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In the two previous blog posts, we discussed what Digital Marketing is and then we dove deeper into SEO and specifically on-page vs. off-page optimization. Today, we will investigate the different SEO tools, whether a small business owner or an entrepreneur should handle his or her own SEO, or, if they should hire a professional. Getting the proper insourced or outsourced SEO help is not easy. There are many bad players in the industry, so please read on...

What SEO Tools Does Google Offer?

The beauty of Google’s tools is that they are free and very accurate since you are getting your information from the horse’s mouth! There are many Google tools, but my favorites are Google Analytics, Search Console and Webmaster tools.

Every business owner or his or her marketing manager should have the basic knowledge and command of these tools. They provide a wealth of data about your website, your traffic and if you are reaching your goals. They also help optimize your content to better target your defined target personas (DTP).

For instance, Google Analytics will tell you how many visitors you get every day, how long they stay on your content, what content they consume and which content they bounce off of. You could monitor and see the progression of these visitors through your website. You could see if they're converting or not. By converting, I mean, are you capturing that lead? Are you capturing the sale? You can set up goals on Google Analytics and track them and monetize them to see if those campaigns that you are pursuing are generating a sufficient return on your investment.

Google Search Console tells you what keywords people are using to find your content, what content they're finding and where it's ranking on Google. You can analyze the information and determine ways to improve the optimization of your pages, so you stand a better chance of ranking on the first page of Google.

Google Webmaster Tools also give you a variety of tools that help you fix the technical aspect of your website, so you're not penalized for having broken code or broken links.

What Other SEO Tools Do Companies Use?

Today, there are many great third party SEO tools, and they are getting better every day. Companies spend a lot of time analyzing how Google’s search engine works and they are succeeding to some extent at reverse engineering its main algorithms. With research and empirical analysis, more people are starting to grasp the essentials of how search engines work and how to optimize content so they can rank higher. These tools are making SEO professionals’ jobs a lot easier.

I like an online free tool called CheckPageRank. You can find it on checkpagerank.net. It’s not very accurate but will give you the gist of what you are looking for. For instance, you can identify your Google rank and website authority. You can also check where you are compared to your competition. If you are seeking backlinks from a site, you can find out the authority of that site before you approach them for a backlink. This can help you focus on pursuing high authority sites. It contains a lot of interesting metrics that every business should track.

If your website is implemented in WordPress, I recommend you install the Yoast Plugin. The free version of the plugin provides a lot of value. It helps with on-page optimization enabling you to achieve all the needed technical steps in an easy-to-use environment. It also enables you to manage your URL redirects and create the most appropriate sitemap.

There are many good paid SEO tools like SEMrush, ahrefs, KWfinder and Moz. They are subscription based and cost under $100 per month.

Should Business Owners and Entrepreneurs Do their Own SEO or Hire Experts?

It depends on their attitude and aptitude. If you are willing to learn digital marketing, do SEO yourself. You started the business. You are the expert in your industry. Build on that expertise and leverage it online. You know your customers and their problems. You know your products and services. You are interacting with clients and understand the difficulties that your business, and others like it, go through every day. You are therefore the most qualified to speak to your target market about what problems they face and how your company solves them.

On the other hand, entrepreneurs often wear too many hats. I understand the challenge. I’ve been there for 23 years. I know what it is like to have to deal with marketing after dealing with customers’ issues, payroll, sales, employee matters, office needs, billing, invoicing and many more. Often you find that the more strategic tasks fall through the cracks and this includes marketing, digital marketing and SEO.

How Do you Choose the Right SEO Service Provider?

Most SEO agencies will want you to engage them for at least 6 months, preferably for a year or two. SEO results are slow to achieve as there are many variables involved. You can’t apply brute force to search engines to raise a website’s authority.  Before you commit your budget and time, make sure you do your homework and hire the right SEO partner.

First, you don’t want to hire an unknown because you risk them doing the wrong thing that could blacklist your site. It will take a lot of time and effort to reverse their work to get back to where they started.

A quick way you can tell if an SEO company is what it claims to be is to check its domain rank on Google. If the website doesn’t rank well for searches in their areas of expertise, or, they are not visible on Social Media, or, they have not established a recognized brand, then you should be skeptical. If they cannot practice what they preach, they are not worthy of your business.

Choosing an SEO Provider - See the full video at Digital Marketing and SEO for Non-Techies

Secondly, your SEO service provider should ask you about and understand your unique selling proposition (USP) and your defined target personas (DTP). What service you offer and who you offer it to. If they don’t take the time to understand your business, then they are not a good fit.

I tell my SCORE clients, an SEO company that does not create relevant content or backlinks, is not adding value to your site in the long term.

Since both tasks, creating relevant content and relevant backlinks are not an easy undertaking, it is hard to find the appropriate SEO partner. This is why you see such a high turnover rate in this industry. It’s a revolving door, where one vendor exits, a few months of reprieve, then another vendor enters.

What Should an SEO Company Do First?

Once you find the right firm, ask them to pull together a content strategy that is driven by relevant long tail keywords. This is typically done in the beginning before you commit to a long-term contract. Evaluate these keywords and see if they have landed on the right ones. This effort should be comprehensive.

Then, ask them to audit your site and derive a list of recommendations to improve its ranking. Study their recommendations and ensure they make sense and are backed by valid data.

Next, ask them to create a sample piece of content or a blog post. Read it and see how well written, relevant, engaging or useful it is to your DTP.

Also, ask them to cultivate backlinks for this new content. Check the authority of the sites that afford you these backlinks and ensure they command decent traffic. Tools like Majestic, SEOquake, Moz, CheckPageRank, SEMrush and ahrefs can help you determine a site’s authority and traffic.

Lastly, ask them to provide you monthly reports showing their work and progress. Their invoices should be commensurate with their effort and they should be trying to improve the process and the results.

If the above checks out, you stand a better chance of establishing a win-win relationship and benefiting from their work. But this effort will take time, so have in place the needed budget to keep them working for you for at least a year, and hopefully more.

If you continue to follow the above strategy, you should be able to see incremental improvements in the weeks and months ahead. Don’t expect an overnight sensation, this is rare.

Digital Optimization and Transformation for Small Businesses eBook

Knowing if the SEO Firm is Doing a Good Job

How do you know if your SEO firm is doing a good job? In one word, metrics!

Every company should have key performance indicators (KPIs) that they track and monitor. Your SEO firm should know your target marketing KPIs and work on reaching or exceeding them.

For instance, how many visits does your website get a month? Out of these visits, how many convert to leads or sales? Through what channels are these leads arriving? What is the cost of acquiring each lead? How many leads does it take to create a proposal? How many proposals does it take to gain a client? What is the average lifetime value of a new client? Is the cost of new client acquisition lower than that average lifetime value? What is the ROI of each campaign?

Each digital marketing channel may have different metrics to track and goals to reach. Email marketing, for instance, may net much higher returns than Social Media channels, but they each have their own function and should be measured accordingly.

Measuring SEO Performance - See the full video at Digital Marketing and SEO for Non-Techies

At SCORE, we understand that not all business owners and entrepreneurs are well versed in all these digital topics, metrics, methods and tools. This is why they can rely on our mentors to coach them while going through this process. Also, you don’t want your SEO firm to know this much detail about your KPIs. Some may raise their prices when they find out that they are generating big returns (ROIs) for you!

Parting Thoughts

If you are starting a new company or are looking to grow your current one with digital marketing channels, remember, you will need to have a unique selling proposition with defined target personas.

Having a website is only the beginning of the hard work in the digital world, not the end. Just because you released a website, people are not going to line up to buy your product.

Keywords are the DNA of your site. Build a content strategy that revolves around your long tail keywords.

SEO agencies that are not regularly producing content or backlinks are not adding value for the long term.

Know your KPIs and how digital marketing metrics link to them and constantly work on improving them.

It will take a lot of relevant content and citations (backlinks) to start building organic traffic to your site. Nothing will happen overnight.

Succeeding with SEO - See the full video at Digital Marketing and SEO for Non-Techies

Leverage your local SCORE mentor to help you in your business. Some SCORE mentors may not be well-versed with digital marketing methods, but they will bring in a co-mentor that can assist in this process.

About the Author(s)

Nabil Freij

Nabil is a certified SCORE Mentor, problem solver and entrepreneur. He draws from various technical & management skills to streamline business processes & operations, minimizing costs & maximizing profitability. Skilled in all aspects of running a small business including Finance, Operations, Marketing, Sales, IT & HR. Author of Enabling Globalization, trilingual, MSEE from Brown, MBA from Bryant.

CEO, GlobalVision International, Inc.
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