What it takes to be the dominant result when customers “Google” you Featured

3:00pm EDT March 1, 2011
What it takes to be the dominant result when customers “Google” you

Today’s business reality is that when the need for a product or service arises, the overwhelming first step taken is to search for that keyword phrase via an Internet search engine (Google, Bing, etc.).

In truth, no one but Google knows how to always be the No. 1 result, and no one can guarantee that placement. However, with proper search engine optimization (SEO), you can dominate your Google results so you show up at the top of the search results page, and appear in as many results as possible.

“It is essential to keep up with SEO practices to ensure your business ranks high and often in search engine results,” says Kevin Hourigan, the president and CEO of Web designWeb development and Internet marketing agency Bayshore Solutions. “Otherwise, your business seriously risks online invisibility.”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about SEO and what it takes to keep your business on top of online search results.

Why is SEO different today?

The algorithms that Google and other search engines use to determine where to rank your business and when to show it to searchers is always evolving. The search engines’ main goal is to show relevant results to a searcher so they can quickly find what they are looking for. Years ago, a preponderance of keywords appearing on a Web page indicated its relevance to the searcher’s intended query.  As both searchers and search marketers advanced (and as unscrupulous SEO tacticians found ways to game the algorithms), search engines have become much more complex in the way SEO tactics are weighted, rewarded and/or punished in the results.

The SEO basics of proper keyword use, tagging and site-mapping are now joined by achieving the right volume and quality of links to your website through a multitude of online sources. The power of appropriate link strategy in SEO is a pivotal key to success. Relying on the SEO tactics of yesterday amid the search dynamics of today is a sure path to failure.

How do I get the right links for SEO?

Successful SEO revolves around an advanced strategy of content marketing. The more relevant content you can give to searchers, the better chances you have of ranking high and showing up when they’re searching for you online.

This means re-evaluating what you consider to be your ‘secret sauce’ in the content you will offer freely online. The hard fact is that most of the information you would hold close is already available online from your competitors. It is very important to offer content that consumers (not necessarily you) deem valuable in exchange for even their contact name and e-mail address. Consider when, where and why you want to keep such roadblocks up, and remove them wherever you can. When you can share as much information as possible to help a potential customer reach their best decision, you win by being the one that has developed that trust and relationship during their research phase. Also, you stand a very good chance of taking them out of the competitive market by being a click (or less) away as they are experiencing your content.

When packaging your content for distribution in as many relevant online places as possible, make sure that you are building in links back to pages on your website. It is equally important to embed calls to action for further information or inviting a conversation. Make it easy for the recipient to be in control and to reach out to you.

What content should I develop?

The right array of content items is different for each business’s SEO strategy. Some important content items to optimize and use in your SEO mix include:

• Map listings and business profiles

• Your corporate blog

• Videos, podcasts and slide casts

• Articles, e-books, whitepapers, worksheets, checklists and buyers’ guides

• Case studies of successful projects or service delivery

• Client testimonials and reference links

• Social media and bookmarking channels, profiles and engagements

• Optimized press releases

• Reviews on consumer websites and group forums

When a customer searching for your product or service sees a search engine results page that shows not only your main website, but many of the above items pointing to your business, they are instantly impressed with the credibility, breadth and depth of your expertise. They are also more likely to begin their relationship with you through your online content offerings that address their search questions.

How do I get started?

Smart content strategies are often interconnected in that the development of one item can feed or inspire one or many others. A very helpful habit to develop in your optimized content marketing is to develop a format and distribution matrix. Use this matrix as a framework to evaluate the content items you already have or are considering creating and ask, ‘With some slight adjustments, what other formats can this item address?’

For example: Can your blog posts be expanded upon to create articles? Could you record and post them as videos or audio podcasts? Could you extend customer satisfaction polls to encourage online reviews? Do you have a list of frequently asked questions about your product or service? How many formats could the answers be addressed in? How many different distribution channels online could these apply to?

These are focused disciplines that often draw upon advanced skill sets. For sustained best results, they require dedicated resources either in-house or with an Internet partner. Content marketing and SEO are two facets of the same system that need to be in synch with each other. When done properly, you can dominate your search engine results pages, and achieve superior lead generation power.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions’ Web marketing methodology, visit www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.