The Organic Search Chronicles, Part 1 – The Case for SEO

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Alright, as promised yesterday, here begins my new mini-series surveying organic search marketing and the implications of this form of marketing on your business.  Scores of information has been written on this topic, some of the best by SEOMoz and Hubspot.  Knowing I’m trodding down an already well-paved road, I’m going to focus on the questions and concerns most frequently brought up to us by small business owners and decision makers in mid-sized organizations.

For instance:

  • Why should I choose internet marketing over other forms of marketing?
  • How does SEO work?
  • What level of commitment (both in terms of time and money) should I expect to make in internet marketing?

Today’s topic is Making the Case for SEO.

(We’ll discuss why we hate the term “SEO” later)

The Old Way to Market Stuff

When marketing your company you have a lot of different options.  Call up a radio or TV station, a newspaper, a telemarketing company, a graphic designer and a web design firm and you’ll get at least six different opinions as to the best way to spend your money.  We obviously have a vested interest in getting you interested in the potential of SEO and other forms of internet marketing, but only because we think the benefits of internet marketing far outweigh the returns you’ll gain from other media.

This is because search engines have taken a major role in the research and buy process of consumers of all sorts of products, ranging from consumer goods like DVDs, books and cars to B2B products and services like technology vendors, accounting software systems and parts distributors.

As Tom has eloquently stated, most traditional media focuses on an “outbound” approach predicated on a conjured marketing message.  This message is your idea of how you want people to perceive your company.  This message is then broadcast (in the original sense of the word) to a large group of people in ways that interrupt their day.  Ads that hog space in newspaper pages, or interrupt their favorite songs or TV show.  Unsolicited junk mail that gets two glances as it makes its waste to the recycle bin.  Phone calls they’d prefer to ignore or spam emails they never signed up for.

Poor response rates from these campaigns doesn’t mean there aren’t interested buyers for the products or services advertised using these media.  It means that the sensibilities of the prospects have changed.  Old media no longer speaks the language that sells.  You can’t improve the results simply by cranking up the volume.

Marketing Online is Different

Internet marketing is fundamentally different than traditional marketing.  At least, for the marketers that “get it.”   Online, the customer doesn’t care what you have to say about yourself.  The customer only cares about what you do for them.

This subtle but enormous difference is the reason why Zappos and Amazon.com are kicking the butts of their competitors.  These companies understand that people are looking for products, all right, and what they want is information.  Lots and lots of information!

The kind of information that will be valuable to provide to your target market will vary depending on what you do.  But it’ s not that hard if you just take the time to take off your “marketer’s hat” and think like a customer.  Let’s start at the very beginning: the web query.

If you’re anything like me, you use the web practically every day and reach out to a search engine like Google to answer your questions and problems.  Everything from “origin of the word broadcast” as I used just minutes ago or something reflecting a more serious decision, such as “should I refinance my mortgage.”

Out of the bazillions of potential sites out there (okay, more like 1 trillion) Google then shares with you a numeric list of the sites it thinks match what you’re looking for.  How Google comes up with this list is the heart of this series and will be explored in great detail in follow-up installments.

Now you go and open up one or more of these results if the listing looks like it matches your query.  If it all looks pretty bogus, you may search again or dig deeper into the results.  However, Google’s gotten so good that you may not even make it past the first page.

So here’s the crux of my argument:

  • When people are looking for a solution to problems that you solve, you want to be in places where they will find you.
  • Search engines, especially Google, are the first place people look up to 66% of the time.

Overwhelmed?  Worried that your site isn’t coming up when customers are looking for you?  Let me add:

  • It is not that hard to come up for phrases relevant to what you do.
  • You just need to say what you do in a way that search engines — and people — will understand.

There is an enormous technical background behind the principles of SEO, but none of it works without your being forthcoming about what you do and explaining what you do in understandable terms.  Use phrases related to your business instead of Gobbledygook or precision-crafted marketing messages of little value.

May I also suggest at Tom’s 5 Quick  and Easy Tips to Figuring Out What Your Company Actually Does.

Getting From Nowhere To Found

Take a hard look about where you are and where you want to be, and subscribe to the attitude that you need to genuinely inform and educate potential customers in order to gain trust (which in turn grows sales.)  Make a commitment that marketing is not a glossy flyer that goes out, but the sum of your relationships with clients, vendors and prospects, and that growing these relationships and providing value to these relationships is part of the sales process.

Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to benefit from the fruits of internet marketing.

In our next installment, I’ll explain how search engines work, how SEO seeks to influence search results, and how aligning your site with the expectations of search engines and users will allow you to grow new business in an era of research-learn-and-buy consumers who are sick of being interrupted.