In the polls I carried out ‘Search’ was a topic that small businesses wanted to read about. You can find what I wrote about Social Media here. Since the pandemic, some bricks and mortar businesses have moved online. Service businesses that relied on referrals and networking have also improved their online presence.
This is not a definitive guide to developing a kick-ass SEO strategy and does not cover paid strategies like PPC. I advise on using data for decision-making and the impact on the whole marketing mix. I am not a specialist in search.
I am a business owner who has operated largely online, even pre-Covid-19. My curiosity about measurement has led me to new things that may help others.
The only way that you can track if you are improving in any aspect of business is to know where you are now. This is particularly true for businesses that do not sell online products or services and for ones where the length of time from search to buying is long. Because it is harder to link search activities to business success.
You can hire specialists to do a check on your online presence or you can do it yourself. I chose the latter because I then got to learn about some of the key concepts and read about a range of points of view, not just one. I will also feel more confident now that if I do outsource, I pick the right person for the job.
Google your name, trading name or business name. How high up the results are you for each? One of the things I wish I had done before choosing a business name is to look at what other businesses used the same words in their company name. I “compete” in search results with a knitwear designer, so I am on page 3 of a search for the name “Jo Gordon”. But page 1 for “Jo Gordon analyst.”
When you Google you how many different results come up that relate to you or your business in some way? I boosted the number of times I appear in search results by:
These things help even if you are bricks and mortar or prefer to build an offline business because, like it or not, almost everyone searches online at some point in their buying decision process. Showing up multiple times when they check you out demonstrates to them and to Google that you are real, legitimate, and active.
Have your website and social links including the full https address handy. If you paste this people can click on it to go to your site or social pages straight away in most documents. Links to your content on others’ sites can form social proof posts on your platforms. Keep your branding and details refreshed in directories. I only realised how many places I was when I rebranded, a log makes updating easier.
You are missing out if you build static profiles and then leave them, even if you do not need that platform to generate business. As a minimum, pick out the platforms that you control and put time in the diary to refresh the static content (bios, contact, product/service details) regularly – I do mine once a quarter. That means that anyone who comes across you gets reasonably up to date info.
Ideally, also refresh content and images too because this signals to Google that you are active. Since I have been blogging regularly, I get about double the monthly organic searches than I did before. Many more site visits than I would expect given the traffic that I directly pushed to my website by promoting my blog on social platforms with a link. More on how I know that later.
Write about what the people you would like to read your stuff want to know, not what you think they should know – you can cover that later when you have a real relationship with them. That is why I am writing this, I asked people what they wanted. You can poll, like I did. Or use an online tool for inspiration and overview.
There are loads of them around, but here are a few that I have used personally, all free. Just remember these outputs are not necessarily what your ideal clients want to know, but what most people are doing. Better than a shot in the dark though.
I love the visuals but also how you can save off the data for future reference. The results are split into questions asked, where the word you chose is at the beginning of the search term, and where people are searching for a “vs” comparison.
Again, visuals fabulous. It goes way back if you are interested in trends, you can drill into geography and it is super handy for understanding when in a year interest peaks. You can also do quite complex comparisons and data pulls if you need to.
“Trending topics” on the social channels, they all have their own version of this including LinkedIn. Look at “Top stories” or “Most read” by category in on the BBC. “People also search for” and “People also ask” and “Related searches” in Google search. This can help you expand a topic or get the phrasing of a title just right.
If you are writing about what people want to know you need to make it as easy as possible for them to discover your content in their searches. This is my non-expert definition of what SEO is. In the old days it was about making sure that you had the relevant keywords for your business packed into your content.
Google is wise to keyword-crammed but nonsensical content and marks you down for it. We are also much more sophisticated in how we search now so it pays to include not just keywords but the most popular phrases that people search for. The tools set out above, especially Answer The Public, come into their own once again.
Here are the things that I try to pay attention to when producing content. I am still learning and by no means an expert in any of them, but:
Most businesses do several activities that have an impact on their online visibility so it can be tricky to track which are working best. I have set up Google Analytics and Google Search Console for my website domain to help me understand:
I do not use either of these tools to their fullest potential because my own business is relatively simple. But I have used very granular data from other businesses in my client work, so I know what is possible – the insights can be very powerful. You must tell visitors to your site if you connect these or other tools. If you have a transactional website, please do make sure that you have a sound understanding of GDPR.
Google is not your only option and like all tools that handle data, how accurate it is largely depends on how well you understand what data it is collecting and to an extent how well you set it up. There is lots of material to help you decide if you just Google “alternatives to Google Analytics.”
There are privacy and compliance issues to think about, especially when you use tracking tools to monitor what visitors do on your website. I am a strong advocate of data governance and compliance, but not an expert. Try these:
These pros are human experts in this whole area. Check them out:
The five steps above are a specific example of using data to inform your next marketing moves. I talk about this more generally here.
The last blog in this series will be along similar lines but about sales. Simple ways that you can use your own sales data to learn more on how your business works. Join my mailing list to avoid missing out.
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© Jo Gordon Consulting Ltd 2020