In today’s world, almost every business relies on the internet to some extent for marketing and sales purposes. In fact, nearly 2/3 of all retail sales are now completed online. This means that more and more businesses are realizing the importance of having a strong online presence if they want to succeed.
But what does that mean in terms of actual strategy and how to go about creating that online presence? How can entrepreneurs and business owners implement effective SEO and digital marketing strategies to grow their companies?
The answer is surprisingly straightforward. In fact, a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Business School determined that nearly all aspects of digital marketing can be neatly categorized into three distinct disciplines: SEO (Search Engine Optimization), SEM (Social Media Optimization) and SMM (Content Marketing, Marketing Automation and Online Reputation Management).
Each of these three areas can be considered as a tool that business can use to gain a competitive advantage in terms of ROI (Return On Investment). In the coming sections, we will discuss how these tools can help entrepreneurs and business owners effectively go about launching and growing their companies.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Simply put, SEO is the process of tweaking the content and structures of your website to make it more relevant and useful for search engines like Google and Bing.
By taking into consideration all of the above, it is no wonder that 76% of business owners and executives agree that SEO is extremely effective in terms of driving leads and sales. Furthermore, 62% of business owners and executives claim that SEO has a pretty high ROI (Return On Investment).
In other words, SEO is a fantastic tool for increasing the productivity of your sales team and getting the most out of your marketing activities. Simply put, with SEO, you can drive more qualified leads to your website and transform them into paying customers.
This is why SEO is one of the most important areas of digital marketing strategy. If you want to learn more, here are four questions you need to ask your SEO consultant:
1. How do you plan to increase my organic traffic?
The first and most obvious question to ask your SEO consultant is: How do you plan to increase my organic traffic?
You see, back in the day, people would actually go out and visit retail stores to look at the products and find the best deals. Today, with everyone focused on their smartphones, people are typically searching for products and making their purchases online. This means that your organic traffic, or visits from people who found you online because they were searching for your products, is now a lot more valuable.
So how do you plan to increase my organic traffic? The answer to this question reveals a lot about your SEO strategy and what you are trying to achieve. Are you focusing on getting a lot of cheap traffic, or are you trying to build a brand for the long term? Are you using paid or organic search? Are you optimizing for the keyphrase or keywords “buy now” or “how to?”
The strategy you use to increase organic traffic will determine the kind of results you get. Once you understand this, you can decide which path to take.
2. What are your goals for 2017?
The next important question to ask your SEO consultant is: What are your goals for 2017?
You see, with over 75% of the United States population now online and the amount of time people spend on their phones constantly increasing, it is essential to have a clear idea of what you are trying to accomplish in terms of SEO.
There are a lot of moving parts to SEO, but the basic idea is to improve your website’s performance in organic searches so that it ranks higher than your competitors in search results. The higher your website ranks for relevant keywords, the more potential customers you will attract.
So if you want to grow your company this year, it is essential that you set some clear and measurable SEO goals for yourself.
3. What is your background and who are you working with?
The third important question to ask your SEO consultant is: What is your background and who are you working with?
Depending on your marketing budget, you can hire an in-house team of digital marketers or you can hire freelancers who specialize in SEO to help you reach your goals. This is obviously a lot more cost-effective, but as we’ve established, time is money.
Your background can be considered your career history, while your working with refers to the individuals and companies you have collaborated with in the past. Your collaborators, in other words, determine your network.
For instance, if you have a strong background in e-commerce and you are now looking to expand your operations into the financial services industry, it makes sense to connect with an e-commerce SEO expert. But if you have a background in media and you are now expanding into the real estate industry, it might be useful to connect with a real estate SEO expert.
4. What tools do you use to monitor and analyze my SEO performance?
The final question you need to ask your SEO consultant is: What tools do you use to monitor and analyze my SEO performance?
The answer to this question will depend on your marketing budget. If you have a sizable budget, you can invest in expensive tools that will help you track the performance of your SEO efforts across different platforms.
These tools can identify and report on the key performance indicators (KPIs) that show the health of your SEO strategy. For example, you can use Google Analytics to track the traffic generated from different platforms (e.g., desktop browsers, mobile devices, or other online channels) and the performance of each campaign or channel. You can use HubSpot’s Performance Tracker to follow the progress of your SEO initiatives and measure the results of your efforts.
If you have a limited budget, you can simply keep tabs on the number of leads or sales you are getting from each of your marketing efforts and evaluate the return on your investment (ROI) over time. This brings us to our next topic…
SEM (Social Media Optimization)
As we mentioned above, nearly two thirds of all retail sales are now completed online. This suggests that businesses are realizing the power of social media to grow their companies. Indeed, 63% of business owners and executives agree that SEM is extremely effective in terms of driving leads and sales.
SEM, or social media optimization, is the process of gaining popularity on social platforms like Twitter and Instagram by creating engaging content that will keep people interested and coming back for more. (i.e., marketing on social media)
And when people come back, they usually click on ads or offers that are displayed in their social feeds.
So how can business owners implement SEM to grow their companies? Four questions you need to ask your social media consultant are:
- What is your strategy for increasing my brand’s social media engagement?
- How do you plan to get my followers to engage with my brand?
- How many daily engagements can you get me?
- Which platforms (i.e., social media channels) can I use to grow my business?
Again, your strategy for increasing your social media engagement can be considered your overall approach towards gaining popularity on social media platforms. This includes everything from which platforms you will use to reach your audience to the type of content you will produce.
Your social media consultant’s answer to the first question, for example, can tell you a lot about your strategy: Are you planning to focus on gaining a lot of followers quickly or are you wanting to gradually expand your online presence? Are you using paid ads or organic content to gain popularity?
The answer to this question reveals a lot about your long-term goals in terms of building credibility and gaining trust on social media. If you want to grow your business quickly, you can use things like social media contests and giveaways to gain popularity on social media. But if you want to gradually expand your online presence, you can use things like guest blogging and opinion posting to get recognized as an industry expert and gain credibility on social media.
Once you have a clear understanding of your strategy, you can decide which paths to take. Are you going to use digital marketing (i.e., SEO and SEM) or are you planning to expand into physical mailing lists? Are you going to use social media to engage with existing customers or are you looking to attract new audiences?