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I’m working with a company in the B2B space that has an interesting but very common website case:

  • They have an old, basic and static site
  • It has very weak SEO
  • They’re paying significant amounts of money for Google Adwords each month to get them page ranked
  • They’re not tracking anything

Luckily, they want this to change.  In conjunction with a website design overhaul, we’re going to completely up-end this model and flip it on it’s head (or side, or whatever).

One of the main topics of conversation has been the issue of Google Adwords - do we use them or not.  My answer is no, not right now.  A few further thoughts to that end [Disclaimer - I had a quick call with the team at HubSpot, as I would like to use their product in this process, and some of these thoughts stem from a conversation I had with Vas]:

  • Firstly, there is nothing in place right now to determine the effects of their Adwords: they don’t know who’s clicking, what they’re clicking on, if they’re qualified leads, etc.  All they know is that they’re the first (sponsored) link that shows up on Google for one of the keywords.
  • There was little research done to choose those keywords, and it was based loosely on product lines.  The list also hasn’t been updated in many years.
  • They have little to no effective SEO built into their site, which hasn’t been changed in over five years.

Essentially, they’ve put Adwords in place and let it run.

They’re simply paying the meter to reserve a parking spot, and hope they don’t have a cop come around and write them a ticket or tow the car away. Because that’s what would happen the minute they stopped paying the meter if they’d relied on their existing website.  The Adwords are only giving them short-term benefits while they’re still paying.

What we’re working towards is building their own parking lot where they won’t have to worry about paying the meter: An architecturally strong website, with sophisticated SEO, continually updated content, metrics in place to determine how people are accessing and using the site, and developing more paths for people to get there.

Does that mean we nix Google Adwords?  For now, yes. There doesn’t seem to be much point in using them if they don’t know what they’re bringing to the table. It’s sort of like parking in the first available spot before you know if it’s close to your lunch meeting near City Hall (”It’s around here somewhere,” he said.).  There might be spots closer.  Heck, City Hall could have it’s own free parking lot.

But only for now. Once we’ve gone through the process of developing a much stronger foundation - our website, and once we understand the best keywords to use (though, ideally, we’ve keyword-maximized the site so well that it can stand alone)….once we’ve really built something with a long-term future…..only then should Adwords be used to supplement these efforts. We’re building their own parking lot that they can park in on most days, and telling them where the best spot to pay for is next time they have lunch near City Hall….

My dad asked me the other day what SEO was (and to be clear, he didn’t use the term “SEO,” it was more of a “What do you mean I should get my company page ranking up?  What the heck does that mean??).  I then proceeded to (try to) explain the basic concept of SEO to him.

I thought the dumbed down version of it might be helpful.  It’s on the shorter side, because my dad’s needs for his company website don’t extend much further than that.  I would love for people to add their own versions or additions to other aspects of SEO if they want to.

So here it is:

“Dad.  Let’s say someone searches for your company online.  You’ll pop up (hopefully!) on the first entry.  Great, but how many people do you think are going to find you using your company name?  Those people will probably already know you and what you do.  But what if someone was looking for a product that you produce, let’s say tracer wire.  They’re going to type in “tracer wire.”  So what search engine optimization does is it makes it so your company ideally pops up on the first page, if not one of the first few entries. Most people don’t look past the first page of what a search engine gets for you, so you need to be right there, and in their face.”

“How do you do that Katie [he calls me Katie]?”

“Well, an example of what you could do is to “tag” your website, which means you associate it with key words that you think likely customers might search for.  For instance, you tag your company with “copper wire” and there’s at least a potential that you’ll pop up at the beginning of their search.

“The idea is to make your tags a good mix between both broad and narrow terms so that you remain competitive.  There are a lot of firms that might be in the “copper wire” industry, and you may get lost somewhere in the mix of so many firms.  But there are fewer firms in the cooper wire industry that make “tracer wire”.

“Another way you can give your website some juice is by linking out, or putting links on your sites to other sites.  The search engines are like little worms with many heads, and the more pathways you offer them to your site, the easier and more often they can get to you. ***[Sidenote: this worm analogy could be gross, I'll have to come up with something better for future explanations, but, oddly, it's what popped into my head at the time.... please offer your suggestions below for other analogies]*** And the more times they get to you, the closer to the top of search results you will be.

“For the same reason, it also helps to have other websites that contain links to your website.  Good opportunties might be if you work with partners that could put a link to you on their sites, or if you’re a member of an association that features member sites.  Things like that.” ***[Sidenote: as you may have gathered, my dad is not in an industry where blogging/commenting/social media is used at present, and also note, he doesn’t know how to use a computer, so there’s no chance that he will be leaving comments and his website information on any blogs, but this is another way to go about this).

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