The Internet shrinks the world. Businesses that know how to use it benefit from an ever-expanding market reach. Those who don’t use the Internet properly get to lose clients simply because people will go online to research, and only then pick a reliable product or service.
The other day I got an email from a potential client who is interested in using Online Marketing to grow his electrician business, but is confused by all the techno-babel and can’t understand what in fact is online marketing, what it does, and how his business can benefit from all this internet-talk. The text below is adapted from my response. Hopefully it will help more business owners out there to figure out what works and what doesn’t for local businesses.
Why having a strong Online presence is so important?
Local businesses face a grim reality: get online fast and strong – or close up shop.
4 out of 5 purchasing decisions are done online. The key factors in swaying a client to use your services instead of your competitor’s services are:
- word of mouth (that you can’t control) and
- your web presence (which is completely in your control).
Optimizing your web presence starts with a content-rich website, which is then distributed through social networks, forum sites, and lastly through emails. This web content, the web pages themselves, is what drives visitors to your website. Every new webpage/web text/article acts as a doorway to your website. The more doorways you have, the more people get to your website.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
This is the hardest nut to crack because there are so many people claiming to be SEO experts that it is very hard to tell the truth from the lies. In some cases, they aren’t flat-out lies. They are only confusing strategies that do work for affiliate marketing, or for an online business but simply don’t work for a local, brick-and-mortar business.
As just about everybody nowadays uses Google to search for information, it is very important for a website to be optimized properly so it ranks well on Google. “Ranking well” is just another way to say that your website will somehow prove to Google that it’s better than all the other websites out there that represent other, competitor businesses.
For a simple search of “electrician Greenville” Google returns 437.000 results. That is 437.000 voices competing for the attention of each person that looks for electrician services in Greenville. That’s a lot of noise, and if your website manages to stand out in all that noise, you could be looking at plenty of new clients. Who wouldn’t like that?
This “standing out in the crowd” is a technical and creative process that we call Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. SEO is a process where your website gets tweaked/reworked/updated over a period of time so that within 6-12 months it can rank high for electrician-related searches.
Content or Backlinks, what SEO Strategy works better for local businesses to rank strong?
Nobody can give a warranty that your website will rank on such and such position for such and such search phrase (if they do, they’re lying), but experientially, SEO experts can give a rough estimate of how long would it take for each site to rank among the Top 10 results and what needs to be done in order for the site to rank high.
SEO as a marketing activity can be done in many ways, i.e with different SEO strategies. Some people swear by the importance of backlinks. Those clickable words you see on webpages that take you to another website- those are backlinks. Ranking high by getting tons of backlinks boils down to vote-counting, so whoever gets more votes (backlinks) -wins. Others, (like me) push for Content Marketing as a sustainable and reliable SEO strategy.
A website that has tons of backlinks but no valuable information will quickly be de-throned by another website that is less popular, but more helpful. Since 2012 Google has done enormous efforts into getting the real, trustworthy and useful websites to rank higher and outrank those useless/spammy websites that rely on “rigging” their ranking.
From all the strategies out there, Content Marketing has a 100% guarantee to succeed and keep being productive for years on end. Google themselves make this very clear, that if you want your website to rank high, make sure that it’s technically up to date, and that it has very good content that people find interesting and useful.
How long does it take for Content Marketing to bring results?
To get the first fruits it takes around 3 months of work and full harvest comes within 8-12 months, depending on the monthly Content pack i.e how many new texts get published each month. The cool thing about Content Marketing is that once you get to the harvest season, it can last for years. Once Google starts trusting your website, all you need to do is just keep the momentum going and let Google do the rest.
With a solid analysis of the competition and how potential clients look for your services, we can establish a list of 100-150 keyphrases that are mostly used by people that look for service providers. With the keywords list done the real work begins with writing great texts that are optimized for those 100-150 keyphrases.
How does Social and Email play along with Content Marketing?
With a proper monthly Content Marketing action plan you have about 50% coverage of the Online world. The other 50% fall into the categories of Social Marketing and Email Marketing.
What is Content-driven Social Marketing?
With solid Content Marketing, Social is just a catalyst/amplifier for web traffic. Every time you publish a text on your website, you should share it on social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin etc. The more social shares/likes/tweets/comments a text has – the more social exposure your business gets, and more people visit your site thanks to all this social media activity.
Social sites are very important for services-oriented businesses. People regularly interact on Facebook/Twitter and if you are not where your potential clients are, you’re losing a lot of lead-generating chances. But Social is not person-less.
Using sites like Facebook to market your business is similar to using parties/conventions/gatherings to get new clients. It’s not enough to just physically be present. It’s not enough to just own a company page on Facebook, or to have a Twitter account. You need to get noticed, remembered and liked.
The trick is that each social site has its own set of unwritten rules: how you interact with people, what language you use, how you pitch ideas for your services etc. It’s all in nuances and getting things right is both science and art… but isn’t person-to-person interaction the same? You’d never show up on a convention or a party and start throwing out your brochures and flyers, right? You’d get schmoozing with people first and only later lead the conversation to a “hey, I do electrical work, maybe I could help?” line.
How does Content Marketing help Email Marketing?
With a solid Content and Social Marketing activity you get to build a list of emails that you can then contact once or twice a week, letting them know what you’ve been working on and what new deals/discounts/group purchases you offer.
Emails like “What not to do when the power socket gets loose” are real magnets for attention, and people do share these useful tips with their friends. That way, you position yourself as advice-giver, which is great for earning trust. Once people trust you, they won’t mind recommending you to their friends.
Great content and social activity will give you plenty of opportunities to get people to sign-up for your email newsletter that in turn is packed with useful info.
So how’s the math working out with such SEO-ed, Social and Email marketed website?
Content Marketing is powerful because websites with useful content get to rank well for many keyphrases.
If 100 people search for say power socket replacement services each day, and your site ranks in the top 3 positions (i.e it’s listed in the first three links in Google’s result page), you get 99% of those searchers. Out of these 100 web visitors, one will become a client.
For local, service-oriented businesses it takes about 100 texts for a strong-ranking website, that covers about 100-150 keyphrases like: Chandelier replacement service, re-wiring service, power plug replacement service etc. A 100-pages website usually gets 200-300 daily visits, which means 2-3 phonecalls a day from the site, each day, every day. So a 100 pages website generates roughly 1000 leads per year, for years to come. Flip the math over and each text gets you 10 leads per year, or roughly one lead per month.
Considering that technical services like electrical work is more or less standardized and regulated, things won’t change much in 10 years. A power plug will still look the same and the instalment/replacement procedure will be more or less the same. So each text will generate 10 leads per year, for at least 10 years. That’s at least 100 clients from each text. Not bad. Not bad at all considering that on average each client brings in a project of say $150. That’s $15.000 income that each text will make for you over its lifetime. Even if you pay $1000 per text, you still end up with a 15-fold return on that investment.
With a 100-page website, over 10 years it can generate 1.5 million dollars worth of business. That’s $150.000 per year worth of business generated by the website. Not bad considering that all the money you put into a Content Marketing strategy coupled with Social and Email Marketing will pay for itself in the first year. After that, as they say, it’s all gravy baby!