Recently a client confessed to us that he had allowed a third party’s search engine optimization tactics to hold his website content hostage. As a career medical professional, he had a wealth of published work, and he also used, and wrote about, very specific approaches to patient care. He admitted that at some points his website content had been so affected by SEO-driven edits that it was no longer accurate. He was also getting calls from patients who had found his website during an online search and were in extreme need, but were not appropriate for his practice. He began spending an inordinate amount of time redirecting patients to more appropriate healthcare providers or other organizations that might help. The time and distraction began to eat into his practice and his peace of mind.
In this case, SEO completely consumed the business’s marketing budget while driving inappropriate users to its site. Yes, it increased traffic significantly, but the conversion to real business, or at least to phone conversations or email exchanges with potential clients, was negligible. In fact, it was zero. This was an extreme case, but it was a wake up call for all of us.
When clients ask us about SEO, except in some specific cases (typically online shopping and ecommerce), we recommend commonsense practices that add to a visitor’s experience on a website, and help to get the attention of web browsers. Here are just a few ideas that may be helpful:
Don’t let concern about search engine visibility get in the way of telling your story, being your authentic, customer-focused self, and creating a branded user experience. People want to do business with someone they know, like and trust. And, that’s you and your business.
Understand and use the phrases and words associated with your business; what are your potential customers typing into the browser search box when they use Google or Bing to look for your services online? Use those keywords organically in your website’s live copy, in headlines, blog content, title tags, etc.
Write compelling, informative copy.
Don’t restrict your copy to bulleted items; feel free to add in-depth explanations for each of your services, products and approaches.
Use outbound links to credible, authoritative sites. Perhaps link to product pages and other resources for your customers.
Use great images, videos or diagrams of your process with descriptions and captions.
Use social sharing buttons and engage with customers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ or anywhere else your clients frequent.
Make sure the business (and its website) is listed in appropriate directories.
Remember, an integrated marketing program is essential to support your online presence. The goal is to make introductions and foster relationships – to put you together with prospective clients – not simply drive traffic to your website.
As you would when hiring any professional, if you’re going to contract with an SEO or search engine marketing solution provider or partner, be sure you do your homework when it comes to having your site audited and subsequently improved for greater search engine visibility and ranking. Be careful not to hand the reins over to a service provider who’s more driven by analytics than by business building. Yes, give serious consideration to how your online presence can and should be seen by search engines – where your content can be exposed, or made more visible, to browsers – but, first and foremost, give your potential customers a glimpse into what it would be like to work with the real you.
Follow Deanne on Twitter @stonesthrowinc
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