Recently, you may have noticed a lot of noise around a certain buzzword…
And no, the word doesn’t rhyme with… ahem… Verona.
Actually, the buzzword in question isn’t even a word. It’s an acronym: SEO.
Search Engine Optimisation.
To put it concisely, SEO is “the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.” (Thanks, Moz).
But here’s the thing. We have a bone to pick about SEO.
It’s an indisputable fact that SEO is a vital element of any successful digital marketing strategy. We are definitely not flinging mud at that statement.
What we are squaring up about is a certain belief or misconception pertaining to SEO. Specifically, that it’s the be-all and end-all. That SEO alone will make or break the success of your business and digital marketing initiatives. That putting all your time and money, energy and resource into your website’s SEO strategy should always take precedence over any other activity to grow your business.
To be blunt, we consider that a whole heap of hullabaloo.
Now, we’re not saying that you should completely disregard SEO. We 100% urge you to incorporate these SEO best practices, as they will be sure to help both the visibility of your brand on search engine results and aid your lead capturing performance.
Certainly, if you want your brand to achieve greater visibility and higher levels of organic traffic, a solid SEO strategy is a must.
But on the flip-side… don’t put all your eggs in the SEO basket. Or you may end up like poor Ralph here.
In January alone Google released two major updates within the space of a week. In 2019, there were at least twelve confirmed major updates and many more that Google didn’t even announce.
Neil Patel (the SEO Guru) himself even points out that Google can release as many as three updates per day.
Our point is that Google regularly shifts the goalposts when it comes to its algorithms. SEO is always evolving depending on how we – as users – interact with search engines on a daily basis.
Yet time and time again, we witness businesses spending weeks, if not months, perfecting their SEO – only for Google to release an unexpected update overnight which slides them back to the bottom, Snakes and Ladders style.
(Total face-palm moment, right?)
There are so many other initiatives, projects and systems you could be exploring to help grow your business. Structures and tools you could be utilising to transform your long-term performance in fundamental, phenomenal ways.
Whether you’re just starting out or are years down the line, it’s never too early or late to work on your brand identity. By developing a clear idea of who you are, what you stand for, what your purpose is and what solution you’re setting out to offer your audience… that’s what’s going to take your material from generic marketing claptrap to impactful, effective, relevant and substantial creative content.
By better understanding your brand’s personality and archetype, you can strengthen both your TOV (tone of voice) and unique positioning within your industry. A multi-dimensional, authentic and convincing brand identity is what transforms a business from ‘a means to an end’ to a brand worth following, engaging with and ‘rooting for’ in your target market’s mind.
It elevates the relationship from something purely transactional to a meaningful and profound connection.
A powerful brand identity can also help establish consistent design and messaging across your website and any additional platforms, strengthening your brand presence.
To put it another way, a cohesive brand identity can heighten a sense of professionalism and validity around your business, and will simultaneously help you to ‘stick’ in your target market’s mind – more so than your competitors – whilst naturally attracting even more prospective customers to your site.
Do you know who your target market is? What are their likes/dislikes? What age range do they fall in to? Where do they hang out online?
You may or may not have heard the term ‘avatar’, but consider it just another way of saying ‘your ideal customer’. By fleshing out this background information about what type of client you’re aiming to attract, this will help you to ensure your messaging is again relevant and appropriate for your audience.
For instance, if you’re wanting to attract thirty-something yummy mummies, there’s no point throwing loads of irrelevant slang into your website copy whilst trying to appear ‘cool’. In fact, it could be something that actively alienates your prospective customer if they click onto your site.
Undertaking comprehensive audience research, building out your avatar’s profile, gaining clarity on who you’re trying to attract; all of these elements will contribute to a more effective lead generation strategy. Also, by understanding ‘where they hang out online’, you can even begin to refine your strategy further – taking your communication to where they’re at, rather than expecting them to naturally stumble across your website.
You could have the most mind-blowing SEO in place, but if you’re confused as to who you’re talking to or what language will best capture their attention and interest… it’s effort flushed down the drain, my friend.
SEO is a major culprit in contributing to the ‘build it and they will come’ mentality with website design and construction. Yet just because you have a slick-looking website plugged with heaps of keywords, that doesn’t mean your target market will relate to your offerings or even be interested in travelling further than your home page. All style and no substance will never lead to true community engagement or growth.
Likewise, all too often we see businesses so focused on SEO and Lead Generation that they end up ignoring and engaging the list they already have. That’s why it’s vital that in addition to any SEO strategy, you also take concurrent action to connect and engage with your audience on a more personal and emotional level.
This can include EDM (electronic direct mail) sequences, newsletter, re-engagement campaigns for a dormant CRM list, generating conversation across your self-hosted forums or social media, heck – even hosting a competition to kickstart that connection with your audience.
Your ideal customer will always respond better to your efforts at establishing authentic communication which demonstrates your own commitment and dedication to bettering their life, whether that’s in big or small ways. Simply sitting back and expecting your leads to convert themselves is… we’re sorry-not-sorry to say… a total fantasy.
Following on from our last point, guest blogging is another fantastic way to not only connect with an audience but in fact to actively grow your own following.
Guest blogging on sites which are complementary to your industry/business, but aren’t in direct competition with your products or services, can be hugely effective in A) increasing your brand exposure, B) increasing backlinks to your site (leading to more traffic to your own site) and C) reinforcing your brand as a legitimate business for prospective customers to approach and engage with.
For example, say I own a dog grooming business and I’m looking for worthwhile platforms on which to guest blog. A prime place could be to look to any local dog trainers, gauging whether they have their own established following and a healthy level of activity on their site.
Can you see the potential benefits for both me as ‘the dog groomer’ and the dog trainer I guest blog for? We’re not undermining each other’s efforts to generate business and interest; in fact, we’re very much encouraging the opposite.
I’m providing free value for them to post on their site, which will help them to increase their own traffic, whilst I’m gaining additional exposure with their community by featuring on their website.
You’ve just collected a whole load of leads, and – best of all – networked and gained contacts in your industry.
Again, leading on from our last point, creating a network of contacts and trusted partnerships can be a massive boost to your business. To put it another way, affiliate strategies and partnership sourcing are two more lucrative options for growing your following and increasing your conversions.
Think about the last time a friend or family member recommended a particular handyman… restaurant… mechanic… whatever you want.
You immediately judged that business or sole trader as more trustworthy than their competitors, right? Because your friend or family member wouldn’t lead you astray; they simply care that you experience a great level of service.
And that’s the beauty of affiliate and partnership schemes. Because in the majority of consumer’s minds, if done correctly, a brand’s suggestions or recommendations can hold about as much sway as a friend or family members’.
People are much more inclined to trust and follow the recommendations of people – and brands – they already know and like, as opposed to… say… a random site that pops up on a Google search.
That’s not to say people won’t still Google ‘best local restaurants’. But if they’ve already received a recommendation from a friend/family member/trusted brand saying, ‘You seriously need to try out this pizzeria’s calzone!’ then that person might not even bother searching for a local restaurant; they might just go ahead and book a table at your pizzeria without a second thought.
Establishing an affiliate scheme can be seriously effortless, especially with a trusted CRM in place. Likewise, partnership sourcing can be achieved simply through connecting with complementary businesses and suggesting a form of ‘we scratch your back, you scratch ours’ energy exchange.
So, here’s the dealio, at the risk of sounding like a parrot…
You may have the most fantastic SEO strategy in place for your site. You may even climb the mountain to rank in Google’s top SERPs (search engine results pages).
But what happens when your ideal customer clicks on your website, only to discover it’s boring, bland, irrelevant, unimaginative and uninformative?
Yup. They’re going to click away and disengage pretty quickly. Which is the last thing you want, after you’ve put all that legwork and money into getting yourself onto that coveted golden first page.
Again, just so we’re clear, SEO is undeniably important. But it won’t be the only factor which determines your success.
Something to chew over, at least. And with that, we’ll leave you with this final question:
What are you working on right now to strengthen your online presence? How are you building a community around your brand?