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On-Site and Off-Site Search Engine Marketing

Here's one thing that Internet users - from online shoppers to blog readers to prospective customers of your local business have in common:  Over 82% of consumers use search engines to find local businesses.  About 93% of online traffic begins at search engines.  All business owners that have websites want to be visible in front of their potential customers.  There is one key point in this article that needs to be point out.  On-site and off-site optimization are both equally responsible for where the search engines decide to place your website. 

Your business can turn on-site and off-site optimization to your advantage through search engine marketing, or SEM, the process of making targeted changes to your website to attract traffic from major search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.

SEM raises your profile on search engines, but the goal is not just to attain first-page, top 10 natural rankings for a few main keyword phrases. The goal is to gain new customers - a greater number of qualified leads and a higher conversion rate. Achieving it involves three steps:

  • Making changes to your website that attract more pre-qualified, potential customers.  This is known as on-site optimization.
  • Increasing inbound links (link-building), and ensuring you’re represented in online directories and other websites that your potential customers will visit.  This is known as off-site optimization.
  • Using an analytics program to track the success of your on-site and off-site optimization, then making adjustments.

Search engines and your potential customers that are website visitors want the same things; a frequently updated site that informs your potential customers that may be ready to make “buying decision”.   To begin your search engine optimization and SEM strategy, focus on answering questions like: What sets your business apart from your competition? What type of customers do you want to attract?  What words and phrases would that ideal customer use in searching for your business on sites like Google?

On-site Optimization

To improve your search results, schedule time each week - even just an hour - for updating your site with search engine (and prospect) friendly content whether you do this yourself or hire a professional SEM and Internet Marketing Company:

  • Highlight the specific products and services you focus on. Strive for a conversational, jargon-free style and a variety of phrasings and word choices.
  • Promote your unique expertise - if you're a Personal Injury Attorney, for example, with a background in law enforcement.
  • Include references to your geographic location in all its areas including: state, metro area, city, neighborhood and even regional nicknames.
  • Pay attention to title tags and meta-descriptions - HTML code used to generate the description of your business that appears in search results.
  • Put an offer in your meta-description for specific products or services on those specific pages, for example, if you’re a kitchen remodeler, put free estimates in the meta-description.

By doing so, you'll fill your site with keywords and keyword phrases that match your prospect's search terms, thereby improving your chances for higher rankings (and increasing conversions, because the content on your site will better meet your potential customers needs).

If you're unsure how to start, think about your conversations with clients - the questions they have, the way they ask them, and how you respond. Use your site to address those concerns and the solutions you provide. Respond to their frequently asked questions in articles you post and in blogs.  About 87% of search queries are unique, one-time searches and over 90% of people that perform a search DO NOT go past the first page.  Sites that successfully zero in on their targeted potential customers - through clearly written, relevant content incorporating a variety of keywords - are more likely to capture the niche "longer keyword phrase" searches that can be highly profitable for your local business.  An example long keyword phrase search would be, “what SEM company should I hire to promote my local business in Lansing MI?”  If you write an article on “why local Michigan businesses should hire our SEM marketing company” then you will be visible in front of those specific “ niche” searches.  Hundreds of local businesses, for example, compete for a consumer using keywords in their Google search such as "Lansing Dentist." The conversion rate, therefore, is very low. "Lansing Michigan teeth whitening specialist" on the other hand, is a more focused search with better odds for success. Your time is often best spent competing for those less-popular but more conversion-oriented searches, which generate the best pre-qualified leads that fit your customer profile.

Finally, remember that on-site optimization isn't just about words. Well-designed, user-friendly sites that aren't overloaded with bells-and-whistles typically fare better in searches. Use tools like Flash animation in moderation, for example. Ensure your internal hyperlinks are intuitive and include anchor text for each link ("teeth whitening specialist,” not "click here").

Off-Site Optimization

Other factors besides site content and design influence search-engine rankingsInbound links - a link on another website that directs users to your site - are one of the most important factors, because search engines see them as providing credibility.  The more a website is visited, the better for your results when linking from it.  An example would be, if you were a book dealer, having a link on Amazon.com would be much more beneficial than having a link on joesbooks.com (Joe’s Book Store in Lansing MI).

An expanding network of inbound links should be part of your SEM strategy. Don’t get caught up in the quantity rather than the quality. Having 100 links from prominent, relevant sites is better than having 500 links from any site you can get a link on.  Factors that Google and other search engines use to evaluate link quality include:

  • Speed: To discourage businesses from working with fly-by-night link farms and similar schemes, search engines prefer a steady accumulation of links instead of sudden, drastic increases.  This is why it’s important to build links at a consistent pace.
  • Popularity: Links from a prominent online directory or other popular sites carry extra weight.
  • Relevance: Links from other websites that cover the same subject matter as you do are better.  If you are a bakery, you don’t need to link from a car dealership.

Get your website address out through a wide variety of online resources, such as national and local search engines, online local directories, blogs, online articles, social bookmarking sites, online video websites (if you have video’s to market), gain link partnerships with your distributors, suppliers, etc.

Incorporate your website address into your comment space when you contribute to blogs and forums, or articles online.

Treat your off-site optimization strategy like the content on your site - review it regularly to ensure it's fresh, updated and in line with your objectives.  Your off-site optimization and SEM is as important as the things you do on your website!

Web Analytics

Information feeds SEM strategy. The first time you talk with prospects, find out how they heard about you. Then follow up with more questions. Did they visit your Web site? If so, did it influence them to contact you?  To improve lead tracking, you can also customize the "contact us" instructions you give customers.

Consider assigning a unique URL extension or 800-number to your various online ads and other listings, for example, to see which are generating quality leads.

One of the best tools for evaluating SEM strategy, however, are web analytic programs available from your website developer or Search Engine Marketing Company. They enable you to look beyond site hits to analyze:

  • Number of unique visitors.
  • Number of page views and what pages are viewed the most
  • What cities are generating the most visits.
  • How long people are visiting your website.
  • Which keywords, search engines and other referral sources generate the most visitors.

Information from these analytic tools help you make informed, data-driven adjustments to yourInternet marketing strategy, such as focusing resources on popular areas of your site, rethinking content that's ineffective, or investing more in other online areas like articles, online directory listings, page additions to your website and more.

With all three elements of successful SEM in place - on-site and off-site optimization supported by visitor analytic tools - your local business will be positioned to harness the power of search engines to gain new customers, clients or customers to your business!  Call us today for a free website and web presence evaluation at 888-268-1892 or contact us today!  It could be the difference in your businesses success and failure!