Today, 4 out of 5 consumers use search engines to find local information – so it goes without saying that having a strong online presence is key to getting in front of customers.
And with COVID-19 sending more people online and transforming the way customers interact with businesses, there’s never been a better time to take advantage of search marketing to grow your brand.
What is search marketing?
Before we get into the reasons why search will be especially important in the coming months and years, let’s go over the basics. What exactly is search marketing? Simply put, it covers any tactic used to boost online visibility of your brand and drive traffic to your website.
When people talk about search marketing, they’re usually referring to search engine optimisation (SEO) or search engine marketing (SEM). The two are similar, but with a few key differences.
SEO is the practice of optimising your website content and other online pages (such as business listings) to improve your ranking in search engines. The ultimate goal of SEO is to increase your brand’s online visibility and drive more traffic to your website through organic (unpaid) efforts.
SEM typically refers to the process of increasing online visibility and gaining traffic through buying ads on search engines. SEM is often referred to as paid advertising, pay-per-click or ‘paid search.’
Why search now matters more than ever.
Answering important queries and providing relevant content has always been key to winning customers’ trust online. But here are some of the biggest reasons why search is more important than ever before.
Your customers are asking new questions.
As the COVID-19 crisis impacts almost every facet of our lives, people are naturally taking to search engines to ask new questions and find out information while the situation evolves. When it comes to brands, consumers understandably want to know how businesses are responding to the pandemic.
So it’s important you keep your website current, this not only helps with your customer experience, it also helps you to move up in Google search results, as Google places huge value on relevant and current website information.
Aside from queries about how businesses are maintaining social distancing and other health and safety measures, many people are now going online for real-time updates on important information like business operating hours and stock levels.
Looking at Google Trends, for example, we can see a big spike in searches for “Melbourne restaurant restrictions” over the past couple of months:
The answers to many of these questions are also changing rapidly and, as your customers search for this information, you need to be able to deliver accurate, up-to-date answers about COVID-19 and how it’s impacting your business.
This isn’t to say search is only important now, while things are changing rapidly. The current situation simply highlights the critical role a strong search strategy always plays in providing good service to existing customers, as well as attracting and informing new customers.
SEO is a long-term strategy.
It’s estimated that search engine optimisation efforts take an average of four to six months to see results. In fact, a study by Ahrefs found that only 1% of webpages that ranked at the top of Google results were less than a year old. In other words, SEO is a slow burner.
This is because SEO is all about gaining ‘trust’ from search engines, and the only way to succeed in this is through consistent output. The reality is that you won’t see results overnight through any special tricks or hacks, so it’s really a game of patience.
With this in mind, if you’re looking to weather the economic uncertainty of the next few months and come out on top, you’ll need to start as early as possible with your SEO efforts.
Search doesn’t require a big budget.
There are cost-effective ways to make marketing part of your business recovery plan – and search is one of them. Recent research revealed that organic search (SEO) delivers the highest ROI of all digital marketing channels. This means for every dollar you spend on organic search efforts, you can expect to see the biggest return in the form of revenue.
Evergreen content is always important.
Evergreen content, as the name suggests, is content that doesn’t go out of date. It revolves around topics that are always relevant to readers, regardless of what’s trending at the time. For example, a tutorial on hair maintenance would be a valuable piece of evergreen content for a hairdresser, because it’s the sort of information that customers would be interested in and find useful year-round.
While it can be beneficial to create SEO content about trending topics (like COVID-19), this content will naturally decline in searches and traffic over time. Trending content also needs to be updated regularly to stay relevant.
Evergreen content that targets your niche, on the other hand, will stay relevant and can even accumulate traffic over time. There’s never a ‘bad’ time to publish content on evergreen topics, and in fact, creating quality evergreen content is one of the most effective ways to boost your search presence no matter what’s going on in the world at the time.
People are looking to support small businesses.
In the spirit of the #supportsmallbusiness movement, people are now making more of an effort to buy from small, local businesses. A report by McKinsey revealed that in the wake of the pandemic, many Australian consumers are actively switching their spending to prioritise buying from local businesses and producers.
In the coming months, your local SEO strategy will be critical to connecting you with people looking to find new ways to support local businesses.
Optimising your search presence.
With more people browsing and shopping online than ever before, prioritising your search strategy now is fundamental to maintaining visibility and relevancy in a post-COVID world. So, where should you get started?
1. Make sure the essentials are covered.
- Claim your Google My Business page. This is where you provide Google vital information about your business, such as your address, contact number, business category and opening hours. Having a Google My Business listing helps people in your area find your business online.
- Get a business directory listing. Google and other search engines will also rank your business based on local search citations, which refer to mentions of your business on other websites. Having a comprehensive directory listing on a trusted site like Yellow Pages Online with all your vital business info will help boost your search visibility.
- Update your business details. Make sure all your contact information (address, phone number, email, opening hours and any other relevant information) is current and appears on every page of your website, or any other site where you have a business presence, such as Facebook.
2. Research relevant topics and keywords.
Creating valuable content that relates to topics people are searching for is key to any good search strategy. Start by brainstorming potential topics and keywords that are relevant to your business and your service. There are several free online tools that can help with this:*
- Ubersuggest: Generates keyword suggestions based on an initial keyword you input. It works by aggregating data from Google Suggest, which provides keyword ideas similar and related to your searches on Google.
- Google Trends: Visualises how search trends change over time. Once you enter a keyword, you will see the relative popularity of that search query over the past 12 months or over your chosen timeframe.
- AnswerThePublic: Helps you find out how people are asking questions in search engines. Enter a keyword and it will generate searched-for questions related to that keyword as well as other related queries.
3. Create relevant, valuable content.
If you can provide your audience with content that’s relevant and interesting to them, you’ll reap benefits in terms of increased traffic to your site, links back to your site and higher levels of engagement on your site – all of which are beneficial to your search presence.
Content can take the form of blog posts, eBooks, white papers, videos, infographics and more. Finding out what types of content work best for your business is all about testing and learning as you go along.
Here are some best practice tips to help you get started:
- Develop a regular content schedule to make sure your search presence stays fresh
- Make sure all content is unique and not duplicated from other websites
- Include internal links to other content on your site where appropriate – they help with building site authority and, in turn, your search visibility
- Include limited external links to relevant pages where appropriate – they help Google understand the context of your content.
How should I use keywords in my content?
- Include the most important keyword in the first 100 words of the text
- Use keywords throughout the body of the text wherever they fit naturally
- Avoid keyword stuffing – aim for around one keyword per 150 words
- Include relevant keywords in sub-headings and wrap them in <H2>, <H3> or <H4> tags depending on their level of importance.
4. Get help from an expert.
There are lots of resources out there about how to optimise your search presence, but getting it right takes time and expertise. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. A professional SEO services provider can help tackle all the important aspects of search for you.
Yellow Pages are experts in SEO, utilising keywords, quality content and backlinks to push business’ sites to the top of local search results.
All our local SEO services come with:
- An initial consultation so we can understand your business and tailor your campaign
- 100% transparency, including monthly reporting so you can see the work we’ve been doing
- Regular strategy consultations
- Creation of your Google My Business listing
- Phone and email support
- Google Analytics set up and installation, so we can track how we’re doing.
Download our handy infographic guide to search marketing in a post-COVID world here.
*This information is provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; it does not constitute an endorsement or an approval by Yellow Pages.