I’m often asked, “How do you generate new business leads?” There’s no silver bullet to answer that question, but if I had to pick one strategy it would be: the power of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Our marketing communications agency, Landis Communications Inc. in San Francisco, celebrates 30 years in business this October. For probably the past 15 years, at least 50% (yup, 50%) of our new business leads come through organic search (and mostly through Google, which still dominates search).
Did you know that organic search results are 8.5 times more likely to be clicked on than paid search results?
We’re not a large agency (we’re about 10 people) and our inbound leads average about 1 a day. Of those, I’d say 30% are legitimate leads that seem like a good fit for our firm; and of those 30%, about half will make it to the proposal stage. We are lucky to win about 50% of the prospects for which we create proposals. So if you do the math, that translates to at least 1-2 client wins a month – more than enough to keep our business going strong.
So, what’s the secret sauce? Beyond keywords, which are critical, how do you leverage SEO for your business development efforts? Google will never tell the public exactly how they grade businesses for search (and they keep changing their algorithm all the time), but there are a number of tried and true practices that will help. And, we’ve got one great idea of what to look for in the future as well.
Here are six handy – and easy to implement – tips:
1. Content, content, content
It’s a proven fact that creating and refreshing content on your website is one of the best ways to rank higher in a Google organic search. We add new content to our site daily – yes, daily. It might be bragging about a new client, showcasing a great media placement for our clients, writing a new blog entry or more. Make sure you include quality backlinks, which also help search rankings. But also provide new content regularly – that translates to a higher score with Google.
2. Leverage your blog
Your blog is the easiest way to create new content. Write about what you know – your own business – which, as it turns out, happens to be a lot. Not only does this help your search results, but it also establishes you and your business as industry thought leaders. Again, don’t forget the legitimate backlinks and also include “Related Articles” at the end of your blog to help boost your Google standing
3. Be social
Your social channels can be another great source for content and can capture potential prospects looking for your business. But don’t make the mistake of “stand alone social.” Add your social buttons and content to your website – and conversely, make sure your social channels are re-directing readers/viewers back to your website.
4. Claim and Maximize Your Google My Business Listing
Here’s a dirty little secret: Playing to Google’s own strengths will help your organic search. You definitely want to claim your Google My Business listing and then ensure it’s fully-functioning with all your relevant information. Why? Those listings provide the information for the “pop-ups” that appear locally for searches – and they are also another part of the mix that Google uses in general to rate your business. With a good Google My Business listing, your chances of coming up higher in the local results increase.
5. Get Reviewed
Do reviews help search results? According to Leverage Marketing, “The short answer is yes. Google reviews do help improve search rankings and overall SEO results. While there are a lot of factors involved with search rankings, online customer reviews can be a strong signal to search engines that communicates trustworthiness and authority.” So make sure you proactively ask your customers and clients to review you, especially on Google.
6. The Future for SEO?
The future for SEO should be music to a PR pro’s ears. Why? It’s all about storytelling. According to the Search Engine Journal, “SEO is transforming. Understanding the user will be key to success. Getting them to stay on the page and explore the website will be the challenge. The interconnectivity of SEO, technology, human behavior, media, machine and mindset will change the game of SEO and online marketing. SEO professionals are now required to become storytellers and professional marketers that not only can develop a search strategy, but can also communicate and sell a brand online. The digital message must meet the user’s mindset and intent – and deliver what the searcher is seeking while building brand awareness in the long term. The future of SEO is in understanding the user’s intent and the deeper layers of wants and desires that drive behaviors.”
With these 6 tips for better search results, you’ll be well on your way to embracing the flood of new business prospects coming your way.