How to give more power to your SEO
In the first interview we had with Bjarne Viken from Scaleup, he discusses how to optimize the use of a website in generating leads rather than just having one who can’t sell and therefore wasting your time. This second time around, Bjarne will talk about how to effectively use SEO to create more traffic in the website which will then be convertible to sales and why good content is the key to success!
SCOTT: Welcome to the Small Business Heroes show, where we talk about everything to help your small business grow and prosper. I’m your host, Scott Trevethan, and today I’m talking to Bjarne Viken.
Bjarne helps small-to-medium size business owners grow faster by reviewing and tweaking their websites to convert more sales and leads. In addition to working with companies directly, he has taught students at General Assembly, Future Assembly, Victoria University, Entrepreneurs Social Club, and Uber. Bjarne Viken, welcome to the Small Business Heroes show.
BJARNE: Thank you for having me.
SCOTT: Welcome back, I should say, because we’ve had you on the show before, and we’ve got you on back today just to talk specifically about SEO. What is search engine optimization? Can you tell our Small Business Heroes audience, what is SEO?
BJARNE: Okay. Pretty much exactly what you described it as: search engine optimization. If you’re trying to break that down, “search engine” is a reference to primarily Google, because when you go online, the first thing that you want to do often is to find a place for you to easily find the information that you’re after.
Now, popular search engines are, among others, Google, a lot of people might use YouTube to get information because they want to see videos; some people might use Facebook to get information. A big competitor of Google, and a competitor that they’re actually very afraid of, is actually Amazon. Because when you’re looking to buy products, Amazon can be a really natural place to go and immediately get the product that you’re after from a wide assortment. eBay can actually be a search engine. Gumtree can be a search engine.
So when we’re looking at search engine optimization, we’re not really talking about that entire plethora; we’re really just talking about Google, which is why that term might seem a little bit off. We’re not talking about Yahoo!, because they’re actually a very small percentage of the total search market.
And when we’re talking about search engine optimization, we’re talking about trying to get as high on what is popularly referred to as “organic search.” So when you’re putting in a keyword in Google, what happens is that Google, through their algorithm, picks out websites which are, in their opinion, the websites that are the most relevant for whatever you put in, and that comes down. For instance, if you put in “bathroom tiles,” you get a breakdown of the websites which Google deems to be most relevant with regard to bathroom tiles.
A lot of small business owners – let’s say for instance someone who’s specializing in installing bathroom tiles – might want to be relatively high on “bathroom tiles installer” and whatever is the suburb. The benefit of being high on Google if you have a website is that it allows you to get a higher percentage of traffic from that search term than anyone else. For instance, if you’re on the absolute top of Google, some research indicates that you can get about 40% of the total traffic that would come to that particular search page. Let’s say that you’re just looking at the home page; about 40% would click on the first one.
So a lot of business owners are spending a lot of time and money to be high on Google, because they think that if you’re high on Google, that means a lot of people come to their website, a lot of people will sign up or buy their product.
Now, that is truth with a few modifications. For starters, you need to make sure that whatever is the search term that your website is high on is relevant for whatever you have on your website. For instance, if you have a website which is focusing on bathroom tiles and you’re high on a search term, for instance, on blue bookshelves – just using it as a random example –then that will not give you a high amount of relevant traffic to your website. That is one aspect of it.
The other is that Google is not really in the business of helping business owners. They are in the business of providing the best possible search experience for those that are on Google. Which means that you, as a business owner, often are in conflict with Google, because Google wants to give the best information ever, while you want to make a sale.
What often tends to happen is that Google have an algorithm change, and as a result of that algorithm change, business owners might tweak what they do to get high on Google. And then Google might go, “Oh, okay, I realize what it is that you’re doing, but that is not really your intention.” They might tweak it again. Which is why a lot of SEO professionals are actually saying SEO might actually be completely dead, because Google is now using a whole heap of additional factors to calculate which websites come up high.
For instance, it used to be that in order to be high on Google, you just needed to have the right keywords on your website. Well, that has been updated and changed. Now you need to have really good content on your website; your website more and more needs to be optimized to load fast, meaning that when people are clicking on your URL or clicking on a link to your website, it comes up high, and it means that the site will load just within a few seconds, if your site is technically adjusted to do so.
In addition to that, we have social media, which a lot of business owners are going crazy about, “We need to be on Twitter and Facebook and whatever else.” Often I ask them why, because you should really be on the type of social media where your audience are at. Don’t try to spread yourself too thin on a whole heap of different networks where it doesn’t make sense for you to be. Mine, for instance, I’m only on LinkedIn, because I’m interested in just getting in contact with decision-makers of companies that want to do it.
All this impacts on SEO. So SEO is just trying to get organic traffic to your website, which often has the very interesting description of being called “free traffic.” SEO is not free. It’s not free, because often you might put effort into creating content for your website. And some might say that that is free; well, it takes you time and effort to write that content, it takes you time and effort to edit that content, it takes you time and effort to put up the content and to remarket it. So that is really where SEO is coming from.
Now, you might continue asking yourself, how can I put up an effective SEO strategy? How can I get high on Google and stay there for a long period of time? What a lot of people are doing these days, which I think is a sound strategy, is to turn it a little bit around. Instead of trying to ask for a sale, give a whole heap of valuable information to customers, which they perceive as being so valuable that they go, “Oh, this person really knows their stuff.” Then they go to the blog, and from the blog they might go further into whatever is the offer on the homepage.
It’s more about, instead of doing what’s usually referred to as outbound marketing, where you’re pulling people and trying to get them to buy, you’re doing inbound marketing by providing really useful information, which builds trust and ultimately gets them to contact you.
SCOTT: But how do they find that useful information if your site’s ranked #24 on a Google search?
BJARNE: Well, you might do that by for instance creating content and linking it elsewhere. For instance, when we are doing this podcast, what might happen is that you might put that up on a website. And then someone might watch that content, and maybe the link that you’re going to put underneath this video, click on that link, which is then referred to as a backlink to my website. So that is a way where you can actually rank higher.
Another thing that Google will take into account is how many backlinks do you have to your website? Let’s say for instance that we’re doing this X amount of times, and there’s X amount of backlinks coming from your website going over to mine, and there might be someone else who listens to this like, “Oh, I want to have a chat to that person.” And that might result in another article being written and another link from another website.
This is where a lot of SEO professionals and also content marketers are saying that it’s actually a lot less about your website as it is what you can do to add value to others.
SCOTT: Which has got to be a good thing, ultimately. Is the whole era of this black hat, gray hat, and white hat type of SEO environment, is that gone now due to Google’s new algorithms?
BJARNE: I think there will always be black hat, gray hat, white hat, blue hat, or whatever they call it. You will always have these hats, because there will always be the same challenge, which is Google creates an algorithm or changes an algorithm for you to get high, and there will be a lot of people who want to get into Google because that’s where the traffic is at. So as long as business owners are not informed about the entire process, they will be used. I mean, I’ve used them myself. I’ve bought SEO services and realized that – you would need to have a 12-month to a 2-year strategy, I would almost suggest, to be absolutely certain that you’re going to get a return on your investment.
SCOTT: Really interesting point, and one I wanted to bring up with you. If I’m paying $500, $1,000 a month for SEO services, what are those providers actually doing?
BJARNE: They can be doing a huge variety of different things. Some of them might, in the old days – by old days, I mean two, three years ago – might’ve put your website into a directory, because a directory link would’ve been regarded as relatively high in Google’s ranking. They might also have decided to randomly put your website into a whole heap of different places linking back to your website – for instance, a forum.
Now, SEO professionals are more moving into creating content and publishing content in places with high authority. The highest type of authority you can get is a website that might have .gov after it, because then it’s regarded – and I don’t know why this thinking occurs – that a website that has a government connection is regarded as being more trustworthy than a website that might have a .com connection. That’s just one area where they might be looking at posting.
Another thing that a lot of SEO professionals are looking into is social media. How can you use social media effectively to not only spread content, but create a conversation with your audience? This is where small business owners actually have a huge benefit over corporations, because small business owners have an opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation and be personal and say “This is what we’re doing, this is what and all that, so that you’re able to grow, not necessarily faster, but in a much more personal way.
SCOTT: That’s beautiful. Would I be bothered spending $1,000 a month on SEO, or should I just direct that to something like Google AdWords and go down the pay-per-click route?
BJARNE: If you decide to just spend money on content, the benefit of that is that you have something that you put in the investment just once and have an opportunity to get a return on that for a long, long time. Let’s say that you decided to do that instead of doing AdWords. Now, the benefit here is, like I just mentioned, you are maybe investing once and you get a return multiple times.
The question that I have is, how do you know that the content, the headlines that you use, the keywords that you use, were the most fitting for your audience? How do you know that the material that you focused on would be the most suitable to generate leads?
What I would suggest there is that you try to do a combination. Start by doing, for instance, a PPC campaign – it could be done with Google AdWords – where you drive a targeted amount of traffic to your landing page and just be prepared to treat it like an investment. It could be $1,000 that you invest in over a month. Before you send traffic, you make sure that the website has tracking in the back so that you’re able to track which keywords generate sales.
So if you for instance know that, going back to our previous example, someone who’s focusing on tile installation, if someone drives traffic to a website on that landing page, and then they realize that certain keywords generate more people, more leads to click on, for instance, book a consultation or make a phone call, then that is a keyword which you can then bring back into your content marketing and go “Ah, maybe ‘how to install tiles in the bathroom’ is something I should write an article on. Maybe how to put in bathroom tiles in a way that makes them last for 10 to 20 years is something that people might find really interesting.”
This is when you’re taking the data that you get from AdWords and incorporate it with the knowledge that you have from content marketing. So that’s the other side of the argument.
However, you can also get away from investing in AdWords by using a little bit of common sense. You can just ask yourself, “If I’m a potential buyer for tile installation, what type of information would I be interested in? What would I Google?” When I Google, for instance, “how to install tiles,” what are the searches that come up?
You can also go to a lot of your competitors’ websites and see, what keywords are they using? That is something that you’ve got to look at with great grains of salt, because a lot of competitors have no idea what they’re doing. They might look like they know what they’re doing; they might have a beautiful website. But when you look at the actual keywords that they have, there might not be a link between the keywords that are driving traffic to the website and the ones that are actually generating sales.
Which brings me back to the question of well, should you really be doing both at the same time?
SCOTT: That’s beautiful. Bjarne, thank you so much for coming back onto the Small Business Heroes show. Where can our Small Business Heroes audience find out more about you, and perhaps have a look at working with you at ScaleUp.com.au?
BJARNE: Well, you just gave them the URL.
SCOTT: I’ll put that down below the video as well. You know I always do that.
BJARNE: What I can do for people is that I do a free review of websites. Actually, I’ll make it free for the listeners to this podcast, because I usually charge $250 for it. I can just review the top 10 reasons why a website is not converting, because that is really probably a lot more important than traffic. And the code for that is VIP. Just go to the website and go through the having to pay section; just put in “VIP” and it gives you a nice zero instead.
SCOTT: That’s awesome. Thank you so much for that. I’m sure the Small Business Heroes people will be flocking to do that, and you’ll be very busy doing website reviews, as you already are. I really appreciate your time coming on the show.
I’m Scott Trevethan, the host of the Small Business Heroes show that you’re listening to or watching right now. If you’d like to find more about this show, please go to our Facebook group, which is Small Business Heroes. You can find out also a bit more about me and our business, Scott Partners, on our Facebook page and maybe give us a like. That’s just Scott Partners Facebook page. And also see us at www.ScottPartners.com.au.
Thanks so much for listening. You’re listening to the Small Business Heroes show. And thank you, Bjarne.
BJARNE: Thank you.