Evolve CommunicationsDigital Strategy

Posts Categorized: Digital Strategy

How to Sell Search Engine Optimization

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NOTE: This is the fourth segment in our “How to Sell Series.” You can read other segments here.

So you’ve built your client a whiz-bang website. It looks great, captures visitor contact information to add to email lists, moves potential customers along the sales funnel and drives branding. But how are you driving traffic to it?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO), of course. SEO is the process by which a website is optimized for certain keywords so that they appear higher in the search engine results.

Theoretically, agencies should be selling SEO services with every single website they build (unless, of course, the client doesn’t want their site to be found by search engines–and there are some out there). Yet, budgets being what they are, some clients choose to forgo SEO. Here are some tips to help agencies convince clients it’s worth the extra expense.

Basic beginnings of an SEO program

Oftentimes, when a client doesn’ t have budget to support a true SEO initiative, the agency will assure them that the site is built with “best practices,” in mind, meaning that the site architecture is built with searches in mind, that the copy is readable by both humans and search engines, etc. While that is sometimes the case (and sometimes not), the only true way to take advantage of SEO is to start with keyword research and analysis. By researching relevant keywords (in addition to those the client supplies), an agency will have a solid foundation to create the AI and start creating content.

For written content, the copy must be written in a way that balances what the search engines want and what visitors need. Fortunately, with the ever-increasingly sophistication of search engines, these are quickly becoming one and the same. It’s worthwhile to invest time and energy into copywriting that serves all those purposes simultaneously. And not all copywriters do this. For non-text content (images, video, etc.), it’s essential to properly tag them, as they are virtually invisible to search engines.

Taking these first steps are the basic steps that should be taken for all sites, and should be required. However, additional steps are needed for an SEO program to truly have an impact on the bottom line.

Kick SEO up a notch

One thing that all search engines love is fresh content. Once the SEO basics have been implemented, it’s essential to continue to keep site content new, relevant and interesting, and the easiest way to achieve this is blogging. The more you blog, the fresher the content, the bigger the impact on the site’s traffic.

But posting new content doesn’t always have to blogging. It could be video. It could be a podcast. It could be images that are regularly updated (just make sure any non-text content is properly tagged, so the search engines can find it).

The SEO Coup de Grace

If on-page optimization efforts are like a target for search engines to send traffic to, then inbound links are like arrows pointing the way. Inbound links back to a site tell search engines that what the information on the site is valuable, and this is particularly true when an inbound link contains relevant keywords.

There are many ways to obtain inbound links. Website and business directories are a great place to start, as search engines sometimes use these to help their indexing. Directory listings are also a more affordable way to garner inbound links.

More time-intensive methods can include blogger outreach and online community engagement (i.e. social networking), and social bookmarking. In each of these instances, it’s important to understand that the company is participating in a community with the goal of generating links back to its site. The key, of course, is participation, and not spamming. That means posting relevant information, and not just the client’s latest blog post. It also often can lead to relationship development, which in our opinion, is a key goal of participating in social media.

The bottom line is this: Building things is nice. Building things that people find useful is better. And building things that can be found (and then used) is best.


How to Sell Pay Per Click Campaigns

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NOTE: This is the third on our “How to Sell” series. If you like this, check out the first and second parts.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a rather broad term that often gets confused with other similar terms such as search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC).

SEM works to build traffic to a website by raising its visibility in search engines. That can be either through paid inclusion in search results (pay-per-click–PPC) as well as on-page and off-page tactics to boost a site’s appearance in organic search results (Search Engine Optimization).

It would seem obvious that an agency might try to sell these services whenever they build a new website. Yet, there are certain times when SEO is preferred over PPC, and vice-versa. Here’s how an agency can identify the need for PPC (more on SEO later).

Is the client in a highly competitive marketplace?

Theoretically, all clients who turn to marketing agencies are in a competitive marketplace. If they weren’t, then they likely wouldn’t need to hire an agency! Yet there’s a difference between “competitive” and “unique.” Being in a competitive marketplace is a great opportunity to (literally) rise above the competition through PPC. Here’s why. In competitive marketplaces, it can be very challenging to organically improve a site’s ranking in organic search. There are many factors that can contribute to a site’s ranking, some of which a company can control and others which it can’t.

By engaging in PPC, clients can quickly elevate its visibility in search engines (as well as other websites through display network advertising). However, the client should have a budget to support a PPC campaign, especially in a competitive marketplace. The same keywords

Does the client want an online brochure or a sales & lead generation machine?

If a business is not looking to convert customers through its website, then why should they pay for traffic?

Yet, if they’re looking to generate sales and leads, then PPC can be an extremely useful, cost-effective tool. Some things the client should consider:

  • PPC can drive a lot of traffic. But the key is to drive qualified traffic, and that usually takes time to develop.
  • The effectiveness of your ads are only as good as the effectiveness of your landing pages. It’s essential to build customized landing pages for your campaigns.
  • The client may need to give something away for free in order to close the deal with the customer

How well does the client knows their customers?

PPC is not the place to go to figure out who your customers are. It’s essential to have a solid definition of your customers before starting a PPC campaign. Why? Because it’s essential to understand how people search for products. After all, it’s not what the client thinks, it’s what their customers think.

Does the client have enough budget to justify SEM?

Success in search engine marketing only comes from sustained efforts. And sustained efforts require a budget. Sometimes significant resources.

It’s a common misperception by some small businesses that Goolge Adwords–or other ad network–is an affordable place to market their business. And they’re right, when comparing the costs of Adwords to, say, buying a television ad. However, that doesn’t mean they will get something for nothing. Unless you’re in a very niche market, long gone are the days where you will spend less than $1 for a click. And, if a client wants more than one lead per day, the client should expect to pay a bare minimum of $500/month.

Additionally, it’s essential to develop landing pages that match your ads. Too often, a company will spend money on ads, but will only send potential customers to their home page. And too often, that home page is not equipped to handle that traffic.

Ultimately, it’s essential to pose these questions to the client to determine if PPC is right for them. While it’s not always a good match, with a little bit of common sense, a smart agency can find ways to integrate PPC into their arsenal of tactics that help their clients reach a competitive edge.


How to Sell Social Media

This is the second in our “How to Sell” series. You can read the first post in the series, “How to Sell Public Relations Services.”

With companies across the spectrum looking to incorporate social media into their marketing mix, selling social media should be relatively easy, right? Believe it or not, many companies still face several hurdles to incorporating social media into their marketing mix. These include:

  • Not fully understanding social, and therefore ignoring it.
  • Feeling like it’s something a lower-level employee can do (and therefore not giving it a plank in the strategy–or tying it to strategy at all).
  • Their agency doesn’t recommend social media solutions as much as they could (or should).

Many agencies focus on selling services with which they’re comfortable and have experience. They know they should be growing their social media practice, but can’t seem to quite close the deal. That’s where we come in.

Here’s what agencies need to do in order to sell more social.

Bake social into everything

This must go beyond simply creating a Facebook and Twitter page. That’s the price of entry, and not an idea in and of itself.

Marketing solutions need to demonstrate ideas for identifying, engaging, joining and sometimes building communities. That can be through creating interesting content, developing a company’s online presence, and exchanging useful information that create value for the client’s constituents.

Be social

Seems obvious, right? Social media may be new to some, but companies that want help with social expect an agency with at least a modicum amount of experience. Even if an agency doesn’t have experience, it’s people surely do (seriously, who isn’t on Facebook?). That means letting its employees be active on social networks. That also means giving up some level of message control (which is perhaps the largest hurtle for many traditional ad agencies).

Should the agency itself get social? Evolve’s answer is Yes–and No. It’s o.k. to have a presence, but we believe the true power of social media is in people, not organizations. That’s why we believe it’s essential for agencies to loosen their hold on the reigns and let their people represent online. Guidelines, in this case, are recommended (but not rules). The bottom line here is that some agencies just need to adjust their thinking (and approach) towards how information is spread today.

Be open with clients and set realistic expectations

This might be the most difficult thing for an agency. Client-agency relationships can be tenuous, and they need to be cultivated and constantly maintained. No agency wants to risk losing a client by presenting an idea that the client won’t buy into.

But it’s the agency needs to both be open with the client about what is possible with social media, and what isn’t. By now, most companies know that social is not a panacea to its marketing problems. And most recognize the need for integration with other marketing activities.

Perhaps that’s why starting selling social ideas to long-term, existing clients might be the best place to start. There’s already a level of trust there, which the agency can then leverage to its advantage. The agency can take its past record with the client and use that as a platform to demonstrate new ideas that incorporate social media.

Why agencies need to do this?

To protect their business. The biggest threat to an agency today is not evolving (sorry, we can’t resist the pun). There is a lot of room in the marketplace for upstarts to come in a snatch up business from agencies focused on more traditional marketing solutions. And with the plethora of freelancers on the market, its easier for a small agency to start in social and work into more traditional avenues than it is for a more established agency to develop a social media practice.

 

Image credit: http://xkcd.com