I often refer to PR as an ‘Eat Your Greens’ service. It's a business mindset…
Having just explained how best to your approach to Online Marketing in the last blog, we continue this series by delving deeper with Search Engine Optimisation. We explain how SEO is important to help your customers find you and ultimately drive your business success. We also give you some helpful know-how on what you should expect from your SEO agency.
Setting the SEO scene….
The arrival of digital marketing meant business owners and marketers understood the power of search engines (yes namely Google) to help business’ customers find and buy from them. As internet search grew, SEO was declared the king of marketing….mainly by SEO agencies or ‘shiny new object’ marketers.
Then Google realised companies were simply posting rubbish content just to increase activity and boost a site’s rankings (*rolls eyes* there’s always someone who ruins it!) Google didn’t want its valued visitors put off from using its service if they were only greeted by nonsensical content. They decided to place the bouncers at its door and its algorithm Penguin, was born. This algorithm is a complex system of 200 signals that will be used to rate your quality content which will then help rank your website to the top of its results page.
However an important point to remember is that when you’re building a business or a brand, digital and its mathematical approach can not replace the relationships and behaviour patterns built through marketing to develop loyalty. Likewise you can’t grow your business effectively without data and analysis. Even better, the ability to track and measure SEO activity provides a direct correlation between budget spend and return on investment.
We like to share how each activity stands alone in what it effectively delivers. However there is something very powerful and highly effective when you blend together the creativity and influencer reach of PR, the community and engagement of social media and tech and data knowledge of SEO. We consider SEO a valuable member of marketing mix, both stand alone and and an important activity for any business owner or marketer to understand and review.
As Google’s Penguin 4.0 evolution has now been announced (more information on here by Michelle Crofts at Meritorious)– how do businesses navigate around the ever changing demands of digital and why it is best to get an expert’s advice and assistance.
Over to an expert, Amo Sokhi
Earlier this year we met with Amo Sokhi, an Account Director at POLARIS a leading SEO agency based in London (and also coincidentally our new office neighbour). The company specialises in SEO for Healthcare, Travel and B2B sectors. Amo’s common sense and collaborative approach meant we could acknowledge and respect the differences of each marketing activity and its specific merits, but also agree how we all work well together for even greater impact.
Having joined the agency in 2010, Amo specialises in all aspects of digital marketing, including SEO, Pay Per Click, Commercial Planning, and Campaign Strategy. His strengths lie in understanding a client’s needs and positioning campaigns to focus on end users.
We asked Amo (lover of tortoises and birthday buddy with Tupac) if he would kindly provide some expert insight on SEO activity – where to start, what to expect and how it can help businesses.
There is so much to consider with SEO from building up your online credibility and search ranking through paid vs organic activity. As a business with so many choices it can be overwhelming – where do you start and what techniques should you consider?
In the first instance, I recommend new marketeers start with Pay Per Click, as it’s a very easy route to market which will allow you to quickly gauge the potential gains to be made with your destination website and choice of keywords. From there, PPC learnings can be used and applied as a part of a wider search marketing strategy which incorporates SEO, ensuring you invest your SEO budget into keywords that have been tried and tested to drive a return already through PPC.
Most clients want a guarantee from SEO companies their business will be number one on Google – how achievable is this and if not, then why?
All SEO companies work in line with the algorithms set by search engines and indications that are reported through industry news portals such as searchengineland.com. Because the rules are set by search engines, and not agencies, we cannot give guarantees on rankings or traffic increases, and to do so would be not only unethical, but also very foolish of us! At POLARIS, what we guarantee is our expertise and ability to interpret search engine requirements for the benefit of a client’s SEO strategy. If you’re a business owner or marketing manager looking to commission an SEO agency, don’t ask for a guarantee, ask for references / case studies – as happy clients are the best indicator you can go by to gauge whether the agency will drive a success for you or not.
What common challenges or frustrations do clients have when they come to you and what solutions can you offer?
Being burnt! Many clients come to us because they have had bad experiences in the past and want to know how to overcome them and facilitate an SEO strategy that actually works and drives the ROI they expect. Bad experiences can happen for a number of reasons such as using one man bands that cannot handle the size of an account, not identifying what success looks like at the beginning and therefore having unclear expectations as the campaign progresses, or commissioning a supplier that doesn’t understand your business and what matters to you and internal stakeholders. We took one client on that worked with a consultant and got fed up because every time they tried to contact the consultant, he was away on holiday! Clients expect consistency and this is extremely important within SEO.
How do you offer a transparent service in what you do and what you deliver, do you involve the client and the team as part of the process? Also what do you need from the client in order to carry out your work?
From offset, we have to set expectations, both from a delivery perspective and also from a client’s perspective in terms of what success looks like. We analyse and confirm what commercial success needs to be and break that down into factors we track as a part of technical success, managed by our account managers. This approach is extremely collaborative and from offset requires us to work closely with a client, making sure communications are clear and a campaign is planned with a clear set of KPIs to work against.
At POLARIS, we use technology to bridge the gap between supplier and client, and as such our Bright Metrics reporting suite allows our clients to see exactly what we are working on and the performance of our campaigns at any time. This has proven to be invaluable in increasing client satisfaction and retaining accounts overtime, so works fantastically well for both the agency and our clients.
As with all marketing activity, SEO takes time and requires testing – when should clients expect to see results i.e. how many days, weeks, months before they see new rankings?
This really depends on the nature of the campaign and the targets or KPIs set between the agency and client. We have had an account where we told the contact that it would be 18 months before we would achieve a ranking for their “Vanity” term, but along the way we would gain rankings and traffic for other variations. Other accounts see an increase within weeks of working with us, so it really is on a case by case basis. Critical elements to this equation are the market a client operates in, the current organic credibility of the destination website we are to optimise, and the budget a client has to invest.
SEO is great for firm metrics yet some agencies seem to be using basic Google Analytics reports. How do you offer tailor made ROI analysis or provide insights and activity measurement or evaluation to your clients?
Basic google analytics reports are ok for some clients, but not others. We find that some clients really care about the analysis and data to be gained and others (owner managed businesses in particular) don’t have the time for it. We offer a suite or reporting options so that we can offer a client reporting that suits their individual needs. If our main contact is a business owner, we are likely to provide our bright metrics mobile app as they can check performance whilst on the go, whereas our marketing manager contacts like monthly reports and quarterly performance reports as they want to analyse data and understand trends etc.
We’ve previously discussed there is stronger collaboration between SEO, Social Media and PR companies – how can an integrated approach better support a client’s business and marketing goals?
Nowadays, marketing is all about data. A lot of marketers talk about data centric approaches and this isn’t just buzz word talk, data really is important if you want to accurately target and engage potential customers through digital channels. Through a collaborate effort, PR, Social and SEO agencies can all work to a shared strategy, collaborating over a central initiative and then share learnings from each channel, with one common factor; the target customer. This works incredibly well as over time a client can start profiling target customers as they reside online, regardless of whether they are on Facebook, a news site, or conducting a search on google or yahoo. This collaborative approach works to deliver the same story across multiple channels, giving a clear communication as to why your brands products or services are worth the consumers’ time.
The digital landscape is constantly changing, how do SEO companies tackle this and what challenges does SEO face for the future?
There has been a lot of speculation over the last few years that SEO is dead and that PPC is the way forward. In reality, SEO is always evolving, but far from dead and search engines are constantly refining their algorithms to ensure they continue to provide users with the most relevant, and expected set of results for a particular search query. At POLARIS, we ensure we understand what the future looks like by keeping up to date with resources such as the Google webmaster central blog (https://webmasters.googleblog.com/), industry news and events, and most importantly, common sense. Mobile has been a big focus over the last 18 months and as such we have to ensure all of our clients are shifting their focus to being a “mobile first” business. This means re-evaluating everything so that users are considered through mobile, from website right through to SEO.
Could mobile technology in particular voice searches with Siri and Google could affect SEO search capabilities for businesses?
Certainly. Voice search is an area on the increase and the capabilities are incredible. At present, voice search is used more for “on-the-go” type queries, where users are looking for local services or suppliers such as coffee shops or directions, so it is something to consider for local businesses. Voice search will never eradicate traditional text search, but it will increase over time as it becomes another acceptable way to access information in a fast and easy way.
Can you provide a guideline of costs for someone looking to hire an SEO agency? What can clients expect in terms of value by working with you and Polaris?
Our campaigns start from £650.00 + VAT, and we work on monthly retainers which are calculated based on your goals and the time required from the agency to achieve these goals. Clients can expect to a proactive, experienced approach to their account, as well as a clear explanation of what can (and cannot) be achieved. Working with POLARIS, the biggest value-add is our tailored approach to each account that we handle. We match account managers based on experience and personality, and we customise reports to ensure client contacts get exactly what they need from us. This works well in ensuring we deliver against expectations and also maintain our 98.9% client retention rate.
What do you need to know about a potential client and business after they find you, after of course the great SEO work you have carried out for own company ;-)!!!
We need to know what the client is looking to achieve – this is always the first thing we need to know. Once we know what the client’s expectation is, we can then build a realistic roadmap to achieving that goal through our expertise and technical approach.
For more information contact Amo and the team at POLARIS via email on firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow them on Twitter at @PolarisLondon