank for.

What you don’t want to do is make the home page of your website all about you. Customers could not give a stuff about you and how great you think you are. They want to know that you have what they need to fix their problem right now. Tell them about how great you are on your About Us page or in your “all important” capability statement, but don’t use up the real estate on your home page to waffle about yourself.  Show them your latest product/service offering. Link to your case study and talk about your ability to service them properly because you “get” them and understand their problem – its all about them – not you.

Your Capability Statement needs to “detail” what you do, your abilities, facilities, accreditations you hold and associations you belong to and buy into plus your environmental and risk policies. Essentially you’re telling the bigger fish why they should do business with you. Make sure this data is keyword rich as well, it’ll help. Consider putting some of this data into a company profile document to use as part of your sales tool kit as well. It shows you are professional and value the importance of good governance and business management.

Set up your own onsite SEO.

Your website (if you are using an easy to use a self-administrated platform like WordPress) have back ends that allow you to manage your own SEO. Each page should have a page description, each page will have space for you to add a title (which is seen in the browser tab by the website user) and a slug (a unique URL that relates to that page specifically). You can go into the back end and add your social platform links, your site descriptions and all the info you want search engines to know so they play “snap” nicely with your site. Make sure you use keywords in this area and don’t waffle. This is data for search engines to decide if you are a match or not and a quick way for your customers to decide if you are a solution to their problem.  Make sure that your images all have title and descriptions – Google plays “snap” with those too.

Keyword research – Listen to your customers

When you answer the phone for the next few weeks listen to the questions being asked. Potential customers will contact you to ask you if you can do X, Y or Z. The way our brains work as humans is by questioning and so how we interact with Google is that most of us plug a question into Google or at least the critical parts of a question into the search bar (keywords). Your clients have all the answers, they will tell you what keywords you should be using, you just have to listen. If you saturate your website content with those words and the answers to those questions (because that is what is being used to find a company like yours) Google will play “snap” with your site and it will rank organically (without the price tag).

 

Good content it critical

We have established that we buy from people we trust, so if you can showcase your past projects or clients positive experience with your product or service through case study you will improve the perception of your business and build the reputation at the same time.

Let’s say for example you sell a product into the construction industry and you’ve been working on major scale projects for years but have never said that you do to anyone apart from verbally to potential customers. What happens is that those potential customers who do happen to stumble across your website get there and then read about what you do and its all about you and how great you are, not about what you can do to solve their problem or whose problems you’ve solved in the past, so you have no legs to stand on apart from your own ego. Change the message and you’ll change the outcome.

  • Case Studies should be created as printable PDF’s as well so they can be added to your sales toolkit.
  • Share your case studies on your LinkedIn page and possibly other social platforms (if they work for you)

 

We love a good story

Ask yourself, when was the last time you really “read” an advertisement. We don’t, we cast our eye over an ad looking at the picture, logo and headline, that’s it. What we do read are stories, so if you have a story to tell that you can tie into your business and drive “interest” – then write. You may roll your eyeballs at the word “blogging” but really replace that with “article” and you’ll get what I’m talking about.

Our stories are what shape us as people, it showcases what we believe in, how we got to where we are and what we want to do to improve our /their future, they mean something and if you can saturate the text with keywords then they work as organic SEO tools (without the price tag). These stories show that you are an expert in your field or an authority on what you are discussing. We read everybody’s else’s stories, so why wouldn’t other people read yours?

Ive spent the last few weeks absorbing the weekend newspaper (I finally clawed myself some time to do it)  and what it shows me is that everyone is an authority on something and if it’s in print it’s likely to be taken as gospel. Im not saying write a bunch of lies, but what I am saying is that if people read a story, they take it on board, they might not agree with it but they absorb the message, that is powerful. Use it to your advantage.

If you take those juicy stories you write, or video, or podcast (very popular these days) and post these on your own website (in a blog area – just make the latest blog appear on your home page), on your social media platforms (if they work to attract your target market, be careful about wasting time with this) and if you submit them to industry-related publications that re-post this type of story, then you create what is known as a “backlink” which SEO companies make a fortune for doing and you are putting yourself out there as an expert in your field at the same time – double whammy.

Its hard work but what I’m saying is that you can do this yourself. Don’t think that being “digital” means that you leave everything to the hands of an SEO company and you’ll magically get results.

Unless you’re paying a small fortune, SEO companies don’t invest enough time in your company to “get” you. If you need someone to write your articles – use a copywriter who understands your Industry or it’ll be generic and probably crap. SEO companies need to be “given” data to post, don’t expect them to create compelling accurate copy because they won’t, not properly.  Once they have good data, they will make your SEO work wonderfully, but please don’t expect them to be an expert in your field – because that quite frankly is your job.

So what we have covered today pretty much in a nutshell says

  • Be careful who you choose to do your SEO and if you use an SEO company, then deliver them the content you want to promote – don’t expect them to “know” your business or you will get crap results.
  • Improve your own website ranking and authority by rewriting the content to be keyword rich and problem-solving – so this attracts both new clients and search engines to your site
  • Create yourself a Capability Statement – it speaks volumes both online and in print as a sales tool
  • Develop good Case Study on past projects both as an online page and as a printed sales tool
  • Make sure you onsite SEO (that you can control) is set up on every page
  • Make sure you share your stories on your relevant and targetted social media platforms (Facebook might not be right for a commercial business – so consider that before you invest time in updating it)
  • Use your email marketing program to deliver your key message, capabilities and case studies to your existing database because it is far easier to sell to someone who already knows you than it is to attract a new client.
  • Make time to write about your business and your capabilities because it will drive traffic and increase sales.

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