It is the desire of every business owner, organization or person that has a website to be highly ranked or prominent on search engine browser results, preferably on the first page. In the United States the top three search engines are Google with a 67% market share, Bing with an 18% market share followed by Yahoo with an 11% market share for a total of 96% of all Internet searches performed by these “Big Three”. Each of these companies has their own way of ranking websites and the algorithms they utilize for their rankings changes on a constant basis with each algorithm looking at hundreds of variables on each site. With these facts in mind how does one accomplish the lofty goal of being on the first page of a browser?
To put things into perspective on how competitive rankings are we’ll give you an example. Our company, Clarity Creative Media, is primarily in the business of web development and web design. If a person or business is looking for a web developer and they type the phrase “web developer” in Google they would have over 588,000,000 choices presented to them in less than a second. To narrow the search down further, if they typed in the phrase “web developer Tampa Bay” they would be presented with 274,000 choices in less than a second. Now we’re not betting men, but we can say with absolute certainty that there are not 274,000 web developers in the Tampa Bay area. How does a prospective customer or client choose and more importantly how many pages will they go through before making a decision? Personally, if we don’t find what we’re looking for within the first 5 pages of a search we will change our search criteria and the phrases we utilize. That is what most of your prospective customers or clients do as well.
This is where some form of search engine optimization or “SEO” comes into play and must be utilized by you the business owner, or your web developer/ designer. There are several methods that can be utilized by you or your web developer to increase your exposure with little or no cost involved and without bringing in a professional SEO Specialist.
- Content. There is a saying in the web development community that “content is king”. The most important component of SEO is good, relevant content as it relates to what your prospective customers are looking for. It should be well written, to the point and informative.
- Clean Code. Web developers that do not stay current with industry standards will write sub-standard code that can be misinterpreted or ignored by search engines/ browsers.
- The use of Alt Tags for photos. An Alt Tag is a snippet of code within a webpage that cannot be seen. It describes any photos or images within your website. A search engine does not know what the image is unless it is told with the use of an Alt Tag.
- Social Media. More and more search engines/ browsers will look to social media for a websites relevance or following. Utilizing social media platforms such as Facebook, Google+, a blog, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn to name a few, will keep your clients and prospective clients aware of developments within your company and gives them an opportunity to interact with you making their experience a little more personal. One word of caution, if you begin a social media campaign or presence keep the content fresh and current. For SEO purposes NO CONTENT IS BETTER THAN STALE CONTENT. Before beginning a social media campaign really think about how much time you will have to devote to it. To give you an example, we at Clarity Creative Media refuse to be slaves to our phones and as such purposely decided not to start a Twitter account. Be selective when deciding on which social media platforms you wish to participate in.
- Design your website to be Responsive. Responsive Web Design has been popular now for about 4 years now and allows your website to be used by any type of device be it a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet or smartphone. The design is dynamic in nature and is user friendly and easy to navigate no matter what the screen size. Over half of all web searches are now performed by a mobile device while approximately 20% of all website are Responsive. By having a Responsive website from the beginning gives you a competitive edge over most of your competition.
- Google AdWords or Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising. Google AdWords is an online service that will place a brief description of your business in the form of an advertisement with a direct link to your website on Google’s browser. Placement of such ads are placed at the top or bottom of, or beside the list of results Google displays for a particular search query. The choice and placement of your ad is determined in part on a proprietary algorithm based on the relevance of the search query to your advertising copy. Google AdWords costs money and as a result has become Google’s main source of revenue generating $42.5 billion U.S. Dollars in 2012. Results are not guaranteed and vary greatly in degrees of success. We personally do not use or recommend such a strategy to attract visitors to your website, however some companies have had tremendous success with AdWords.
When is it time to bring in a SEO expert? The first question you have to ask yourself is being ranked highly on search engines/ browsers important to the success of your business? What other types of marketing strategies do you, or could you implement to increase your business? For our business, Clarity Creative Media, SEO is not an important factor for us. We generate new business through referrals and being active in the business community. If your business is reliant on heavy traffic to your website, such as an Ecommerce business, then you should seriously consider hiring a vetted specialist in SEO. Many Web Developers and Web Designers will claim to have expertise in SEO but it has evolved into a specialty/ industry of its own requiring specialists to devote 100% of their time, energy and research to producing tangible and accountable results for their clients. It is estimated that by the year 2016 SEO (search engine optimization) will be a $2.2 billion U.S. Dollar industry.
If you are undecided or have decided to engage an SEO Specialist here are some questions to ask”
- Can I have a list of current and past clients? Any reputable SEO professional will be happy to provide such information. If the SEO Specialist refuses or hesitates do not even consider using them. If a list is provided contact their client’s and get a feel for what their results have been and how it is working with the SEO Specialist.
- Can you guarantee my website will be number 1 on Google, Bing or Yahoo? If the Specialist you’re interviewing says “yes” turn around and leave immediately or if you’re interviewing on the phone, immediately hang up. No one can make such a claim. SEO is not a quick ploy, but a well planned marketing campaign that gets your rankings moving in the right direction. Results take time, and with time and the right strategy you may eventually end up being ranked number one.
- What is your experience at improving local search results? Being in the top local search engine results is especially important to small mom and pop businesses trying to attract nearby customers. You want to make sure that the SEO Specialist you deal with has expertise in local SEO techniques. This means that when someone nearby is searching for keywords that are relevant to your business your website should appear in the top search results. There are various methods of achieving this result including getting your site listed on Bing, Google and Yahoo’s local listings, which are online directories of businesses that cater to a specific geographic region.
- How will you improve my search engine rankings? Be leery of SEO Specialists that will not openly discuss their methods. They should explain the strategies they will employ to improve your website’s search engine ranking as well as estimate how long it could take to achieve the SEO campaign goals you both agree on.
- Will you share with my web developer or me all the changes you make to my website? Search engine optimization will most likely require a number of changes to your existing web pages coding. It’s important for you or your developer to know what changes the Specialist plans to make and on how many web pages.
- How do you measure the success of your SEO campaigns? To gauge the success of an SEO campaign the Specialist must track exactly how much traffic is being sent to your website and where it is coming from. The Specialist should be experienced in using analytic software to track improvement in you site’s rankings, the number of links from other websites driving traffic to yours, the keywords used by searchers to find your website and much more. The Specialist should provide this information to you on a regular basis in a tangible, printed format and explain the results to you and what the results mean.
- How will we communicate and how often? Web Developers and SEO Specialists communication styles and customer service practices vary with clients. You should find a Specialist whose approach best suits your needs. Ask if the Specialist prefers to talk in person or via phone, Skype, texting or email. Find out how often he or she will communicate with you with status updates and make sure they honor that commitment. You don’t want to be put in a position of constantly trying to chase them down.
- What are your fees and payment terms? Let’s be clear, good SEO Specialists are not cheap. Fees can range from $100’s of Dollars per month to $1,000’s of Dollars per month. Determine how the Specialist gets paid whether hourly, by retainer or by project. Project-based payments are the most common in the SEO industry and can vary widely in cost, depending on a project’s size and complexity. Most contract projects range between $1,000 and $8,000.
Given that search engines/ browsers are continually changing their algorithms that determine a site’s ranking we recommend working with a Specialist that charges a retainer or by the hour. By working with a Specialist that charges in this manner the code utilized to increase your website’s rank is always changing and up to date. Most common retainer fees range from $250 to $500 per month on the lower end and from $2,500 to $5,000 per month on the higher end. Most hourly rates range from $75 to $200 per hour. Because of their general lack of complexity, Specialists who specifically serve small businesses often charge on the lower end of the price ranges for both retainer based and hourly-based fees.
If you decide to work with an SEO Specialist ask your Web Developer/ Designer if they can recommend someone to you. We here at Clarity Creative Media, LLC have spent the time and energy searching for a results oriented SEO Specialist that suits our client’s needs and is reasonably priced. Before making any decision on whom to work with we highly recommend you speak with either Peter Casazza or Lou Dommer of SBTS Digital Media based in Virginia Beach, VA. Two of the websites we’re working on use SBTS with tremendous results.
To give you a practical example of the results Peter and Lou can produce, go to Google, Bing or Yahoo and type the phrase “miss Virginia” but before you do, think what the search results might be? I assure you that no matter what area of the country you live in on the first page of each of these browsers you will find Miss Virginia Deep Sea Fishing located in Port Richey, FL. Now ask yourself if you live outside the State of Florida, how does this happen? It’s done through the SEO techniques utilized by SBTS. If you look at the website it is antiquated at best. We here at Clarity Creative Media are in the process of redesigning and updating the site, which will, in conjunction with SBTS Digital Media’s expertise further increase the websites ranking. Peter and Lou can be contacted through their website www.sitesbytheslice.com or you can call them at 757-623-3010. They’re great guys to work with and produce results.
Till Next Time,
John & Jeremy