There’s a lot written these days about advanced search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). If you’re a stranger to the world of getting sites like Google, Yahoo and Bing to rank your web pages high in the search result, you must be asking yourself, “Where do I start” ?
SEO for Beginners
Over the past 2+ years I have ridden point on my company’s SEO implementation. The road has been bumpy at best, but for those of you who are about to set off on your own, perhaps my experience will be of value.
But first a little back story. If you are reading this you already know that Trims Unlimited is a promotional products marketing firm. Our clients are Fortune 100, 500 & 1000 companies (mostly Silicon Valley types). They use the high touch products we top gift, fulfill and globally ship for field and partner marketing of the highest order. Before the great crash of 2008, Trims never advertised. All of our new business came as a result of “word of mouth” referrals. For 20+ years this non-strategy worked well. In fact, one very prominent magazine dubbed Trims “Corporate America’s best kept secret.”
Fast forward 2 years. After surviving the worst recession since the Great Depression, Trims emerged from its bunker to find a brave new world. Word of mouth was still important, but it was no longer economically feasible to allow it to be our sole source of advertising. To save money, and because I thought we could do things on our own, I opted to make a tech savvy employee the designated driver. She brushed up on “best practices” of internet and social marketing, read the requisite books and articles, and then set out to put the company on the map. The end result: a big THUD.
While we were still in the midst of our amateur pursuit of the brass ring, we came across a company called HubSpot: an all in one marketing software package. The solution requires quite a bit of involvement on the part of the subscriber. However, they do offer personalized training in addition to daily webinars, blog posts and detailed analytics updates–we found all to be extremely helpful.
The upside to using Hubspot is that if provides an opportunity to learn a great deal about SEO in general. In addition, their comprehensive analytics tool spots site weaknesses and offers site comparisons with direct competitors. The downside, though, is that the software seems to be geared towards small retail businesses (mostly mom and pop stores and restaurants) that wish to target local markets—largely B2C and not B2B (our space). Keep in mind, too, that HubSpot is not cheap—10K +/- for a year if you decide not to cede control of your website (we didn’t).
When our HubSpot subscription lapsed, we once again struck out on our own (supposedly smarter and wiser). But things quickly fell apart, and I decided to hire a recommended firm out of Utah called Orange Soda. We worked with them for about 9 months. Bottom line, they never understood our business model or our target market: in short the whole experience was a total waste of time and money. Cooked, baked, done.
After letting things marinate for several months, I decided to hire a local firm that also came highly recommended. This time I selected a service provider that specializes in B2B SEO & SEM. Three months have now passed, and it appears that we are making progress. A great many changes have made to our website—including site reorganization and enhancement, landing pages, on-line chat, display marketing and PPC—to name a few. Once again, the process is not inexpensive, but we are finally seeing quantifiable results. The jury is still out, so stay tuned for further updates.
What’s the moral to this story? If you are a complete neophyte, keep your expectations very low. Then don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Buy as much good advice as you can afford and brace yourself: you will soon realize how much there is to learn and how little you know. Google makes regular changes to its algorithms, and it is a full time job just to stay abreast of their fine tuning. Furthermore, Google makes the process look easy with its beautiful charts, diagrams, analytics and Ad Word pages: but don’t be fooled, it is anything but. You can waste a great deal of time and money playing around on your own, and there is a good chance you could do real harm in the process. If going it alone is still on the table, I reiterate–get some guidance. This said, finding the right provider is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Don’t get discouraged if you have a few false starts along the way. Most firms promise the“sun, moon and stars,” and most don’t deliver the goods.
For more on SEO and SEM:
The Art of SEO by Eric Enge
Search Engine Optimization for Dummies by Peter Kent
Search Engine Optimization: An Hour a Day by Jennifer Grappone
Get to the Top on Google: Tips and Techniques by David Viney
50 Ways to Make Google Love Your Website by Steve Johnston