If you're managing a business, you know how important a web and mobile presence is. Whether you're selling tacos, tiaras, or terabytes, customers need to be able to find you.
You've probably dipped your toe into the complex world of organic or "free" search, also known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and paid search, also known as Search Engine Marketing (SEM). But what do you really need to know about SEO and SEM?
I spoke with SEO/SEM expert Andrew Shelton, founder of the digital marketing agency Martec360, who gave me six rules that you need to pay attention to right now if you want to increase your sales through search:
1. Mobile is king
Need evidence of the importance of mobile? Some 96% of smartphone owners use their device to get things done. About 70% of smartphone owners use their phone to research a product before purchasing it in a store. Half of all web traffic comes from smartphones and tablets.
Furthermore, Google has begun to make its search index "mobile-first." That means that Google will primarily index mobile content and use that to decide how to rank its results.
2. Paid search pays off on mobile
On mobile, paid search (SEM) is increasingly paying off. Shelton says he used to tell his clients to focus on free search (SEO) but with users putting mobile first, the continuum has changed.
"The greatest return on investment is email," Shelton says, "because you have those customers in house. But paid search is next." He estimates that paid search spending went up by factors of 25% to 50% in 2016.
3. Have a solid content strategy
The old adage is the new adage: "Content is king." You need high-quality content for your website if it's going to compete in the free search business. You can't go about that blindly.
Consider what customer problem you're solving. What customer questions can you be answering?
Do you have a mechanism for customers to ask questions? There could be a wealth of ideas for blog posts, FAQs, and buyers' guides right there.
4. Social media is worth your return on investment
Social media can be vexing for many businesses. You definitely have to perform a cost-benefit analysis on it. Spending six hours a day sending out tweets that don't lead to conversions is going to be a losing proposition.
Treat social media as "an engagement with an ongoing conversation with your customers," Shelton recommends. "It's not just for selling."
In fact, if your social media channels are too hard-sell, they'll be counter productive. You have to create value. Tools like Hootsuite, Falcon.IO, and Curalate can help.
5. Manage your online reputation
According to Shopper Approved, an app that helps its clients collect online ratings and reviews, 88% of all consumers read online reviews to determine whether a local business is a good business.
All of those reviews are part of the SEO equation. They can help you, or they can hurt you. But an app like Shopper Approved can help push more positive reviews where you need them.
6. Measure and monitor your progress
The only way you're going see your business grow exponentially through SEO, SEM, and social media is to measure what you're doing. You have to know where you're starting, set some benchmarks, and monitor your progress.
Install Google Analytics. There is a plethora of other e-commerce tools you can use for analysis. Data is your friend. Get used to swimming in it.
And if you need help, find a consulting firm that understands your customer and your goals.
Just remember, effective search is process. You won't get it right the first time. But you'll get better at it with everything you learn.
About the author:
Kim Folsom is the Founder of LIFT Development Enterprises--a not-for-profit, community development organization with a mission to help underserved, underrepresented small-business owners - and Co-Founder and CEO of Founders First Capital Partners, LLC, a small business growth accelerator and revenue based venture fund. Learn more about Kim and her company's mission to help grow and fund 1000 underserved and underrepresented small businesses by 2026 via their Founders Business Growth Bootcamp program at www.foundersfirstcapitalpartners.com.