SEO, How does it Work?
As an entrepreneur or business owner, you’ve probably seen a flood of information on this peculiar subject. So much so that the more you learn, the harder it is to get a grip on what SEO really is. How do you get started? What is the finite cost? Better yet, what is the return and why should I do it?
We asked Eric Sutfin, our very own MG Branding SEO expert, to boil it down to brass tacks and find out what prevents clients from taking on this important but seemingly impossible marketing function.
“SEO is no more than doing what we naturally do offline, and translating ‘social proof’ online.” – Eric Sutfin
People are happier when they live in community; depend on one another to make it through the peaks and valleys of life.
In America, these pockets of communities exist and are in large part made up of locally owned businesses. We take the interdependence between businesses and create that online but now we’re not limited to the neighborhood. With the Internet, the whole world is at our fingertips.
So What IS SEO?
When putting this so-called community online, you’re trying to project social proof like a shop owner with a packed patio when his neighbors have no traffic. This packed patio creates credibility to an outside viewer. Therefore, you must answer these three questions about your online presence: (1) how much do you know what you’re talking about, (2) how much do others know what you’re talking about, and (3) how well are you playing the game based on the rules to win customers?
You must become the most popular authority over time thus increasing your credibility to your peers the world over.
This simplified approach doesn’t cover execution, which will be the point of future articles. We wanted to focus on debunking the myths that have shrouded in ambiguity.
“It’s Just Too Expensive”
While it’s important to understand that SEO is an investment, the basis of your evaluation should start with this understanding. People are searching for what you provide 24 hours a day at their convenience, all across your city. At a minimum, they should be able to find your name, location, contact information, and primary products or services on their own terms. If they cannot, you are losing far more as a result. More than likely, your competitors that have been investing are winning these sales.
“It is too time intensive – time that I just don’t have!”
SEO in execution does take time, time best left to the experts. It is important for you to understand what’s going on behind the scenes and to receive regular feedback on the progress of your efforts, so we recommend developing a strategic partner to lead you through the process. They should at the very least develop content for you or coach you to do it yourself and submit to local directories. Remember, you must be available at your customer’s leisure; directories allow you to be seen for basic searches on Google and other prominent search engines.
“I have no idea how to get started!”
It can be intimidating, but trust me, you can do this. Start by considering the following three questions: (1) Is my product/service something that can benefit from SEO? (It’s nearly impossible to outspend national companies.) (2) What is the strategy and approach to generating online content that is unique to my business? (3) Can you show me case studies of people you’ve worked with in my similar position? Start reading and watching videos to gain awareness of the process or sit down with us to go through it.
“I’ve tried it before.”
Without seeing direct outputs from initial SEO efforts, we understand your reluctance to start; you’ve likely had a bad experience with another company. We’ve found that many SEO companies provide quick short-term strategies to show an increase on nice graphs that makes them look good. The problem is, this is at your expense and search engines are penalizing this inauthentic practice. Your customers want to hear from you and just because you’ve been burned before does not negate SEO’s necessity.
“I don’t know the questions to ask!”
Not a problem! Here are a set of questions to ask when sitting down with an SEO expert that will help you get started. (1) Where am I currently found? (2) How many people are searching for my business/what I do? (3) Do you submit to all 180+ search engines? (Yes, there really are that many!) (4) How do you track my success? (5) What will you do to accelerate my gains/rankings across search engines? (6) Do you use your own internal sites to create content or outsource any part of the work? (If someone is charging by the keyword, beware). Do your due diligence and be sure the company you select will be an ongoing partner with you, every month of the relationship.
“My competitors are doing it better than me!”
Okay, it doesn’t have to stay that way. SEO is like a chess game and you’ve been getting played so far. It is all about strategy and execution. Creating an effective infrastructure of content online will make you an authority and is very much within reach of your business. It’s time to outsmart your competitors with your unique position. Remember, you don’t have to overspend to compete.
“I have a product/service that no one is searching for!”
If your product or service did not fulfill a need, solve a problem, or provide value, then your company wouldn’t exist. Therefore, people are searching for the answers to the questions your product/service solves. You have to understand your customers and what they’re searching for then reverse engineer that to produce content. Remember, it’s all about your strategy, so after you understand where you’re meeting your customers in their lifecycle, find the angle and attack.
We understand that SEO is complicated – but it is not overly complicated, and you can master the process. Consider writing a book or novel to sell in bookstores. If you were to go through the trouble of writing, editing, and publishing a book without an ISBN, no one would be able to find it! So what good is it? In the same way, be sure your strategic partner works directly with search engines to help “your ISBN” be found. There are some things you can do internally yourself or by an intern/employee with fairly minimal effort. The rest is better left to the experts.
Eric got into this business because of the obvious synergies he saw of local businesses collaborating online. It’s exciting to see growth and communities strengthened by working smarter in the 21st century!